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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.
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.
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). 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.

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Research Opportunities (199s)
  • 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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  • Body Movements: Dots, Humans, Robots
    The perception and comprehension of others’ actions and body movements is ubiquitous and important. Our lab carries out a range of behavioral, neuroimaging, and neuropsychological experiments on how people perceive others' body movements. In many experiments, we use body movements depicted by point-lights (like this: http://sayginlab.org/bio-highkick.gif). We are also exploring ...
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  • 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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  • 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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  • Tools, Virtual Reality and Your Body
    In everyday life there is a boundary between our bodies and the external environment. Is this perceived boundary fixed or can it be altered? What happens to your body perception when you use a tool? What about when you immersed in virtual reality? The Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuropsychology Lab (http://www.sayginlab.org) ...
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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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  • Space, Time, and Gesture
    While it is clear that people around the world talk and think about time in terms of spatial concepts, many questions remain regarding the link between spatial and temporal concepts. The Embodied Cognition lab is interested in understanding cognition from the perspective of the embodied mind, investigating how the peculiarities ...
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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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