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Beyond the computer metaphor: behaviour as interaction

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Behaviour is often described as the computation of a response to a stimulus. This description is incomplete in an important way because it only examines what occurs between the reception of stimulus information and the generation of an action. Behaviour is more correctly described as a control process where actions are performed in order to affect perceptions. This closed-loop nature of behaviour is de-emphasized in modern discussions of brain function, leading to a number of artificial mysteries. A notable example is the ‘symbol grounding problem'. When behaviour is viewed as a control process, it is natural to explain how internal representations, even symbols, can have meaning for an organism, and how actions can be motivated by organic needs.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Physiology, University of Montreal, Montreal, (Quebec) H3C 3J7 Canada.

Publication date: November 1, 1999


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