This paper introduces a special issue of Cognitive Science initiated on the 25th anniversary of the publication of Parallel Distributed Processing (PDP), a two-volume work that introduced the use of neural network models as vehicles for understanding cognition. The collection surveys the core commitments of the PDP framework, the key issues the framework has addressed, and the debates the framework has spawned, and presents viewpoints on the current status of these issues. The articles focus on both historical roots and contemporary (...) developments in learning, optimality theory, perception, memory, language, conceptual knowledge, cognitive control, and consciousness. Here we consider the approach more generally, reviewing the original motivations, the resulting framework, and the central tenets of the underlying theory. We then evaluate the impact of PDP both on the field at large and within specific subdomains of cognitive science and consider the current role of PDP models within the broader landscape of contemporary theoretical frameworks in cognitive science. Looking to the future, we consider the implications for cognitive science of the recent success of machine learning systems called “deep networks”—systems that build on key ideas presented in the PDP volumes. (shrink)
In this prcis we focus on phenomena central to the reaction against similarity-based theories that arose in the 1980s and that subsequently motivated the approach to semantic knowledge. Specifically, we consider (1) how concepts differentiate in early development, (2) why some groupings of items seem to form or coherent categories while others do not, (3) why different properties seem central or important to different concepts, (4) why children and adults sometimes attest to beliefs that seem to contradict their direct experience, (...) (5) how concepts reorganize between the ages of 4 and 10, and (6) the relationship between causal knowledge and semantic knowledge. The explanations our theory offers for these phenomena are illustrated with reference to a simple feed-forward connectionist model. The relationships between this simple model, the broader theory, and more general issues in cognitive science are discussed. (shrink)
Three experiments with 88 college-aged participants explored how unlabeled experiences—learning episodes in which people encounter objects without information about their category membership—influence beliefs about category structure. Participants performed a simple one-dimensional categorization task in a brief supervised learning phase, then made a large number of unsupervised categorization decisions about new items. In all three experiments, the unsupervised experience altered participants’ implicit and explicit mental category boundaries, their explicit beliefs about the most representative members of each category, and even their memory (...) for the items encountered during the supervised learning phase. These changes were influenced by both the range and frequency distribution of the unlabeled stimuli: mental category boundaries shifted toward the middle of the range and toward the trough of the bimodal distribution of unlabeled items, whereas beliefs about the most representative category members shifted toward the modes of the unlabeled distribution. One consequence of this shift in representations is a false-consensus effect (Experiment 3) where participants, despite receiving very disparate training experiences, show strong agreement in judgments about representativeness and boundary location following unsupervised category judgments. (shrink)
Most empirical work in human categorization has studied learning in either fully supervised or fully unsupervised scenarios. Most real-world learning scenarios, however, are semi-supervised: Learners receive a great deal of unlabeled information from the world, coupled with occasional experiences in which items are directly labeled by a knowledgeable source. A large body of work in machine learning has investigated how learning can exploit both labeled and unlabeled data provided to a learner. Using equivalences between models found in human categorization and (...) machine learning research, we explain how these semi-supervised techniques can be applied to human learning. A series of experiments are described which show that semi-supervised learning models prove useful for explaining human behavior when exposed to both labeled and unlabeled data. We then discuss some machine learning models that do not have familiar human categorization counterparts. Finally, we discuss some challenges yet to be addressed in the use of semi-supervised models for modeling human categorization. (shrink)
The commentaries reflect three core themes that pertain not just to our theory, but to the enterprise of connectionist modeling more generally. The first concerns the relationship between a cognitive theory and an implemented computer model. Specifically, how does one determine, when a model departs from the theory it exemplifies, whether the departure is a useful simplification or a critical flaw? We argue that the answer to this question depends partially upon the model's intended function, and we suggest that connectionist (...) models have important functions beyond the commonly accepted goals of fitting data and making predictions. The second theme concerns perceived in-principle limitations of the connectionist approach to cognition, and the specific concerns these perceived limitations raise for our theory. We argue that the approach is not in fact limited in the ways our critics suggest. One common misconception, that connectionist models cannot address abstract or relational structure, is corrected through new simulations showing directly that such structure can be captured. The third theme concerns the relationship between parallel distributed processing (PDP) models and structured probabilistic approaches. In this case we argue that there the difference between the approaches is not merely one of levels. Our PDP approach differs from structured statistical approaches at all of Marr's levels, including the characterization of the goals of cognitive computations, and of the representations and algorithms used. (shrink)
We distinguish between literal and metaphorical applications of Bayesian models. When intended literally, an isomorphism exists between the elements of representation assumed by the rational analysis and the mechanism that implements the computation. Thus, observation of the implementation can externally validate assumptions underlying the rational analysis. In other applications, no such isomorphism exists, so it is not clear how the assumptions that allow a Bayesian model to fit data can be independently validated.