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Our senses – vision, audition, touch, taste and smell – constantly receive a large amount of information. This information is processed and used in order to guide our actions. Cognitive sciences consist in studying mental abilities through different disciplines, e.g. linguistic, neuropsychology, neuroscience or modelling. Each discipline considers mental phenomena and their physical substrate, the nervous system, as a tool to process information in order to guide behavior adaptively (Collins, Andler, & Tallon-Baudry, 2018). Cognitive functions are a collection of processing systems serving different goals, and whose interactions are key to the complexity of cognition. Studying cognition often implies operationalizing each of these functions separately. For example, memory allows to store and reuse information, and attention allows to select relevant information for the task at hand, and to facilitate its processing. To characterize the processes of specific cognitive functions, it is thus necessary to provide to the studied subject – here we concentrate on human and non-human primates – an information to be processed, through different sensory modalities. In this essay, we concentrate on vision as a unique model to study cognition through different fields of cognitive sciences, from cognitive psychology to neurosciences, mentioning also briefly modeling and neuropsychology. Our objective is not to do an exhaustive description of the visual system, nor to compare in detail vision with other sensory modalities, but to argue that the accumulation of evidence on the visual system, as well as its characteristic perceptual, algorithmic and physiological organization, make it a particularly rich model to study cognitive functions. After a brief presentation of some properties of vision, we will illustrate our argument focusing on a specific cognitive function: attention, and in particular its study in cognitive psychology and neuroscience. We will discuss how our knowledge of vision allowed us to understand the behavioral and neuronal mechanisms underlying attentional selection and facilitation of information. We will finally conclude that sensory systems can be used as models to study cognition in different fields of cognitive sciences.
Pour citer cet article :Senoussi Mehdi, Dugué Laura (2020/1). Vision: a Model to Study Cognition. In De Glas Michel & Lassègue Jean (Eds), Looking Back at Turing: His Heritage Today, Intellectica, 72, (pp.275-299), DOI: 10.3406/intel.2020.1957.