As part of the conference process, we are keeping track of terms that come up for which we don't have agreement on a definition or that are unknown to some members of the group. Feel free to add perspectives on these terms in the Comments.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

"Dumbing Down" (a vote to remove this term from our usage)
PPSR (Public Participation in Science Research)
PD (Professional Development)
base erosion
21st Century Audiences (some people seem to use that to mean web audiences)

As a starting point, we might think of cognition as “thinking.” But like life and art, people often find “cognition” difficult to define. As not all thought is conscious, not all cognition is conscious. Nor is cognition synonymous with declarative knowledge. Cognition can be process and product. We can generate some examples of cognition: solving problems, analyzing information, making inferences, imagination, learning, allocation of attention, finding objects as salient, gesturing while speaking, discerning the meaning of a word, a phrase, an image, or an object.
Where does cognition take place? Let's take the example of doing mathematics. I can close my eyes and do simple mental arithmetic, so mathematical cognition must happen in my brain. But mathematics involves more than simple arithmetic. Bigger numbers may require use of pencil and paper. And more complex calculations demand a calculator or computer. Pencil, paper, calculator, computer—these tools change the cognitive system, and as a result, they change the cognitive task. Now that we’ve introduced tools, does this cognition happen in my brain, or through the interaction between me (my body) and objects in the world? I didn’t invent these tools of calculator and number systems. They result from the accumulated cognitive effort of others. Others taught me how to use those tools, and others taught those who taught me. So I acquired my cognitive skills through social interaction shaped by culture.
Much research today suggests that cognition is not purely a mental phenomenon that happens inside an individual’s brain independent of culture, context, history, emotion, and the rest of the body. Rather, human cognition involves the coordination of multiple systems—biological, social, cultural, and material—to achieve some organized behavior, activity, or mental outcome.
See Hutchins’ entry in the International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences (Elsevier Science Ltd. 2001), “Cognition, Distributed.”