University Relations

Fall 2018 - Wednesdays - 12:00 to 1:00 pm - Elliott Hall S204

December 12 - "Inhibitory processes and the control of memory retrieval" by Levy and Anderson.

Abstract. People are often confronted with reminders of things they would prefer not to think about. When this happens, they often attempt to put the unwanted memories out of awareness. Recent research shows that the capacity to suppress distracting traces is mediated by executive-control processes that are analogous to those involved in overriding prepotent motor responses, and it is these processes that cause persisting memory failures for the suppressed items. There is evidence that memory retrieval and motor tasks that are likely to demand executive control recruit overlapping neural mechanisms, suggesting that a common process mediates control in these domains. Together, these findings indicate that memory failures often arise from the mechanisms that lie at the heart of our capacity to influence the focus of thought.


December 5 - "Causal Attribution Across Cultures: Variation and Universality" by Choi et al.

Abstract. Growing cross-cultural evidence suggests that East Asians are less likely to show the correspondence bias, or a preference for explanations of behavior in terms of traits, dispositions, or other internal attributes of the target. The scope of this evidence spans several research paradigms and diverse methodologies. The cultural difference, however, appears not to be caused by an absence of dispositional thinking in East Asian cultures. Indeed, extensive ethnographic and psychological data indicate that "dispositionism" is a cross-culturally widespread mode of thinking, although East Asians believe dispositions to be more malleable and have a more holistic conception of the person as being situated in a broad social context. The East-West split in attribution thus originates primarily from a stronger "situationism" or belief in the importance of the context of behavior in East Asia. Consequently, East Asians are more likely than Westerners to avoid the correspondence bias as long as situational constraints are salient.


November 14 - "The contribution of information theory to psychology" by Wendell R. Garner

from the book, "The making of cognitive science: Essays in honor of George A. Miller."

"What is information theory?
Berfore discussing in detail the contribution of information theory to psychology, a brief introduction to information theory will set the stage for my later comments about it. Information theory, at least for the purpose of understanding its role in psychology, consists of both a set of concepts and a system of measurement appropriate to quantification of the concepts. Although these two aspects are closely related in formal information theory, in at least some applications in psychology the concepts are more important than the measurement ..."


November 7 - "The importance of context: Evidence that contextual representations increase intrusive memories" , Pearson et al.

Background and objectives: Intrusive memories appear to enter consciousness via involuntary rather than deliberate recollection. Some clinical accounts of PTSD seek to explain this phenomenon by making a clear distinction between the encoding of sensory-based and contextual representations. Contextual representations have been claimed to actively reduce intrusions by anchoring encoded perceptual data for an event in memory. The current analogue trauma study examined this hypothesis by manipulating contextual information independently from encoded sensory-perceptual information.

Method: Participants' viewed images selected from the International Affective Picture System that depicted scenes of violence and bodily injury. Images were viewed either under neutral conditions or paired with contextual information.

Results: Two experiments revealed a significant increase in memory intrusions for images paired with contextual information in comparison to the same images viewed under neutral conditions. In contrast to the observed increase in intrusion frequency there was no effect of contextual representations on voluntary memory for the images. The vividness and emotionality of memory intrusions were also unaffected.

Limitations: The analogue trauma paradigm may fail to replicate the effect of extreme stress on encoding postulated to occur during PTSD.

Conclusions: These findings question the assertion that intrusive memories develop from a lack of integration between sensory-based and contextual representations in memory. Instead it is argued contextual representations play a causal role in increasing the frequency of intrusions by increasing the sensitivity of memory to involuntary retrieval by associated internal and external cues.


October 31 - "On the interpretation of the number attraction effect: Response time evidence" by Staub.

Abstract. Speakers frequently make subject-verb number agreement errors in the presence of a local noun with a different number from the head of the subject phrase. A series of four experiments used a two-choice response time (RT) paradigm to investigate how the latency of correct agreement decisions is modulated by the presence of a number attractor, and to investigate the relative latency of errors and correct agreement decisions. The presence of a number attractor reliably increased correct RT, and the size of this RT effect was consistently larger in conditions that also had larger effects on accuracy. Number attraction errors, however, were similar in RT to correct responses in the same experimental condition. These results are interpreted as supporting a model according to which an intervening number attractor makes the agreement computation process more difficult in general (Eberhard, Cutting, & Bock, 2005), with errors arising probabilistically. However, attraction from a non-intervening noun resulted in only mildly inflated correct RT, but dramatically inflated error RT, suggesting that non-intervening attraction errors may reflect confusion about the structure of the subject phrase.


