The Foundations for “Cognitive Political Systems’ Science”


  • Artur Serrasqueiro Deus Dionisio University of Vienna


Consider a Cognitive System (CS) whose goal is to determine if it ought to exit a given room or not.

A way to tackle this task would be to use the information processing cognitive architecture ACT-R, to structure the turning of data into information, deriving a rational decision to inform its actions. First, a hierarchy of goals would need to be front-loaded with different weightings: if the CS is sensible to a gradient of thresholds in humidity and temperature, these variables are layered in urgency and importance, to generate rational trade-off behaviour: if there is damaging humidity inside the room, it nevertheless should conclude that it makes sense to remain, in case the alternative room is on fire. To be informed about its environment, it would require an exploratory module — with search strategies — enriched with perceptual sensors to gather and categorise stimuli. To store these values and make sense of the world, a declarative memory system ought to organise its input in clusters, turning it into symbolic information. Buffers of current states would be matched against alternative potential states, yielded from different search strategies with emphasis on alternative variables, to compare benefits and fine-tune the articulation of different hierarchic goals. A dynamic loop — testing search strategies, weighting different sensors per importance of goal type, updating of declarative and procedural memory, and so on — would run in an explicit and traceable manner, in an architecture designed to transform data into information, accounting for the variables relevant to the task. 

Now consider that the CS is responsible for a nation, that the room is the European Union, and that its goal is deciding to leave it or not: is this task less important than the described above? Then why were Brexit’s methods of turning data into information so as to derive a rational decision so radically less structured and explicit, and so dependent on intuition?

Embracing Externalism and Distributed Cognition, Parliaments and such Institutions are cognitive systems [1]: protocols aimed at problems solving; endowed with specialised modules that run on individual human nodes; processing and transmitting information within an architecture from which decision-making emerges. 

Inspired by Varela’s “Neurophenomenology”, in which the author devised an actionable walk-through synthesis between Neuroscience and Phenomenology, so as to lay out the steps into a new research field – the aim of this thesis is to provide a foundational synthesis to function as a bridge between Cognitive Sciences and Political Science, elaborating a framework with which to further pursue studies on collective decision-making protocols at the societal level. It is a foundational theoretical work, based on first-principles analysis.


[1] E. Petracca and S. Gallagher, “Economic Cognitive Institutions,” Journal of Institutional Economics, vol. 16, no. 6, pp. 747–765, 2020.