Mind, Body, World: Foundations of Cognitive Science

Reviewed by David Quigley, Research Associate, CU Boulder on 10/6/19

Comprehensiveness rating: 4

The book contains a very thorough review of the origins and key approaches found in Cognitive Science - as the title claims. The table of contents, list of tables / figures, bibliography, etc. are complete and supportive. That said, the book is more of a presentation of an argument for a transition in the field - it outlines the field thoroughly, but appears to come from the perspective of demonstrating the importance of the concluding chapter. There is no index / glossary.

Content Accuracy rating: 4

Content is presented thoroughly and accurately, but some of the levels of detail represent the author’s background in the Connectionist approach. The ideas of this approach are more thoroughly explained from the ground-up, while other areas are explained in more of a “survey” approach, and given examples in those sections have fewer details. The approach of music as an area of study and a metaphor for the field are also perhaps over-represented.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 4

The book is clearly targeted towards a current audience at the time of publication. The argument perhaps creates artificial divisions in explaining the field for the purposes of demonstrating the various ideas and approaches, which I would argue are less divided today than they originally were. However, the book is presented as an overview of the foundations of the field, so it should stand in perpetuity, with newer content appended to the ends of chapters and subsections.

Clarity rating: 4

Generally speaking, the book is well written and does provide background and definitions for the terms and ideas. However, this level of background / explanation can vary from topic to topic. Sometimes the topics explored are dense, and only given a cursory unpacking or explanation, while others are explained in detail.

Consistency rating: 5

The text maintained several threads throughout the book (schools of thought, backgrounds, experimental approaches, etc.) and each one was represented consistently.

Modularity rating: 2

The book generally built one argument from beginning to end. There were a large amount of references to other sections, both allusions to future discussion and reference to previous discussion. However, ideas did tend to be reiterated, at least in a cursory manner, when they reoccurred. The book is clearly structured to flow well within the author’s classroom structure - the argument is cohesive from beginning to end, and reflects an interesting approach for a course in the field. The chapters themselves were quite long and dense - and while they were divided into subsections, there were clearly at least 3 layers of complexity (e.g. chapters usually had 2 or 3 major sections with their own subsections) that were not differentiated effectively in the book structure.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 5

The book was clearly structured, and provided a strong thread of its argument throughout the work. The chapter beginnings, endings, and certain subsections within the chapters kept tying back to the larger thread of the thesis of the book.

Interface rating: 4

Content was presented in a typical document flow, with a thorough table of contents, etc. and significant breaks for chapters. That said, the chapters were very long and materials (e.g. figures) might be re-referenced 20 pages or more after their initial introduction. Advanced PDF functionality (e.g. document linking) could have been useful.

Grammatical Errors rating: 5

The book was very well written and edited.

Cultural Relevance rating: 5

The book was clear about its origins and influences in mostly European sciences and philosophy (mirroring the field of Cognitive Science itself). Examples were mostly drawn from extant work, and contained innocuous materials (e.g. considering the geographical layout of Alberta, Canada).