Centre for Cognitive Science (COGS)

Spring 2017

Spring 2017

Tuesdays 16:00-17:30


Feb 7    

The Mismeasure of Ape Social Cognition 
David Leavens
University of Sussex

Abstract: In his classic analysis, The Mismeasure of Man, Gould (1981) demolished the idea that intelligence was an inherent, genetic trait of different human groups by emphasising, among other things, (a) its sensitivity to environmental input, (b) the incommensurate pre-test preparation of different human groups, and (c) the inadequacy of the testing contexts, in many cases. Yet in the last two decades, numerous contemporary researchers have claimed human superiority over apes in social intelligence, based on two-group comparisons between postindustrial, Western Europeans and captive apes, where the apes have been isolated from European styles of social interaction, and tested with radically different procedures. Here I analyse the problem and offer a more valid approach to the comparative study of social intelligence.

Pevensey 1 2D10 

Feb 14

 No Seminar


Feb 21

No Seminar


Feb 28

The Role of Context in Learning the Meanings of Words
Jessica Horst
University of Sussex

Vocabulary acquisition is an important milestone in early cognitive development. Although children appear to guess the meaning of a new word effortlessly, questions remain about how children commit word-meaning associations to memory for later retrieval. This talk will review several computational and empirical studies demonstrating the initial naming context plays a critical role in how well children form robust memory representations of new name-object associations. We will explore word learning contexts in terms of both the to-be-learned targets and the other objects that may be present and competing for children’s attention. This series of studies includes both traditional referent selection (process-of-elimination) tasks as well as teaching children words from reading storybooks. Overall, it’s not just what is named that matters—but the context in which the initial naming occurs.

Pevensey 1 2D10 

Mar 7

Is Deep Dreaming the New Collage? 
Margaret Boden
University of Sussex

Deep dreaming is an application of deep learning that is often used to generate collage-like images. But the similarity is merely superficial. Multi-level networks aren’t (yet?) sufficiently well understood to be used as a serious art-form. 

 Arts A04

Mar 14

No Seminar

Pevensey 1 2D10  

Mar 21

Angus Nisbet (consultant neurologist & sleep physician)  

Pevensey 1 2A2

Mar 28

Attributing Consciousness
Bryony Pierce
University of Bristol

Philosophers’ criteria for attributing consciousness vary widely.  One reason for this is that conscious processes can be functionally indistinguishable from unconscious or non-conscious processes, from a third-person perspective.  Disagreements also arise because of the lack of consensus within theories of consciousness on what it is for a state or entity to be conscious.  At one end of the spectrum, the existence of our own conscious experience is called into question, and at the other, we are asked to accept that each fundamental physical entity is conscious, or has some kind of protoconsciousness, at least.  I will defend a particular methodological approach to establishing criteria for when, if at all, a certain conception of consciousness – what-it’s-likeness – should be attributed, whether to individual states, oneself, other seemingly sentient beings, or inanimate objects playing relevant functional roles.  I will relate the proposed criteria for attributing consciousness to interface theory, arguing that one important function of consciousness is to act as an interface between cognition and emotion in order to enable behaviour that is responsive to changing needs and circumstances.  This view receives empirical support from work in experimental psychology, which I supplement with theoretical arguments about the need for reasons to be grounded in the qualitative nature of affective responses.

Pevensey 1 2D10  

Apr 4

Reflecting Nature - Can art make us feel better?  
Mark Ware  
Brighton & Sussex Medical School

Pevensey 1 2D10 

Apr 11

Workshop on Social Robotics and Human Experience
Speakers to include Friederike Eyssel (Bielefeld University) Margaret Boden (University of Sussex), Antonio Chella (University of Palermo and ICAR-CNR), Giulio Sandini (Italian Institute of Technology), Massimiliano Cappuccio (UAEU) and others TBA.

Details at http://www.sussex.ac.uk/cogs/seminars/socialrobotics

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Apr 18

No Seminar


Apr 25

Human perception and prediction of time – new approaches and insights 
Warrick Roseboom
University of Sussex

Time is a fundamental and pervasive dimension of human experience though, by comparison with other domains of sensory science, research over the past century has almost completely failed to improve on our understanding of the processes supporting perception of it. In this talk, I will address some of the problems that have prevented progress on this topic - being stuck on the idea of a literal internal clock in particular - and detail an alternative approach and associated findings. 

Providing the basis for a new understanding of human time perception, our recent work uses a novel combination of different neural network approaches to demonstrate that the passage of time can be estimated by a perceptual system in the complete absence of any clock-like process. More precisely, the system shows how temporal perception is an inherent feature of doing non-temporal perception. I will detail how the reports of time generated from this artificial system replicate key qualities of those produced by humans, and share some of the insights into human temporal perception itself garnered from this approach.

Beyond the underlying ability to extract time from experience, temporal perception is dynamic, with judgements of temporal properties influenced by predictions derived from past experience. I will outline our progress in developing Bayesian models to describe these predictive influences in behaviour, and recent findings that use a combination of classical neurophysiological and new machine learning approaches to characterise the neural processes associated with rhythmic and arrhythmic temporal prediction, and how these predictions operate across sensory modalities.

Together, these developments present a new foundation for understanding how humans perceive time and how that influences behaviour, freeing us from invocations of stopwatches when discussing time perception.

Pevensey 1 2D10
May 30

The Wavelength Project: Art-Science investigations into how we respond to the natural environment

Mark Ware MFA
multimedia artist and stroke survivor
Prof Hugo D Critchley
Chair of Psychiatry, Co-Director of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, BSMS
Dr Nichola Street
lecturer and researcher, Department of Psychology, Staffordshire University


Please note the non-standard time:  15:00 until 17:00

Join us on May 30th for a very special COGS event, including a screening of The Dog That Barked Like A Bird

Mark Ware will discuss how his experience of having a severe stroke at the age of 39 during 1996 has led over recent years to his Wavelength Project art science collaborations with the Sackler Centre for Consciousness, University of Sussex, and the Department of Psychology, Staffordshire University.

The seminar will begin with a screening of Mark’s Arts Council England supported The Dog That Barked Like A Bird. The video is a creative interpretation of a diary Mark kept during the months following his stroke. Some of the words in the diary were written at a time when, due to his stroke, he couldn’t see clearly enough to write and so drew the shapes of words from memory, in the hope that he would be able to decipher them at a later date. Alan Bennett described The Dog That Barked Like A Bird as a ‘remarkable piece of work’. Running time: 32 minutes.

Following the screening of The Dog That Barked Like A Bird, Mark will present an illustrated talk about his Wavelength Project art science collaborations, supported by Prof Hugo Critchley and Dr Nikki Street.

The Wavelength Project examines subjective, brain and body responses to natural sounds and light compared to artificial environmental stimuli. Investigations have included laboratory investigations and a neuroimaging study of self-generated thoughts (mind-wandering) in immersive auditory context, supported by the Sackler Centre. This work characterises how natural and artificial sounds may affect us in terms of wellbeing and health with relevance to workplace performance. Using photographic images of the natural environment informing, Mark’s Wavelength Project collaboration with Dr Street at Staffordshire University is providing insights into the complex area of aesthetic preference and the impact that exposure to the natural world can have. Work with Dr Street has included a national touring exhibition of art accompanied by public engagement activities throughout 2016

The seminar will conclude with a summary of what Mark and his collaborators are planning for the next phase of Wavelength Project activities and how it relates to The Dog That Barked Like A Bird

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Contact COGS

For suggestions for speakers, contact Simon Bowes, the organizer.

For publicity and questions regarding the website, contact Ron Chrisley.

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