Colloquium Schedule

Institute of Cognitive Science Colloquium Schedule

All colloquia take place on Fridays from 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. (unless otherwise noted) in Room D428/430 (ICS) on the fourth floor of the Muenzinger Psychology building.

**Note: Talks marked with a double asterisk are not ICS talks but are approved for the ICS Topics class.

Schedule for Spring 2015


January 12, 2015
- First day of classes

January 16, 2015
Todd Gureckis, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Psychology
Affiliate, Center for Data Science
New York University

TITLE:  Self-directed learning: Understanding the interactions between decision making, learning, and memory”

ABSTRACT:  My research explores how people learn from their interactions with the world around them. For example, how are we so good at figuring out how something works by tinkering with it? How do we formulate questions with the goal of gaining knowledge and reducing our uncertainty? How do our choices to gather information affect our memory or conceptual knowledge? Such questions strike at the heart of what makes us such an adaptable and intelligent species.  In this talk, I will overview recent progress in my lab understanding how people gather information in "self-directed" learning environments (i.e.,  those where the learner is in control of what to learn about and when to learn it).  A primary objective of my work is to develop detailed computational models of human learning, and my talk will highlight the important role that such models can play in helping to understand self-directed learning as a core aspect of human behavior.  I will conclude by discussing implications of this work for education, instructional design, as well as the basic science of human learning.

January 23, 2015

January 27, 2015 *Tuesday - E214*
Jennifer S. Trueblood, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Cognitive Sciences
Affiliated Faculty
Institute of Mathematical Behavioral Sciences
University of California, Irvine

Title: The Influence of Context and Changing Information on Choice

Abstract: Everyday we make hundreds of choices. Some are seemingly trivial -- what cereal should I eat for breakfast? Others have long lasting implications -- what stock should I invest in? Despite their obvious differences, these two decisions have one important thing in common; both are sensitive to context. In this talk, I will first describe my research investigating how context influences preferences in multi-alternative, multi-attribute choice behavior. I will provide experimental evidence that context effects from consumer choice research arise in other domains such as perception. This suggests context effects are a general feature of human choice behavior and calls for a common theoretical explanation that applies across paradigms. I will present a new model called the multi-attribute Linear Ballistic Accumulator (MLBA) model as a generalized explanation of these effects.

In the second half of the talk, I will describe my work investigating the impact of changing information on choice behavior. Most past decision research has focused on “stationary” decisions where a choice is made on the basis of fixed, unchanging information. However, in the real world, many decisions are made in the face of dynamically changing information. To assess how the decision process adapts to changes of information, I developed the piecewise Linear Ballistic Accumulator (pLBA) model. I will demonstrate the model using results from a simple perceptual decision-making task, and show how early information influences the integration of later information. The talk will conclude with a discussion of future directions including research investigating the impact of changing information on context effects in multi-alternative choice and the integration of the two models, MLBA and pLBA. I will also discuss future applications of the models to health-related decision-making.

January 30, 2015
Tamar H. Gollan, Ph.D.

Professor of Psychiatry
University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine
Hispanic Program Core Leader
UCSD Alzheimer's Disease Research Center

Title: Searching for the Language Switch: The Invasion of Executive Control into the Psycholinguistics of Bilingualism 

Abstract: Switching back and forth between tasks is known to be more difficult than steadily performing a single task. From this perspective, people who speak more than one language regularly engage in a puzzling behavior often referred to as code-switching. Bilinguals spontaneously switch languages when conversing with other bilinguals, sometimes with great frequency, and even though nothing obvious compels them to do so. Experimental investigation confirms the presence of robust processing costs associated with both language switching and non-linguistic task switching but using methods that differ from naturally occurring switches in a number of critical ways. In this talk I will show that fully voluntary switching is less costly than previously assumed, sometimes even cost-free. In addition, direct comparisons between language- and task-switching, and analysis of control over unintended language switches, reveal dissociations in brain mechanisms underlying mixing in linguistic and non-linguistic domains, and preservation of control over language selection in aging. Such results imply that language control is a “special case” with modular mechanisms that have little to do with general executive control – and this seems inconsistent with reports that bilinguals might be more efficient switchers than monolinguals. I'll discuss what properties could make language special, and how a better understanding of this might help us achieve greater efficiency in switching in other domains (e.g., switching between writing a paper and checking e-mail).


