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Simulation and connectionism: what is the connection?

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Simulation has emerged as an increasingly popular account of folk psychological (FP) talents at mind-reading: predicting and explaining human mental states. Where its rival (the theory-theory) postulates that these abilities are explained by mastery of laws describing the connections between beliefs, desires, and action, simulation theory proposes that we mind-read by "putting ourselves in another's shoes." This paper concerns connectionist architecture and the debate between simulation theory (ST) and the theory-theory (TT). It is only natural to associate TT with classical architectures where rule governed operations apply to explicit propositional representations. On the other hand, ST would seem better tuned to procedurally oriented non-symbolic structures found in connectionist models. This paper explores the possible alignment between ST and connectionist architecture. Joe Cruz argues that connectionist models with distributed non-symbolic representations are particularly well suited to simulation theory. The purported linkage between connectionist architecture and simulation theory is criticized in this paper. The conclusion is that there are reasons for thinking that connectionist forms of representation are the enemy of both TT and ST. So the contribution of connectionism may be to suggest the need for an alternative to both views.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 December 2003

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