The World Inside Your Head: From structuring to representations to language

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Much of both human and animal behavior can be understood in terms of reactive processes. However, some aspects of behavior seem to go beyond reactiveness, as they appear to involve internal representations of the world: internal states that stand in for aspects of the world, such that they can guide an agent’s behavior even in situations in which the agent is completely decoupled from the corresponding aspects. Chandrasekharan and Stewart (2004, 2007) argue that a special kind of epistemic structuring, active adaptation of some structure for cognitive benefit, can generate internal traces of the world with a representational character. Their model would account for both epistemic environment adaptation and the creation of these internal traces through a single reactive mechanism. Although Chandrasekharan and Stewart demonstrate the workings of this mechanism through a set of experiments, the claim for a representational nature of the resulting internal structures has not been validated empirically. This thesis aims to further investigate this claim on empirical and theoretical grounds. Two subsequent experiments were carried out to validate two respective hypotheses; the first experiment was designed to test whether internal epistemic structuring can facilitate the forming and use of internal presentations, a non-decoupled, hence weaker kind of internal states than representations; in the second experiment, an embodied, embedded agent simulation was carried out to investigate the relation between representational demand and the development of epistemic structuring capacities. The experiments provide evidence that epistemic structuring can be used to form, maintain and use both internal presentations representations. Taking into account these results, it is discussed how the epistemic structuring model might account for the nature and origin of internal (re)presentation, and how it relates to the extended mind thesis. Finally, the model is placed in the context of language evolution; it is speculated to play an explanatory role with respect to the nature, origin and cognitive role of language.
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