Introduction to Cognitive Science

Guest Lectures

Spring 2011

Last Update: 5 April 2011

Note: NEW or UPDATED material is highlighted

  1. Wednesday, 23 March:

    Barry Smith, Department of Philosophy

    1. Topic: "Visual Cognition: An Ontological Perspective"

    2. Reading:

        Smith, Barry (2001), "True Grid", in Daniel Montello (ed.), Spatial Information Theory. Foundations of Geographic Information Science, Proceedings of COSIT 2001, Morro Bay, CA, September 2001 (Berlin: Springer Lecture Notes in Computer Science 2205): 14–27.

  2. Monday, 28 March:

    David Mark, Department of Geography

    1. Topic: "Human Cognition in the Geographic Domain"

    2. Readings:

      1. David Mark's web site about the landscape categories work, which has a link to publications at the bottom
        • Specifically, the 2003 Mark & Turk paper listed at the top of the Publications page.

      2. Mark, David; Freksa, Christian; Hirtle, Stephen C.; Lloyd, Robert; & Tversky, Barbara (1999), "Cognitive Models of Geographical Space", International Journal of Geographical Information Science 13(8): 747–774.

  3. Monday, 4 April:

    Jeff Higginbotham, Department of Communicative Disorders & Sciences

    1. Topic: "Sharing Time"
      • Prof. Higginbotham will talk about the coordination of talk during interaction, the role of time and timing, and how it impacts on individuals with communication challenges.

    2. Readings (in order of importance, according to Prof. Higginbotham):

      1. Higginbotham, D. Jeffery; & Wilkins, David P. (1999), "Slipping through the Timestream: Social Issues of Time and Timing in Augmented Interactions", in Duchan, Kovarsky, & Maxwell (eds.), Constructing (In)Competence: Disabling Evaluations in clinical and Social Interaction: 49–82.

      2. Robillard, Albert B. (1994), "Communication Problems in the Intensive Care Unit", Qualitative Sociology 17(4): 383–395.

      3. Clark, Herbert H. (2002), "Speaking in Time", Speech Communication 36: 5–13.

        • Order of importance according to Prof. Rapaport :-)

          1. Robillard 1994
          2. Higginbotham & Wilkins 1999
          3. Clark 2002

  4. Friday, 8 April:

    Jürgen Bohnemeyer, Department of Linguistics

    1. NEW link: Topic: "Space Exploration: Adventures in Semantic Typology"

      NEW Abstract: This lecture offers a brief introduction to semantic typology, the crosslinguistic study of semantic categorization. Following in the footsteps of the cognitive anthropologists of the 1950s and 60s, semantic typologists treat languages as engines for the generation of representations of "the world" and ask which aspects of these are universal and which language-specific. The principal goal of this line of research is mapping the divide between biology and culture in cognition, with empirical contributions to theories of the syntax-semantics interface in language being a welcome byproduct. We will focus on the domain of spatial frames of reference and the hotly disputed claim by Levinson (1996, 2003) and colleagues to the effect that language-specific biases and constraints inform the use of reference frames in nonlinguistic cognition, e.g., in recall memory. We will briefly review the principal recent developments in this debate. Li & Gleitman 2002 propose an alternative account, according to which cognitive representations of space do not substantially vary across populations and observed usage preferences are the result of adaptations to factors such as topography, population geography, literacy, and education. The members of the MesoSpace project (Spatial Language and Cognition in Mesoamerica; NSF award #BCS 0723694) are currently applying methods of semantic typology to test this proposal in 15 indigenous languages of Mexico and Central America. Time permitting, we will discuss an unexpected byproduct of MesoSpace, preliminary evidence suggesting that the "principle of canonical orientation" proposed by Levelt (1984, 1996) may be language-specific. This proposal entails that intrinsic, object-centered representations require the reference entity or "ground" to be in canonical orientation. As a result, speakers of English generally are not likely to say, for example, that a ball perched on top of the bottom of an inverted chair is "under" the chair. However, in some Mesoamerican languages, such descriptions appear to be fairly innocuous.

    2. NEW Readings:

      1. Primary readings for this lecture:

        1. Bohnemeyer, J. (2011), "Semantic typology as an Approach to Mapping the Nature-Nurture Divide in Cognition", white paper for the initiative SBE 2020: Future Research in the Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences (Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation).

        2. Bohnemeyer, J.; & Levinson, S.C. (2011), "Framing Whorf: A response to Li et al.", unpublished ms.

      2. A good summary of the earlier contributions to the debate on linguistic and nonlinguistic determinants of reference frame use:

      3. Some recent contributions to the debate that will be discussed in passing:

        1. Haun, D.B.M.; Rapold, C.; Call, J.; Janzen, G.; & Levinson, S.C. (2006), "Cognitive Cladistics and Cultural Override in Hominid Spatial Cognition", Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 103: 17568–17573.

        2. Haun, D.B.M.; & Rapold, C.J. (2009), "Variation in Memory for Body Movements across Cultures", Current Biology 19(23): R1068–R1069.

        3. Haun, D.B.M.; Rapold, C.; Janzen, G.; & Levinson, S.C. (2011), "Plasticity of Human Spatial Cognition: Spatial Language and Cognition Covary across Cultures", Cognition 119: 70–80.

      4. General background on language diversity:

      5. Background on the principle of canonical orientation:

  5. Wednesday, 13 April:

    Susan Udin, UB Department of Physiology & Biophysics, Program in Neuroscience

    1. Topic: "Visual Receptive Fields"

    2. Readings:

      1. Lettvin, J.Y.; Maturana, H.R.; McCulloch, W.S.; & Pitts, W.H. (1959), "What the Frog's Eye Tells the Frog's Brain", Proceedings of the IRE 47(11) (November): 1940–1951.

      2. Hubel, David H. (1982), "Exploration of the Primary Visual Cortex, 1955–78", Nature 299(7) (7 October): 515–524.

Copyright © 2011 by William J. Rapaport (