Approaches to the Study of the Mind

Since the Second World War scientists from different disciplines have turned to the study of the human mind. Computer scientists have tried to emulate its capacity for visual perception. Linguists have struggled with the puzzle of how children acquire language. Ethologists have sought the innate roots of social behaviour. Neurophysiologists have begun to relate the function of nerve cells to complex perceptual and motor processes. Neurologists and neuropsychologists have used the pattern of competence and incompetence of their brain-damaged patients to elucidate the normal workings of the brain. Anthropologists have examined the conceptual structure of cultural practices to advance hypotheses about the basic principles of the mind. These days one meets engineers who work on speech perception, biologists who investigate the mental representation of spatial relations, and physicists who want to understand consciousness. And, of course, psychologists continue to study perception, memory, thought and action.

... [W]orkers in many disciplines have converged on a number of central problems and explanatory ideas. They have realized that no single approach is likely to unravel the workings of the mind: it will not give up its secrets to psychology alone; nor is any other isolated discipline—artificial intelligence, linguistics, anthropology, neurophysiology, philosophy—going to have any greater success. (Johnson-Laird, 1988, p. 7)

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