Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Understanding the difference between 'human smart' and 'computer smart'

Date:
October 30, 2013
Source:
Elsevier
Summary:
Considering 798 to be an odd number is endemic to human cognition, reveals a new study. A common assumption in the cognitive sciences is that thinking consists of following sets of rules (as it does in a computer). A recent research argues that unlike digital computers, which are designed to follow rules, the computations performed by the neural networks that make up our brain are inherently context dependent. People sometimes make seemingly strange mistakes like thinking that 798 is an odd number despite knowing how to identify odd and even numbers.

Considering 798 to be an odd number is endemic to human cognition, reveals a new study.

A common assumption in the cognitive sciences is that thinking consists of following sets of rules (as it does in a computer). A recent research paper published in Elsevier journal Cognition argues that unlike digital computers, which are designed to follow rules, the computations performed by the neural networks that make up our brain are inherently context dependent.

People sometimes make seemingly strange mistakes like thinking that 798 is an odd number despite knowing how to identify odd and even numbers.Mistakes like this one can be dismissed as carelessness. The experiments described in this paper -- that asked people to classify numbers, shapes, and people into simple categories like evens, triangles, and grandmothers -- provide exhaustive evidence that such errors are actually endemic to human cognition, and are far more common than people imagine. The errors made in the various experiments were made by adults varying in age, level of formal education, and were are observed in both American and Indian participants.

Author of the paper, Gary Lupyan Assistant Professor of Psychology, University of Wisconsin, USA, argues that the reason people mistake 798 to be an odd number is that -- even though they know that only the last digit matters, they can't help but also process the other digits, which in this case are odd. This makes the whole number -- 798 -- seem "almost" odd, and to some people, actually odd. Such gradedness and context dependence demonstrates just how difficult it is for some people to following strict rules and definitions.

"This input-sensitivity is critical for obtaining the enormous behavioral flexibility that humans have, but may come at the cost to the ability to perform certain kinds of formal computations. More broadly, the results tell us that the metaphor of the brain as a digital computer running formal algorithms, is seriously misleading," explains Lupyan.

The question of why people make systematic errors on such seemingly simple problems is also highly relevant for education. Educators for a long time have been uninterested in understanding why children make certain errors, focussing only on bringing them to the right answer. However, although some errors may reflect confusion or inattention, a certain class of errors, actually have a much deeper source and tell us something essential about the human brain.

"Although following simple rules is surprisingly difficult, some people excel at this, and as a society we have invented devices that are capable of blindingly fast and perfectly accurate formal computations (this is what computers were made to do, after all). So the real question we are left with is not why people sometimes mistake 798 for an odd number, but how people ever transcend these limitations, which appear to be inherent to how neurons compute," Lupyan concludes.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Elsevier. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Gary Lupyan. The difficulties of executing simple algorithms: Why brains make mistakes computers don’t. Cognition, 2013; 129 (3): 615 DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2013.08.015

Cite This Page:

Elsevier. "Understanding the difference between 'human smart' and 'computer smart'." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 October 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131030103556.htm>.
Elsevier. (2013, October 30). Understanding the difference between 'human smart' and 'computer smart'. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131030103556.htm
Elsevier. "Understanding the difference between 'human smart' and 'computer smart'." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131030103556.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Computers & Math News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Japanese Scientists Unveil Floating 3D Projection

Japanese Scientists Unveil Floating 3D Projection

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 20, 2014) Scientists in Tokyo have demonstrated what they say is the world's first 3D projection that floats in mid air. A laser that fires a pulse up to a thousand times a second superheats molecules in the air, creating a spark which can be guided to certain points in the air to shape what the human eye perceives as an image. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Google To Protect Against Piracy ... At A Cost

Google To Protect Against Piracy ... At A Cost

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) Google is changing its search-engine results to protect content producers from piracy — for a price. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
What We Know About Microsoft's Rumored Smartwatch

What We Know About Microsoft's Rumored Smartwatch

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) Microsoft will reportedly release a smartwatch that works across different mobile platforms, has a two-day battery life and tracks heart rate. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Is Spotify Family A Great Deal Or Catching Up?

Is Spotify Family A Great Deal Or Catching Up?

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) Spotify Family lets you add a family member to your account for half price. Although users are excited, it's a move competitors have already made. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins