School of Philosophy, Psychology, and Language Sciences
University of Edinburgh
29 June 2011

We invite submissions of papers by graduate students to the “Models and Mechanisms in the CogSciences” Workshop, to be held at the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, University of Edinburgh on 29 June 2011.

Papers should be approximately 4000 words in length, and may be on any topic addressing the general issue of modelling and mechanisms in the cognitive sciences.  All presentations will be followed by a response, making the workshop a unique opportunity for fruitful debate and for students to get feedback on their work.

Contributions are welcome from fields including philosophy, cognitive (neuro)science, informatics, and other relevant fields.

Keynote Speakers:
- Mark Sprevak (Cambridge/Edinburgh)
- Stephan Hartmann (Tilburg)

There is an increasing amount of interest in the distinctive role that models and mechanisms play in cognitive science (Machamer, Darden & Craver, 2001, Craver, 2007, Piccinini, 2007, Bechtel & Abrahamsen, 2005).  However, more detailed investigations are needed to track the heuristic roles of models and mechanisms, how these approaches are related, and how they contribute to questions of explanation, reduction and scientific realism in specific cases, and in the cognitive sciences more generally.  This preliminary workshop aims to explore these questions through a mix of presentations and discussions, led by Stephan Hartman (Tilburg) and Mark Sprevak (Cambridge/Edinburgh).  Relevant topics include the role of models in terms of their predictive or representational functions, the constraints (if any) that models of cognition must satisfy, and if there is empirical evidence to show that particular models (e.g. the Bayesian brain, Knill & Pouget, 2004) provide accurate accounts of the brain or should be viewed instrumentally.  The way that models and mechanisms are related, through one-way or mutual constraints, or through a potential transition from models to mechanisms, will also be an important area of discussion.  There may also be issues specific to models and mechanisms within cognitive science that affect their relationship and their impact on discussions of explanation, reduction, and realism.  Examples of paper topics are listed below.
In comparison to other disciplines like physics or economics, is there anything special about modelling in cognitive neuroscience?
Do models in cognitive neuroscience serve mainly predictive purposes rather than representational functions?
What are the kind of considerations that can orient model-building in cognitive sciences? How is knowledge transferred from a model to its target?
How do models relate to mechanisms?
Under what conditions do models become mechanistic?
What are the mechanistic properties relevant to cognitive modelling?
From the use of certain types of modelling (e.g. Bayesian modelling) in neuroscience, have we learned or can we hope to learn that the brain is a certain kind of machine (e.g. a Bayesian machine)?
How do model-based or mechanism-based approaches to cognitive neuroscience affect debates over reductionism, explanation and scientific realism?
Submission deadline:  March 1, 2011
Notification of acceptance: April 15, 2011

Please send the following to in .doc, .rtf, or .pdf format:
1) A cover letter containing:
a) the author’s name and institutional affiliation
b) the author’s contact information
c) the title of the paper
d) word count
2) The paper itself (around 4000 words), including the title and a short abstract (no more than 200 words), and with no information identifying the author or the author’s institutional affiliation.
For further enquiries, please email