The Spring 2018 Cognitive Science Colloquium Series schedule is shown below.  Details will be posted as soon as they are available.  As usual, the colloquium will be held on Fridays, from 12:00 - 1:30 p.m., in the Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences Building, Room 205.

If you would like to receive email announcements about these and other events, please contact Program Coordinator Sandra Kimball at to be added to the CogSci_BB email list.

Information about previous talks during this academic year can be found at the bottom of this list. Other past talks can be found at COGNITIVE SCIENCE COLLOQUIUM Spring 2017.





March 23, 2018

Tom Griffiths, Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science; Director of Computational Cognitive Science Lab and the Institute of Cognitive and Brain Sciences, University of California, Berkeley

Roger N. Shepard Distinguished Visiting Scholar for 2017-2018

TITLE: Universal psychological laws and the algorithmic level of analysis

ABSTRACT: One of Roger Shepard’s many contributions to psychology is the idea that there might exist universal psychological laws – principles that characterize the behavior of any intelligent organism, regardless of where they are in the universe. Over the last couple of decades methods such as rational analysis have been used to derive candidate universal laws, starting with the abstract problems faced by organisms and asking what ideal solutions to those problems look like. However, this approach typically disregards another kind of universal constraint – that all organisms have limits on their computational resources and competition for their time. In addition, for many aspects of the mind that we might seek to explain – phenomena such as scientific discovery, creativity, and imagination –  the key questions we want to answer are not about the abstract problem being solved, but about the method by which it is being solved.  I will present a new framework for engaging with these questions, based on the idea of pushing the principle of optimization that is implicit in the derivation of universal psychological laws to what David Marr called the algorithmic level of analysis.  The resulting approach, which we call "resource rational analysis," can help to explain some of the ways in which people deviate from classic rational models and provides a way to derive new universal psychological laws at the algorithmic level.


March 30, 2018

Bradley S. Gibson, Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Notre Dame

TITLE: Does ADHD Reflect A Core Deficit In Working Memory?

ABSTRACT: Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopment disorder arising from heterogeneous causal pathways. One major pathway is thought to involve deficient executive functioning, and within this pathway, working memory (WM) has been identified as a core deficit underlying the disorder. But, this understanding has not kept pace with contemporary cognitive theories which currently construe WM as a complex construct consisting of multiple components, including executive attention, the focus of attention, and temporal-contextual retrieval dynamics. In addition, each of these components may also be modulated by arousal mechanisms. In this talk, I will interpret behavioral evidence within the framework of the Temporal Context Model of memory search and I will conclude that individuals with ADHD do not have a core deficit in WM. Instead, what appears on some behavioral measures as a deficit in one component of WM—the ability to use temporal-contextual cues to retrieve goal-relevant information—actually reflects deficient modulation by arousal mechanisms such as alertness or sustained attention.


April 6, 2018

Steven Bethard, Assistant Professor, School of Information, University of Arizona

TITLE: Teaching Computers the Language of Time

ABSTRACT: Humans can easily read a written narrative and infer the underlying timeline, but this type of language understanding remains a difficult challenge for machines. Human language is rarely explicit in the way that would be most convenient for a computer, and events, times, and temporal relations are often implicit, left to be inferred by the reader. In this talk, I will examine the language of time through two lenses: (1) how well humans are able to make explicit their implicit inferences about time, and (2) how computers can be trained to make similar inferences. These two viewpoints are intertwined, as the machine learning methods we use to teach computers about language rely on humans to provide them with high quality examples annotated explicitly with their implicit semantics. I will show that a variety of ways of encoding human knowledge about timelines are needed to support machine understanding of the language of time.


