Center for Cognitive Science

November 11, 2021 at 15:30 (MEZ)

Title: Attending to Words and Objects and Remembering them in Order: How People Do This and How they May Differ

Speaker: Nelson Cowan (University of Missouri, US)

When people need to remember information about a series of things, there can be a difference between what they should do to remember the items themselves the best, and what they should do to remember the order in which these items occurred the best. There also may be a difference between what information is needed immediately and what information will be needed later. I will discuss my theoretical framework for thinking about these issues, stemming from a combination of activated elements of long-term memory, rapid new learning, and the focus of attention that is so critical in high-level processing. I will examine recent investigations into what information is picked up about items and their order, and how grouping strategies contribute to what is remembered. Then I will discuss some recent investigations into what processes of remembering appear to change with development during the elementary school years and what processes may differ in children with language and reading difficulties.

November 18, 2021 at 15:30 (MEZ)

Title: A tale of two inhibitory aftereffects of orienting

Speaker: Raymond Klein (Dalhousie University, Canada; invited by Thomas Lachmann)

This is a personal story about an exciting phenomenon with an interesting function. I will begin by describing two scientific contexts, one methodological and one conceptual, into which I will place it. The methodological context is about achieving ecologically valid conclusions about behaviour; the conceptual context is a taxonomy of attention. The phenomenon is inhibition of return (IOR). I will describe: its discovery by Posner and his proposal that it might function as a novelty seeking mechanism; my earliest experiments on IOR, supporting Posner’s functional attribution by showing that it was present in the aftermath of serial but not pop-out search; my period of belief that my demonstration was wrong; how research by others and my “Where’s Wally” experiment(s) changed my mind; the seminal research of Taylor and Ivanoff which laid the seed for Hilchey’s realization that there were/are (at least) two inhibitory aftereffects of orienting; the converging evidence and computationally explicit model that Redden and others have generated to confirm this realization. We believe that both forms can serve as a foraging facilitator.  Let’s see if my story convinces you.

December 2, 2021 at 15:30 (MEZ)

Title: Optimizing Movement Skill

Speaker: Gabriele Wulf (University of Nevada, Las Vegas, US) & Rebecca Lewthwaite (Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center, Los Angeles, US)

Skilled motor performance is fundamental to many human activities, including sports, the performing arts, in various occupations (e.g., medical professions). What factors influence the quality of motor performance, and what practice conditions are necessary to optimize learning? Recently, we (Wulf & Lewthwaite, 2016) published the OPTIMAL (Optimizing Performance Through Intrinsic Motivation and Attention for Learning) theory of motor learning. The theory is based on numerous studies that have demonstrated the importance of motivational and attentional factors for effective learning and performance, movement efficiency, balance, force production, and artistry. Key factors include: (a) enhanced expectancies for future performance or anticipated positive experience, (b) support for performer autonomy, and (c) an external focus of attention. These factors align thoughts, attention, motivation, and neuromuscular activity to the performer’s goals. Evidence from various lines of research indicates that enhancing performance expectancies facilitates learning. Furthermore, providing learners with some measure of control, or supporting their need for autonomy, has consistently been found to enhance both performance and learning. The sense that one is in a situation in which one has control over one’s actions reduces the need to resist, and enhances expectations for future success. Finally, directing attention to the intended movement effects (external focus), rather than the coordination of body movements (internal focus), results in more effective performance and learning. Thus, pairing motor practice with conditions that boost confidence and outcome expectations, support performers’ autonomy, and focus their attention on external movement effects facilitates learning. These conditions lead to efficient goal-action coupling. They arguably play a role in recovery from injury as well, in that they allow fuller engagement in challenging rehabilitation activities and a beneficial external focus on coordinated goal-directed movement activity. In this presentation, we review key findings and discuss implications for establishing conditions that optimize skill learning, enhance dance performance, and have the potential to reduce injuries and speed the rehabilitation process.

December 9, 2021 at 15:30 (MEZ)

Title: What is "optimal" brain development? It depends on a child's environment

Speaker: Silvia Bunge (Berkeley University of California, US; invited by Daniela Czernochowski)

There has been an explosion of research on human brain development over the past 20 years. As a result, we have learned a lot about the features of brain anatomy and brain function that change over childhood and adolescence and that help to explain individual differences in cognition, affect, and behavior. However, the vast majority of brain imaging study samples skew towards middle- or higher-income individuals; we know next to nothing about how the brain develops in children living in poverty. Here, I describe a pattern of brain communication that has been shown in a number of studies to be associated with better cognitive performance – and then show how this finding does not generalize to children living below the poverty line. This work serves as a reminder that biological features that are adaptive for one population may not be for another.

December 16, 2021 at 15:30 (MEZ)


It’s the way that you say it
Effects of disfluency on language comprehension

Speaker: Martin Corley (The University of Edinburgh, UK; invited by Alina Kholodova)

Recent research shows that listeners are sensitive to disfluencies in unfolding discourse, using them to modify their predictions about what will be said in real time.  But what processes underlie the pragmatic interpretation of what is said?  I present a series of experiments in which recorded speakers refer to visually-depicted objects, while participants' eye-movements are measured.  The results show that disfluency robustly affects listeners' interpretations of what is said:  They are more likely to infer that the speaker is being dishonest, or is hedging.  Importantly, this happens early during the unfolding process of comprehension, suggesting that manner of speech is integral to the comprehension process.  Moreover, recent evidence is consistent with the suggestion that listeners are causally interpreting the disfluencies uttered.  Taken together, the evidence presented points to a highly interactive comprehension system in which listeners model the causes of the mannerisms of speech that they encounter in order to derive enriched meaning.

January 13, 2022 at 15:30 (MEZ)

Title: The source of consciousness.

Speaker: Mark Solms (Cape Town University, South Africa)

This talk will discuss the deep relationship between consciousness and the brainstem mechanism of affect, focusing on the implications for the ‘hard problem’ of consciousness.

January 27, 2022 at 17:30 (MEZ)

Title: Mutual dependencies between perceptual and conceptual learning

Speaker: Robert Goldstone (Indiana University, US)

Human concept learning not only depends upon, but also shapes, perception. Through unitization, perceptual components that were once perceived separately become psychologically fused together. Conversely, dimension differentiation involves learning to isolate perceptual aspects that were originally integrated.  Although apparently in opposition, unitization and dimension differentiation both build appropriately sized perceptual representations for the concepts being learned. I will describe a neural network model to show that the circle of influences between perception and conceptualization can be benign rather than vicious. Finally, coupled perceptual and conceptual learning will be applied to the acquisition of concepts in mathematics and science.

February 10, 2022 at 15:30 (MEZ)

Title: How temporal constraints help define the limits of perception, attention and working memory

Speaker: David Melcher (NYU Abu Dhabi, UAE)

A basic challenge for the brain is to parse continuous and dynamic sensory input into discrete and stable percepts, in order to guide cognition and action. This talk presents recent behavioral and neuroimaging results from my lab investigating the role of the brain’s inherent temporal structure, which is present even prior to stimulus presentation. Our results suggest that these temporal factors also play a role in creating capacity limits in perception, attention and working memory. Information processing is linked to temporal sampling windows in the theta and alpha band frequencies. Our pattern of results demonstrate the importance of the brain's time frames in organizing and aligning perception, attention, cognition and action.

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