The Role of Working Memory in the Subsymbolic–Symbolic Transition
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In this article, a proposal is made for a new account of the subsymbolic-to-symbolic transition based on a contemporary conception of working memory. Symbolic cognition is a constituent of reasoning and language and requires an operating system that is flexible and can produce novel, yet coherent, representations of relations that are useful in adapting to the environment. Acquisition of such an operating system depends on dynamic binding to a coordinate system in working memory. Recent studies with infants have indicated that this ability develops late in the 1st year of life, which corresponds to the time when symbols emerge in infant cognition. It also corresponds to the time when infants cease to make the A-not-B error, which depends on dynamic creation of a link in memory between an object and its location in space. We propose that such dynamic binding is a previously unrecognized marker of the symbolic transition. Emergence of symbolic processes (e.g., language, theory of mind) should be predicted longitudinally by dynamic binding to a coordinate system.
Current Directions in Psychological Science
Developmental Psychology and Ageing
Cognitive Science not elsewhere classified