April 13, 2018

Jennifer S. Trueblood, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, Vanderbilt University

TITLE: tba



April 20, 2018

Dan Jurafsky, Professor and Chair of Linguistics, Professor of Computer Science, Stanford University

TITLE: tba



April 27, 2018

Dan Mirman, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Alabama at Birmingham

TITLE: Neuroanatomy of Core Language Systems: A Data-Driven Journey

ABSTRACT: The classic Wernicke-Lichtheim-Geschwind model of the neural basis of spoken language is undergoing major revisions due to the development of non-invasive brain imaging methods and advances in analysis techniques. These new methods have made it possible to apply the classic “lesion method” at a much finer anatomical scale. In several recent studies, we have used machine learning and data science methods to examine large datasets from individuals with language deficits after stroke (aphasia). These studies have identified the cognitive sub-systems that support language processing and the neural basis of those sub-systems. The resulting functional and neuroanatomical model of spoken language processing forms an important bridge between basic research on the neural basis of language and the real-world problem of aphasia diagnosis and treatment.


May 4, 2018

Cognitive Science Graduate Student Showcase

Presenters, titles, and abstracts will be posted as soon as they are available.




September 1, 2017

Lynn Nadel, Regents' Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Arizona

TITLE: Hippocampus: Why Memory and Space?

ABSTRACT: The hippocampus has been linked to two core cognitive functions: memory and spatial/cognitive maps. In this talk I consider why these two apparently distinct psychological functions engage the same neural system. Data from behavioral and neuroimaging studies will be described, and a fair amount of speculating will be done.


September 8, 2017

Mary Alt, Associate Professor, Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences, University of Arizona

TITLE: Working memory profiles of children with dyslexia, language impairment, and typical development.

ABSTRACT: Compared to children with typical development (TD), children with dyslexia (DYS), language impairment (LI), or both (DYS/LI) often demonstrate working memory deficits. It is unclear how pervasive the deficits are, or whether the deficits align with diagnostic category. The purpose of this study was to determine whether different working memory profiles would emerge on a comprehensive battery of central executive, phonological, and visuospatial working memory tasks and whether these profiles were closely associated with group membership. This talk will review: (1) our team’s work to build a comprehensive battery of working memory for children; (2) the use of data from that battery to test models of working memory; (3) the resulting working memory profiles that emerge for children with different clinical diagnoses.


September 15, 2017

J. Christopher Maloney, Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of Arizona

TITLE: The Phenomenal Character of Perceptual Experience: Direct Realism Redux

ABSTRACT: Contrast perception with other modes of conscious cognition. First you see - and later well remember - a rose to be red. Your perceptual experience and its trailing memory concur in content but differ in conscious phenomenal character. What is like to see the rose differs from what it is like to remember the same. Why? Why if all thought is just representation? Some reply by denying the presupposition. They insist that difference in character demands difference in content after all. Others concede the presupposition. However, they contend that a perceptual experience owes its peculiar character to being the content or target of a monitoring cognitive state. Each answer flounders. It is not the content, but rather the vehicle, of perceptual representation that secures perception’s phenomenal character. For in perception the mind extends into its environment to convert stimuli into self-referential representations. As wrongly disparaged direct realists once rightly proposed, perception fulfills its phenomenal promise by permitting direct acquaintance with the world. What it is like to see is to adopt the scene to see.


September 22, 2017

Mary A. Peterson, Professor, Department of Psychology; Director, Cognitive Science Program, University of Arizona

TITLE: Toward A New Understanding Of Object Perception

ABSTRACT: Visual perception was long understood as a serial feedforward process in which, at a very early stage of processing, borders between regions in the visual input were assigned as bounding contours to the region on one side; this constituted object detection (aka figure assignment). The other region, lacking a shaping contour, was perceived as a locally shapeless ground to the object. On this feedforward view, object memories and semantics were accessed only after object detection occurred and only for objects ("figures"), not for grounds. Research in my laboratory shows that this traditional view is incorrect, and favors the alternative view that before object detection, a fast pass of processing activates multiple possible object hypotheses that could fit both sides of borders. These hypotheses compete for perception at high and low levels of the visual hierarchy. The winner is detected/perceived; the loser is suppressed. In my talk, I will review some history and then summarize five recent experiments consistent with the view that object detection occurs via hierarchical Bayesian inference.


