Botvinick, M., & Plaunt, D. C. (2002). Representing task context: proposals based on a connectionist model of action. Psychological Research, 66, 298-311. DOI 10.1007/s00426-002-0103-8
Representations of task context play a crucial role in shaping human behavior. While the nature of these representations remains poorly understood, existing theories share a number of basic assumptions. One of these is that task representations are discrete, independent, and non-overlapping. We present here an alternative view, according to which task representations are instead viewed as graded, distributed patterns occupying a shared, continuous representational space. In recent work, we have implemented this view in a computational model of routine sequential action. In the present article, we focus specifically on this model’s implications for understanding task representation, considering the implications of the account for two influential concepts: (1) cognitive underspecification, the idea that task representations may be imprecise or vague, especially in contexts where errors occur, and (2) information-sharing, the idea that closely related operations rely on common sets of internal representations.