Events and such

We sometimes co-host guests from various other places who give a focused talk on some research to the lab. Any talks listed here are open to all members of the UC Merced community, so please feel free to attend! We often host the talks in the nifty room you see in the adjacent picture, SSM 217.

Guest Speaker: Fulbright Visiting Scholar Joanna Rączaszek-Leonardi, 17 November 2015, 11:00-12:30am SSM 317

Linguistic structures as constraints on dynamics on multiple timescales

Click below for the poster.

Guest Speaker: Joo-Hyun Song, 8/10/2015, 12:15pm, SSM 117

Paradoxical modulation of motor actions by attention

Joo-Hyun Song, Dept. of Cognitive, Linguistic & Psychological Sciences, Brown University

Vision is crucial not only for recognizing objects, but also for guiding actions. Most real-world visual scenes are complex and crowded with many different objects competing for attention and action. In order to efficiently guide motor actions, the visual system must be capable of selecting one object as the target of the current action, while suppressing the wealth of other irrelevant possibilities. It is generally accepted that more perceptually salient stimuli are able to attract attention automatically and thus are more disruptive to behavior than weakly salient distractors. Yet, counter-intuitively, we recently discovered dissociable effects of salience on perception and action: while highly salient stimuli interfere strongly with perceptual processing, increased physical salience or associated value attenuates action-related interference. Thus, this result suggests the existence of salience-triggered suppression mechanisms specific to goal-directed actions. Furthermore, we observed that attentional distraction does not impair the original learning of a simple visuomotor rotational adaptation task. Paradoxically, successful recall of the visuomotor skill only occurs when a similar level of attentional distraction is present. This finding suggests that performing a distractor task acts as an internal ‘attentional context’ for encoding and retrieving of motor memory. Therefore without consideration of internal task contexts in real-life situations, the success of learning and rehabilitation programs may be undermined. Taken together, understanding integrated attention-action systems provides new insights into our seamless interaction with a complex external world.

Co-hosted with Spivey Lab.

Guest Speaker: Gedeon Deák, 5/14/2015, 3–4:15pm, SSM 117

Gedeon Deák is a professor in the Department of Psychology at UCSD. He is known for his work on the development of attention and social cognition in infants and young children. He will be presenting exciting new brain research on social interaction between children and caregivers using EEG!

This presentation is being hosted by the Emergence of Communication Lab. The Cognaction Lab denizens are invited to attend. This will be an exciting presentation!

Thursday, May 14 from 3–4:15pm in SSM 117 Wawona

To learn more about Prof. Deák, click here, or here, or both!

Guest Speaker: Prof. Laurie Feldman, 2pm, 2/16/2015, SSM 117

We're excited to announce that Prof. Laurie Feldman, of SUNY Albany and Haskins Laboratories, will be in Merced on Monday, and at 2pm on she will give us a casual presentation on some of her recent work on discourse and text analysis.

Monday, February 16th, 2pm, SSM 117
Title: "Emoticons in Text: a new face on language and communication"

Bio: Prof. Feldman is a psycholinguist who has had a big impact on our understanding of word processing, and has recently been diving into new projects on text analysis at the discourse level. Laurie has also organized several meetings of the Women in Cognitive Science (WICS) group at CogSci and other conferences. We look forward to interacting with a cognitive scientist who has had exciting scientific and professional impact on the field!

Guest Speaker: Maryellen MacDonald, November 11th, 2014, 3pm, SSM 117

Prof. Maryellen MacDonald, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Title: How the Language Production Architecture Shapes What You Hear and How you Comprehend It

Stopping by UC Merced is one of the best-known researchers in language processing, Prof. Maryellen MacDonald, from the Department of Psychology, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In this provocative talk, she will discuss the deep links between the way language production works, the statistical regularities language production creates, the way we learn over those regularities, and the consequences for language comprehension. Put simply, the way we produce language shapes the way language is structured and the way it is comprehended.

Guest Speaker: Alexia Galati, U. Cyprus, May 15th, 2014, 3pm, SSM 117

Thursday, May 15th, 3pm in SSM 117

Title: Adaptation as a window into cognition: Insights from conversational and spatial perspective-taking

Speaker: Dr. Alexia Galati, Department of Psychology, University of Cyprus


Abstract: In this talk I address how speakers adapt their utterance planning, articulation, gestures, and memory representations according to their conversational partner’s informational needs or perspective. In three studies involving different experimental paradigms (storytelling, referential communication, and spatial perspective-taking), the speakers’ informational needs or perspective were distinguished from those of their conversational partners to examine the extent to which behavioral adaptation was egocentric or “for” the partner. Collectively, these studies suggest that speakers can represent characteristics of their partner (e.g., what information they’ve shared with their partner, how they’ve shared it, or the partner’s viewpoint) and use this information flexibly to adapt their behavior. These findings inform the cognitive architecture that supports language processing, as well as models of dialogue. Speakers appear to weigh probabilistically various sources of information, including social cues (e.g., their partner’s viewpoint), representational cues (e.g., the intrinsic spatial structure of the environment), and egocentric biases (e.g., their own viewpoint) to select the preferred perspective from which to describe information and represent it in memory. Such adaptation extends in a non-modular fashion from more inferential processes, like utterance planning, to more automatic ones, like articulation. This work supports a collaborative view of dialogue, in which there is no “default” context for processing, but rather interlocutors consider what their partners know, intend their communicative signals to be recognized as such, and coordinate their behavior contingently.

