Saturday, February 12, 2005

100 Most Influential Works in Cognitive Science

With all the recent lists of the best, most important, or must-read books in various sub-areas of analytic philosophy (interesting that none of the philosophy of mind lists included books like Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint), I thought some people might be interested in the recently compiled list of the "100 Most Influential Works in Cognitive Science."

Like the other lists, all of the books and papers have been influential, though the ranking seems a bit silly, and as you might expect, not everyone agrees with many of the inclusions and omissions (including me). It seems silly to put Turing's "Computing machinery and intelligence" third behind a paper by Chomsky and David Marr (both of which are excellent, though judging from the influence in my own corner of the discipline, I would have put Marr's Vision ahead of Chomsky), when both of the works ahead of it depend on it, in many ways, for their very existend. Hebb's 1949 work is also a justifiable choice for #1, since it has had an unmeasurable influence on neuroscience, and essentially created the idea of neural networks.

There are some works that are glaringly misplaced. While Fodor's The Modularity of Mind definitely merits inclusion, placing it at #7 tells me that the panel of judges had a slight philosophy bias. I mean, it's ahead of Shannon's "A mathematical theory of communication" (#12), Neisser's Cognitive Psychology (which pretty much launched the discipline, and is at #20), and Piaget's The Child's Conception of the World (which has defined the study of cognitive development for 75 years, and is ranked #46)! That's sort of like putting The God Particle ahead of "The principle of relativity."

The one work I would have left off the list is Edelman's Neural Darwinism (#87), but I'm not a neuroscientist, so maybe that convoluted work is more influential than I think (I've never read, or until I saw this, heard of Koehler's The Mental Life of Apes, #90, so I can't really speak to its inclusion). There are also works not on the list that I would have included, like Lewin's Dynamic Theory of Personality, Gentner's "Structure-mapping: A theoretical framework for analogy," Feldman and Ballard's "Connectionist models and their properties," and one of the Bransford and Johnson papers on memory from the early 1970s.

Anyway, maybe someone out there has a list of books they would have included, or excluded.


onclepsycho said...

That's a quite good list I think. Only there's no social psychology and Freud's Interpretation of Dreams is oddly included. Also one major omission is Donald Griffin on cognitive ethology.
Wolfgang Köhler is the guy who coined the phrase "Ah ah Erlebnis" (if i'm not mistaken). He did the famous stuff with wooden-boxes, suspended bananas and smart chimps. His work constitutes in fact the very first scientific films in history.

coturnix said...

Many working neuroscientists I know despise Edelman - I don't know why. I agree with onclepsycho on Griffin (and the follow-up literature by others).

Chris said...

I hadn't thought about the cognitive ethology stuff when I read it. Griffin would definitely be a good choice. I tend to be biased toward human research (our version of cognitive ethology would be Hutchins' Cognition in the Wild, which they did include).

However, on the animal front, I am glad that they included "What the Frog's Eye Tells the Frog's Brain." I've always made sure students read that, and I honestly think analytic philosophers, particularly those interested in epistemology and perception, should read that paper very carefully. It's one of the best papers on perception that I know.

Anonymous said...

There are a few works I was surprised didn't make the list. The first edition of Metaphor and Thought edited by Ortony and Lakoff and Johnson's Metaphors We Live By. The sheer boom in research interest in metaphor and figurative language after the publication of these two works merits mention in the list.

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