Institute of Cognitive and Brain Sciences
University of California at Berkeley
3210 Tolman Hall MC 1650
Berkeley, CA 94720-1650
Administration support for the Institute is provided by the staff of the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute. See the administration page for help and information.
All talks are in 5101 Tolman Hall, 11am-12:30pm.
Presenter: Justin Halberda, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Johns Hopkins University
Title: An interface between vision, numerical cognition, and word meanings
Abstract: Whereas limits of visual processing are interesting in their own right, these limits take on a deeper meaning where vision integrates with other cognitive systems. It is at this point that limits within vision become limits that can affect the whole of cognition. I present evidence for one such case: an interface between vision, numerical cognition and the semantics of quantifier terms. Along the way, I discuss my lab's work on basic numerical cognition (e.g., the Approximate Number System), visual ensemble features (e.g., average size), and lexical semantics (e.g., the meaning of words like most and more). The goal is to highlight a case where non-visual cognition (e.g., lexical meaning) interfaces with vision and visual limits (e.g., enumerating multiple sets) constrain later cognition.
Presenter: Ed Vul, Department of Psychology, University of California, San Diego
Title: Intuitive dynamics in human object perception
Abstract: People show remarkable sophistication in their implicit reasoning about complicated physical systems: they can play tennis, shoot pool, hit a tetherball, etc. Here I go over recent evidence that such reasoning is supported by an intuitive, probabilistic model of Newtonian physics that supports forward-simulation of world dynamics to make predictions and inferences about objects. The intuitive physics that people use can account for performance in multiple object tracking in adults and reasoning about objects in infancy and childhood. Adults' kinematic predictions reveal that human intuitive physics include noisy dynamics, and that task-specific biases can arise from the same physical model given different task relevant uncertainty. Finally, online physical prediction reveals that people not only employ a noisy Newtonian forward simulation system, but also have a rapid (perhaps topological) qualitative reasoning system. Together, these results begin to characterize the intuitive physical system and its uses across domains of reasoning.
Presenter: Peter Godfrey-Smith, Philosophy Program, The Graduate Center, City University of New York
Title: Memory as communication
Abstract: Memory can be seen as communication between stages - communication between an earlier and a later self. This idea only becomes more than a loose analogy, though, if there is a theory of communication that can add something substantial to our understanding of memory. I'll argue that recent models of communication, developed for quite different applications, can indeed play this role. Application of these ideas to memory can inform debates about the 'reconstructive' nature of memory, the function of episodic memory, and the relations between memory in genetic, epigenetic, and neural systems.
Presenter: Jenny Saffran, Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Title: Beyond Nature versus Nurture: Changing views of infant language development
Long before infants produce their first words, they have learned a tremendous amount about their native language(s). What do infants know, and how did they learn it? In this talk, I will describe results from multiple lines of research that suggest that infants track statistical properties of language, and use this information for myriad aspects of language acquisition. Implications for atypical language development will also be considered.
Presenter: Robbie Jacobs, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, University of Rochester
Title:Theoretical Perspectives on Visual Short-Term Memory
Abstract: We propose two new theoretical perspectives on visual short-term memory (VSTM). In Project 1, we conceptualize VSTM as an information channel for transmitting visual information from the past to the present. This information-theoretic perspective allows us to quantify the capacity and precision of VSTM in a rigorous fashion, and to understand the trade-offs between these two properties. According to this framework, one cannot simply talk about whether an agent has "good" or "poor" memory because memory performance is influenced by the statistical properties of the to-be-remembered items, and the agent's knowledge of these properties, thus establishing an important connection between learning and memory. In Project 2, we conceptualize VSTM as performing a multi-scale clustering of the to-be-remembered items based on the items' feature similarities. This framework accounts for several biases and dependencies often found in people's visual memories. Importantly, VSTM learns representations at multiple scales or granularities, and thus there is no need for researchers to pre-specify hierarchies to account for VSTM performances. Project 1 was done in collaboration with Chris Sims and David Knill. Project 2 was done in collaboration with Emin Orhan.
Presenter: Laurie Paul, Department of Philosophy, University of North Carolina
Modeling decisions for transformative experiences
I will discuss a problem for subjectively rational decision-making in cases where the experience is dramatically new (epistemically transformative) as well as life-changing (personally transformative). I'll start by outlining the structure of the problem and showing why it creates trouble, and then I'll argue that the problem arises for important life decisions such as choosing to have a child, choosing to get (or to avoid) a cochlear implant, and choosing one's career.
Presenter: Jean-Jacques Orban de Xivry, Institute of Neuroscience, Universite Catholique de Louvain
Presenter: Sonia Bishop, Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley
Title: Anxiety, fear conditioning and decision making under threat of shock.
