Computational psychology, computational cognitive modeling, and or if philosophy is your thing computational theory of mind all explore the essence of cognition via and by specifying computational mechanisms, structures, and processes. Given the complexity of the human mind and its manifestation in behavioral flexibility, process-based computational models may be necessary to explicate and elucidate the intricate details of the mind. Put simply, these espouse the notion that the human mind or the human brain is an information processing system and that thinking is a form of computing; a discipline lying on the border between artificial intelligence and psychology and a mainstay of cognitive science.
Models in cognitive science may be roughly categorized into computational, mathematical, or verbal-conceptual systems although a variety of symbolic “cognitive” models are proposed in Artificial Intelligence. Symbolic systems are usually broad and capable of a significant amount of information processing; however, not rigorously matched with human data.
Instead of symbolic models that rely on a variety of complex data structures that store highly structured pieces of knowledge a resurgence of neural network models has relied upon simple, uniform, and often massively parallel numerical computations.
Many have also argued against computational theories of mind. Some have used thought experiments to demonstrate obvious deficiencies. The Chinese room is once such experiment. Imagine that there is a man in a room with no way of communicating to anyone or anything outside of the room except for a piece of paper that is passed under the door. With the paper, he is to use a series of provided books to “answer” what is on the paper. The symbols are all in Chinese, and all the man knows is where to look in the books, which then tell him what to write in response. It just so happens that this generates a conversation that the Chinese man outside of the room can actually understand, but can our man in the room really be said to understand it?
This is essentially what the computational theory of mind presents us with; a model in which the mind simply decodes symbols and outputs more symbols. It is argued that perhaps this is not real learning or thinking at all. However, it can be argued in response to this that it is the man and the books together that understand Chinese.