Summary Book III: Rethinking Cognitive Psychology

The humanist’s plaintive cry, “I am not a machine,” is in response to the mainstream cognitive science view that the human mind is similar to a computational machine—what scientists call a formal system. In a series of three books, Dr. Lynch challenges these mainstream theories by showing how human cognition consists of two parts: a part inherited from the nonhuman primates that is not based on language and a part that is based on human natural syntactic language. Natural language is therefore not just a means of communication, as asserted by most cognitive scientists, but is essential to what is often referred to as human thought or reason. Humans can, of course, think without using language but only in a way that is also shared by our chimp cousins. His first book, subtitled Thinking without Words, characterized that languageless mode of cognition. His second book in the series was subtitled Thinking with Words and focused on the role of natural language in human thought. The third book, subtitled Rethinking Cognitive Psychology, completes the trilogy on cognition and grounds the concepts developed in the first two books by analyzing specific details of the brain and mind.

Book III of I Am Not a Machine addresses the brain’s organization, neurochemical system, sensory perception and motor control systems, and human emotion. Many aspects of human cognition can be best understood as they unfold, and therefore Book III explores aspects of the human development. The second half of Book III deals with the developmental disorders of high functioning autism, Asperger’s syndrome and savant syndrome. A cognitive analysis of these disorders provides a way of bridging the gap between low-level neural aspects of the brain with a high-level characterization of behavior.

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Cover Story

Girl with Stuffed Animals. At the time of the photograph, the girl was about three years old. This “normally developing” child loves people, animals, stories, singing and being sung to. I photographed her with her animal collection because she seemed most relaxed with them and that helped me be more relaxed. I wish I could have included the other forty adorable stuffed animals that I had to crop from the original photo. Book III is focused on how humans develop from childhood to adulthood so that a child on the cover seemed the right thing to do. I liked the animals because they reminded me of our evolutionary past, which I believe influences the course of human development. Since this is a book about thinking, I wanted the child to be pensive, or at least as pensive as a lively three-year-old can be. The thoughtful pose of each of the subjects is a common link between the covers of the Books I, II and III.

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Book I: Thinking Without WordsBook II: Thinking With WordsBook III: Rethinking Cognitive Psychology




Summary of Book III Excerpts from Book III