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representations


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An aspect of cognition in which it is assumed that knowledge is represented in the nervous system of animals. There are two basic types of representation: implicit and explicit. Implicit representation is the same as information that is available as part of a fixed procedure. For example, to know how to touch my nose with my eyes closed, I have to know, amongst other things, the length of my forearm. This information is represented implicitly in my kinaesthetic system. The representation changes as I grow, and can be changed by learning. Similarly, to ride a bicycle, I have to learn to coordinate numerous kinaesthetic systems to do with steering and balance. I can then say that I know how to ride a bicycle, but this type of knowledge is tied to the procedure of riding a bicycle. For this reason, the kind of knowledge that depends upon implicit representations is sometimes called procedural knowledge.

We now come to explicit representations. By ‘explicit’ it is meant that the information is made obvious in a physical manner, and is not simply part of a procedure. If a representation is to be explicit, then there has to be a physically identifiable bearer of the information (the token) and, additionally, something that can be identified as the user of the information. For example, many motor cars have icons on the dash that provide information that can be used by a competent user. The icons are tokens that indicate overheating, low oil pressure, etc. The competent user can recognize these and act accordingly. Whether non-human animals can have explicit representations is a matter of controversy.

Subjects: Zoology and Animal Sciences.


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