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Cognitive science intramural basketball: A tale of fighting against the odds

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Creel, S. C. (2014). Preschoolers’ flexible use of talker information during word learning. Journal of Memory and Language, 73, 81–98.
abstract Previous research suggests that preschool-aged children use novel information about talkers’ preferences (e.g. favorite colors) to guide on-line language processing. But can children encode information about talkers while simultaneously learning new words, and if so, how is talker information encoded? In five experiments, children learned pairs of early-overlapping words (geeb, geege); a particular talker spoke each word. Across experiments, children learned labels for novel referents, showing an advantage for original-voice repetitions of words which appeared to stem mainly from semantic person-referent mappings (who liked what referent). Specifically, children looked to voice-matched referents when a talker asked for their own favorite (‘‘I want to see the geege’’) or when the liker was unspecified (‘‘Point to the geege’’), but they looked to voice-mismatched referents when a talker asked on behalf of the other talker (‘‘Conor wants to see the geege’’). Initial looks to voice-matched referents were flexibly corrected when later information became available (Anna saying ‘‘Find the geege for Conor’’). Voice-matching looks vanished when talkers labeled the other talker’s favorite referent during learning, possibly because children had learned two conflicting person-referent mappings: Anna-likes-geeb vs. Anna-talks-about-geege. Results imply that children’s language input may be conditioned on talker context quite early in language learning.
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.
Creel, S. C. (2014). Impossible to _gnore: Word-Form Inconsistency Slows Preschool Children’s Word-Learning. Language Learning and Development, 10(1), 68–95. doi:10.1080/15475441.2013.803871
Many studies have examined language acquisition under morphosyntactic or semantic inconsistency, but few have considered word-form inconsistency. Many young learners encounter word-form inconsistency due to accent variation in their communities. The current study asked how preschoolers recognize accent-variants of newly learned words. Can preschoolers generalize recognition based on partial match to the learned form? When learning in two accents simultaneously, do children ignore inconsistent elements, or encode two word forms (one per accent)? Three- to five-year-olds learned words in a novel-word learning paradigm but did not generalize to new accent-like pronunciations (Experiment 1) unless familiar-word recognition trials were interspersed (Experiments 3 and 4), which apparently generated a familiar-word-recognition pragmatic context. When exposure included two accent-variants per word, children were less accurate (Experiment 2) and slower to look to referents (Experiments 2, 5) relative to one-accent learning. Implications for language learning and accent processing over development are discussed.

Featured Classes
Spring 2015:
  • COGS160: Language Research: A Practicum
    This course involves working about 10 hours per week in Dr. Coulson's lab on language research projects and writing a paper on the findings of one of them. The class meets weekly to talk about the motivation for the projects, to discuss how different language research techniques are used, and how to analyze and interpret data. For more information to contact Dr. Coulson [coulson@cogsci.ucsd.edu] directly.
  • COGS160: Communication in Infancy
    COGS 160 is a mixed Practicum/Seminar course designed to provide hands-on experience in research on infancy and early childhood. Students learn skills and are assigned responsibilities based on the project to which they are assigned. Students also participate in a journal club and prepare brief end-of-quarter presentations and reports. It is a 3-quarter sequence. Content, skills, and responsibilities evolve and expand every quarter. Pre-req: upper-division coursework in Cognitive Science, Human Development, Linguistics, and/or Psychology, covering content including one or more cognition or cognitive development cognitive ethnography, neuroscience, psycholinguistics; GPA of 3.3 or better; Commitment to a 3-quarter, 4-credit sequence; Permission of instructor based on interview and availability.

Research Opportunities (199s)
  • 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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  • 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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  • Speech Production Adaptation to Individual Speakers
    When speaking to another person, we tailor our speech production based on information we know about that person: for example, you probably don't use the same vocabulary with a professor as you do with a 2-year-old. This project will investigate how specific this adaptation in the speech production system is. ...
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  • Connecting the Disconnected with KA Lite
    Lab: Foundation for Learning Equality @ Calit2 Can information technology radically change the way we learn? Who can gain the most from free, open access to resources? At the Foundation for Learning Equality, a non-profit based at Calit2, we are harnessing the power of technology for education to take it ...
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Recent News & Links (see all)


Cognitive Neuroscience Society - Q&A with Marta Kutas

Marta Kutas has been smitten from the beginning with ERPs – event-related potentials, measures of electrical activity in the brain. She calls them “temporally exquisite instruments for investigating what the brain does – loosely, the mind.”


CNS - The Distinguished Career Contributions Award

Congratulations to Marta Kutas. The Distinguished Career Contributions (DCC) award honors senior cognitive neuroscientists for their distinguished career, leadership and mentoring in the field of cognitive neuroscience.  The recipient of this prize will give a lecture at our annual meeting.


Brad Voytek receives a Sloan Fellowship

The prestigious fellowships honor early-career academics whose achievements and potential identify them as rising stars and the next generation of scientific leaders. Fellows receive $50,000 to further their research in eight areas: chemistry, computer science, economics, mathematics, computational and evolutionary molecular biology, neuroscience, ocean sciences, and physics.


Cog Sci Faculty member receives Lifetime Research Award

Congratulations to Professor Jim Hollan, this year's distinguished recipient of the CHI Lifetime Research Award