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Challenging the classical notion of time in cognition: a quantum perspective

Yearsley, J. & Pothos, E. M. (2014). Challenging the classical notion of time in cognition: a quantum perspective. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 281(1781), doi: 10.1098/rspb.2013.3056


All mental representations change with time. A baseline intuition is that mental representations have specific values at different time points, which may be more or less accessible, depending on noise, forgetting processes etc. We present a radically alternative, motivated by recent research using the mathematics from quantum theory for cognitive modelling. Such cognitive models raise the possibility that certain possibilities or events may be incompatible, so that perfect knowledge of one necessitates uncertainty for the others. In the context of time dependence, in physics, this issue is explored with the so-called temporal Bell (TB) or Leggett-Garg inequalities. We consider in detail the theoretical and empirical challenges involved in exploring the TB inequalities in the context of cognitive systems. One interesting conclusion is that we believe the study of the TB inequalities to be empirically more constrained in psychology, than in physics. Specifically, we show how the TB inequalities, as applied to cognitive systems, can be derived from two simple assumptions, Cognitive Realism and Cognitive Completeness. We discuss possible implications of putative violations of the TB inequalities for cognitive models and our understanding of time in cognition in general. Overall, the paper provides a surprising, novel direction, in relation to how time should be conceptualized in cognition.

Publication Type: Article
Publisher Keywords: Cognition, quantum probability, time perception, mathematical psychology, memory
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
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