Conflicts - Friend or Foe?

Wolfgang Menzel

Over more than a decade of research, parsing with defeasible constraints has developed into quite a success story. Being based on techniques for constraint optimization, the resulting system is able to deal with conflicting evidence and therefore can make use of of uncertain knowledge or even conflicting rules to a great extent. As a result, it is not only in a position to produce structural descriptions with state-of-the-art accuracy, but also delivers additional information about possible conflicts in these structures, i.e. combining broad coverage and robust processing while still being aware of the distinction between right and wrong. This unique combination turns out to be an inspiring source of analogies to the human model and invites us to speculate about the role conflicts and conflict resolution might play in general cognition.

In this talk I will arrive at the rather controversial conclusion that conflict resolution is perhaps not an exceptional phenomenon but a rule in intelligent decision making and therefore should be considered a fundamental mechanism of human cognition. From such a perspective, the surprisingly crisp nature of categories and rule systems could well be explained as an illusion, maintained by the brain to support the efficiency of mental processes.

-- WolfgangMenzel -- 08 May 2006
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