UCSD Cognitive Brownbag

Spring 2015 Schedule

Fridays, 12:00-1:00pm, in the Crick Conference Room (Mandler Hall 3545).

Directions here


Week 3    April 17  Diane Pecher  (University of Rotterdam)

Memory and the motor system

Consistent with the view that cognition is grounded in perception and action, semantic tasks on object pictures or language often show interactions with actions. The question is whether episodic memory is also grounded in action. I will present several studies that investigated the role of motor actions in memory. In our studies participants studied object pictures or action verbs while performing concurrent tasks such as making hand movements. Although concurrent tasks did interfere with memory performance, in none of the experiments did I find any evidence that concurrent motor tasks affected memory differently for manipulable and non-manipulable objects. I conclude that episodic memory does not seem to rely much on the motor system.

Week 4    April 24  On Amir  (UCSD, Rady)

Liking Goes with Liking:  An Intuitive Congruence between Preference and Prominence

Week 5    May 1  Jonathan Schooler (UC Santa Barbara)

Lost in the Clouds:  The Costs, Benefits and Regulation of Mind-Wandering

Humans spend a large proportion of their waking hours in thoughts that are unrelated to the external activities in which they are engaged.  When it occurs at inopportune times, the costs of mind-wandering can be substantial and represent a central underlying factor in cognitive performance.  However, when timed judiciously, mind-wandering can cause relatively little disruption.  Moreover, there appear to be significant potential benefits of mind-wandering for planning and creativity.   Training techniques that, such as mindfulness practices, that foster the regulation of mind-wandering may be especially valuable in minimizing its disruptive consequences without (hopefully) curtailing its benefits.

Week 6    May 8  Johannes Müller-Trede  (UCSD, Rady)

When Experience meets Description: How Dyads Integrate Experiential and Descriptive Information in Risky Decisions

How do teams make joint decisions under risk when some team members learn about a prospect from description and others learn from experience? In a series of experiments, we find that two-person teams composed of one participant who learns from description and a second participant who learns from experience make shared decisions by taking turns and compromising. In doing so, they attenuate individual biases, such as the over- and underweighting of the probability of rare events. The social interaction thus leads dyads to make shared decisions that follow normative standards more closely than the decisions made by individual decision makers. Finally, in processing experiential information, dyads appear to be sensitive to the reliability of the experience: The more reliable the experiential information, the larger its influence on the dyad’s decision.


Week 7   May 15  Dan Kleinman (UCSD, Psychology)

Duck, Duck, ... Mallard: Advance Planning Facilitates Production of Non-Dominant Responses

Consider the spoken sentence “Dan fell asleep yesterday on the lab couch.” The speaker likely planned most of its semantic content prior to speech onset (e.g., deciding that the last word would refer to the piece of furniture in question). However, due to the attention-demanding nature of word selection, the speaker may not have selected the final word (“couch”, instead of the equally acceptable “sofa”) until shortly before it was uttered. This difference in automaticity means that, relative to a word produced in isolation, words produced in connected speech can be planned for longer prior to selection. How does this additional pre-selection planning affect the words that speakers choose to say? More generally, how does advance planning affect response activation and selection?

In each of four dual-task experiments, participants freely chose between dominant and non-dominant responses under conditions of divided or undivided attention. In Experiments 1 and 2, speakers named pictures with multiple names (e.g., “couch” – the dominant name according to norming studies – and “sofa”). In Experiment 3, bilinguals named pictures in either their dominant language (“cat”) or their non-dominant language (“gato”). In Experiment 4, participants categorized either the color (red vs. green) or the shape (circle vs. triangle) of an object after receiving different amounts of training on those two tasks. In every experiment, when participants responded quickly, they produced more non-dominant responses when their attention was divided than when it was undivided.

These results indicate that when response selection is delayed, non-dominant responses have more time to become accessible and so are selected more often. Because attentional bottlenecks delay response selection in everyday situations, the words we speak, the languages we use, and the actions we take may be influenced by our ability to plan them in advance.


Week 8    May 22  Shlomi Sher (Pomona College)

A Rational Analysis of Constructed Preference

Choices are sensitive to the context of available options and the order in which questions are asked. These phenomena suggest that preferences are "constructed" (rather than "revealed") and are often considered counter-normative. We propose a rational analysis of constructed preference, which casts some of these phenomena in a new light. When knowledge is incomplete, reasonable inferences from sampled options can explain some important context effects -- including joint-separate reversals and asymmetric dominance effects. Furthermore, when preferences are incomplete, a normatively appropriate decision rule treats choices as precedents, and generates "coherent arbitrariness". The rational construction of preference is context- and history-dependent.



Week 9    May 29  Craig Fox (UCLA)


Week 10  June 5  Rachel Ostrand (UCSD, Cognitive Science)



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