Spotlight image
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Hide

Metaphors for grad school

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

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.
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.
Miller, L.E, Longo, M.R., Saygin, A.P. (2014). Tool morphology constrains the effects of tool use on body representations. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance. In press.
What factors constrain whether tool use modulates the user's body representations? To date, studies on representational plasticity following tool use have primarily focused on the act of using the tool. Here, we investigated whether the tool's morphology also serves to constrain plasticity. In 2 experiments, we varied whether the tool was morphologically similar to a target body part (Experiment 1, hand; Experiment 2, arm). Participants judged the tactile distance between pairs of points applied to their tool-using target body surface and forehead (control surface) before and after tool use. We applied touch in 2 orientations, allowing us to quantify how tool use modulates the representation's shape. Significant representational plasticity in hand shape (increase in width, decrease in length) was found when the tool was morphologically similar to a hand (Experiment 1A), but not when the tool was arm-shaped (Experiment 1B). Conversely, significant representational plasticity was found on the arm when the tool was arm-shaped (Experiment 2B), but not when hand-shaped (Experiment 2A). Taken together, our results indicate that morphological similarity between the tool and the effector constrains tool-induced representational plasticity. The embodiment of tools may thus depend on a match-to-template process between tool morphology and representation of the body.

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)
  • 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, ...
    (click for details)
  • 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. ...
    (click for details)
  • 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 ...
    (click for details)
  • 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 ...
    (click for details)

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.

Campus-wide Events (see all)

Jessica Thierman (Psychology PhD defense)

Double Attribute Frames: Implications for Theory and Practice

Framing effects are said to occur when equivalent descriptions of objects or events lead to different choices. Attribute frames refer to logically equivalent descriptions along a single dimension. For example, ground beef might be described as "85% lean" or, equivalently, "15% fat". Typically, one frame is positive and one is negative and people evaluate the object more favorably when presented with the positive frame (e.g., "85% lean" beef is viewed more ...
(click for details)

Thu, Sep 18th, 11:00am-12:00pm (The Crick Conference Room, Mandler Hall )
(2 days, 15 hours from now)