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Contour interpolation: A case study in Modularity of Mind

Contour interpolation: A case study in Modularity of Mind

Published in: Cognition, Volume 174, May 2018, 1-18

“In his monograph Modularity of Mind (1983), philosopher Jerry Fodor argued that mental architecture can be partly decomposed into computational organs termed modules, which were characterized as having nine cooccurring features such as automaticity, domain specificity, and informational encapsulation. Do modules exist? Debates thus far have been framed very generally with few, if any, detailed case studies. The topic is important because it has direct implications on current debates in cognitive science and because it potentially provides a viable framework from which to further understand and make hypotheses about the mind’s structure and function. Here, the case is made for the modularity of contour interpolation, which is a perceptual process that represents non-visible edges on the basis of how surrounding visible edges are spatiotemporally configured. There is substantial evidence that interpolation is domain specific, mandatory, fast, and developmentally wellsequenced; that it produces representationally impoverished outputs; that it relies upon a relatively fixed neural architecture that can be selectively impaired; that it is encapsulated from belief and expectation; and that its inner workings cannot be fathomed through conscious introspection. Upon differentiating contour interpolation from a higher-order contour representational ability (“contour abstraction”) and upon accommodating seemingly inconsistent experimental results, it is argued that interpolation is modular to the extent that the initiating conditions for interpolation are strong. As interpolated contours become more salient, the modularity features emerge. The empirical data, taken as a whole, show that at least certain parts of the mind are modularly organized.”

Written by: Brian P. Keane
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