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Colloquium: Rushen Shi

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Dr. Rushen Shi, Professor in the Département de Psychologie at Université du Québec à Montréal, will present on “Grammatical Acquisition in the First Years of Life.”
ABSTRACT: How do children begin language acquisition? According to certain classic views, preverbal and early verbal infants lack grammatical knowledge. In this talk I will discuss empirical findings from my lab showing that infants start acquiring aspects of the grammar from the first year of life, and that they demonstrate sophisticated syntactic representations during the second year of life. I will show that infants use prosody and functional elements to break into language.

Colloquium: Hongjing Lu

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Dr. Hongjing Lu, Professor in the Departments of Psychology and Statistics at UCLA, will present on “Understanding physical and social actions.”
ABSTRACT: Humans are remarkably adept at perceiving physical and social events based on very limited visual information (e.g., movements of a few simple geometric shapes). However, it remains unclear what representations are deployed to achieve these abilities. In an effort to identify the key computational components, a unified psychological space is proposed that captures both the perception of physical events involving inanimate objects and the perception of social events involving human interactions with other agents. This unified space consists of two prominent dimensions: an intuitive sense of whether physical laws are obeyed or violated; and an impression of whether an agent possesses intentions. Even when observing actions of a single actor, people are sensitive to the cause-effect relation between limb movements guided by intention and body displacements that obey physical laws.  By 12 months, children show sensitivity to the consistency between intention and physical constraints in actions. A MEG study showed that relative to action recognition, action understanding requires additional processing time coupled with greater involvement of frontal and parietal areas.

Brown Bag Lunch Talk: Natalia Talmina

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PhD student Natalia Talmina will present a talk on “Evidential and endorsement uses of English attitude verbs” with discussion to follow.
Department members and invited guests are invited to attend these Brown Bag Lunches. Attendees should bring lunch as refreshments are not provided.
Upcoming Brown Bag Lunch Talks:
November 8 – Alon Hafri
December 6 – Eric Rosen

Welcome to the Cognitive Science Major!

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Before the beginning of the Fall semester we have a short “open house” for students who are interested in CogSci. We’re going to have a similar open house this semester for those of you who are new to major. As Director of Undergraduate Studies, Dr. Colin Wilson will be there to meet you and answer questions you have about the major requirements, upcoming course selection, research opportunities, etc. It will also be nice for you to meet the other new majors.
If you plan to come, please respond to this online poll: http://whenisgood.net/32jwf4e. (Go ahead and select 3:30 – 4:30 pm as the time you are available even if you can’t make it for the whole time.)
Looking forward to seeing you there!

Colloquium: Talia Konkle

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Dr. Talia Konkle, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University, will present a talk entitled “Why is that there? Information mapping across the cortex.”
ABSTRACT: What drives the functional organization of the cortex? All proposals balance the causal roles of two pressures: innately specified cortical patterning mechanisms (phylogenetic) establishing large-scale network architecture, and self-organizing mechanisms driven by the statistics of natural experience (ontogenetic) effecting local organization. In part 1, I will characterize the functional organization of object-selective cortex and how well it converges with long-range network architecture as revealed by functional connectivity measures. We find that the functional organization mirrors large-scale network architecture and points to the viability of “built-in” organizational pressures. In part 2, I will consider the large-scale organization of the early visual areas using Kohonen mapping techniques. This computational work suggests that V1/V2/V3 do not have to be specified by distinct patterning mechanisms but can emerge from self-organizing processes.  Considering the results of both of these projects together, we will discuss these local and long-range organizing pressures and the cortical scales at which these two causal pressures meet.

Dissertation Presentation: Karen Clothier

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Karen Clothier will present an open talk on her dissertation. The working title is “What counts as many: A pragmatic-semantic account of vague, ambiguous quantifiers with experimental support.”
ABSTRACT: Going back at least as far as Partee 1988, many, few, much and little have been characterized as vague and ambiguous; their status as quantifiers has also been challenged.  This dissertation offers a pragmatic-semantic account of many that reduces the apparent ambiguity to contextual factors, and attributes the vagueness to a relative, proportional denotation the verification of which is supported by noisy representations of approximate magnitudes. This dissertation leverages a critical theoretical innovation and provides experimental support for these two major claims: structured meanings denote licensing questions in Discourse trees, which in turn provide the abstract functional content of the comparison class to the anaphoric ~ (Focus) operator which composes with a relative proportional determiner and a degree morpheme at LF.  Therefore, this account simultaneously captures the Focus-dependent interpretations of utterances containing determiners like many, whilst maintaining a single conservative, relative, proportional lexical entry for many, from which other senses are pragmatically derived.  A series of experiments find evidence that supports the two critical components in this account: (i) many seems ambiguous between a regular and reverse interpretation because many-utterances are sensitive to the information structure of the discourse context; and (ii) many seems vague because the denotation of many is relative and proportional.

Colloquium: Keith Holyoak

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Dr. Keith Holyoak, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Psychology at UCLA, will present on “Semantic Relations in Minds, Brains, and Machines.”
ABSTRACT: Children and adults are able to learn abstract semantic relations, such as synonymy and antonymy, which cannot be defined in terms of specific features of individual objects. Such relations are central to human intelligence, underlying the distinctively human ability to reason by analogy across situations that initially appear highly dissimilar. New algorithms in machine learning can automatically generate rich semantic vectors (word embeddings) representing the meanings of individual words. We are developing a computer model (Bayesian Analogy with Relational Transformations) that can extract deeper representations of abstract semantic relations from such non-relational inputs. Analogical reasoning emerges as a natural consequence of relation learning. BART’s representations predict patterns of similarity among neural signals triggered by a variety of semantic relations.  We are extending the approach to visual inputs. Core properties of high-level intelligence may emerge from operations that transform featural representations into meaningful relations.

Dissertation Presentation: Emory Davis

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Emory Davis will present an open talk on her dissertation. The working title is “Does seeing mean believing? The development of children’s semantic representations for perception verbs.”
ABSTRACT: This dissertation investigates children’s acquisition of perception verbs and the process by which children link different lexical and syntactic forms to their knowledge about abstract concepts like seeing and knowing. I examine children’s production and comprehension of perception verbs, especially the verb see, between the ages of 2-9 years to evaluate how children’s semantic and syntactic knowledge of these verbs develops and when children learn that perception verbs have a mental component to their meaning. I argue that children initially acquire a more narrow understanding of perception verbs and only later gain adult-like semantic and syntactic knowledge of these verbs. In a series of studies, I demonstrate that despite being used early and often, perception verbs like see are in fact quite hard for children and are not learned fully until well into the school years. The achievement of adult-like knowledge of perception verbs requires the integration of a wide range of linguistic and conceptual information that poses a unique challenge in acquisition.

Colloquium POSTPONED: Randi Martin

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Dr. Randi Martin, Elma Schneider Professor in the Department of Psychology at Rice University, has postponed her talk to 2021.

Brown Bag Lunch Talk: Rennie Pasquinelli

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PhD student Rennie Pasquinelli will present a talk on “”Will it fall? Is it on? Uncovering the relationship between physical and linguistic representations of support” with discussion to follow.
Department members, CogSci/Ling undergraduates, and invited guests are invited to attend these Brown Bag Lunches. Attendees should bring lunch as refreshments are not provided.
Next Brown Bag Lunch Talk:
April 17 – Alon Hafri