Bio: Dr. Alexia Galati studies cognition in communicative contexts. She's particularly interested in how people represent and update their conversational partners’ informational needs and how they adapt their linguistic and non-linguistic behavior to coordinate with them. Her overarching goal is to clarify how language processing in interactive conversation interfaces with other aspects of cognition, including memory and executive control. Her theoretical approach emphasizes the relation of language to its contexts of use, the bodies of interlocutors, and the space they occupy.

Dr. Galati is currently a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Experimental Psychology Lab at the University of Cyprus, collaborating with Dr. Marios Avraamides. She earned her PhD at Stony Brook University, working with Susan Brennan, and an undergraduate degree at Stanford University, and master's at the University of Chicago.

Guest Speaker: Eric Vatikiotis-Bateson, UBC, Thurs. Jan. 23rd, 2014, 1:30pm

Prof. Eric Vatikiotis-Bateson (UBC Linguistics) will be visiting UC Merced on January 23rd. He will give a presentation in COGS 202 on his research, which involves the dynamics of speech and body movement, including development of new techniques for measuring and analyzing these dynamics.

His talk is entitled: How much can correspondence tell us about coordination?

The talk will be held from 1:30pm to 3pm, room: COB 272.

Click here to see Eric's website.

This is also fun.

Eric shared these two papers that are related to his presentation:

Barbosa, A. V., Yehia, H. C., & Vatikiotis-Bateson, E. (2008). Linguistically valid movement behavior measured non-invasively. In Proceedings of the International Conference on Auditory-Visual Speech Processing–AVSP (pp. 173-177).

Vatikiotis-Bateson et al. (in press). Articulatory coordination of two vocal tracts. Journal of Phonetics.

Guest Speaker: Alexia Toskos, Stanford, Thurs. Dec. 5th, 2013, 11am

Dr. Alexia Toskos is a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University and has published several exciting new papers in prominent journals on the relationship between vision, action, and language. Her talk will be entitled: Interactions between Language, Action, and Vision: How what you hear or do can change what you see.

The talk will be held in Willow Room (in COB) at 11am, Thursday, Dec. 5th.

All are welcome!

Guest Speaker: Mike Anderson, Franklin & Marshall, Tues. May 7th, 2013, 1:30pm

Prof. Mike Anderson from Franklin & Marshall College, who is a visiting scholar during his sabbatical at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, will be visiting us to give a guest presentation entitled: "Neural reuse and componentiality in the functional structure of the brain."

Prof. Anderson's talk will be based on his BBS article from 2008, and work he has done since then. Here's the BBS abstract:

"An emerging class of theories concerning the functional structure of the brain takes the reuse of neural circuitry for various cognitive purposes to be a central organizational principle. According to these theories, it is quite common for neural circuits established for one purpose to be exapted (exploited, recycled, redeployed) during evolution or normal development, and be put to different uses, often without losing their original functions. Neural reuse theories thus differ from the usual understanding of the role of neural plasticity (which is, after all, a kind of reuse) in brain organization along the following lines: According to neural reuse, circuits can continue to acquire new uses after an initial or original function is established; the acquisition of new uses need not involve unusual circumstances such as injury or loss of established function; and the acquisition of a new use need not involve (much) local change to circuit structure (e.g., it might involve only the establishment of functional connections to new neural partners). Thus, neural reuse theories offer a distinct perspective on several topics of general interest, such as: the evolution and development of the brain, including (for instance) the evolutionary-developmental pathway supporting primate tool use and human language; the degree of modularity in brain organization; the degree of localization of cognitive function; and the cortical parcellation problem and the prospects (and proper methods to employ) for function to structure mapping. The idea also has some practical implications in the areas of rehabilitative medicine and machine interface design."
Guest Speaker: Louie Favela, U. Cincinnati, Fri. May 3rd, 2013, 11am

Louie Favela is a Ph.D. student at the University of Cincinnati in both philosophy and psychology. He will be presenting a talk entitled "Explanatory Pluralism: A Case Study."

The talk will be held on Friday, May 3rd at 11am in El Capitan in SSM.

Abstract from relevant paper:

"A number of recent articles and books have attempted to defend the claim that mechanistic explanations are the most fundamental and perhaps only viable kind of explanations in the life sciences. We believe that this position results in unnecessary ontological commitments. Whether implicitly or explicitly, to adhere to a position that mechanistic explanations are fundamental explanations is to simultaneously adhere to the notion that the phenomena being explained, ontologically speaking, just are mechanisms. This, we claim, is the wrong way to start investigating the world. The right way to investigate the world is to start from a more pluralistic position. We believe that investigations in the life and other special sciences ought to begin from an agnostic position concerning the ontology of the phenomena under inquiry. This position is defended by means of a discussion of the case of explanations of bird flocking behavior."