Cognitive Science and the Turing Machine: an Ecological Perspective

  • Andrew J. Wells


The Turing machine model has been used by cognitive scientists to explain the internal structures and processes of the human mind. The physical symbol systems hypothesis treats the mind as functionally equivalent to a universal Turing machine with a finite tape. The machine is hypothesized to be instantiated in the brain. This chapter shows that the symbol systems view is in conflict with the thinking that led Turing to his abstract machine model. The analysis of computation in Turing’s famous paper on computable numbers is based on interactions between the mind and the external environment and is best thought of in ecological terms. The mind is construed as a finite automaton, not as a Turing machine. The approach provides a view of cognitive architecture which has more in common with the situated action paradigm than it does with the physical symbol systems approach.


Turing Machine Finite Automaton Computational Theory Universal Machine Universal Turing Machine 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew J. Wells
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Social PsychologyThe London School of Economics and Political ScienceUK

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