Can connectionism save constructivism?

Gary F. Marcus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Constructivism is the Piagetian notion that learning leads the child to develop new types of representations. For example, on the Piagetian view, a child is born without knowing that objects persist in time even when they are occluded; through a process of learning, the child comes to know that objects persist in time. The trouble with this view has always been the lack of a concrete, computational account of how a learning mechanism could lead to such a change. Recently, however, in a book entitled Rethinking Innateness, Elman et al. (Elman, J.L., Bates, E., Johnson, M.H., Karmiloff-Smith, A., Parisi, D., Plunkett, K., 1996. Rethinking Innateness: A Connectionist Perspective on Development. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press) have claimed that connectionist models might provide an account of the development of new kinds of representations that would not depend on the existence of innate representations. I show that the models described in Rethinking Innateness depend on innately assumed representations and that they do not offer a genuine alternative to nativism. Moreover, I present simula-tion results which show that these models are incapable of deriving genuine abstract representations that are not presupposed. I then give a formal account of why the models fail to generalize in the ways that humans do. Thus, connectionism, at least in its current form, does not provide any support for constructivism. I conclude by sketching a possible alternative.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)153-182
Number of pages30
JournalCognition
Volume66
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2 1998

Fingerprint

constructivism
Learning
Neural Networks (Computer)
Smith, A.
nativism
learning
Connectionism
Innateness
Constructivism
lack
time

Keywords

  • Connectionism
  • Constructivism
  • Nativism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language

Cite this

Marcus, G. F. (1998). Can connectionism save constructivism? Cognition, 66(2), 153-182.

Can connectionism save constructivism? / Marcus, Gary F.

In: Cognition, Vol. 66, No. 2, 02.05.1998, p. 153-182.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Marcus, GF 1998, 'Can connectionism save constructivism?', Cognition, vol. 66, no. 2, pp. 153-182.
Marcus GF. Can connectionism save constructivism? Cognition. 1998 May 2;66(2):153-182.
Marcus, Gary F. / Can connectionism save constructivism?. In: Cognition. 1998 ; Vol. 66, No. 2. pp. 153-182.
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