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Metaphors for grad school

The broad nature of Cognitive Science means that the research in our department is incredibly diverse. (more)

Bregman, M. R., & Creel, S. C. (2014). Gradient language dominance affects talker learning. Cognition, 130(1), 85–95. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2013.09.010
Traditional conceptions of spoken language assume that speech recognition and talker identification are computed separately. Neuropsychological and neuroimaging studies imply some separation between the two faculties, but recent perceptual studies suggest better talker recognition in familiar languages than unfamiliar languages. A familiar-language benefit in talker recognition potentially implies strong ties between the two domains. However, little is known about the nature of this language familiarity effect. The current study investigated the relationship between speech and talker processing by assessing bilingual and monolingual listeners’ ability to learn voices as a function of language familiarity and age of acquisition. Two effects emerged. First, bilinguals learned to recognize talkers in their first language (Korean) more rapidly than they learned to recognize talkers in their second language (English), while English-speaking participants showed the opposite pattern (learning English talkers faster than Korean talkers). Second, bilinguals’ learning rate for talkers in their second language (English) correlated with age of English acquisition. Taken together, these results suggest that language background materially affects talker encoding, implying a tight relationship between speech and talker representations.
Borovsky, A., & Creel, S. C. (2014). Children and adults integrate talker and verb information in online processing. Developmental Psychology, 50(5), 1600–13. doi:10.1037/a0035591
Children seem able to efficiently interpret a variety of linguistic cues during speech comprehension, yet have difficulty interpreting sources of nonlinguistic and paralinguistic information that accompany speech. The current study asked whether (paralinguistic) voice-activated role knowledge is rapidly interpreted in coordination with a linguistic cue (a sentential action) during speech comprehension in an eye-tracked sentence comprehension task with children (ages 3–10 years) and college-aged adults. Participants were initially familiarized with 2 talkers who identified their respective roles (e.g., PRINCESS and PIRATE) before hearing a previously introduced talker name an action and object (“I want to hold the sword,” in the pirate’s voice). As the sentence was spoken, eye movements were recorded to 4 objects that varied in relationship to the sentential talker and action (target: SWORD, talker-related: SHIP, action-related: WAND, and unrelated: CARRIAGE). The task was to select the named image. Even young child listeners rapidly combined inferences about talker identity with the action, allowing them to fixate on the target before it was mentioned, although there were developmental and vocabulary differences on this task. Results suggest that children, like adults, store real-world knowledge of a talker’s role and actively use this information to interpret speech.
Creel, S. C. (2014). Tipping the scales: Auditory cue weighting changes over development. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 40(3), 1146–1160. doi:10.1037/a0036057
How does auditory processing change over development? This study assessed preschoolers’ and adults’ sensitivity to pitch contour, pitch height, and timbre in an association-memory paradigm, with both explicit (overt recognition) and implicit measures (visual fixations to melody-linked objects). In the first 2 experiments, child and adult participants associated each of 2 melodies with a cartoon picture, and recognition was tested. Experiment 1 pitted pitch contour cues against pitch height cues, and Experiment 2 pitted contour cues against timbre cues. Although adults were sensitive to multiple cues, children responded predominantly based on pitch height and timbre, with little sensitivity to pitch contour. In Experiment 3, however, children detected changes to all 3 cues well above chance levels. Results overall suggest that contour differences, although readily perceptible, are less memorable to children than to adults. Gradual perceptual learning over development may increase the memorability of pitch contour.

