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Journal Article

Re-appreciating the why of cognition: 35 years after Marr and Poggio


Willems,  Roel M.
Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, External Organizations;
Neurobiology of Language Department, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

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Willems, R. M. (2011). Re-appreciating the why of cognition: 35 years after Marr and Poggio. Frontiers in Psychology, 2, 244. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00244.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0012-25C7-3
Marr and Poggio’s levels of description are one of the most well-known theoretical constructs of twentieth century cognitive science. It entails that behavior can and should be considered at three different levels: computation, algorithm, and implementation. In this contribution focus is on the computational level of description, the level that describes the “why” of cognition. I argue that the computational level should be taken as a starting point in devising experiments in cognitive (neuro)science. Instead, the starting point in empirical practice often is a focus on the stimulus or on some capacity of the cognitive system. The “why” of cognition tends to be ignored when designing research, and is not considered in subsequent inference from experimental results. The overall aim of this manuscript is to show how re-appreciation of the computational level of description as a starting point for experiments can lead to more informative experimentation.