23rd PPLS Interdisciplinary Seminar

Friday, September 18, 2015
Room 1.20, Dugald Stewart Building, 3 Charles Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9AD
Event type: 

Prof David Danks (Carnegie-Mellon University) on "The mind as goal satisfaction engine".

Abstract: One widespread view of the mind is that it learns approximate models of the world, and then reasons with those representations to decide on actions to reach its desired ends. In this talk, I will present a different picture: namely, that (much of) cognition is solely driven by achieving one's goals, rather than mirroring or representing the world. Put more colloquially, the mind is a goal satisfaction engine. This understanding of cognition bears some superficial similarities to the more traditional view, but leads to a number of distinctive predictions. I will describe a series of experiments we have performed that reveal deep influences of goals on learning processes. I will also explain how this view of the mind can account for some surprising experimental results showing that people systematically learn or believe obviously false things. Time permitting, I will explore broader implications of this view for scientifically naturalized ontology (i.e., for our understanding of what the "furniture of the world" is).