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who’s getting screwed on the Nobel thing? cognitive science

We all know that only three real science Nobels exist: Physics, Chem, and Medicine/Physiology. Social scientists can get their consolation prize via the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel. Fabio has already started some sort of countdown clock until a sociologist (presumably Granovetter) gets that one. Given our facility with adopting victim postures, it is easy to scare up some indignation as to why a sociologist has never won a Noble, real or fake.

But the real problem with carving up the scientific space in such an ancient way is that the most important scientific cluster that was actually born in the twentieth century was actually left out. So it is really cognitive science (and to some extent its older psychology cousin) which has gotten the shaft, with people that have produced scientific contributions of a magnitude that dwarfs that of 90% of the people who have received the SRPIESIMOAN never having received any recognition.

So for instance, there will never be a “Nobel” for Noam Chomsky. Jean Piaget could never win one either. Stanley Milgram? You might be bar-none one of the most influential scientists of the 20th century, but sorry! You are a “psychologist” (unless you are a psychologist who studies “economics” related stuff like DK you are out). Allen Newell? Too bad; we gave a SRPIESIMOAN to your co-author Herbert Simon for a bunch of random stuff, but ignored the fundamental work in Artificial Intelligence and Human problem solving that he did with you. So Herbert Simon will forever be referred to as “A Nobel Laurate” but you are just Allen Newell. George Miller? Your foundational work on the limits of human cognitive processing capacity might have jump-started the cognitive revolution and actually provided the main inspiration for Simon’s work, but you get nada. This list could of course be expanded indefinitely (e.g. Marvin Minsky, Schank and Abelson, Eleanor Rosch, Rumelhart and McClelland, etc.).

Written by Omar

October 17, 2010 at 5:51 pm

16 Responses

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  1. If this is any consolation, there is sort of a Nobel Prize in sociology and social science. No, Granovetter has not won it.

    http://opa.yale.edu/news/article.aspx?id=7658

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    Guillermo

    October 17, 2010 at 10:48 pm

  2. And for yet more consolation, Chomsky did win (sort of) a Nobel in cognitive science.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Kyoto_Prize_winners#Cognitive_science

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    Guillermo

    October 17, 2010 at 10:53 pm

  3. Just to nit-pick, I believe two sociologists have won Nobel Prizes: Jane Addams, the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931, and a sociology Ph.D., instructor, and public intellectual; Emily Greene Balch, a professor of sociology and history, Nobel Peace Prize, 1946.

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    andrewperrin

    October 17, 2010 at 11:26 pm

  4. Other areas have their own prizes (as noted by Guillermo, Kyoto is just one) — though yes, the other prizes definitely don’t get as much attention as the Nobel prize does.

    And, your point illustrates that it is hard to draw lines between disciplines, particularly with some of the cross-disciplinary renegades (and their rightful uber-influence) that you list. And, it’s hard to argue that the cognitive revolution hasn’t/shouldn’t — and should and increasingly will continue to — impact economics and the rest of social science.

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    teppo

    October 18, 2010 at 1:22 am

  5. I’ve heard there’s no evidence for Maslow’s hierarchy.

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    teageegeepea

    October 18, 2010 at 6:51 am

  6. On the biological side of cognitive science, Eric Kandel won the Nobel in 2000 for his work on neurons and memory. Neuroscience, I think, is the leading edge of cognitive science and as/when data gathering tools become more reliable, will take over the field, if it hasn’t already within it. The annual Society for Neuroscience meeting has over 30,000 attendees whereas the Cognitive Science Society garners about 800.

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    Eric S

    October 18, 2010 at 2:44 pm

  7. As an aside: for rather interesting links between Niels Jerne’s work (Nobel in Medicine/Physiology) and Chomsky’s work, see Jerne’s Nobel lecture: http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/1984/jerne-lecture.html

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    teppo

    October 18, 2010 at 2:50 pm

  8. Following up on Teppo’s remark, another prize explicitly targeting cognitive scientists is the Rumelhart Prize:
    http://rumelhartprize.org/
    named after David Rumelhart, who Omar notes is deserving of the Nobel, or indeed, the Rumelhart Prize. His collaborator, Jay McClelland, won the Rumelhart Prize this year.

    Like

    Rob G.

    October 19, 2010 at 12:05 am

  9. Thanks for the link Rob. I happen to think that David Rumelhart is the most underrated cognitive scientist of his generation (Chomsky is the most overrated). In an interesting coincidence, Judea Pearl has the feature article in the most recent issue of Sociological Methodology.

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    Omar

    October 19, 2010 at 1:49 am

  10. Omar: Chomsky overrated? I disagree. (He gets attention/hyped b/c of his political stuff, but the Chomskyan angle is genius and still wrongly disregarded in many areas.)

    Thanks for the link to the Pearl article!

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    teppo

    October 19, 2010 at 3:11 am

  11. Question for the group: At this point, what is the mission of cognitive science?

    Should cognitive scientists try to produce outputs (i.e. models that explain cognition by simulating it) or explain inputs (i.e. how the brain and social life work to produce cognition)? Something else?

    One of the most common complaints I hear from cognitive scientists about their field is that there is no shared sense of mission.

    Like

    Eric S

    October 19, 2010 at 3:00 pm

  12. Eric: Based on the non-response, you may have stumped us. (I tried to write something, but it got messy really quickly, full of qualifications/’buts.’)

    Like

    teppo

    October 20, 2010 at 3:54 pm

  13. Teppo: If I ever find out the answer, I’ll be sure to let you know!

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    Eric S

    October 20, 2010 at 9:04 pm

  14. Friends in cognition, I am a theoretical physicist who went into intelligent text processing, and I have solved the problem of filtering significant keywords and keyterms out of unedited text much better than M.I.T. and Stanford. I have also traced cognition back to the earliest origins in identifying Leo Szilard, the physicist who convinced Albert Einstein to alert Roosevelt to atomic fission. The papers go
    back to the 1920, when Szilard worked in Berlin with
    Einstein and Max v. Laue. ivo.steinacker@boukephalas.com

    Like

    ivo steinacke

    May 13, 2011 at 4:03 pm

  15. teppo–

    What is Chomsky’s “angle”? What is it within Chomsky’s scholarship you say is genius? Is it his general theoretical position that language is part of human nature? Or is there a more specific study/empirical contribution you are thinking of?

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    Austen

    May 13, 2011 at 5:53 pm

  16. Only a correction to contribution Ivo Streinacke. My E-mail address now is ivo.steinacker@gmail.com

    Like

    Dr. Ivo Steinacker

    January 19, 2013 at 11:40 am


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