Research Topic

Quantum Structures in Cognitive and Social Science

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Traditional approaches to cognitive psychology correspond with a classical view of logic and probability theory. More specifically, one typically assumes that cognitive processes of human thought are founded on the Boolean structures of classical logic, while the probabilistic aspects of these processes are ...

Traditional approaches to cognitive psychology correspond with a classical view of logic and probability theory. More specifically, one typically assumes that cognitive processes of human thought are founded on the Boolean structures of classical logic, while the probabilistic aspects of these processes are based on the Kolmogorovian structures of classical probability theory. However, growing experimental evidence indicates that the models founded on classical structures systematically fail when human decisions are at stake. These experimental deviations from classical behavior have been called `paradoxes’, `fallacies’, `effects’ or `contradictions’, depending on the specific situation where they appear. But, they involve a broad spectrum of cognitive and social science domains, ranging from conceptual combination to decision making under uncertainty, behavioral economics, and linguistics. This situation has constituted a serious drawback to the development of various disciplines, like cognitive science, linguistics, artificial intelligence, economic modeling and behavioral finance.


A different approach to cognitive psychology, initiated two decades ago, has meanwhile matured into a new domain of research, called ‘quantum cognition’. Its main feature is the use of the mathematical formalism of quantum theory as modeling tool for these cognitive situations where traditional classically based approaches fail. Quantum cognition has recently attracted the interest of important journals and editing houses, academic and funding institutions, popular science and media. Specifically, within a quantum cognition approach, one assumes that human decisions do not necessarily obey the rules of Boolean logic and Kolmogorovian probability, and can on the contrary be modeled by the quantum-mechanical formalism. Different concrete quantum-theoretic models have meanwhile been developed that successfully represent the cognitive situations that are classically problematical, by explaining observed deviations from classicality in terms of genuine quantum effects, such as `contextuality’, `emergence’, `interference’, `superposition’, `entanglement’ and `indistinguishability’. In addition, the validity of these quantum models is convincingly confirmed by new experimental tests. We also stress that, since the use of a quantum-theoretic framework is mainly for modeling purposes, the identification of quantum structures in cognitive processes does not presuppose (without being incompatible with it) the existence of microscopic quantum processes in the human brain.


In this Research Topic, we review the major achievements that have been obtained in quantum cognition, by providing an accurate picture of the state-of-the-art of this emerging discipline. Our overview does not pretend to be either complete or exhaustive. But, we aim to introduce psychologists and social scientists to this challenging new research area, encouraging them, at the same time, to consider its promising results. It is our opinion that, if continuous progress in this domain can be realized, quantum cognition can constitute an important breakthrough in cognitive psychology, and potentially open the way towards a new scientific paradigm in social science.


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