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21. Not Like a Computer

Michael SpiveyMichael J. Spivey, Psychology, and his research colleague found evidence that language comprehension is a continuous, dynamic process. The mind processes in shades of gray, as biological organisms do, not in distinct stages like a computer. Mathematically described, perception and cognition are a continuous trajectory through a high-dimensional mental space. The neural activation patterns flow back and forth to produce nonlinear, self-organized, emergent properties. For decades the cognitive and neural sciences have treated mental processes as though they involved passing discrete packets of information feed-forward from one cognitive module to the next or in a string of individuated binary symbols, like a digital computer. In this study, which supports dynamical-systems approaches to the mind, Spivey gave undergraduate students word prompts and then tracked their computer-mouse movements.

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