Cognitive Science Colloquium

Spring 2020

All meetings take place on Thursdays, 3.30-5.30 pm in Bioscience Research Building 1103, unless otherwise noted.

February 6 — Edward Vogel (Psychology, University of Chicago).

Title: The impact of distraction on working memory
Abstract: Working memory is a capacity limited neural system that temporarily maintains information in an active state to support cognitive performance. Humans vary substantially in this ability and these individual differences are stable over time and are predictive of many high level functions such as academic performance and abstract reasoning.  Because working memory can represent only a small amount of information at once, attentional mechanisms play a critical role in regulating the flow of information in this system by selectively representing task relevant information and disregarding irrelevant distracting information. Here, I will argue that these mechanisms for dealing with distraction are fundamental to understanding the operation of this memory system and that they are what primarily drive the differences between individuals in working memory ability. Drawing from a variety of behavioral and EEG approaches, my work provides evidence that the efficacy of deploying attentional control over time may provide a common thread linking working memory to other intelligent behaviors.

March 5 — Kristin Lagattuta (Psychology, UC Davis).

Title: Developing a Life History Theory of Mind: Awareness that the Mind Learns from the Past to Imagine the Future

Abstract:  I will provide an overview of my research on 4- to 10-year-olds’ and adults’ beliefs about whether and how people generalize from their past social interactions when engaging in episodic future thinking; that is, their awareness that people’s minds draw from prior experiences when imagining what will happen next. Across multiple studies, results reveal significant age-related increases in expecting people’s future-oriented thoughts, emotions, and decisions to be biased by preceding life events, with 8- to 10-year-olds and adults presuming broader future generalizations compared to younger children.  I will further discuss sources of individual differences, including using eye tracking to examine variability in how children and adults weight different types of past event information when forecasting mental states.

March 12 — Hyo Gweon (Psychology, Stanford). CANCELLED / POSTPONED TO FALL
Title: Social Curiosity and Social Learning

Abstract: Learning does not occur in isolation. From parent-child interactions to formal classroom environments, humans explore, learn, and communicate in rich, diverse social contexts. Rather than simply observing and copying their conspecifics, humans engage in a range of epistemic practices that actively recruit those around them. They query others to acquire useful information, consider others’ mental states to draw inferences that go beyond the evidence, and help others learn by generating information tailored to their knowledge and goals. What makes human social learning so distinctive, powerful, and smart?   In this talk, I will present a series of studies that reveal the remarkably curious minds of young children, not only about the physical world but also about others and themselves; children are curious about what others do & what their actions mean, what others know & what they ought to know, and even what others think of them and how to change their beliefs. The results collectively paint a picture of young children as active social learners who voraciously yet intelligently gather useful information from others to learn about the world, and generously share what they know with those around them.

April 2 — Tal Linzen (Cognitive Science & Computer Science, Johns Hopkins). CANCELLED / POSTPONED TO FALL


April 16 — Katie Kinzler (Psychology, Cornell). CANCELLED / POSTPONED TO FALL


April 23 — Felipe de Brigard (Philosophy, Psychology & Neuroscience, Duke). CANCELLED / POSTPONED TO FALL


April 30 — Steven Roberts (Psychology, Stanford). CANCELLED / POSTPONED TO FALL

Title: Children's descriptive-to-prescriptive tendency: Interpreting how a group is as evidence for how individual group members should be
Abstract: In this talk, I will share a series of experiments that document children's tendency to interpret how a group is as evidence for how individual group members should be (i.e., a descriptive-to-prescriptive tendency). That is, once children (ages 4 to 13) learn that a group is characterized by a property, they believe that individual group members should be characterized by that property, and that it is bad if they are not. Overall, these experiments suggest that children’s descriptive-to-prescriptive tendency a) emerges early in development, b) replicates (and varies) across cultures, c) influences what children believe to be socially, morally, and psychologically appropriate, d) varies as a function of the individual group members' motivations and allegiance to the group, and e) can be used to "nudge" children toward social good. Implications for social cognition and intergroup relations will be discussed.