Towards an Understanding of How People Build Mental Representations
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Navigating the environment and making everyday decisions is a process plagued by noise, uncertainty, and non-stationary contingencies. Efficient and effective action is predicated upon a stable internal representation of the environment that guides action without extensive or exhaustive observation, deliberation, and alteration at the slightest deviation from expected outcomes. The ability of individuals to build these mental models and update them as needed represents a critical component of everyday decision and action. The current thesis provides an in-depth exploration of this construct though a series of brain imaging and behavioural experiments examining the neural correlates of mental model building and updating focusing on how other cognitive abilities (i.e., working memory and attention) influence the speed and accuracy of these processes. Brain imaging results highlight a network of frontal, parietal, and subcortical areas that support mental model updating. Follow-up behavioural experiments reveal both working memory and attention to be important gating mechanisms to the processing of environmental stimuli that comprise a mental model. Taken together, the results point to a robust neural network coupled with working memory and attentional gating mechanisms that support this behaviour.
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Derick Valadao (2016). Towards an Understanding of How People Build Mental Representations. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/11095