Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Open Peer Commentary
Barsalou: Perpetual symbol systems

Can handicapped subjects use perceptual symbol systems?

F. Lowenthal a1
a1 Cognitive Sciences, University of Mons, B-7000 Mons, Belgium


It is very tempting to try to reconcile perception and cognition perceptual symbol systems may be a good way to achieve this; but is there actually a perception-cognition continuum? We offer several arguments for and against the existence of such a continuum and in favor of the choice of perceptual symbol systems. One of these arguments is purely theoretical, some are based on PET-scan observations and others are based on research with handicapped subjects who have communication problems associated with cerebral lesions. These arguments suggest that modal perceptual symbols do indeed exist and that perception and cognition might have a common neuronal basis; but perceptual and cognitive activities require the activation of different neuronal structures.