Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Boxology of Self-Knowledge

It’s often helpful for cognitive scientists modeling psychological processes to describe the mind’s functional architecture using boxes and arrows, with the boxes indicating various functionally discrete processes or systems and the arrows indicating the causal or functional relationships among those discrete processes or systems. Figure 1 below expresses my view of self-knowledge, using the “boxology” of cognitive science. The model in that figure may be contrasted, for example, with the boxological models of self-knowledge on pages 162 and 165 of Nichols and Stich 2003, which feature tidy arrows in and out of the Belief Box, through a Monitoring Mechanism, a Percept-to-Belief Mediator, and a Theory of Mind Information store. You might also notice a resemblance between my model in Figure 1 and recent boxological models of visual processing, if the latter are squinted at.

Figure 1: The boxology of self-knowledge


  1. Images of Self-knowledges need interpretations, provided here (scroll down), and with some luck, ebd up in the MoBA.

  2. There's an uncanny resemblance to burn marks on a tortilla that look similar to the traditional western depiction of Baby Jesus. Coincidence?

  3. hlighje1343Thank you so much for posting your boxology.
    I found this post whilst researching an essay on the very same Nichols and Stich paper that you mention. On my initial view of your post the image of the boxology didn’t display; I suspect the neighbours probably heard my gleeful laughter when I saw your minor masterpiece.
    Should I infer from the ever so slightly tongue in cheek nature of your boxology that you have doubts as to the effectiveness of this kind of schema in this context? Perhaps you find the whole functionalist project somewhat unpalatable; I suspect that’s the view I’m coming to!
    I’d be most interested to hear your thoughts.
    Thanks again
    Dominic Slater

  4. Thanks, Dom. I'm glad you liked it.

    I am somewhat suspicious of boxological schemas in general, though I think there might be role for them sometimes, in some contexts. I have a paper on self-knowledge that uses this diagram here: