Gary F. Marcus's research while affiliated with New York University and other places

Publications (103)

Preprint
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The DALL-E 2 system generates original synthetic images corresponding to an input text as caption. We report here on the outcome of fourteen tests of this system designed to assess its common sense, reasoning and ability to understand complex texts. All of our prompts were intentionally much more challenging than the typical ones that have been sho...
Preprint
The Winograd Schema Challenge -- a set of twin sentences involving pronoun reference disambiguation that seem to require the use of commonsense knowledge -- was proposed by Hector Levesque in 2011. By 2019, a number of AI systems, based on large pre-trained transformer-based language models and fine-tuned on these kinds of problems, achieved better...
Article
How the cognitive sciences can inform the quest to build systems with the flexibility of the human mind.
Preprint
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The Winograd Schema Challenge is both a commonsense reasoning and natural language understanding challenge, introduced as an alternative to the Turing test. A Winograd schema is a pair of sentences differing in one or two words with a highly ambiguous pronoun, resolved differently in the two sentences, that appears to require commonsense knowledge...
Article
The project of justifying all the limits and failings of human cognition as inevitable consequences of strategies that are actually “optimal” relative to the limits on computational resources available may have some value, but it is far from a complete explanation. It is inconsistent with both common observation and a large body of experimentation,...
Article
We asked whether 11- and 14- month-old infants' abstract rule learning, an early form of analogical reasoning, is susceptible to processing constraints imposed by limits in attention and memory for sequence position. We examined 11- and 14- month-old infants' learning and generalization of abstract repetition rules ("repetition anywhere," Experimen...
Article
Human reasoning is richer than Lake et al. acknowledge, and the emphasis on theories of how images and scenes are synthesized is misleading. For example, the world knowledge used in vision presumably involves a combination of geometric, physical, and other knowledge, rather than just a causal theory of how the image was produced. In physical reason...
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In physical reasoning, humans are often able to carry out useful reasoning based on radically incomplete information. One physical domain that is ubiquitous both in everyday interactions and in many kinds of scientific applications, where reasoning from incomplete information is very common, is the interaction of containers and their contents. We h...
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While acquiring motor skills, animals transform their plastic motor sequences to match desired targets. However, because both the structure and temporal position of individual gestures are adjustable, the number of possible motor transformations increases exponentially with sequence length. Identifying the optimal transformation towards a given tar...
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In scientific computing and in realistic graphic animation, simulation – that is, step-by-step calculation of the complete trajectory of a physical system – is one of the most common and important modes of calculation. In this article, we address the scope and limits of the use of simulation, with respect to AI tasks that involve high-level physica...
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Ernest Davis and Gary Marcus share their views on the significance of commonsense reasoning and commonsense knowledge in artificial intelligence (AI). Many intelligent tasks, such as understanding texts, computer vision, planning, and scientific reasoning require the real-world knowledge and reasoning abilities. Techniques for implementing commonse...
Article
It has been proposed that human physical reasoning consists largely of running "physics engines in the head" in which the future trajectory of the physical system under consideration is computed precisely using accurate scientific theories. In such models, uncertainty and incomplete knowledge is dealt with by sampling probabilistically over the spa...
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Music, like speech, is a complex auditory signal that contains structures at multiple timescales, and as such is a potentially powerful entry point into the question of how the brain integrates complex streams of information. Using an experimental design modeled after previous studies that used scrambled versions of a spoken story (Lerner et al., 2...
Article
The authors reply to a comment on their article "How robust are probabilistic models of higher-level cognition?," by G. F. Marcus, et al. The authors debated that multiple, equally probable, Bayesian models could be made for the tasks under consideration, and that Bayesian theories do not restrict which model applies in any given case.
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This study examines the decoding times at which the brain processes structural information in music and compares them to timescales implicated in recent work on speech. Combining an experimental paradigm based on Ghitza and Greenberg (Phonetica, 66(1-2), 113-126, 2009) for speech with the approach of Farbood et al. (Journal of Experimental Psycholo...
Preprint
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Based on a survey of the literature, we attempt to answer Frequently Asked Questions on issues of cortical uniformity vs. non-uniformity, the neural mechanisms of symbolic variable binding, and other issues highlighted in (Marcus, Marblestone and Dean. "The Atoms of Neural Computation". Science. 31 October 2014. Vol 346. Issue 6209).
