Computation in cognitive science: It is not all about Turing-equivalent computation

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It is sometimes suggested that the history of computation in cognitive science is one in which the formal apparatus of Turing-equivalent computation, or effective computability, was exported from mathematical logic to ever wider areas of cognitive science and its environs. This paper, however, indicates some respects in which this suggestion is inaccurate. Computability theory has not been focused exclusively on Turing-equivalent computation. Many essential features of Turing-equivalent computation are not captured in definitions of computation as (digital) symbol manipulation. Turing-equivalent computation did not play the role in McCulloch and Pitts's early cybernetic work that is sometimes attributed to it. Finally, various segments of the neuroscientific community invoke a notion of computation that differs from the Turing-equivalent notion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)227-236
Number of pages10
JournalStudies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2010
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • History and Philosophy of Science


  • Circular causality
  • Computation
  • Cortical maps
  • Neural networks
  • Symbol manipulation
  • Turing-equivalent computation

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