Worlds within worlds: An emergent systems perspective of cognition

| Cognition as a Multi-Scale System of Information Representation |


First Circle: The World | This is the natural or physical world. It is full of stuff (matter and energy/activity), most of which is actually beyond our ability to detect. This stuff doesn’t have inherent meaning, it just is. The world is our primary source of potential information.

Second Circle: The World of Perceptual Processing | This is our perceived experience or representation of information in the physical world. Our sensory processing systems help us create/identify units of sensory information about the world, then connect and integrate those pieces of information into potential sources of data or perceptions.

Third Circle: The World of Associative Processing | This is our associative experience or representation of data. Our associative processing systems help us create/identify potential units of data, then connect and integrate those relationships of data into potential sources of direct reference or associations.

Fourth Circle: The World of Conceptual Processing | This is our conceptual experience or representation of direct references. Our conceptual processing systems help us create/identify potential units of direct reference, then connect and integrate those networks of reference into potential sources of meaning or conceptions.

Key Points

Create / Identify / Potential: Information does not exist as real stuff in the physical world. It only exists in the eye or memory or imagination of the beholder. It is essentially created through the act of representation.

Processing / Experience / Representation: These words relate to the same theme as understood from perspectives of cognition. Processing is a technical term, typically used to describe abstract or symbolic cognition. Experience is another term, but one that better characterizes the dynamic, multi-dimensional, and subjective aspects of situated and embodied cognition – that it is in the moment, context-sensitive, flexible (we can have real and imaginary experiences), and is a function of what is happening in the world(s). The third term, representation, as used here is an attempt to highlight the essential role of creative and referential synthesis in cognition.

Perceptual | Associative | Conceptual: Each level of representation opens up a new world of information that exists within, is derived from, and is an emergent property of the previous one. These levels involve different content but the same operations of creating/identifying, connecting, and integrating. So at one level of processing, we utilize one kind of information and transform it into the potential source for processing at a subsequent level.

Data (Perception) | Reference / Direct References (Association) | Meaning / Networks of Reference (Conception): These are the three types of information which are generated at their respective levels or scales of representation.