Cognitive Psychology

The broad influence of Descartes’ view that “the body is a machine” is a vivid illustration of the power of ideas. Please discuss his general influence, and then detail how in particular his discovery of the reflex paved the ground for our current understanding of the neural basis of behavior and memory. Points to be outlined include: 1. A brief summary of the developments after Descartes in our understanding of the main systems in the body, outside the the brain (e.g. circulation). 2. A more detailed outline of the milestones in the study of our brain, following Descartes (hints: Gall, Cajal, Sherrington etc) 3. Among these milestones (see point above), discuss more specifically how the intensive study of Pavlovian conditioning revealed (a) its underlying neural machinery and (b) its complexity (e.g. ecological value of stimuli, blocking etc), including (c) its limits. Special instructions on reference: 1) Suggested range: Minimum 2, maximum 5 items. References should be from scientific sources (journals and/or books), but a limited contribution from the general literature is acceptable as long as it is relevant (e.g. philosophical work, or an article regarding a contemporary event from a newspaper). The evaluation will include the relevance of the selected references and the consistency of their style, i.e. the APA style.

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