News & Events

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Cognitive Science Fall 2016 Colloquium:

Cognitive Science Principles Go To Middle School Science:  How Do They Work in the Real World?

Dr. Christian Schunn

Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh

Cognitive science has "graduated" a small set of principles of learning that were deemed by a committee to be valid—robustly tested in the lab and in at least some classrooms. However, the standards for classroom validation were necessarily low because cognitive science has generally made little penetration into classroom instruction, and much remains to be learned about whether cognitive science can make a difference. The real world of classroom instruction includes learning difficult content by poorly prepared / poorly motivated students and teachers. Will “valid” cognitive science principles of learning be robust under those conditions? I report on a center-level effort that translated and tested cognitive science principals through systematic improvements to two widely-used middle school science curricula. Outcomes were tested in a two multi-year randomized control trials in large urban districts with tens of thousands of middle-schoolers. The analyses examine the situations in which effects were found, and I will discuss possible underlying mechanisms. 

Previous Cognitive Science Speakers

2015-2016 Academic Year Speakers

  • Dr. Susan Schneider
    Professor of Philosophy and Cognitive Science
    University of Connecticut
    Topic: "The Self as Software: Transcending and Enhancing the Brain"

    (Co-sponsored by Cognitive Science, Philosophy, and Computer Science)

    Monday, April 18th, 4:30 pm Driscol 134

    Cognitive scientists and philosophers of mind often say that “the mind is the software of the brain” and relatedly, that “the mind is the program the brain runs.” But is the mind really a program? The task of this presentation is to dismantle the software model of the mind and a related view that says that we can survive brain uploading and other forms of radical brain enhancement because our “informational pattern” or “software” survives. (I also respond to popular articles on my view in Big Think, Wired, and Humanity+, all of which offer a software conception.) Computationalism needs a richer conception of the mind. I sketch an alternative to the software conception, and illustrate how it is compatible with computationalism. Along the way, I introduce “the problem of AI consciousness” and explain how the solution to the AI consciousness problem impacts the debate about whether the mind is software, and whether “superintelligent” machines or other kinds of sophisticated AIs can, in principle, be persons, deserving of rights.

  • Fall, 2015, Dr. Ani Patel, Tufts University

  • Fall, 2015, Dr. Roger Remington, University of Queensland

2014-2015 Academic Year Speakers

  • Spring 2015, Dr. Art Kramer, Beckman Institute, University of Illinois

  • Fall, 2014, Dr. Brenda Rapp, Johns Hopkins University

2013-2014 Academic Year Speakers

  • Spring 2014, Dr. Brian Scassellati, Yale University

  • Fall 2013, Dr. Julio Villa-Garcia, Villanova University

2011-2012 Academic Year Speakers

  • Spring 2012, Dr. Larry Barsalou, Emory University

  • Fall 2011, Dr. Georg Theiner, Villanova University

2010-2011 Academic Year Speakers

  • Spring 2011, Dr. Russell Romeo, Michigan State University

  • Spring 2011 - Dr. Lance Kriegsfeld, University of California – Berkeley

  • Dr. Anjan Chatterjee
    Center for Cognitive Neuroscience
    The University of Pennsylvania

    Topic: "Disembodying Cognition"

    Thursday, December 9th, 4:00 Mendel 213

    The idea that concepts are embodied by our motor and sensory systems is popular in current theorizing about cognition. Embodied cognition accounts come in different versions and are often contrasted with a purely symbolic amodal view of cognition. Simulation, or the hypothesis that concepts simulate the sensory and motor experience of real world encounters with instances of those concepts, has been prominent in psychology and cognitive neuroscience. Here, with a focus on spatial thought and language, I review recent work from my lab that raises questions about the nature of sensory motor grounding. In my view, the question of whether or not cognition is grounded is more fruitfully replaced by questions about gradations in this grounding. A focus on disembodying cognition, or on graded grounding,opens the way to think about how humans abstract. Within neuroscience, I propose that three functional anatomic axes help frame questions about the graded nature of grounded cognition. First, are questions of laterality differences. Do association cortices in both hemispheres instantiate the same kind of sensory or motor information? Second, are questions about ventral dorsal axes. Do neuronal ensembles along this axis shift from conceptual representations of objects to the relationships between objects? Third, are questions about gradients centripetally from sensory and motor cortices towards and within perisylvian cortices. Does sensory and perceptual information become more language-like and then get transformed into language proper?

  • Dr. Brian J. Scholl
    Department of Psychology, Yale University

    Topic: "It's Alive!;  Perceiving Animacy, and Some Visual Roots of Social Cognition

    Friday, February 5th, 3:30 Mendel 154

    Beyond features such as color and shape, visual percepts can involve higher-level properties such as causality, animacy, and goal-directedness.  Cognitive scientists have long been captivated by such phenomena, but have faced challenges in studying them with quantitative precision, and in distinguishing true perceptual effects from higher-level inferences.  I will describe and demonstrate several new projects from our laboratory that address these challenges, exploring the perception of animacy from some new perspectives: (1) Demonstrations of several new types of perceived animacy, including 'the psychophysics of chasing', and the 'wolfpack illusion';  (2) Illustrations of how certain types of perceived animacy can be studied with several new performance measures, and how it is possible to assess their objective accuracy;  and (3) Demonstrations of several ways in which perceived animacy irresistibly and implicitly shapes other types of visual performance and interactive behavior.  Each of these research strands will involve perceptually salient demonstrations of various types.  Collectively, this work begins to reveal how perception involves recovering not only the physical structure of the world, but also its causal and social structure.

2007-2008 Academic Year Speakers

  • Dr. Susan Goldin-Meadow
    Department of Psychology, University of Chicago

    Topic: "How our hands help us think"

    Thursday, October 4th, 3:30 CEER 001

    When people talk, they gesture. We now know that these gestures are associated with learning. They can index moments of cognitive instability and reflect thoughts not yet found in speech. What I hope to do in this talk is raise the possibility that gesture might do more than just reflect learning -- it might be involved in the learning process itself.

    I consider two non-mutually exclusive possibilities. First, gesture could play a role in the learning process by displaying, for all to see, the learner's newest, and perhaps undigested, thoughts. Parents, teachers, and peers would then have the opportunity to react to those unspoken thoughts and provide the learner with the input necessary for future steps. Second, gesture could play a role in the learning process more directly by providing another representational format, one that would allow the learner to explore, perhaps with less effort, ideas that may be difficult to think through in a verbal format. Thus gesture has the potential to contribute to cognitive change, directly by influencing the learner and indirectly by influencing the learning environment. Please check back throughout the semester as we further develop our speaker schedule.

2006-2007 Academic Year Speakers

  • February 22, 2007 - Dr. Paul Thagard, University of Waterloo Emotional Consciousness

  • December 1, 2006 - Dr. Steven Sloman, Brown University Causal Models of Reasoning and Choice