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Integrated Models of Cognitive Systems$
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Wayne D. Gray

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780195189193

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195189193.001.0001

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Control Signals and Goal-Directed Behavior

Control Signals and Goal-Directed Behavior

(p.380) 26 Control Signals and Goal-Directed Behavior
Integrated Models of Cognitive Systems

Erik M. Altmann

Oxford University Press

The psychological notion of a “goal” can take various forms, but at the bottom all goal-directed activity seems to require that the correct control signal be detectable by the cognitive system against a background of old or alternative signals. A simple signal detection model based on this premise explains a variety of empirical phenomena from the domain of task switching that might otherwise seem unrelated and that have no obvious explanation in terms of standard, but somewhat naïve, “reconfiguration” accounts of cognitive control. The model can be used to frame discussion of a variety of memory- and attention-related processes, including encoding, retrieval, priming, and inhibition. This chapter suggests that interference among control signals is the basic constraint on goal-directed behavior and that decay of such signals is an architectural housecleaning process that prevents this interference from becoming catastrophic. This analysis provides a reasonably direct account of within-run effects and first-trial effects in task switching.

Keywords:   goal-directed behavior, control signals, cognitive system, signal detection model, task switching, cognitive control, memory, attention, within-run effects, first-trial effects

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