The Brain as an Input–Output Model of the World

Oron Shagrir*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


An underlying assumption in computational approaches in cognitive and brain sciences is that the nervous system is an input–output model of the world: Its input–output functions mirror certain relations in the target domains. I argue that the input–output modelling assumption plays distinct methodological and explanatory roles. Methodologically, input–output modelling serves to discover the computed function from environmental cues. Explanatorily, input–output modelling serves to account for the appropriateness of the computed function to the explanandum information-processing task. I compare very briefly the modelling explanation to mechanistic and optimality explanations, noting that in both cases the explanations can be seen as complementary rather than contrastive or competing.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)53-75
Number of pages23
JournalMinds and Machines
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, Springer Science+Business Media B.V.


  • Cognitive neuroscience
  • Computational models
  • Mechanistic explanations
  • Modelling
  • Optimality
  • Representation


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