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Based on a survey of the literature, we attempt to answer Frequently Asked Questions on issues of cortical uniformity vs. non-uniformity, the neural mechanisms of symbolic variable binding, and other issues highlighted in (Marcus, Marblestone and Dean. "The Atoms of Neural Computation". Science. 31 October 2014. Vol 346. Issue 6209).
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The human cerebral cortex is central to a wide array of cognitive functions, from vision to language, reasoning, decision-making, and motor control. Yet, nearly a century after the neuroanatomical organization of the cortex was first defined, its basic logic remains unknown. One hypothesis is that cortical neurons form a single, massively repeated...
Article
It’s a valuable tool for analysis, but don’t believe all the hype.
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An increasingly popular theory holds that the mind should be viewed as a near-optimal or rational engine of probabilistic inference, in domains as diverse as word learning, pragmatics, naive physics, and predictions of the future. We argue that this view, often identified with Bayesian models of inference, is markedly less promising than widely bel...
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Human language, as well as birdsong, relies on the ability to arrange vocal elements in new sequences. However, little is known about the ontogenetic origin of this capacity. Here we track the development of vocal combinatorial capacity in three species of vocal learners, combining an experimental approach in zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) wit...
Article
A central process in music cognition involves the identification of key; however, little is known about how listeners accomplish this task in real time. This study derives from work that suggests overlap between the neural and cognitive resources underlying the analyses of both music and speech and is the first, to our knowledge, to explore the tim...
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A recent computational model by Hayes and Wilson (2008) seemingly captures a diverse range of phonotactic phenomena without variables, contrasting with the presumptions of many formal theories. Here, we examine the plausibility of this approach by comparing generalizations of identity restrictions by this architecture and human learners. Whereas hu...
Article
Is the human tendency toward musicality better thought of as the product of a specific, evolved instinct or an acquired skill? Developmental and evolutionary arguments are considered, along with issues of domain-specificity. The article also considers the question of why humans might be consistently and intensely drawn to music if musicality is not...
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Word-learning likely involves a multiplicity of components, some domain-general, others domain-specific. Against the background of recent studies that suggest that word-learning is domain-specific, we investigated the associative component of word-learning. Seven- and 14-month-old infants viewed a pair of events in which a monkey or a truck moved b...
Data
Examples of gestures used in the training and test materials. (ZIP)
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Infants appear to learn abstract rule-like regularities (e.g., la la da follows an AAB pattern) more easily from speech than from a variety of other auditory and visual stimuli (Marcus et al., 2007). We test if that facilitation reflects a specialization to learn from speech alone, or from modality-independent communicative stimuli more generally,...
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Language is rife with ambiguity. Do children and adults meet this challenge in similar ways? Recent work suggests that while adults resolve syntactic ambiguities by integrating a variety of cues, children are less sensitive to top-down evidence. We test whether this top-down insensitivity is specific to syntax or a general feature of children's lin...
Article
Although regular polysemy [e.g. producer for product (John read Dickens) or container for contents (John drank the bottle)] has been extensively studied, there has been little work on why certain polysemy patterns are more acceptable than others. We take an empirical approach to the question, in particular evaluating an account based on rules again...
Article
Can the study of individual differences inform debates about modularity and the specialization of function? In this article, we consider the implications of a highly replicated, robust finding known as positive manifold: Individual differences in different cognitive domains tend to be positively intercorrelated. Prima facie, this fact, which has ge...
Article
Most words are associated with multiple senses. A DVD can be round (when describing a disc), and a DVD can be an hour long (when describing a movie), and in each case DVD means something different. The possible senses of a word are often predictable, and also constrained, as words cannot take just any meaning: for example, although a movie can be a...
Article
We find the theory of neural reuse to be highly plausible, and suggest that human individual differences provide an additional line of argument in its favor, focusing on the well-replicated finding of "positive manifold," in which individual differences are highly correlated across domains. We also suggest that the theory of neural reuse may be an...
Article
The mere fact that a particular aspect of mind could offer an adaptive advantage is not enough to show that that property was in fact shaped by that adaptive advantage. Although it is possible that the tendency towards positive illusion is an evolved misbelief, it it also possible that positive illusions could be a by-product of a broader, flawed c...
