UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Frank Ritter, professor in the Penn State College of Information Sciences and Technology, has written three forewords for a recently published trilogy of books authored by world-renowned philosopher and cognitive scientist Paul Thagard.
Thagard’s books, “Brain-Mind,” “Mind-Society” and “Natural Philosophy,” have been incorporated into a series on cognitive models and architectures that Ritter edits for Oxford University Press. The books were published in February and March, 2019.
According to Ritter, the theory that Thagard proposes in the series is a much broader and more accessible description of what a mechanistic explanation of mind and human behavior would look like than previous theories have conveyed.
“These books explain the cognitive science approach to cognition, learning, thinking, emotion, social interaction — much of what it means to be human — and what this means for a wide variety of sciences and philosophy,” Ritter said in the forewords.
In addition to attracting a leading philosopher to author books for his Oxford University Press series, Ritter is further introducing Thagard’s theory in the College of IST. He taught a special topics course in the fall 2018 semester, Readings in Cognitive Science, in which undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral students discussed the chapters of Thagard’s books.
“The students get to read a book before it’s published, get to argue with a professor, and get to participate in intense discussions,” Ritter said. “They also gain rhetorical skills.”
Ritter, who has written numerous forewords throughout his career, said this is the first time he has written three simultaneously.
Ritter’s research focuses on using cognitive models to test theories of learning, behavior moderators and networks, and to improve human-computer interaction. He has created software, tutorials and methodology for cognitive modeling; published numerous books and textbooks on human-computer interaction and cognitive sciences; and refereed articles and conference papers in cognitive modeling, human-computer interaction, artificial intelligence and psychology.
“I believe in unified theories of psychology,” said Ritter. “I would like to see this field prosper and do well, or do even better than it’s doing. It’s hard. We don’t always have the philosophy, but we might get some out of these books.”