RE: Intelligence, IE, and SI - Part 2

Billy Brown (
Wed, 3 Feb 1999 07:57:08 -0600

Damien Broderick wrote:
> Theories of magic (which assumed it worked) were described by Frazer and
> other early armchair anthropologists as functioning either by Similarity
> Contagion - the doll which resembles you, or the hank of your hair.
> Semiotics explains this: indeed, we do use two broad systems for filing
> communicating information, by paradigm (lists of equivalents) and syntagm
> (continguous chains). Shepard and other cognitive scientists have shown
> how these systems work distinctively as look-up tables versus mental maps
> (roughly). I suspect Billy's two broad category match this dichotomy.

Actually, it sounds like these would be two different ways of storing information in a knowledge base. As you said, they are schemes for storing, retrieving and communicating information.

Cognitive abilities, OTOH, are ways of discovering information. They are the means I use to discover that this thing in my hand is a doll, that it resembles you, that I don't like you (but that sticking pins in you would be inadvisable). The rules of magic are the sort of thing that might be discovered by an unsophisticated decision tree system - I want to perform action X on object Y (but I can't), object Z is similar to Y, so perhaps doing X to Z will achieve the desired result. Perhaps the prevalence of such beliefs indicates a common flaw in the human cognitive architecture?

Billy Brown, MCSE+I