distributed cognition

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Information processing that is shared among several separate agents. The classic example, due to the US cognitive scientist Edwin Hutchins (born 1948), is that of a group of crew members cooperating to navigate a large ship: one crew member plots the ship's position on a chart, another takes compass bearings on landmarks, another keeps time and communicates with the bearing-takers, another maintains a deck log in which changes in heading and speed are recorded, another monitors water depth, and another operates the steering mechanism. It should be distinguished from parallel distributed processing or connectionism (1), in which separate sub-processes are distributed within a single agent. The cooperative principle is often cited as an example of distributed cognition, making purposeful communication possible as a cooperative endeavour.

Subjects: Psychology.

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