Featured Classes
Fall 2014:
  • COGS9: Introduction to Data Science
    Concepts of data and its role in science will be introduced, as well as the ideas behind data-mining, text-mining, machine learning, and graph theory and how scientists and companies are leveraging those methods to uncover new insights into human cognition.
  • COGS160: Cognitive Ethnomusicology
    Music is ubiquitously present in human culture. As much as it is ubiquitous, music is diverse in both form and usage. From sacred ritual to war, music is a component of many human activities. Free from the semantic necessities of language, music is constrained only by the aesthetics of those making it. Ethnomusicology seeks to understand music in its cultural context--how and why people make the specific types of music they do. Cognitive ethnomusicology takes a broad approach to the study of musical culture, perception, and processing. The course will explore fundamental components of musical behavior, such as synchronized rhythm or the use of visual symbols to enhance recall of musical ideas, while also exploring specific genres or styles of music that have unique characteristics, such as the timbre-melodies of Tuvan vocal music or the complex rhythmic patterns of Carnatic Mrdangam playing.
  • COGS219: Prog. for Behavioral Sci.
    Students learn how to use Matlab and the Psychophysics toolbox for experimental research in cognitive science, neuroscience, psychology, linguistics and related fields… Topics include stimulus presentation, response collection, analyzing and displaying data. Programming is an applied skill; like playing an instrument or a sport, it needs to be practiced. COGS219 provides information, support, motivation, structure, and "coaching”. Students acquire skills they can apply at graduate school and beyond, feel more confident in their programming and research abilities, and develop code that can be adapted for research projects. For cognitive science students, 219 counts as a methods course; with professor approval, it can count as behavioral or computational issues course.
  • COGS160: Interaction Design Research
    Prepares students to conduct original HCI research by reading and discussing seminal and cutting-edge research papers. Topics include design, social software, input techniques, mobile, and ubiquitous computing. Student pairs perform a quarter-long mini research project that leverages campus research efforts. TuTh 3:30pm-4:50pm in CSE 2154. Prerequisites: (Cogs14a or CSE20) and (an A- or higher in Cogs120 or Cogs102C). Please contact Thanh Maxwell at for departmental approval.

Research Opportunities (199s)
  • Brain Mechanisms Meditating Attentional Sets and Navigational Decisions
    Movement through the environment demands constant change in how we take in information (our attentional set) and how we use that information to make decisions. The Nitz laboratory studies this dynamic process at its core, by directly examining the neural substrates of attention and spatial cognition through multiple single neuron ...
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  • Sound Recognition in Language
    The Language Acquisition & Sound Research lab is seeking enthusiastic, motivated, and reliable undergraduate research assistants to assist with a study. The study investigates how different people interpret sounds when processing language. Successful applicants will receive course credit and gain valuable experience with language research! Interested students should contact Prof. ...
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  • Motion simulation and the subjective direction of time
    It is often suggested that people make predictions about the world by simulating how the world might unfold, but considerably less is known about how people make retrodictions: inferring the past state of the world based on the present. The current research investigates the shared and differing cognitive processes underlying ...
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  • Dr. Edward Vul's Cognition and Inference Lab
    We study human cognition and decision making: how do people combine sparse information with their prior knowledge about the world to make decisions? And how do limitations of memory and attention influence this process? Different projects investigate these issues in different domains; examples include: visual attention, consumer behavior, intuitive reasoning, ...
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  • Entrepreneur Connect
    Help shape the future of entrepreneurship at UCSD. What is E-Connect? Part LinkedIn, part Kickstarter, UCSD Entrepreneur Connect (E-Connect) is the future for entrepreneurialminded students. Meet, share ideas, form teams, create - this is the aim of E-Connect. E-Connect is an idea. We need creative individuals looking to broaden their ...
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  • Language Development and Remediation in Children
    We are evaluating two interventions for dyslexia that involve training the temporal dynamics of the visual system (magnocellular pathway) and the auditory system, and whether the two interventions together have super-additive effects. As a Research Assistant, you would be traveling to one or two of five participating local elementary schools ...
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  • Cognitive Processes
    “Raednig thees wrods semes to be esaeir tahn you mgiht hvae tohuhgt; waht colud epxlian tihs?” Could you read the sentence above? Having any trouble understanding or recognizing these words? How possible it could be to understand such a sentence, with/without recognize words? What could you explain your effortless ability ...
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  • Brain Development and Cognitive Function in Children
    The Center for Human Development (CHD) at UCSD conducts research projects focusing on factors that influence developing minds and personalities. For example, researchers at the CHD ask questions like how and why do we become individuals? What role is played by our experiences? By our genes? How does developing behavior ...
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Recent News & Links (see all)

Jamie Alexandre is awarded a Chancellor's Dissertation Medal - 2014

The purpose of the Chancellor's Dissertation Medal is to recognize outstanding PhD research in one of six divisional 

Andrea Chiba, one of four UCSD Faculty to receive "Early Concept" grants from Obama's BRAIN Initiative

Andrea Chiba, associate professor of cognitive science, for “Socially Situated Neuroscience: Creating a Suite of Tools for Studying Sociality and Interoception.” “The “interoceptive” system is said to be a neural system that is critical to our physiological self-awareness and the feelings we share with others,” said Chiba.“This project aims to co-develop light, wireless, flexible recording sensors, an iRat (a robotic ‘animat’ with rat-like social behavior) and a set of experiments to interrogate the ‘interoceptive system’ by simultaneously examining physiological measures, neural activity and complex social behavior.” Primary researchers on the grant, in addition to Chiba, are Laleh Quinn, Todd Coleman and Marcelo Aguilar-Rivera of UC San Diego and Janet Wiles of the University of Queensland Australia.

