Sketches of Thought


Much of the cognitive lies beyond articulate, discursive thought, beyond the reach of current computational notions. In Sketches of Thought, Vinod Goel argues that the cognitive computational conception of the world requires our thought processes to be precise, rigid, discrete, and unambiguous; yet there are dense, ambiguous, and amorphous symbol systems, like sketching, painting, and poetry, found in the arts and much of everyday discourse that have an important, nontrivial place in cognition.

Goel maintains that while on occasion our thoughts do conform to the current computational theory of mind, they often are—indeed must be—vague, fluid, ambiguous, and amorphous. He argues that if cognitive science takes the classical computational story seriously, it must deny or ignore these processes, or at least relegate them to the realm of the nonmental.

As a cognitive scientist with a design background, Goel is in a unique position to challenge cognitive science on its own territory. He introduces design problem solving as a domain of cognition that illustrates these inarticulate, nondiscursive thought processes at work through the symbol system of sketching. He argues not that such thoughts must remain noncomputational but that our current notions of computation and representation are not rich enough to capture them.

Along the way, Goel makes a number of significant and controversial interim points. He shows that there is a principled distinction between design and nondesign problems, that there are standard stages in the solution of design problems, that these stages correlate with the use of different types of external symbol systems; that these symbol systems are usefully individuated in Nelson Goodman's syntactic and semantic terms, and that different cognitive processes are facilitated by different types of symbol systems.

A Bradford Book

Table of Contents

  1. Preface and Acknowledgments
  2. 1. Introduction
  3. Part I. The Computational Theory of Mind: Metatheoretical Underpinnings
  4. 2. From Mental Representations to Computation
  5. 3. Entailments of the Computational Theory of Mind
  6. Part II. Lessons from Design Problem Solving
  7. 4. A Framework for Studying Design
  8. 5. Cognitive Processes Involved in Design Problem Solving
  9. 6. A Cognitive Science Analysis of Designers' Representations
  10. 7. Goodman's Analysis of Symbol Systems
  11. 8. Virtues of Non-Notational Symbol Systems
  12. 9. The Role of Sketching in Design Problem Solving
  13. Part III. Implications, Directions, and Conclusions
  14. 10. Implications for the Computational Theory of Mind
  15. Appendix A Methodological Details of Study 1: Structure of Design Problem Spaces
  16. Appendix B Methodological Details of Study 2: The Role of Sketching in Design Problem Solving
  17. Notes
  18. References
  19. Index