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The MIT Encyclopedia of the Cognitive Sciences
by Robert A. Wilson (Editor), Frank C. Keil (Editor)

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Category(ies): Health, Mind & Body, Reference

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Hardcover - 1312 pages (May 7, 1999)
MIT Press; ISBN: 0262232006 ; Dimensions (in inches): 2.03 x 11.36 x 8.85

Other Editions: Software Sales Rank: 84,046
Avg. Customer Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Number of Reviews: 1

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Editorial Reviews
The state-of-the-art knowledge about knowledge is contained within the MIT Encyclopedia of the Cognitive Sciences. Its 471 comprehensive entries cover topics as diverse as "Hemispheric Specialization," "Epiphenomenalism," and "Algorithms" in 1,000 to 1,500 words each, thoroughly cross-indexed and extensively referenced to launch further research. A few biographical entries are also included, highlighting such giants as
Alan Turing and Santiago Ramón y Cajal. The editors selected their contributors well, assigning "Neurobiology of Consciousness" to Christof Koch and Francis Crick, for example. Even better, six longer essays introduce the Encyclopedia, each providing an overview of one of the six disciplines that overlap to form cognitive science: computational intelligence; culture, cognition, and evolution; linguistics and language; neurosciences; philosophy; and psychology. These are enormously helpful to the researcher, as they are general enough to allow easy entry but still meaty enough to be useful themselves and as pointers to specific entries. The MIT Encyclopedia of the Cognitive Sciences, while not a casual entry into the field, is an essential addition to the reference shelf for anyone seriously interested in AI, consciousness, or other aspects of natural and artificial brains. --Rob Lightner

Book Description
Since the 1970s the cognitive sciences have offered multidisciplinary ways of understanding the mind and cognition. The MIT Encyclopedia of the Cognitive Sciences (MITECS) is a landmark, comprehensive reference work that represents the methodological and theoretical diversity of this changing field.

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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful:

5 of 5 stars Required reading for cognitive scientists, July 12, 2000
Reviewer: Eliezer Yudkowsky (see more about me) from Atlanta, GA United States

The MIT Encyclopedia of the Cognitive Sciences - "MITECS" - is a truly excellent book. MITECS is the book I spent four years wishing for back when I started studying cognitive science. MITECS is also a very *large* book; I've set out to read all 471 articles, and I'm currently on "Computational Neuroscience" (p. 166 of 900), although I've also read a lot of other articles as circumstances required. From that sample size, my comments:

The good news: There are some truly excellent articles in this book. Microcolumns and macrocolumns, cerebellar chips, the pathways of the visual system - you can read this book and find out a hundred amazingly cool things that you never even realized you desperately needed to know. Oddly enough, MITECS is also a pretty good as an encyclopedia - if you suddenly need to know more about vision, you'll find what you need to know in "Visual Anatomy and Physiology". (Or "Visual Processing Streams". Or "High-Level Vision". Or "Computational Vision". Or "Mental Rotation". You do need to do a certain amount of hunting, if it's a sufficiently broad subject. More than half the cerebral cortex is devoted to vision - see "Mid-Level Vision" - and MITECS reflects this fact.)

MITECS *excels* as an authoritative reference; you'll almost never need to quote anything else. If you're familiar with cognitive science, you'll often laugh when you get to the end of an article and see the author's byline: "Columns and Modules" by William Calvin, "Chinese Room Argument" by John Searle, "Evolutionary Computation" by Melanie Mitchell, "Evolutionary Psychology" by Leda Cosmides and John Tooby.

The bad news: If you try to read MITECS linearly, you will find that many of the articles, perhaps even a majority, are eminently skippable. (For the record, I read them anyway.) As all of the articles were written by independent individuals - none of whom could read the book first, since it didn't exist yet - there is understandably a great deal of duplication of information. Every third author feels the need to inform you that the mind is a computational information-processing system. (If I had one request to make of the hundreds of authors who write the next edition, it would be: "Skip all the introductory material and the philosophy and try to pack in as much useful detail as you can.") There are also some understandable problems with depth of coverage, made worse by the aforesaid tendency to write introductions; whenever I read an article about a topic that I had earlier studied in more detail, it really brought home the realization that each of these 471 articles tries to cover a topic about which *multiple* entire books have been written.

There are several things I'd like to see in future editions of this book. First and foremost is *less philosophy* and more focus on concrete details, particularly *surprising* details, or details that have something substantial to say about how the mind works. I don't want to know what David Hume thought about causality; I want to know if anything interesting happens when research subjects are asked to reason about causality. (I must also confess myself uninterested in most of the biographical articles that form much of MITECS - but then, that's probably because I'm not using it to study history.) Finally, I would like to see a neuroanatomical index as well as a table of contents. It's already a big book, but they can afford another six pages to show a detailed neuroanatomical map, with names for the areas, and references to the appropriate sections of the book. Such a map would be an enormous help to those of us trying to build up a concrete visualization of the brain.

Conclusion: This is a *really good* book. It's not so much "a good book with a few drawbacks" as "an excellent book with tremendous potential for *even more* improvement", and I mean this in all seriousness. If you're a cognitive scientist, you have basically no choice but to buy this book. If you're a student of the mind or a cognitive hobbyist, then this may not be the *first* book you buy, but you will buy it sooner or later.

It's just such a great book.

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