Approaches and Methods
Acquisition and Development
Research in this area addresses foundational issues in the nature and development of human cognition. Studies on language acquisition address the nature of linguistic universals, and their interaction with learning mechanisms that produce language-specific acquisitions.
Studies on cognitive development address the nature of human spatial, visual, and conceptual representations, and how core representations in these areas interact with learning mechanisms to enhance, sharpen, and/or change representations.
Development and acquisition in general are viewed within a framework that emphasizes innate contributions to mature knowledge, and how these might be shaped over time. To address these issues, our group uses a variety of methodological approaches, including experimental, formal linguistic, and computational modeling. Studies cover age ranges from infancy through early childhood, from both normal and unusual populations, and use benchmark evidence from adult studies to determine the nature and course of change.
Cognitive neuropsychological and neuroscience methods are used to elucidate the nature of mental representation and processing and its neural substrates.
Computational research in cognitive science focuses on fundamental issues in language structure, processing, and learning. Part of our work studies the computational and mathematical properties of the symbolic formal systems exploited in linguistic theory. We also investigate both language processing and acquisition, with particular attention to the role played by grammatical knowledge in such processes.
Our group studies the connections between symbolic and neural computation, in order to understand the kinds of symbolic computation that can be neurally realized and genetically encoded.
Our approach to these topics is by and large theoretical, focusing primarily on mathematical formalization, with use of computational simulations for support.
In addition, in conjunction with faculty members in the Center for Language and Speech Processing, our group engages in basic research in a variety of areas of applied computational linguistics, ranging from machine translation to the learning of grammatical structure from corpora.
Experimental studies in language and other cognitive domains include a range of projects that examine the representational underpinnings of human mental experience.
For example, in the language domain, members of our group explore how aspects of comprehension can be explained in terms of specific hypotheses regarding the mental representation of linguistic expressions. More generally, these concerns are pursued in studies of how the representational mode of linguistic or spatial information constrains the processes that extract that information from a perceptual signal. In the domain of language production, we examine how humans organize and accomplish the planning of a word, phrase, or sentence.
Various methodologies are employed by our group to examine issues in language and spatial processing, including eye tracking and imaging. Equally noteworthy is the degree to which our experimental work draws on complementary approaches to the object of study, including formal, computational, developmental, and neuropsychological investigation.