Deutsch: Konnektionismus / Español: Conexionismo / Português: Conexionismo / Français: Connexionnisme / Italiano: Connettivismo

Connectionist models, in the context of psychology, refer to a computational approach to understanding human cognitive processes. This approach is based on the construction of artificial neural networks that mimic the neural structures and processes of the human brain. Connectionism attempts to model mental phenomena using networks of simple, interconnected units that work together to process information, learn, and make decisions. These models are used to simulate a wide range of cognitive functions, including perception, memory, language, and problem-solving.


Connectionist models, also known as neural networks, consist of layers of nodes or units (analogous to neurons) connected by links (analogous to synapses). Each link has a weight, which represents the strength of the connection between units. Information processing in these models involves the propagation of activations through the network, modulated by the weights of the connections. Learning occurs through the adjustment of these weights based on experience, typically by a process known as backpropagation, where the model adjusts its parameters to reduce the difference between its output and the desired output.

Application Areas

Connectionist models have wide-ranging applications within psychology and cognitive science:

  • Cognitive Psychology: They are used to simulate and understand cognitive processes such as memory recall, attention, and pattern recognition.
  • Language Acquisition: Connectionist models simulate how children learn language, including vocabulary development and grammar.
  • Neuropsychology: These models help in understanding the brain's functioning and the impact of neurological damage on cognitive abilities by simulating how damage to certain parts of the network affects overall performance.

Well-Known Examples

A well-known example of a connectionist model is the parallel distributed processing (PDP) model, which has been influential in explaining how cognitive processes can emerge from the interactions of many simple units. PDP models have been applied to a variety of cognitive phenomena, including word recognition, sentence processing, and the development of conceptual knowledge.

Treatment and Risks

While connectionist models themselves are not used for treatment, insights gained from these models can inform therapeutic approaches and educational strategies, especially for individuals with cognitive impairments or learning disabilities. Understanding how certain patterns of neural activity correlate with specific cognitive functions can lead to better-targeted interventions. However, one risk in the application of connectionist models is oversimplification, where the complexity of human cognition may not be fully captured by current models.

Similar Terms or Synonyms

  • Neural networks
  • Parallel distributed processing (PDP)
  • Artificial neural networks (ANN)


Connectionist models in psychology represent a computational approach to understanding cognitive processes through the simulation of neural networks. These models provide valuable insights into how complex cognitive functions can arise from the interactions of simple units within a network, contributing to our understanding of learning, memory, language, and other cognitive abilities. While offering a powerful tool for cognitive science research, it's important to recognize the limitations and challenges in fully capturing the nuances of human cognition.


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