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In this article it is argued that evolutionary plausibility must be made an important constraining factor when building theories of language. Recent suggestions that presume that language is necessarily a perfect or optimal system are at odds with this position, evolutionary theory showing us that evolution is a meliorizing agent often producing im...
Article
By 7 months of age, infants are able to learn rules based on the abstract relationships between stimuli (Marcus et al., 1999), but they are better able to do so when exposed to speech than to some other classes of stimuli. In the current experiments we ask whether multimodal stimulus information will aid younger infants in identifying abstract rule...
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Abstract— Both nature and nurture are important contributors to development, but the two are not mutually exclusive. Understanding their joint contribution will require a balanced look at both contributors. This commentary proposes that the target article by J. P. Spencer et al. (2009) falls short in this regard, largely because it misrepresents th...
Article
The experiments reported here investigated the development of a fundamental component of cognition: to recognize and generalize abstract relations. Infants were presented with simple rule-governed patterned sequences of visual shapes (ABB, AAB, and ABA) that could be discriminated from differences in the position of the repeated element (late, earl...
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Cognitive scientists must understand not just what the mind does, but how it does what it does. In this paper, I consider four aspects of cognitive architecture: how the mind develops, the extent to which it is or is not modular, the extent to which it is or is not optimal, and the extent to which it should or should not be considered a symbol-mani...
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Rogers & McClelland's (R&M's) précis represents an important effort to address key issues in concepts and categorization, but few of the simulations deliver what is promised. We argue that the models are seriously underconstrained, importantly incomplete, and psychologically implausible; more broadly, R&M dwell too heavily on the apparent successes...
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Is the structure of lexical representations universal, or do languages vary in the fundamental ways in which they represent lexical information? Here, we consider a touchstone case: whether Semitic languages require a special morpheme, the consonantal root. In so doing, we explore a well-known constraint on the location of identical consonants that...
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A hallmark feature of vertebrate brain organization is ordered topography, wherein sets of neuronal connections preserve the relative organization of cells between two regions. Although topography is often found in projections from peripheral sense organs to the brain, it also seems to participate in the anatomical and functional organization of hi...
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Sequences of speech sounds play a central role in human cognitive life, and the principles that govern such sequences are crucial in determining the syntax and semantics of natural languages. Infants are capable of extracting both simple transitional probabilities and simple algebraic rules from sequences of speech, as demonstrated by studies using...
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Few areas in the cognitive sciences evoke more controversy than language evolution, due in part to the difficulty in gathering relevant empirical data. The study of developmental disorders is well placed to provide important new clues, but has been hampered by a lack of consensus on the aims and interpretation of the research project. We suggest th...
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Against a background of recent progress in developmental neuroscience, some of which has been taken as challenging to the modularity hypothesis of , this article contrasts two competing conceptions of modularity: sui generis modularity, according to which modules are treated as independent neurocognitive entities that owe nothing to one another, an...
Article
Guidelines for submitting commentsPolicy: Comments that contribute to the discussion of the article will be posted within approximately three business days. We do not accept anonymous comments. Please include your email address; the address will not be displayed in the posted comment. Cell Press Editors will screen the comments to ensure that they...
Article
An essential part of the human capacity for language is the ability to link conceptual or semantic representations with syntactic representations. On the basis of data from spontaneous production, suggested that young children acquire such links on a verb-by-verb basis, with little in the way of a general understanding of linguistic argument struct...
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Recursion, once thought to be the unique province of human language, now seems to be within the ken of a common songbird - perhaps providing insight into the origins of language.
Article
The human capacity to acquire complex language seems to be without parallel in the natural world. The origins of this remarkable trait have long resisted adequate explanation, but advances in fields that range from molecular genetics to cognitive neuroscience offer new promise. Here we synthesize recent developments in linguistics, psychology and n...
Conference Paper
Both activity-dependent (AD) and activity-independent (AI) processes play important roles in neural development. For example, in the development of the vertebrate visual system, molecular guidance cues that are largely activity-independent provide a rough topography of early projections, while activity-dependent refinement of termination zones occu...
