Beyond cognitive templates

January 3 – Febuary 28, 2021

Meeting Abstract

S6-6  Tue Jan 5 14:30 – 03:00  Beyond cognitive templates Sung, JY*; Harris, OK; Hensley, NM; Chemero, AP; Morehouse, NI; University of Cincinnati; University of Cincinnati; Cornell University; University of Cincinnati; University of Cincinnati

The term ‘cognitive template’ originated from work in human-based cognitive science to describe a literal, stored, neural representation used in recognition tasks. As the study of cognition has expanded to non-human animals, the term has diffused to describe a wider range of animal cognitive tools and strategies that facilitate recognition and discrimination between external states to guide action. One potential reason for this non-standardized meaning and variable employment is that science has struggled to empirically locate or describe a direct template used in a nervous system, despite numerous predictions of its whereabouts and nature. We review and discuss the functional evidence for cognitive templates in fields such as perception, navigation, communication, and learning, highlighting any neural correlates within these studies. We find that the concept of cognitive templates has facilitated valuable exploration of animal behavior and cognition, but it has failed to lead to mechanistic support at the level of neurophysiology. This may be the result of a mislead search for a single physical locus for the ‘template’ itself. We argue instead that recognition and discrimination processes are best treated as emergent and, as such, may not be physically localized within single structures of the brain. We thus advocate for researchers to move towards a more process-oriented conception, especially when discussing functional employment of stored representations in cognitive tasks.

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