PPIG: Philosophy, Psychology, and Informatics Group

Speaker: Javier Gomez Lavin (Purdue University)

Title: Identifying the (sub)person-level commitments of working memory

Abstract: Recent work (Gomez-Lavin 2021) argues that working memory, a cornerstone of cognitive psychology that describes our ability to retain and transform information it in the service of behavior, is unexplanatory. This paper examines working memory’s roots to help diagnose its explanatory posture and begin its rehabilitation. By going back to basics and using a substitutional methodology, I argue that working memory’s explanatory failures stem from three conceptual mistakes: (1) working memory, through an act of philosophical laundering, uncritically incorporates philosophical concepts, including volition, into itself. (2) working memory, since its earliest iterations, has unhelpfully blended philosophically-inflected person-level terms with sub-personal processes. And, (3) theoretical treatments of working memory have focused on its outward-facing explanations of person-level cognitive behavior at the exclusion of inner-facing, scientifically meticulous work involved in cataloguing how brains’ maintain and manipulate information. Rehabilitating working memory requires privileging this inner-facing aspect and decoupling the concept from a robust explanatory role.

Further information

We are a group of researchers from diverse backgrounds in the above-mentioned groups (and beyond) who aim to gain an interdisciplinary yet deep understanding of the threads that bind the human mind and the world. In particular, this seminar series focuses on the nature of cognition, metacognition and social cognition. We’ll be tackling questions such as, what does it mean to think? What does it mean to think about thinking? And, what does it mean to think about one’s own thinking versus thinking about the thinking of other people? Please come along!

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Contact details

Tillmann Vierkant

Oct 04 2023 -

PPIG: Philosophy, Psychology, and Informatics Group

2023-10-04: Identifying the (sub)person-level commitments of working memory

Lecture Theatre F21, Psychology Building, 7 George Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9JZ