February 3, 2015 *Tuesday - E214*
Darrell A. Worthy, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Cognitive Psychology
Texas A & M University

Title: Using Computational Models to Examine Age-Related Changes in Neural Activity during Decision-Making

Abstract: Decision-making is an important task that individuals of all ages must engage in on a daily basis.  Extensive work suggests that the normal aging process leads to significant structural and functional declines in the frontostriatal brain networks implicated in decision-making.  This can often lead to poorer performance for older adults in decision-making tasks compared to younger adults.  In this talk I present two studies that use a combination of computational modeling and fMRI to identify age differences in neural activity associated with specific cognitive processes during decision-making.  Study 1 shows that neural responses in striatal and medial prefrontal regions to reward prediction errors decline with age, while responses to reward outcomes are maintained.  Study 2 uses a more demanding state-based decision-making task where individuals must consider how actions affect changes in their future state.  In this study we find evidence of compensatory activation of lateral prefrontal regions in older adults that is related to a model based measure of how current actions affect changes in one's future state.  This suggests that older adults may recruit additional brain structures during cognitively demanding decision-making tasks to achieve the same level of performance as younger adults.  I end the talk by discussing future directions in decision neuroscience across the lifespan, and current work aimed at exploring how genetic differences can affect learning and decision-making.

February 6, 2015
Michael  N. Jones, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Cognitive Science
Associate Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences
Adjunct Professor of Informatics and Computing
Adjunct Professor, Program in Neuroscience
Affiliated Faculty, Network Science Institute
Indiana University

Title: Scaling Models of Human Semantic Abstraction

Abstract: Human semantic memory develops over a lifetime of linguistic and perceptual experience. Laboratory experiments can probe the end product of the process of semantic abstraction, or can study the process at a small scale using well-controlled stimuli. But a full understanding of the mechanisms that drive semantic abstraction requires the study of models that learn over realistic data at a scale that humans do. Indeed, the models that perform best at small scales do not readily scale up to human-scale amounts of data, and relatively “dumb but scalable” models end up generating impressively complex representations when trained on sufficient data. I will present some recent work from my lab exploring random vector accumulation models based on theories of associative memory. These models learn incrementally from linguistic corpora, making surprising predictions about semantic development, and can also integrate large-scale perceptual data from our crowdsourcing project, the NSF Semantic Pictionary Project. Because humans are both the producers and consumers of such a large amount of the data we wish mine for knowledge, models of human semantic abstraction can offer unique insights not captured by purely data-driven machine learning techniques. I will end with a few applied examples from my lab using human semantic models in clinical informatics, automated synthesis of the neuroimaging literature, optimizing passwords, and intelligent tutoring systems.

February 6, 2015 *3:30 p.m.*
Anoop Sarkar, Ph.D.

Associate Professor
School of Computing Science
Simon Fraser University
British Columbia, Canada

Title: Interactive visualization of facts extracted from natural language text

Abstract:  In natural language processing, the summarization of information in a large amount of text has typically been viewed as a type of natural language generation problem, e.g. "produce a 250 word summary of some documents based on some input query". An alternative view, which will be the focus of this talk, is to use natural language parsing to extract facts from a collection of documents and then use information visualization to provide an interactive summarization of these facts.

The first step is to extract detailed facts about events from natural language text using a predicate-centered view of events (who did what to whom, when and how). We exploit semantic roles in order to create a predicate-centric ontology for entities which is used to create a knowledge base of facts about entities and their relationship with other entities.

The next step is to use information visualization to provide a summarization of the facts in this knowledge base. The user can interact with the visualization to find summaries that have different granularities.  This enables the discovery of extremely uncommon facts easily, unlike large scale "macro-reading" approaches to information extraction.

We have used this methodology to build an interactive visualization of events in human history by machine reading Wikipedia articles (available on the web at

February 13, 2015

February 20, 2015
Elizabeth Race, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow
Memory Disorders Research Center
Boston University

February 27, 2015


March 6, 2015
Stephen Becker, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Applied Mathematics
University of Colorado Boulder

March 13, 2015
Adele Goldberg, Ph.D.
Professor of Linguistics
The Council of the Humanities
Princeton University

March 20, 2015

March 27, 2015
- Spring Break (No Classes)


April 3, 2015
Ehtibar Dzhafarov, Ph.D.
Department of Psychological Sciences
Purdue University

April 10, 2015
ICS Summer Research Award Recipient
Michael Mozer, Ph.D., Professor, ICS and Department of Computer Science

Adrian Ward, Senior Research Associate, Department of Marketing Scholar, Center for Research on Consumer Financial Decision Making
Ian Smith, Ph.D. Student, Department of Computer Science
John Lynch, Ted Anderson Professor of Free Enterprise, Department of Marketing Director, Center for Research on Consumer Financial Decision Making

April 17, 2015
ICS Summer Research Award Recipient

Lauren Durkee, Ph.D. Student, ICS and Speech, Lanuage, Hearing Sciences
Hannah Glick, Ph.D. student, ICS and Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences
Anu Sharma, Ph.D., ICS Fellow
Sarel van Vuuren, Ph.D., ICS Fellow

April 24, 2015
ICS Summer Research Award Recipient
James Foster, Ph.D. Student, ICS and Cognitive Psychology
Matt Jones, Professor, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience
Al Kim, Professor, ICS and Department of Psychology and Neuroscience
Vicky Lai, Research Staff Scientist in the Neurobiology of Language Department, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Netherlands


May 1, 2015
 - ICS Fiesta & Poster Session