September 29, 2017

R. Alison Adcock, Assistant Professor, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences; Core Faculty, Center for Cognitive Neuroscience

TITLE:  Motivation as Neural Context Regulating Learning

ABSTRACT:  Motivation guides and animates behavior based on representation of counterfactuals from memory. The role of motivation in reinforcement learning has long been well studied, particularly in animal paradigms that require extrinsic incentives; yet neuroscience is, ironically, only recently coming to study how motivation guides memory, including the assembly of complex models of the world and the pursuit of knowledge – motives that guide science itself. The last several years have seen an explosion of methods for examining the biology of human cognition and behavior and relating it to rich traditions and findings in animals. In particular, the ability to quantify neural activity associated with distinct motivational states using functional neuroimaging now offers exciting insights into neuromodulatory systems associated with motivation and the neural foundations of adaptive memory formation. These biological findings, in turn, point to new behavioral predictions and questions about learning and memory. The work of the Adcock laboratory is to understand how motivation shapes memory formation and to help leverage that understanding to improve education and learning-based therapies. In this presentation, I will review our recent work guided by hypotheses grounded in both animal models and human clinical insights, selectively targeting the neural architecture of motivational states during memory formation, to understand how they influence both maladaptive ideas and successful human adaptation.


October 6, 2018

Lee Ryan, Professor and Head, Department of Psychology, University of Arizona

TITLE:  Contributions of perirhinal and postrhinal cortex to memory: Implications for aging and Alzheimer's disease

ABSTRACT:  A prominent view of perirhinal cortex (PRC) and postrhinal/parahippocampal cortex (POR/PHC) function is that these structures are tuned to represent objects and spatial information, respectively. My colleagues and I have recently proposed an alternative view that derives from known anatomical connectivity, neuroimaging data, and the impact of lesions of these structures on cognition. We suggest that PRC and PHC/POR participate in two computationally distinct cortical-hippocampal pathways. A ‘sparse’ pathway forms gist-like representations of scenes/environments. A ‘detail’ pathway processes information about specific sensory features necessary for discrimination across sensory modalities. Importantly, PRC and POR/PHC participate equally in both these pathways.  I will discuss recent evidence suggesting that the ‘detail’ pathway may be more vulnerable in normal aging, while functional changes in “sparce” representations may be an early marker of Alzheimer’s pathology. 


 October 13, 2018

Jessica Andrews-Hanna, Assistant Professor, Psychology and Cognitive Science, University of Arizona

TITLE:  The Dynamics of Thought: Language as a Window into Wandering and Sticky Minds

ABSTRACT:  A remarkable characteristic of the human mind is its propensity to wander away from the here-and-now. Along the “stream of consciousness”, our thoughts meander through time and space, constructing mental models of possible futures and providing narrative to our lives. Despite the importance of spontaneous mental activity, methodological challenges and historical biases in cognitive science have thwarted its scientific study. Recent years have brought growing interest and understanding of “mind-wandering,” yet little is known about the content, correlates and consequences of mind-wandering in daily life, nor how such thoughts unfold and transition over time.  In this talk, I will 1) describe results from a daily experience sampling study seeking insight into the costs and benefits of off-task thought, 2) introduce a neuroscientific framework for understanding mind-wandering by its dynamic properties, and 3) describe preliminary studies highlighting the potential for language and conceptual processing to illuminate dynamic trajectories of thought, with important implications for mental health. 


October 20, 2017

Sepideh Friberg Sadaghiani, Assistant Professor of Psychology,  University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

TITLE:  Network Dynamics Underlying Cognitive Control

ABSTRACT:  Cognitive control involves focusing on relevant environmental signals and coordinating complex behaviors. These processes are fundamental to all goal-directed cognition resulting in universal importance in function and dysfunction of the brain. Understanding the neurobiological basis of these functions requires concurrent investigation of the brain at several spatial and temporal scales from control networks spanning across lobes to fine-scale electrophysiological mechanisms. I will present such a multi-modal approach that characterizes cognitive control functions such as alertness and selective attention in terms of concrete neurobiological mechanisms. I will furthermore discuss how the study of intrinsic or spontaneous background activity in the brain may explain lapses in these cognitive control functions. These findings are integrated in the formulation of a comprehensive model of cognitive control that motivates future investigations.


