Friday, September 3, 2010

debunking chomsky's poverty of the stimulus

Melody, a researcher in cognitive science at Stanford, has posted a detailed discussion of the problems with Chomsky's famed povery of the stimulus argument from the perspective of the last 40 years of computational learning models. Hindsight is always 20-20 right?

Money quote:

....there are at least two goals of modeling in cognitive science : 1) to discover the best computational method of accounting for a given phenomena, 2) to discover the best account that is also psychologically plausible. The goal has never been to rule out a whole class of models on the basis of one ill-starred example.  Because — quite frankly — models don’t deal in ‘logical possibilities.’  They are not mathematical or logical proofs.  Step 3 in Miller and Chomsky’s paper is a pseudo-scientific non sequitur.

The whole post is well worth reading.


mike said...

In support of the poverty-of-stimulus argument, check out Legate and Yang’s “Empirical reassessment of stimulus poverty arguments,” The Linguistic Review 19: 151-162. Also see Charles Gallistel's chapter, Learning Organ, in The Chomsky Notebook.

Anonymous said...

Using the term "debunking" in regard to a scientific debate as subtle and complex as advancing, refining, or editing the 'poverty of stimulus' hypothesis produces, in me at least, a strong bias against the competence and trustworthiness of the blog as a whole, as does the claim in the post "Why Linguists Should Study Math" that "Math is good training for the mind. It makes you a more rigorous thinker." This claim is, I think (as someone with a fair amount of math), as thoroughly discredited as the similar claim for learning Latin.

Putting the Linguistics into Kaggle Competitions

In the spirit of Dr. Emily Bender’s NAACL blog post Putting the Linguistics in Computational Linguistics , I want to apply some of her thou...