One of the most striking features of contemporary cognitive science, as compared with cognitive science in the 1970s for example, is the fundamental role now played by neuroscience and the study of the brain. This chapter reviews some landmarks in cognitive science’s turn to the brain.
For both theoretical and practical reasons neuroscience was fairly peripheral to cognitive science until the 1980s. We begin in section 3.1 by looking at the theoretical reasons. The key idea here is the widely held view that cognitive systems are functional systems. Functional systems have to be analyzed in terms of their function – what they do and how they do it. Many cognitive scientists held (and some continue to hold) that this type of functional analysis should be carried out at a very abstract level, without going at all into the details of the physical machinery that actually performs that function.