October 27, 2017

LouAnn Gerken, Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Arizona

TITLE:  Parallels Between Non-Linguistic and Linguistic Generalizations by Infants and Adults

ABSTRACT:  Shepard, Hovland, and Jenkins (1961) defined six types of non-linguistic visual categories, including 2 rule-based categories (single feature and exclusive OR) and a non-rule-based family resemblance category. In research with adults, the order of supervised learning is single feature > exclusive OR > family resemblance (> indicates “easier than”). However, in unsupervised learning (no feedback), the order is: single feature > family resemblance > exclusive OR. Recently, researchers classified phonological rules of a variety of human languages in terms of the Shepard categories, and found the order to mirror that of supervised learning: single feature > exclusive OR > family resemblance (> indicates “more frequently encountered in human language than”). Since language learning is assumed to be unsupervised, what is the reason for the frequency of rule types across languages? The answer that I will propose is that, while adults are very poor at learning exclusive OR linguistic rules and very good at learning family resemblance rules, infants are a whiz at learning exclusive OR rules. Thus the frequency of phonological rule types across languages reflect what infants, not adults, are most adept at learning.


November 3, 2017

Jody Culham, Professor, Department of Psychology; Graduate Program in Neuroscience; Brain and Mind Institute, Western University, London, Canada

TITLE:  The treachery of images”: Why brains, babies and adults react differently to real objects than photos.

ABSTRACT: Psychologists and neuroimagers commonly study perceptual and cognitive processes using images because of the convenience and ease of experimental control they provide. However, real objects differ from pictures in many ways, including the availability and consistency of depth cues and the potential for interaction. Across a series of neuroimaging and behavioral experiments, we have shown different responses to real objects than pictures, in terms of the level and pattern of brain activation as well as visual preferences. Now that these results have shown quantitative and qualitative differences in the processing of real objects and images, the next step is to determine which aspects of real objects drive these differences.


November 17, 2017 - CANCELED

Michael I. Norton, Harold M. Brierley Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School, Harvard University

TITLE: The psychology of inequality: Income, wealth, and health

ABSTRACT:  Our research reveals that people all over the world prefer less inequality--in wealth, health, and income. For example, Americans report an ideal CEO-to-worker pay ratio of 7:1 while the actual ratio is more than 300:1, and consumers prefer to buy from firms with lower pay ratios. Increasing awareness of current inequality shifts preferences toward policies that reduce it.


January 19, 2018

Seana Coulson, Associate Professor, Department of Cognitive Science, University of California, San Diego

TITLE: Conceptual Mappings in Brain and Mind

ABSTRACT:  I will discuss the importance of metaphoric and analogical mapping as organizing structures in cognition, and suggest that maps and mappings are a fundamental aspect of neurophysiology. In order to demonstrate the role of mapping in language comprehension, I'll present results from several event-related potential (ERP) studies on the comprehension of metaphoric language. Finally, I consider the extent to which synesthesia provides a good model for the neural basis of metaphor.


January 26, 2018

Kristy Hollingshead, Research Scientist, Florida Institute for Human & Machine Cognition (IHMC)

TITLE:  Everyday Language as a Signal of Mental State

ABSTRACT:  Language -- spoken or written -- is an activity that we all engage in every day. The way that we use language -- what we say and how we say it -- provides a surprisingly sensitive measure of our own mental state, and as such, may act as a predictor of future behavior. In fact, many mental and neurological health conditions present with changes in language and behavior, such as a switch in the types of topics discussed, a shift in word usage or syntax, variations in the speech signal, or differences in sleep patterns or social interactions. This talk will cover two studies in which natural language processing (NLP) techniques were applied to measure mental state and predict behavior. The first study focuses on assessing mental health disorders, specifically depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia, using language as captured from Twitter. The second study examines the occurrence of "outrage" in online discussions of cyberattacks, using anomaly detection to predict future cyberattacks. In both studies, timeseries analysis revealed interesting patterns when compared to controls, and correlations to a timeseries of relevant events.