Chapter
This chapter examines an apparent tension created by recent research on neurological development and genetics on the one hand and cognitive development on the other. It considers what it might mean for intrinsic signals to guide the initial establishment of functional architecture. It argues that an understanding of the mechanisms by which the body...
Article
Criteria that aim to dichotomize cognition into rules and similarity are destined to fail because rules and similarity are not in genuine conflict. It is possible for a given cognitive domain to exploit rules without similarity, similarity without rules, or both (rules and similarity) at the same time.
Conference Paper
A challenge to understanding the mind and brain is to integrate biochemical, genetic, developmental and neuroscientific information. We present a system for integrated simulation of biochemistry, neurodevelopment and neural activity within a unifying framework of genetic control. Using this system, we have developed a novel model for the formation...
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Language evolution: evolutionary vestiges may provide clues to the ultimate origins of human language.
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MacWhinney's list of proposed mechanisms for language acquisition seems so all-encompassing that it might appear churlish to dwell on a mechanism that's left out, but on his ultimate list of critical mechanisms there is an indeed an important (and intended) omission: innate, linguistically-specialized constraints. Such constraints are indeed mentio...
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What Is Thought?. by Eric B. Baum. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2004. 492 pp. $40, £25.95. ISBN 0-262-02548-5. Approaching the problem of the mind from a computer science perspective, Baum argues for a computational explanation of though--one that sees the mind as "a complex but compact program."
Article
"Little by little, the child develops," wrote an undergraduate in a friend's cognitive development class, and so, for the most part, it is. In most respects, a 3-year-old is better than a 2-year-old, and a 2-year-old is better than a 1-year-old. Whether im- provement is gradual or steep, it is rare to see children take a step backward. When childre...
Article
Does the productive use of language stem from the manipulation of mental variables (e.g. "noun", "any consonant")? If linguistic constraints appeal to variables, rather than instances (e.g. "dog", "m"), then they should generalize to any representable novel instance, including instances that fall beyond the phonological space of a language. We test...
Article
For example, genetically encoded modifications of vocal tract morphology, which give us a longer oral cavity and lower larynx than other primates, are crucial for modern human speech, allowing us to produce a dramatically increased repertoire of sounds [9]. However, there are also likely to be genetic changes that impact on aspects of neurological...
Article
Languages may all share and be constrained by a universal grammar. A new study shows that Broca's area (long thought to participate in grammatical aspects of language) becomes increasingly active as participants acquire rules from a foreign language, but not as they acquire comparable rules that are inconsistent with real languages. Could Broca's a...
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The human capacity for acquiring speech and language must derive, at least in part, from the genome. In 2001, a study described the first case of a gene, FOXP2, which is thought to be implicated in our ability to acquire spoken language. In the present article, we discuss how this gene was discovered, what it might do, how it relates to other genes...
Article
“Does grammar start where statistics stop?”, ask M. S. Seidenberg et al. in the title of their Perspective (18 Oct., p. [553][1]). Arguing against a “reconcilist” position in which complex cognitive functions would depend on a mixture of statistical and algebraic (rule) mechanisms ([1][2], [
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This commentary discusses the logic of inferring modularity or the lack of modularity from observed patterns of developmental disorders.
Article
Does the productive use of language stem from the manipulation of mental variables (e.g. "noun", "any consonant")? If linguistic constraints appeal to variables, rather than instances (e.g. "dog", "m"), then they should generalize to any representable novel instance, including instances that fall beyond the phonological space of a language. We test...
Conference Paper
Recent research in brain development and cognitive development leads to an apparent paradox. One set of recent experiments suggests that infants are well-endowed with sophisticated mechanisms for analyzing the world; another set of recent experiments suggests that brain development is extremely flexible. In this paper, I review various ways of reso...
Article
Some of the things that adults learn about language, and about the world, are very specific, whereas others are more abstract or rulelike. This article reviews evidence showing that infants, too, can very rapidly acquire both specific and abstract information, and considers the mechanisms that infants might use in doing so.
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Rohde & Plaut, 1999 argue that their work with Elman's simple recurrent network (henceforth, SRN) ''suggests that learning the structure of natural language may be possible despite a lack of explicit negative feedback … in the absence of detailed innate language-acquisition mechanisms''. They further argue that ''a key factor in overcoming the 'log...
