David L. Barack Columbia University
"Stream of Thought:Search, Selection, and Content Preservation in Reasoning"
Abstract: Reasoning is central to much human cognition, but theories of reasoning are typically focused on immediate transitions such as inferring particular conclusions from sets of premises. Such analyses overlook fundamental aspects of reasoning such as choosing the premise set, choosing the transition, and shifting strategies. In this talk, I propose an analysis of reasoning that starts with these overlooked aspects and turns on reasoning as a composite of different types of mental action. Specifically, reasoning is analyzed as a search and selection process that is grounded in a necessary condition of content preservation. In my talk, after outlining the basic approach, I apply this analysis to inference and relate my groundwork for a theory to extant analyses of inference and reasoning. I then turn to an analysis of content preservation, which is understood as a basic function of the mind that is grounded in representation. I conclude with some implications for the view for understanding inference in vision and cognition, differentiating inference from association, and constructing new normative principles for how we should reason.