The non-redundant contributions of Marr's three levels of analysis for explaining information-processing mechanisms

William Bechtel*, Oron Shagrir

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations

Abstract

Are all three of Marr's levels needed? Should they be kept distinct? We argue for the distinct contributions and methodologies of each level of analysis. It is important to maintain them because they provide three different perspectives required to understand mechanisms, especially information-processing mechanisms. The computational perspective provides an understanding of how a mechanism functions in broader environments that determines the computations it needs to perform (and may fail to perform). The representation and algorithmic perspective offers an understanding of how information about the environment is encoded within the mechanism and what are the patterns of organization that enable the parts of the mechanism to produce the phenomenon. The implementation perspective yields an understanding of the neural details of the mechanism and how they constrain function and algorithms. Once we adequately characterize the distinct role of each level of analysis, it is fairly straightforward to see how they relate.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)312-322
Number of pages11
JournalTopics in Cognitive Science
Volume7
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Cognitive Science Society, Inc.

Keywords

  • Computational level
  • Environmental context
  • Marr
  • Mechanistic explanation
  • Representation and algorithmic level

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