October 24 - "Decision-Making: A Cognitive Science Perspective" by Gonzalez.

Abstract. This chapter overviews topics in judgment and decision making from a cognitive science perspective. It advocates a "closed-loop" view of decision making: an interactive and continuous dynamic process of exchanges between humans and their environment. The chapter first discusses the "open-loop" view of decision making that has dominated the field for many decades, beginning with a historical perspective on rationality and bounded rationality to distinguish the closed and open-loop views and the research from two major fields that study decision making: economics and psychology. It then presents foundational research for the closed-loop view that involves probability learning and dynamic decision making, adaptive decision making, and recent research on dynamic decision making and decisions from experience. The last section presents the naturalistic decision-making perspective and its connections to cognitive engineering and human factors. It concludes with a view on future research at individual, team, group, and societal levels.


October 17 - "Vision" by David Marr, Chapter 1 "The Philosophy and the Approach"

Background. The problems of visual perception have attracted the curiosity of scientists for many centuries. Important early contributions were made by Newton (1704), who laid the foundations for modern work on color vision, and Helmholtz (1910), whose treatise on physiological optics generates interest even today. Early in this century, Wertheimer (1912 , 1923) noticed the apparent motion not of individual dots but of wholes, or " fields, " in images presented sequentially as in a movie. In much the same way we perceive the migration across the sky of a flock of geese: the flock somehow con- stitutes a single entity, and is not seen as individual birds. This observation started the Gestalt school of psychology, which was concerned with describing the qualities of wholes by using terms like solidarity and distinctness, and with trying to formulate the " laws " that governed the creation of these wholes. The attempt failed for various reasons, and the Gestalt school dissolved into the fog of subjectivism. With the death of the school, many of its early and genuine insights were unfortunately lost to the mainstream of experimental psychology. More ...


October 3 & 10 - "Embodied Cognition" by Lawrence Shapiro. Lunch will be provided.

Abstract. The article explains the history, core concepts, methodological practices, and future prospects of embodied cognition. Cognitivism treats cognition, including perception, as a constructive process in which computational operations transform a static representation into a goal state. Cognition begins with an input representation so that the psychological subject can be conceived as a passive receptor of information. The cognitivist's primary concern is the discovery of algorithms by which inputs such as those representing shading are transformed into outputs such as those representing shape. The experimental methods need to provide an environment that isolates the stimuli that will be relevant to an investigation of the mental process of interest. Gibson's theory of perception explains that information in the optic array sufficed to specify opportunities for action, thus providing observers with an ability to perceive. Gibson explains that perception is the detection of information that, with no further embellishment, suffices to specify features of an observer's world. The active observer could, by collecting and sampling the wealth of information contained within the optic array, know its world in terms relative to its needs. Embodied cognition researchers conceive of themselves as offering a new framework for studying the mind.


September 26 - "Modularity in Cognition: Framing the Debate" by Barrett and Kurzban. Lunch will be provided.

Abstract. Modularity has been the subject of intense debate in the cognitive sciences for more than 2 decades. In some cases, misunderstandings have impeded conceptual progress. Here the authors identify arguments about modularity that either have been abandoned or were never held by proponents of modular views of the mind. The authors review arguments that purport to undermine modularity, with particular attention on cognitive architecture, development, genetics, and evolution. The authors propose that modularity, cleanly defined, provides a useful framework for directing research and resolving debates about individual cognitive systems and the nature of human evolved cognition. Modularity is a fundamental property of living things at every level of organization; it might prove indispensable for understanding the structure of the mind as well.


September 19 - "The cognitive revolution: a historical perspective" by George A. Miller. Lunch will be provided.

Abstract. Cognitive science is a child of the 1950s, the product of a time when psychology, anthropology and linguistics were redefining themselves and computer science and neuroscience as disciplines were coming into existence. Psychology could not participate in the cognitive revolution until it had freed itself from behaviorism, thus restoring cognition to scientific respectability. By then, it was becoming clear in several disciplines that the solution to some of their problems depended crucially on solving problems traditionally allocated to other disciplines. Collaboration was called for: this is a personal account of how it came about.


September 12 - The first meeting will be an organizational meeting to decide on topics/articles to discuss over the fall semester. Lunch will be provided.


Updated December 16, 2018