A current trend in cognitive science is to view the mind as a dynamical system (e.g., Continuity of Mind by psycholinguist Spivey, in which cognition--including language comprehension and production--is understood as a "continuous and often recurrent trajectory through a state space"). Although I'd like to critically evaluate this trend, I'm embarresed to admit that I've never taken even a basic calculus course.

Yet since I don't intend to build dynamical systems models myself, what is the bare minimum of maths learning that I need to accomplish in order to understand dynamical systems in the context of cognitive? Remember, I'm a total novice!

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    you have really cross-posted like crazy. read pierce's 1980 book on information theory, and more importantly read the works cited by spivey.
    – user483
    Commented Nov 2, 2012 at 14:49
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    Tyler, you have posted this question on seven different Stack Exchange sites: Cog Sci, Linguistics, Computational Science, Mathematics, Computer Science, CS Theory, and Philosophy. Cross posting once is frowned upon, let alone six times! Which site do you want this question on?
    – Josh
    Commented Nov 3, 2012 at 13:17
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    Tyler, like @Josh said, cross-posting isn't good etiquette. There are some valid ways to "cross-post" but simultaneously posting on each site is not one of them. Since this question is apparently being accepted by the community, I'll be leaving it open. Cross-posting is not OK, but the question per se seems to fit our site.
    – Alenanno
    Commented Nov 3, 2012 at 13:44

1 Answer 1


Tyler, I'm going to: 1. Tell you my background 2. Give you an answer to the best of my ability, 3. Wait for feedback.

I wanted to be an engineer and had through basic calculus in US High School. Ended up changing my mind and got a BA in Psychology that was 2 courses shy of a minor in linguistics and enjoyed cognitive science and psycholinguistics as it applied to language learning and propaganda.I had courses in statistics through multivariate analysis (11 Semester units)

I think, your question would be easier to answer if you were to tell us what you plan to measure. What are the metrics of the "state-change"? As you're going to do this over time, I can only see using a graphical function which indicates calculating the "area under the curve"--whether it be language or concept recognition. So, I think you will need at least some advanced algebra, and likely calculus analyze the differences you're wishing to measure. But, it has been 25 years since I've had calculus. To do any meaningful measurements you'll have to understand the mathematical concepts to know the "why" of what you're measuring what you're measuring.

Though, on another note: The human brain is a electro-chemical bath with billions of connections and the statement"the current trend is to view the mind as a dynamical system" should make you aware of the physical reality and the psychological/philosophical state of cognitive science. That statement is nearly as useful as "water is wet" in that it tells you something that is apparently true, but should be pretty obvious, and is still not a useful way to provide you with a way of measuring values that are important. I would recommend a good course or two in neurobiology and chemistry also.

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