Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Open Peer Commentary
Barsalou: Perpetual symbol systems

Whither structured representation?

Arthur B. Markman a1 and Eric Dietrich a2
a1 Department of Psychology, University of Texas, Austin, TX 78712 [email protected]
a2 Program in Philosophy, Computers, and Cognitive Science, Binghamton University, Binghamton, NY 13902-6000 [email protected]


The perceptual symbol system view assumes that perceptual representations have a role-argument structure. A role-argument structure is often incorporated into amodal symbol systems in order to explain conceptual functions like abstraction and rule use. The power of perceptual symbol systems to support conceptual functions is likewise rooted in its use of structure. On Barsalou's account, this capacity to use structure (in the form of frames) must be innate.