The ability to track and update stimulus-stimulus and action-outcome contingencies is central to both the acquisition and extinction of conditioned fear and to reinforcement learning. While the fear conditioning literature has focused on the acquisition and over-writing of neutral stimulus (CS) - negative stimulus (UCS) associations, the decision-making literature has primarily investigated the effects of varying schedules of reward. There is however evidence that anxiety is not only linked to enhanced acquisition, maintenance and generalization of conditioned fears but also to altered decision-making. The work presented examines the extent to which trait vulnerability to anxiety is associated with disruption to associative learning, both using classical Pavlovian fear conditioning and a 2-arm bandit task requiring decision making under threat of shock. FMRI and pupillometry are used to characterize the mechanisms disrupted. In addition, traditional models from the reinforcement learning literature are combined with more recent Bayesian approaches to address the extent to which similar mechanisms underlie decision-making under threat as decision-making under conditions of varying probabilities and magnitudes of reward and to examine the aspects of decision making altered in high trait anxious individuals.
Center for "big data" in psychology to be established at Berkeley
ICBS members recently received a grant from the National Science Foundation to establish a new research center
Alison Gopnik on play and learning
A story in the New York Times highlights Gopnik's recent work on pretend play
How do you refer to your mother's older sister?
Terry Regier and Charles Kemp find human kinship systems are simple and informative
Len Talmy receives Gutenberg Research Award
The first time this prestigious award has been given to a cognitive scientist.
Tania Lombrozo receives the Janet Taylor Spence Award
A significant early career award from the Association for Psychological Science.
What do babies think?
Alison Gopnik gives a presentation at TED.
Neurotechnology prize for Jose Carmena
Carmena received the New York Academy of Scienes Aspen Brain Forum Prize in Neurotechnology
Forget Mozart, Try Kant.
Alison Gopnik on the inquiring baby.
Jerry Feldman awarded the Berkeley Citation
Tribute for leadership in promoting interdisciplinary research and opportunities for study in computer science.
The Interpretation of Dreams, 2010
Jack Gallant uses fMRI to take a peek at what's on your mind
New Advances in Brain-Machine Interface Technology
Jose Carmena and Karunesh Ganguly demonstrate that the brain can consolidate a neural representation for long-term prosthetic control
Conference on Neurocognitive Development, July 12-14, 2009
Conference proceedings available on-line.
George Lakoff named Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor
Professorship in Linguistics and Undergraduate and Interdisciplinary Studies for 2009-13
Fillmore FEST: Conference in honor of Charles Fillmore, July 31 - Aug 2
Celebrate Chuck's 80th birthday at Berkeley during this special meeting.
The Mental Navigator
Alison Gopnik's new book, "The Philisophical Baby" is discussed in the Boston Globe and SF Chronicle
Archived Files from past ICBS Seminars and Workshops
Click for links to materials
Berkeley Cognitive Science Undergraduates to Host Conference
First annual California Cognitive Science Conference on April 25
Darwin Day Celebrated at ICBS
Webcasts from the workshop, "Evolution in the Cognitive Sciences"
Alison Gopnik offers her ideas for revolutionizing undergraduate education.
In a Slate commentary, Gopnik suggests how to create "scientists in the dorm".
A Personal Experience with Synesthesia
Sherri Roush discusses how sounds make her skin tingle-- literally.
Alison Gopnik sounds off in Slate on mirror neurons.
Rea2007 essay on, "What the myth of mirror neurons gets wrong about the human brain."
Paul Kay joins discussion in NY Times on how language influences thought
Science Times article discusses new views on an old debate.
Art Shimamura awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship
Fellowship to support his efforts on a new book taking a neurocognitive approach to the psychology of art and aesthetics.
Conference on Religion and Cognitive Science, Jan 16-18
Hosted by The Graduate Theological Union and the Cognitive Science Program at UC Berkeley
George Lakoff to receive inaugural Giulio Preti Prize
The Regional Council of Tuscany honors Lakoff's contributions in the study of Science and Democracy.
Steve Palmer discusses the science of aesthetics in a presentation at Google.
Updated web materials for Jerry Feldman's book, 'From Molecule to Metaphor: A Neural Theory of Language'.
Check out recent Updates, Teaching Tips, and a Readers' Roadmap- a remarkable graphical guide to each chapter produced by John Torous, a recent student in CogSci 110 at Berkeley.
Looking back into the future.
Eve Sweetser's cross-cultural research on how we speak about time.
How do People Make Predictions?
New ICBS Member Tom Griffiths puts Bayes rule to the test
Linguistic Modulation of Color Perception Differs for the Left and Right Cerebral Hemispheres.
ICBS members Kay and Ivry use neuropsychological methods to revisit the Whorf hypothesis
Alva Noe brings the brain and body together in his new book.
Conversation with Alva Noe on the just published, "Action in Perception"
LEONARDO review of recent Synesthesia Conference co-hosted by ICBS
Review of the The Fourth Annual National Conference of the American Synesthesia Association, Inc.
"What Do You Believe Is True Even Though You Cannot Prove It?"
ICBS member Alison Gopnik and other scientists consider unsolvable problems
George Lakoff of Linguistics and ICBS on the Language of Politics
UC Berkeley professor George Lakoff tells how conservatives use language to dominate politics.