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Dr. Ernest Davis, 4:00pm, January 10th

Dr. Ernest Davis

Department of Computer Science
Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences
New York University

    Tuesday, January 10th
    Swift 107
    Reception to Follow 

Ernest DavisSimulation in Cognitive Models: Scope and Limits

It has been proposed that human physical reasoning consists largely of running "physics engines in the head" in which the future trajectory of the physical system under consideration is computed precisely using accurate scientific theories. In such models, uncertainty and incomplete knowledge is dealt with by sampling probabilistically over the space of possible trajectories ("Monte Carlo simulation").

We argue that such simulation-based models are too weak, in that there are many important aspects of human physical reasoning that cannot be carried out this way, or can only be carried out very inefficiently; and too strong, in that humans make large systematic errors that the models cannot account for. We conclude that simulation-based reasoning makes up at most a small part of a larger system that encompasses a wide range of additional cognitive processes. (Joint work with Gary Marcus)