UCSD Cognitive Science graduate receives modeling award at the 36th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society

Former graduate student Ben Cipollini received a modeling award and $1000 prize at the 36th annual meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, for his work with Prof. Gary Cottrell on lateralization in visual processing.

Department Events (see all)

Sebastian Thrun (Design at Large talk)

Educating Millions Online - A Revolution?

Sebastian Thrun, CEO of Udacity, will tell his story of accidentally creating an early MOOC, all the way to a mid-size company offering alternatives to college degrees to millions of online learners. Udacity focuses on education for jobs in the tech industry. Its content is built by leading Silicon Valley companies, like Cloudera, Facebook, and Google. Thrun will discuss a new style of pedagogy for learning on mobile devices, online services, and new ...
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Wed, Oct 1st, 4:00pm-5:00pm (Atkinson Hall Auditorium)
(14 hours, 49 minutes from now)

Design Lab reception
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Wed, Oct 1st, 5:15pm-6:30pm (Atkinson 1601)
(16 hours, 4 minutes from now)

Roger Levy (CogSci Colloquium)

Compositionality in probabilistic semantics and pragmatics: Bayesian "and" and "or"

A central scientific challenge for our understanding of human cognition is how language simultaneously achieves its unbounded yet highly context-dependent expressive capacity. In constructing theories of this capacity it is productive to distinguish between strictly semantic content, or the "literal" meanings of atomic expressions (e.g., words) and the rules of meaning composition, and pragmatic enrichment, by which speakers and listeners can rely on general principles of cooperative communication ...
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Mon, Oct 6th, 12:00pm-1:00pm (CSB 003)
(5 days, 10 hours from now)

Wendy Ju (Design at Large talk)

Creating Connections

We are entering an era where we are surrounded by devices, environments and vehicles that aim to support and assist us. These services, however, are only useful to the everyday consumer if the interaction is simple and easily understandable. By researching how people in public social spaces act as ephemeral teams to jointly perform short tasks--like opening the door for one another, offering a drink, or taking away trash--we can better understand how to design the interactions ...
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Mon, Oct 6th, 4:00pm-5:00pm (Atkinson Hall Room 1601)
(5 days, 14 hours from now)

Faculty Meeting

Wed, Oct 8th, 12:00pm-2:00pm (CSB 180)
(1 week from now)

CogSci Colloquium

Mon, Oct 13th, 12:00pm-1:00pm (CSB 003)
(1 week, 5 days from now)

Campus-wide Events (see all)

Jeffrey L. Krichmar (INC talk)


Research studies show that children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders (ADHD) respond well to robot artifacts and suggest that robots nicely fitting into the goals of Sensory Integration Theory (SIT) might be a form of therapy for children with ASD or ADHD. SIT is intended to focus directly on the neurological processing of sensory information as a foundation for learning of higher-level (motor or ...
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Thu, Oct 2nd, 12:30pm-1:30pm (San Diego Supercomputer Center, East Annex South Wing, Level B1, EB-129)
(1 day, 11 hours from now)

Arseny Finkelstein (Neuro talk)

3D maps and compasses in the brain: insights from freely moving bats

The hippocampal formation in mammals contains neurons such as place cells and head-direction cells, which were suggested to be the neural correlate of ‘map’ and ‘compass’. Although animals and humans move daily through complex three-dimensional (3D) environments, practically nothing is known about the encoding of 3D head direction in the mammalian brain, and little is known about representation of goals in 3D. The Egyptian fruit bat, a ...
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Fri, Oct 3rd, 10:00am-11:00am (7130 Urey hall )
(2 days, 8 hours from now)

Jan Skotheim (BioCircuits talk)

Cell Size Control

Cell size is an important physiological trait that is regulated by coupling growth with cell division. Although the traditional tools of biochemistry and cell biology have identified key regulatory proteins effecting size control, the underlying molecular mechanism remains unclear. I will discuss our recent progress in addressing this fundamental question in proliferating budding yeast as well during the mid-blastula transition in developing frog embryos. We propose that size-sensing in frog embryos operates by titrating histones against ...
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Fri, Oct 3rd, 2:00pm-3:00pm (CNCB Auditorium, First Floor (formerly CMG))
(2 days, 12 hours from now)