The schedule for the 2017-2018 CogSci colloquia will be posted as talks become scheduled.
All talks are at 4PM, in Oak 109, unless otherwise noted.
Will Gervais, University of Kentucky
Friday, March 23
Room: Oak 109
Will Gervais, Assistant Professor of Psychology at University of Kentucky will give a lecture on:
"Moral distrust of atheists, and how it screws up basic theory on the psychology of religion"
The majority of people on earth view religious belief as a necessary component of morality, leading to moral distrust of atheists. To paraphrase Dostoevsky, without belief in gods, isn’t everything permitted? Gervais will present studies exploring the degree to which people intuitively view atheists as capable of committing various heinous and immoral actions. Indeed, across 13 countries on five continents, people—even atheists themselves—view moral depravity as representative of atheists. Extreme moral prejudice against atheists may skew data essential to theorizing about religion, as basic theory requires accurate assessment of the prevalence of both religious belief and disbelief. Yet, existing large-scale polls typically require individuals to verbally disclose their atheism to strangers over the phone. Indirect measurements indicate that atheism is far more prevalent than previously assumed, suggesting that many promising theories of religious cognition may be in need of heavy revision, if not abandonment.
Barbara Landau, Johns Hopkins University
Friday, October 6
Room: Oak 109
Barbara Landau, Professor of Cognitive Science at Johns Hopkins will give a lecture on:
Origins and development of spatial language: Some complexities
The acquisition of spatial language has historically provided a fertile test-bed for theories of language-thought relationships. Does spatial language emerge driven by pre-linguistic spatial concepts, or does it emerge strictly as a function of the linguistic input provided in the environment? In this talk, I’ll consider challenges to both of these positions, focusing on the challenge of accounting for the linguistic combinatorics that are inherent in spatial language. Acknowledging the complexities of the mapping between spatial language and underlying concepts forces us to abandon simplistic hypotheses and to think about learning in new and more subtle ways.
David Rand, Yale University
Friday, November 3
Room: Oak 109
David Rand, Associate Professor of Psychology, Economics, Cognitive Science and Management at Yale University will present a lecture on:
The cognitive science of fake news
Click here for a recording of this 11/3/17 lecture.
Blurb: Why do people believe patently false news headlines, and what can be done to undermine belief in "fake news"? In this talk I will describe a number of recent findings from my collaboration with Gord Pennycook exploring these issues. For example, what is the role of rational deliberation in belief in fake news? Many have argued that people use rationalization to convince themselves of the truth of stories which fit their political worldview (a form of "motivated reasoning" or "cultural cognition"). On the contrary, in a recent set of studies, we found that people who engaged in more deliberative thinking were better at discerning fake from real news, even for headlines that aligned with their political ideology - suggesting that low-level cognitive processes motivate belief in fake news, and deliberation can override such automatic responses. Illustrating one such automatic process - a fluency heuristic - another set of studies we ran showed that just reading a fake news headline made people subsequently more likely to believe it - even if the headline was flagged as "Disputed by 3rd party fact-checkers," ran counter to the subject's political orientation, or was not even explicitly remembered by the subject. In a third set of studies, we have also examined the impact of Disputed warnings more generally, and found an "implied truth" effect - if only some fake stories are tagged with a warning, it increases the perceived accuracy of fake stories without warnings. This is worrying, given that it is much easier to produce fake news than to fact check it (such that only a small subset of all fake news stories will ever be successfully tagged with warnings). Furthermore, this implied truth effect was largest among two sub-populations particularly vulnerable to fake news: Trump supporters and young people. This paper also found that, surprisingly, increasing the salience of headlines' sources by showing the publisher's logo in a banner beneath each headline had no impact on perceptions of accuracy. We hope that the results of these studies, as well as others I will discuss, will help guide policy makers in their efforts to reduce belief in blatantly false information.
Philip Corlett, Yale University
Friday, December 1
Room: Oak 109
Phil Corlett, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Yale University will present a lecture on:
Psychosis as a window on perception and belief
Psychosis has many causes but is generally defined in terms of conscious experiences of the world, and of oneself, that deviate appreciably from consensual reality. It may be useful to break it down into its component symptoms of anomalous perceptions (“hallucinations”) and bizarre and inexplicable beliefs (“delusions”). A major challenge in developing a comprehensive and coherent understanding of psychosis is to characterize the nature of disturbances that may give rise both to a profoundly altered experience and understanding of the world and to an impairment in one’s capacity to sample and use evidence in order to optimize inferences. I will argue that these symptoms both entail devising a world model that accounts for one's reality. I will explore the degree to which developing our understanding of the brain as a predictive inference device can provide a powerful explanatory framework within which to understand the disruptions in conscious experience of the world that characterize psychosis, from fundamental and pervasive perturbations in interoception, exteroception, self perception to wider disruptions in how one infers the contents of other minds. Moreover, by refining our understanding of how these disturbances may occur, we gain valuable insights to how the brain generates our experiences more generally.