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WIREs Cogn Sci
Impact Factor: 3.175

Psychology of knowledge representation

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Abstract Every cognitive enterprise involves some form of knowledge representation. Humans represent information about the external world and internal mental states, like beliefs and desires, and use this information to meet goals (e.g., classification or problem solving). Unfortunately, researchers do not have direct access to mental representations. Instead, cognitive scientists design experiments and implement computational models to develop theories about the mental representations present during task performance. There are several main types of mental representation and corresponding processes that have been posited: spatial, feature, network, and structured. Each type has a particular structure and a set of processes that are capable of accessing and manipulating information within the representation. The structure and processes determine what information can be used during task performance and what information has not been represented at all. As such, the different types of representation are likely used to solve different kinds of tasks. For example, structured representations are more complex and computationally demanding, but are good at representing relational information. Researchers interested in human psychology would benefit from considering how knowledge is represented in their domain of inquiry. This article is categorized under: Psychology > Memory
The classic 9‐dot problem with arrows showing the solution.
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Example objects to be represented (left) and feature list representation (right).
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Example objects to be represented (left) and structured representation (right) with the relation ‘above’, the objects ‘ball’ and ‘box’, and the attribute ‘checkered’ represented.
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Network representation with labeled nodes and labeled links.
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Representation of people seated around a table.
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Analog representation (left) and propositional representation (right) of NJ landmarks.
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