Article
Guidelines for submitting commentsPolicy: Comments that contribute to the discussion of the article will be posted within approximately three business days. We do not accept anonymous comments. Please include your email address; the address will not be displayed in the posted comment. Cell Press Editors will screen the comments to ensure that they...
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et al. (1) familiarized 7-month-old infants with sequences of sylla-bles generated by an artificial grammar; the infants were then able to discriminate be-tween sequences generated both by that grammar and another, even though sequences in the familiarization and test phases em-ployed different syllables. Marcus et al. stat-ed that their infants we...
Article
Reply by the current author to the comments made by J. L. McClelland and D. C. Plaut (see record 2006-00293-002) on the original article (199900199-002). It is not altogether surprising that commentators, researchers with longstanding interests in providing alternatives to rules, find our recent experiments unconvincing. But advocates of their cog...
Article
Full-text available
A fundamental task of language acquisition is to extract abstract algebraic rules. Three experiments show that 7-month-old infants attend longer to sentences with unfamiliar structures than to sentences with familiar structures. The design of the artificial language task used in these experiments ensured that this discrimination could not be perfor...
Article
A fundamental task of language acquisition is to extract abstract algebraic rules. Three experiments show that 7-month-old infants attend longer to sentences with unfamiliar structures than to sentences with familiar structures. The design of the artificial language task used in these experiments ensured that this discrimination could not be perfor...
Article
Full-text available
Humans routinely generalize universal relationships to unfamiliar instances. If we are told "if glork then frum," and "glork," we can infer "frum"; any name that serves as the subject of a sentence can appear as the object of a sentence. These universals are pervasive in language and reasoning. One account of how they are generalized holds that hum...
Article
Full-text available
Constructivism is the Piagetian notion that learning leads the child to develop new types of representations. For example, on the Piagetian view, a child is born without knowing that objects persist in time even when they are occluded; through a process of learning, the child comes to know that objects persist in time. The trouble with this view ha...

Citations

... It may, of course, be possible for a deep learning approach to settability to reduce our large estimate of unsuccessful computations, in combination with external learning heuristics (of the kind we will discuss below). However, to our knowledge no such approach has been forthcoming in the literature, and in any event, it would likely necessitate a number of complex priors that may simply re-migrate settability difficulties to postulated AI algorithms that may have no cognitively plausible, implementational correlate (Marcus & Davis, 2021). The burden of proof in this respect lies with deep learning (and related) approaches, and we therefore leave this possibility to future research, in particular given that our approach here has been explicitly to model the computability of settability paths. ...
... Humans all have different experiences so that individual humans make judgements based in different, limited information. Humans also have limited perception, memory, and processing power (Stibel et al., 2009;Spellman et al., 2015;Davis & Marcus, 2020;Meyerhoff et al., 2021), and are susceptible to additional factors such as emotion (Lerner & Keltner, 2000), ego (Pulford, 1996;Muthukrishna et al., 2018), and motivational drivers (Zuckerman, 1979;Halamish & Stern, 2021). ...
... After being familiarized with a sequence of syllables that followed a high-order, repetition-based rule (ABB, AAB, ABA), preverbal infants were able to extract the rule and generalize it to a new set of syllables (Marcus et al., 1999). From early development, RL has also been demonstrated in the visual modality, even though it appears constrained by several factors imposed by limits in attention and memory (e.g., Schonberg et al., 2018) and by the direction of spatial information with which the sequences of the stimuli are delivered (Bulf et al., 2017). Many studies have also demonstrated that, starting from the first months of age, RL involves a broad and abstract representation of the to-be-learned rule (Rabagliati, Ferguson, Lew-Williams, 2019) and it allows a transfer of learning across domains (Bulf et al., 2022;Marcus et al., 2007) and modalities . ...
... In the crystallised period, birds 1397 mature and produce a species-specific song but are most often unable to learn new songs due to 1398 computational demands. However, if they do learn a new song, it takes them longer to master it (Lipkind 1399(Lipkind et al., 2017; see also the mapping theory). These studies highlight that the AoA effect is a property of 1400 learning in both humans and songbirds. ...
