Publication 4732

Asaro P. M. (2006) On the origins of the synthetic mind: Working models, mechanisms, and simulations. . Fulltext at
This dissertation reconsiders the nature of scientific models through an historical study of the development of electronic models of the brain by Cybernetics researchers in the 1940s. By examining how these unique models were used in the brain sciences, it develops the concept of a “working model” for the brain sciences. Working models differ from theoretical models in that they are subject to manipulation and interactive experimentation, i.e., they are themselves objects of study and part of material culture. While these electronic brains are often disparaged by historians as toys and publicity stunts, I argue that they mediated between physiological theories of neurons and psychological theories of behavior so as to leverage their compelling material performances against the lack of observational data and sparse theoretical connections between neurology and psychology. I further argue that working models might be used by cognitive science to better understand how the brain develops performative representations of the world.


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