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Ph.D. Theses

Analogical Constructivism: The Emergence of Reasoning Through Analogy and Action Schemas

By John Licato
Advisor: Selmer Bringsjord
April 7, 2015

The ability to reason analogically is a central marker of human-level cognition. Analogy involves mapping, reorganizing, and creating structural knowledge, a particular type of cognitive construct commonly understood as residing purely within the domain of declarative knowledge. Yet existing computational models of analogy struggle to show human-level performance on any data sets not manually constructed for the purposes of demonstration, a problem referred to as the tailorability concern. Bypassing the tailorability concern may require more investigation into the nature of epistemic cognitive structures.

I propose to develop a theory of Analogical Constructivism. This theory builds on Piaget's constructivist epistemology, first refining its concepts by clarifying the modifications Piaget himself made in his later, less discussed works. I reconcile Piaget's assertion that meaning is, first and foremost, rooted in the action schemas that the agent is both born with and develops throughout life with an account of cognitive structure, concluding that epistemic structure is inseparable from action-centered/procedural knowledge.

After a defense of the claim that epistemic structure cannot exist apart from actions (a claim which I refer to as "No-semantically-empty-structure"), I introduce PAGI World, a simulation environment rich enough in possible actions to foster the growth of artificial agents capable of producing their own epistemic structures. I conclude with a brief demonstration of an agent in PAGI World, and discuss future work.

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