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Toward a Unified Theory of Development Connectionism and Dynamic System Theory Re-Consider$
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John Spencer

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195300598

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195300598.001.0001

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Dynamic Field Theory and Embodied Cognitive Dynamics

Dynamic Field Theory and Embodied Cognitive Dynamics

(p.86) CHAPTER 5 Dynamic Field Theory and Embodied Cognitive Dynamics
Toward a Unified Theory of Development Connectionism and Dynamic System Theory Re-Consider

John P. Spencer

Sammy Perone

Jeffrey S. Johnson

Oxford University Press

This chapter explains some of the core concepts of dynamic field theory (DFT) and how this theory provides a formal framework for thinking about embodied cognitive dynamics. It begins with some context, describing the milieu in which the theory emerged and the problems it was initially designed to address. In particular, it focuses on a central problem in cognitive science: How do cognitive systems interface with real-time sensorimotor systems? That is, how can real-time cognitive dynamics be embodied? The answer is discussed within DFT where neural dynamics and stable peaks of activation are used as the basic unit of cognition. Peaks can be continuously coupled to sensorimotor systems in real time. But peaks move far beyond a basic feed-forward picture, allowing for a host of cognitive properties that come for free in this theoretical framework. The chapter highlights these properties and shows how peaks provide critical links to two other central challenges in the cognitive developmental sciences: the integration of processes over multiple timescales and the origins of behavioral flexibility.

Keywords:   dynamic field theory, cognitive dynamics, sensorimotor system, cognition, behavioral flexibility

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