Most exciting discovery or theory of the past ten years

 In cognitive science, journals, people

trends.jpgI am a sucker for lists, so please bear with me: In a forthcoming editorial, Shbana Rahman, the editor of the great journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences, is celebrating the ten years anniversary of TICS by printing short reflections on what has been the most “exciting discovery or theory of the past ten years” by a number of fat cats in the cognitive neurosciences: John Anderson, Nick Chater, Jon Driver, Jerry Fodor, Marc Hauser, Phil Johnson-Laird, Steven Kosslyn, Jay McClelland, George A. Miller, Lynn Nadel, Steven Pinker, Zenon Pylyshyn, Trevor Robbins, and Vincent Walsh. Naturally, there are as many different answers as people asked: the shift from computational models to probalistic models (Chater), Gergely and Csibra’s experiments on rational imitation in infants (Hauser), research on how intuitions determine judgments (Johnson-Laird), mirror neurons (Nadel), etc., etc. The funniest entry by far is Fodor’s:

What with brain imaging and neural nets, it will be a hard ten years to forget. But I’m working on it. Hopes
for the future: (i) the further erosion of attempts to apply the adaptationist paradigm to the evolution of
cognitive and linguistic phenotypes; concurrently, its replacement by an account that stresses the ‘‘hidden’’
constraints on phylogeny imposed by neurology, genetics, biochemistry, ontogeny and so forth; (ii)
the development of a serious referential/causal semantics for mental representations.

My own suggestions, just of the top of my head, would be:

(1) The rapidly growing understanding of the role played by emotions in various forms of “higher” cognition.

(2) Research on on the interplay between genes, brain processes and the environment in producing behaviour – especially development. Hopefully outdated words such as “innate” will soon dissapear from the vocabulary of cognitive neuroscientists.

(3) Decision-making. By which I mean research on making a judgment, forming preferences for possible choices, neuroeconomics, neuromarketing, and neuroethics.

What would be your choices?


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