| What does it means to know what an apple is? |
How are we able to smell a certain scent, hear a certain sound, feel a certain shape, taste a certain flavor, and then perceive a cognitive representation of an apple?
How are we able to learn to associate the cognitive representation of a physical apple with the cognitive representation of the sound “apple”?
How are we able to hear a series of sounds or look at a series of markings signifying “This is an apple”, and then conceptualize a cognitive representation of shared meaning?
What are the differences among knowing what a physical object is, knowing what other physical objects or conditions indirectly relate to it, knowing the word that directly relates to it, and knowing how the word relates to other words, objects, and conditions?
These are questions about the cognitive processing of information. None are new questions, but we can try to understand them in new ways. According to the Princeton WordNetWeb, cognition is “the psychological result of perception and learning and reasoning.” But what we want is to understand the relationships among the processes of perceiving a sensation, learning a physical or mental behavior, and applying reason which generate this result.
In many descriptions of cognition, the relationships among perception, learning and reasoning are mechanistic in nature: parts fit together to form wholes; processes involve ordered steps; perception is separate from reasoning. By applying PLS, we have an emergent systems framework for studying cause and effect relationships among perception, learning, reasoning and, ultimately, cognition: parts interact to generate wholes; processes involve dynamic changes over time; perception is integral to reasoning. From this perspective, reasoning is a function of learning, and learning is a function of perception.
Similar to PLS, the Cognitive Patterns Levels and Systems (CPLS) framework uses patterns, levels, and systems to describe cognitive information processing as an emergent system.
Patterns of Processing
In the PLS framework, patterns describe parts, relationships, and wholes as the primary elements involved in any interaction. Applied to CPLS, patterns describe the processes of differentiating units of information, connecting differentiated units of information, and integrating the units of information and their connections.
Levels of Processing
In describing the dimension of scale, CPLS refers to processing information at the different levels or orders of magnitude. The first level involves processing patterns from our exteroceptive (external to the body) and interoceptive (internal to the body) sensory experiences of the world. The second level involves processing patterns from our situational experiences of when, where, how, and why things happen in the world. The third level involves processing patterns from our experiences of symbolic relationships among other patterns derived from the world.
Systems of Processing
Each level constitutes a unique cognitive system which processes and produces a distinct type of information. Perception is the processing of information from the immediate, physical world to produce perceptions as cognitive representations of sensory information; Association is the processing of perceptions to produce associations as cognitive representations of situational information; Conception is the processing of associations to produce conceptions as cognitive representations of symbolic information.