... The quality of this knowledge can be controlled and improved by adding a critic model, making GPT-3 a stronger teacher. Talmor et al., 2021;Davis and Marcus, 2017) despite their otherwise stellar performances on leaderboards. As a result, symbolic commonsense knowledge graphs (Speer et al., 2017;Hwang et al., 2020) and their corresponding neural representations (Bosselut et al., 2019;Hwang et al., 2020;Zhang et al., 2020b) have been useful for supplementing past models with commonsense capabilities for diverse downstream applications, including interactive learning through a conversational interface (Arabshahi et al., 2021), persona-and affectaware conversation models (Kearns et al., 2020), figurative language understanding (Chakrabarty et al., 2020(Chakrabarty et al., , 2021, story telling (Ammanabrolu et al., 2020) and fantasy games (Ammanabrolu et al., 2021). ...
... For example, the works of [12], [13], [17], [18], [31], [35], [36] do capture some aspects of grounded understanding, in that real-world constructs are directly characterized with their physical characteristics, but they are short on characterizing functionality through explicit cognitive and causal representations. On the other hand, the works of Davis [32]- [34] capture functionality at the cognitive level (in his case, logic representation is used for this level), and to some extent at the causal level, but the representational scheme does not provide strong links between cognitive level representations and real-world constructsi.e., there is a lack of systematic treatment of the grounding issues of representations. As for the earlier work of Ho [4], even though the methodology used captures functionality at a conceptual level -using functional definitions to recognize visually disjunctive but functionally similar concepts -the framework does not provide explicit conceptual and causal representations to represent the functional concepts involved (instead, implicit representations in the form of procedural representations were used). ...
... However, it is also shown that the utilization of simulation-gained data is not always conducive to be applicable in real life [22]. This is attributable to the systemic limitations of such simulations, since the viability of the data obtained from simulations is dependent upon the viability of the initial data provided by the investigator [23,24]. Moreover, it is also shown that the availability of the environment is a key issue in this regard. ...
... Archetypes, as described in the previous section, influence our lives from deep within the collective unconscious and are often manifested in art and story, such as the hero myth. Studies in anthropology, cognitive science, developmental biology and psychology, ethology, evolutionary psychology, linguistics, neurobiology, and sociobiology have independently identified inherited cognitive capacities, which influence the way we behave, feel, think, and perceive and are remarkably similar to Jung's concept of archetypes (Klinnert et al., 1983;Chomsky, 1986;Johnson & Morton, 1991;Pinker, 1991;Meltzoff & Moore, 1995;Dehaene, 1997;Carruthers et al., 2005;Marcus, 2005, as cited in Goethals & Allison, 2012;Stevens, 1994;Goodwyn, 2012). ...
... While the community has extensively worked on data quality targeting the pieces of information explicitly contained in an event log, no attention has been devoted to the insights that can be obtained through reasoning on such data. At the same time, the elicitation and usage of common sense and domain knowledge constitute central open problems in (general) artificial intelligence (Davis and Marcus, 2015). Focusing on a concrete setting, such as that of process mining, grounds this problem in a concrete context, paving the way to more accessible results that could in turn provide insights on how to advance with the problem in its full generality. ...
... Instead, it has been proposed that a general ability to predict what will happen next in physical scenarios will require a more structured representation of the physical world that will support forward simulation (Battaglia et al., 2013;Ullman et al., 2017). A parallel debate is raging in cognitive science (Lerer et al., 2016;Conwell et al., 2019;Battaglia et al., 2013;Firestone and Scholl, 2017;Firestone and Scholl, 2016;Ludwin-Peery et al., 2019;Davis and Marcus, 2015;Chater and Oaksford, 2017;Davis et al., 2017;Ludwin-Peery et al., 2020), between those who argue that because human physical inferences occur rapidly (Firestone and Scholl, 2017) and preattentively (Firestone and Scholl, 2017) they are computed by something like a pattern recognition process, versus those who argue that human and primate physical inference behavior is best accounted for by mental simulation (Battaglia et al., 2013;Ullman et al., 2017;Zhang et al., 2016;Gerstenberg et al., 2017;Rajalingham et al., 2021). Three lines of evidence from the present study indicate that pattern recognition alone -as instantiated in feedforward CNNs and the ventral visual pathway -is unlikely to explain physical inference in humans, at least for the case of physical stability. ...