Consider the concept combination ‘pet human’. In word association experiments, human subjects produce the associate ‘slave’ in relation to this combination. The striking aspect of this associate is that it is not produced as an associate of ‘pet’, or ‘human’ in isolation. In other words, the associate ‘slave’ seems to be emergent. Such emergent associations sometimes have a creative character and cognitive science is largely silent about how we produce them. Departing from a dimensional model of human conceptual space, this article will explore concept combinations, and will argue that emergent associations are a result of abductive reasoning within conceptual space, that is, below the symbolic level of cognition. A tensor-based approach is used to model concept combinations allowing such combinations to be formalized as interacting quantum systems. Free association norm data is used to motivate the underlying basis of the conceptual space. It is shown by analogy how some concept combinations may behave like quantum-entangled (non-separable) particles. Two methods of analysis were presented for empirically validating the presence of non-separable concept combinations in human cognition. One method is based on quantum theory and another based on comparing a joint (true theoretic) probability distribution with another distribution based on a separability assumption using a chi-square goodness-of-fit test. Although these methods were inconclusive in relation to an empirical study of bi-ambiguous concept combinations, avenues for further refinement of these methods are identified.
Bruza, P.; Kitto, K.; Sitbon, L.; Ramm, B.; Song, D. and Blomberg, S. (2012). Quantum-like non-separability of concept combinations, emergent associates and abduction. Logic Journal of the IGPL, 20(2) pp. 445–457.