, Volume 193, Issue 2, pp 637–657 | Cite as

Mapping the mind: bridge laws and the psycho-neural interface

  • Marco J. NathanEmail author
  • Guillermo Del Pinal


Recent advancements in the brain sciences have enabled researchers to determine, with increasing accuracy, patterns and locations of neural activation associated with various psychological functions. These techniques have revived a longstanding debate regarding the relation between the mind and the brain: while many authors claim that neuroscientific data can be employed to advance theories of higher cognition, others defend the so-called ‘autonomy’ of psychology. Settling this significant issue requires understanding the nature of the bridge laws used at the psycho-neural interface. While these laws have been the topic of extensive discussion, such debates have mostly focused on a particular type of link: reductive laws. Reductive laws are problematic: they face notorious philosophical objections and they are too scarce to substantiate current research at the intersection of psychology and neuroscience. The aim of this article is to provide a systematic analysis of a different kind of bridge laws—associative laws—which play a central, albeit overlooked role in scientific practice.


Bridge laws Reverse inference Reductionism Cognitive psychology Neuroscience Multiple realizability 



We are grateful to Max Coltheart, Kateri McRae, Bruce Pennington, and three anonymous reviewers for constructive comments on various versions of this essay. Some of the ideas developed here were presented at the Neuroscience Research Group at the University of Denver, at the 2014 Annual Conference in History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and at the 2014 Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association in Chicago: all audiences provided helpful feedback.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of DenverDenverUSA
  2. 2.Department of PhilosophyColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.Institute of Philosophy IIRuhr Universität BochumBochumGermany

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