Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience and Cognitive Systems

CCNCS Seminar Details

The Mind is Flat: The illusion of depth in minds, markets and morality

Speaker: Nick Chater
Date/Time: Wednesday 30 May 2012, 4.15pm
Location: Cornwallis SW101


Many theories of cognition and decision making assume that people's decisions and utterances arise from 'underlying' beliefs and preferences, which can, with sufficient methodological care, be determined. I argue that these 'hidden depths' are illusory; that thought and behaviour are only locally coherent; and that the process of creating such local coherence is an important (and very challenging) cognitive goal. Rather than determine our behaviour with reference to 'inner' beliefs and preferences, I argue instead that we must infer our beliefs and preferences in just the same way we infer those of other people (both real and fictional). Our own 'hidden mental depths' may be no less an illusion than the hidden depths we impute to a fictional character. This viewpoint has implications for theories of decision making, as well as for economics and ethics.

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Centre for Cognitive Science and Cognitive Systems, School of Psychology, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NP

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Last Updated: 24/05/2013