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How Do You Define Connetionism, and How Do You Relate Connectionism to Associationism?

Posted Jun 09 2010 5:59am
Some people, usually classicists, stress assimilate connectionism to associationism.  They do have a point:  "connectionism" was historically introduced and popularized by authors, such as Thorndike and Hebb, who were closely linked to associationism.  But as I explain in a recent review article   it seems to me that the assimilation of connectionism to associationism is also misleading.

In my experiene, most contemporary connectionists define "connectionism" more or less as the explation of cognition in terms of "neural networks".  Such an explanation may or may not be associationist (and if it is, it may be so in varying degrees).  In fact, often contemporary connectionists identify Warren McCulloch and Walter Pitts as the founders of connectionism.  While this is historically incorrect, it's interesting and relevant here because McCulloch and Pitts were hostile to associationism.  So it seems to me that connectionism in its general contemporary form is not committed to any particular version of associationism, although many contemporary connectionists remain sympathetic to some form of associationism.

Now a referee for a paper I submitted to a journal asked me to provide references backing up my distinction between generic connectionism (which is not committed to associationism) and associationist connectionism.  The problem is, off the top of my head I don't know what any particular author says about this.

To complicate matters, I'm out of the country until June 24 and for reasons beyond my control I am supposed to turn in the revised paper within a few days.

Question 1: Is my distintion between generic and associationist connectionism on the right track, or am I missing something?

Question 2: Does anyone know of any helpful quotes defining/discussing either connectionism or associationism or both (with full references, of course)?  Examples of recent connectionists who are either pro or against associationism would be great; references to recent discussions of these matters might help too.
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