February 2, 2018

Dominic McIver Lopes, Distinguished University Scholar, Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of British Columbia

TITLE: Third Space: Integrating Aesthetics Research Through Philosophy

ABSTRACT: After decades of neglect, the recent boom in research on aesthetic and artistic phenomena in the behavioural and brain sciences has led to to some tentative but not yet profitable exchanges between the “two cultures” of the sciences and the humanities. The diplomacy is delicate and a great deal is at stake, lest we saddle ourselves with a divided self-conception, one scientific and the other humanistic. However, Snow’s talk of “cultures” is an obstacle. In this talk, I suggest a better metaphor, one of "common space." To bring us together, a common space needs to have three features: it must be comprehensively bounded, integrated, and layered. I’ll explain what I mean with examples.


February 16, 2018

Brian McLaughlin, Professor of Philosophy and Cognitive Science, Rutgers University

TITLE: Representational Issues Concerning Normal Geometrical Misperception

ABSTRACT: Normal geometrical misperception occurs whenever the way something looks with respect to geometrical properties to a normal human perceiver in normal viewing circumstances differs from the way it in fact is.   Well-known visual illusions such as the Müller-Lyer arrows illustrate normal geometrical misperception.  Although the two arrow shafts are the same length, one looks longer than the other even to a normal human perceiver in normal viewing circumstances.  Normal geometrical misperception is not restricted to lab-induced stimuli or special cases. On the contrary, there is a large body of evidence that indicates that normal geometrical misperception is systematic and wide-spread.  Indeed, on the evidence, there is normal geometrical misperception virtually whenever a normal perceiver in normal viewing circumstances sees a scene.   The talk presents some of this evidence and explores what the fact of systematic, widespread normal geometrical misperception might indicate about visual representation, in particular, about representation in what Ken Nakayama calls “mid-level vision.”


February 23, 2018

Kimberly M. Fenn, Associate Professor, Psychology, Michigan State University

TITLE: Psychology and the Law: Is there a role of Sleep?

ABSTRACT: The preponderance of exonerations convincingly shows that there are flaws in the criminal justice system in the United States. The National Registry of Exonerations reports that at least 2100 individuals were convicted of crimes that they did not commit and many of these individuals served years in prison before exoneration. These sorts of errors pose dire consequences in that innocent individuals suffer in prison and guilty perpetrators remain free to commit further crimes. In this talk, I will propose that a relatively unexplored factor, sleep, contributes to efficacy of the criminal justice system. Sleep consolidates memory whereas sleep deprivation is associated with a wide range of cognitive deficits, including decreased executive function and impaired decision making ability. This is relevant to psychology and the law because legal actors (e.g., police, witnesses, suspects) may make important decisions having not obtained sufficient sleep. For example, approximately one half of police departments require officers to work 12-hour shifts or rotating shifts, resulting in fewer hours of lower-quality sleep. Insufficient sleep likely also affects witnesses and suspects of crimes. Most Americans do not obtain sufficient sleep each night, a trend which is growing worse with time. I will discuss ongoing work in my laboratory that explores how sleep and insufficient sleep may contribute to successes and failures in the criminal justice system.


March 16, 2018

Muhammad Spocter, Director, Master of Science in Anatomy Program; Assistant Professor, Department of Anatomy; Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine Program, Des Moines University

TITLE: From Big Bad Wolf To Man's Best Friend: Domestication And Its Effect On The Canid Brain

ABSTRACT: The domestication of animals marked a major turning point in human prehistory and dramatically affected the behavior and morphology of several target species, including that of the domestic dog. In this talk we will review evidence for changes in brain and brain component size in domestic species and will highlight some key anatomical differences as it relates to the brain of the domestic dog and some of its closest living relatives.