Connectionism, Systematicity, and the Frame Problem

Authors: Haselager, W.F.G.; van Rappard, J.F.H.

Source: Minds and Machines, Volume 8, Number 2, 1998 , pp. 161-179(19)

Publisher: Springer

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This paper investigates connectionism's potential to solve the frame problem. The frame problem arises in the context of modelling the human ability to see the relevant consequences of events in a situation. It has been claimed to be unsolvable for classical cognitive science, but easily manageable for connectionism. We will focus on a representational approach to the frame problem which advocates the use of intrinsic representations. We argue that although connectionism's distributed representations may look promising from this perspective, doubts can be raised about the potential of distributed representations to allow large amounts of complexly structured information to be adequately encoded and processed. It is questionable whether connectionist models that are claimed to effectively represent structured information can be scaled up to a realistic extent. We conclude that the frame problem provides a difficulty to connectionism that is no less serious than the obstacle it constitutes for classical cognitive science.

Keywords: connectionism; distributed representation; frame problem; systematicity

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: Dr. W.F.G. Haselager & Prof. Dr. J.F.H. van Rappard Theoretical Psychology Department, Amsterdam / Vrije Universiteit, De Boelelaan 1111, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands (e-mail WFG. Email:, JFH. Email:

Publication date: January 1, 1998

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