What literature underpins Steering Cognition?

Steering Cognition is a term coined by Simon P. Walker to describe a novel construct which is associated with the following major existing research literature fields in cognitive and social psychology:


  • Steering Cognition is a model of social and cognitive executive function. It is explains a functional governor mechanism by which the mind coordinates attention and executes responsive action.


  • Steering Cognition is a model of metacognition. It describes the capacity of the mind to exert conscious control over its reasoning and processing strategies in relation to external data and internal state


  • Steering Cognition is an explanatory mechanism of some phenomena of affective, cognitive and social self-regulation. It describes effortful control processes which exhibit depletion after strain.


  • Steering Cognition has been repeatedly shown to implicate the mind’s mental simulation circuitry. As such, it is associated with functional neural circuits involved in projective and retrospective memory, self-representation, associative processing and imagination.


  • Steering Cognition provides an account of the transitioning process from non-conscious, or automatic, to conscious processing that occurs in the mind (see Dual Process Theory).


  • According to the Steering Cognition model,  dual process System 1 functions as a serial cognitive steering processor for System 2, rather than the traditionally understood parallel system.  In order to process epistemically varied environmental data, a Steering Cognition orientation system is required to align varied, incoming environmental data with existing neural algorithmic processes. The brain’s associative simulation capacity, centered around the imagination, plays an integrator role to perform this function
    (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dual_process_theory#Dual_Process_and_Steering_Cognition)


  • In the cognitive steering model, a conscious state emerges from effortful associative simulation, required to align novel data accurately with remote memory, via later algorithmic processes. By contrast, fast unconscious automaticity is constituted by unregulated simulatory biases, which induce errors in subsequent algorithmic processes. The phrase ‘rubbish in, rubbish out’ is used to explain errorful Steering Cognition processing: errors will always occur if the accuracy of initial retrieval and location of data is poorly self-regulated.


  • Steering Cognition provides an explanation of how the mind is nonconsciously influenced by the environmental cues, or primes, around it. Steering Cognition studies have produced data of attentional bias and blindness best explained by environmental priming.


  • Steering Cognition has been shown to rely upon associative rather than algorithmic cognitive processing and is best understood as heuristic in purpose- guiding the direction of our mind. Steering Cognition conceptualises the relationship between these algorithmic and associative functions as serial rather than parallel pathways. Our Steering Cognition guides our attention prior to algorithmic data processing.


  • A specific 7 FACTOR data model, termed HUMAN ECOLOGY, has been used to structure the investigation into Steering Cognition to date. Using this model, measures of self-regulation of Steering Cognition in 11,000 candidates between the ages of 8 and 60 between 2002 and 2015, have confirmed this factor structure and identified repeated cognitive, social and affective patterns by using it. In 2007 and 2014 Walker named this 7 factor model the ‘Human Ecology model of cognitive affective social (CAS) state’.  Walker J. (2015) has since described four of the CAS factors in greater detail elucidating the relationships of the factors to affective-social self-regulation literature.