The schedule for the 2019-2020 CogSci colloquia will be posted as talks become scheduled.

All talks are at 4PM, in Oak 117, unless otherwise noted.


Iris Berent, Northeastern University

Date: Friday, September 25th 

Time: 4pm

Room: Virtual via Zoom:

Meeting ID: 952 8581 2000
Passcode: R9EXuC

The Cognitive Science Colloquium Series is proud to present Iris Berent, a Professor in the Department of Psychology at Northeastern University.

Talk Title: How we reason about innateness

Abstract: Few questions in science are as controversial as the origins of knowledge.  Whether ideas (propositional attitudes, e.g., “objects are cohesive”) are innate or acquired has been debated for centuries. Here, I ask whether our difficulties with innate ideas could be grounded in human cognition itself. 

I first demonstrate that people are systematically biased against the possibility that ideas are innate. They consider epistemic traits (specifically, ideas, as opposed to horizontal faculties, such as attention) as less likely to be innate compared to non-epistemic traits (sensorimotor or emotive)— those of humans, birds and aliens, and they maintain this belief despite explicit evidence suggesting that the traits in question are in fact innate. 

I next move to trace this bias to the collision between two principles of core cognition—Dualism and Essentialism. Dualism (Bloom, 2004) renders ideas immaterial; per Essentialism, the innate essence of living things must be material (Newman & Keil, 2008). It thus follows that epistemic traits cannot be innate. A second series of experiments tests these predictions. 

These results show for the first time that people are selectively biased in reasoning about the origins of innate ideas. While these findings from adults cannot ascertain the origins of these biases, they do open up the possibility that our resistance to innate ideas could be in our nature. 

I conclude by briefly considering how the dissonance between Dualism and Essentialism can further account for a wide range of other phenomena, from why we are seduced by neuroscience to why we fear the takeover of humanity by AI, and what we think happens when we die. 

Please join Iris for a virtual happy hour (open to all) @ 6 PM via Zoom:

Open meeting w/ all graduate students @1:30 - 2:00 PM via Zoom:


Jonathan Prather, University of Wyoming (POSTPONED)

New Date TBA

Time: TBA

Room: TBA

The Cognitive Science Colloquium Series and Science of Learning, Art of Communication (SLAC) are proud to present Jonathan Prather, Professor in the Department of Zoology and Physiology at the University of Wyoming.

Talk Title: TBA

Abstract: TBA

Carol Miller, Penn State University

Friday, March 6th

Time: 4:00pm

Room: McHugh Hall 206

The Cognitive Science Colloquium Series is proud to present Carol Miller, Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders and Linguistics at Penn State University. 

Talk Title: Developmental language disorder at the intersection of working memory and sentence processing:  Theoretical and clinical implications 

Abstract: A substantial body of research shows the presence of verbal working memory deficits in almost all individuals with developmental language disorder (DLD).  However, relatively little is known about the mechanisms responsible for these deficits and how they affect, or are affected by, difficulties with language comprehension and production. Over a number of years, my collaborators and I have investigated verbal working memory and its relation to other variables in children and adults with DLD.  We have primarily focused on how working memory interacts with sentence processing and repetition.  In this talk, I will review our work, share some of our thinking and questions, and describe proposed next steps in this line of research.  We hope that by using working memory models from cognitive science to enhance experimental research in language disorders, we will contribute to both theory refinement and to improved assessment and intervention for people with DLD.

If you are interested in meeting with Dr. Miller during the day, and/or coming to dinner Friday night, please contact Dr. Grela:

Aaron Shield, Miami University of Ohio

Friday, November 1st

Time: 4:00pm

Room: Oak Hall 117

The Cognitive Science Colloquium Series is proud to present Aaron Shield, Professor in the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology at Miami University of Ohio.

Dr. Shield will provide a talk entitled Insights into cognitive and linguistic processes from research on autism and sign language

Abstract: In this talk, I will discuss how research into the signed languages of the deaf has the power to illuminate big questions about human language. By comparing spoken and signed languages, we gain a better understanding of what language is, how children learn languages, and how to best characterize and treat language disorders. In particular, I will show how research into the acquisition of American Sign Language (ASL) by deaf children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) sheds new light on various questions about acquisition, such as how children imitate linguistic forms, how children use pronouns and other words that refer to self and other, and how language exposure may affect other aspects of cognition.

Contact Inge-Marie Eigsti ( to schedule a meeting with Prof. Shield.

Learn more about Aaron Shield.

Marjorie Solomon, UC Davis

Friday, September 20th

Time: 4:00pm

Room: Oak Hall 117

The Cognitive Science Colloquium Series is proud to present Marjorie Solomon, Professor and the Oates Family Endowed Chair in Lifespan Development in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and the MIND Institute at UC Davis

Friday, September 20th, 4pm, Oak 117

Dr. Solomon will provide a talk entitled "Executive Control in Children, Adolescents, and Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Behavioral and Neural Mechanisms"

Abstract: Many individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) exhibit executive control deficits, meaning that they fail to maintain appropriate task context representations so they can inhibit impulsive responding, behave flexibly, and thereby effectively pursue their goals. Although individuals with typical development are thought to experience significant maturation of executive control processes during adolescence, those with ASD are thought to exhibit executive control impairments that persist into adolescence and young adulthood and are associated with clinically significant difficulties in social and adaptive functioning, and attention deficit, internalizing, and ASD symptoms. Given the challenges inherent in the transition to adulthood, it is critical to better understand the precise nature and development of executive control deficits in those with ASD, and their associations with behavior. This talk will briefly review behavioral and neuroimaging studies of executive control in ASD, and present new neuropsychological and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) results from the first wave of a large longitudinal cohort sequential study of individuals with ASD and typical development ages 12-22 years. We seek to clarify the neural signatures of executive control deficits in those with ASD and to investigate how the development of executive control impacts the transition to adulthood in these individuals.

If you are interested in meeting with Dr. Solomon during the day, and/or coming to dinner Friday night, please contact Dr. Naigles:


Mark S. Seidenberg, University of Madison-Wisconsin

Friday, April 26th


Room: Oak Hall 117

The Cognitive Science Colloquium Series is proud to present Mark S. Seidenberg, Vilas Research Professor and Donald O. Hebb Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Dr. Seidenberg will provide a talk entitled “The Science and Politics of Learning to Read”

Abstract: A remarkably high percentage of children and adults acquire only basic reading skills, causing innumerable problems for individuals and society. Low literacy has multiple causes, some of which seem intractable (e.g., poverty). I nonetheless think we could be doing much better than we are. Part of the problem is a disconnection between the cultures of science and education. Scientists know a great deal about how reading works and children learn, little of which has had any impact on teacher education or classroom practices. I’ll look at these cross-cultural differences, how they developed, and what might be done to overcome them.

Learn more about Mark S. Seidenberg.

Richard Wilson, UConn School of Law

Friday, February 22nd


Room: Oak 117

The Cognitive Science Colloquium Series is proud to present Richard Ashby Wilson, Professor of Law and Anthropology at and Gladstein Chair of Human Rights at UConn.

Professor Wilson will provide a talk entitled: "The Psychology of Incitement and Hate Speech: A Dialogue Between Law and Social Science"

We live in an era of nativist populism, characterized by speech that incites violence on social media, and an escalation in hate crimes. Recent social science research has identified a correlation between online incitement and offline hate crimes in the United States and Europe. What kinds of speech are the most likely to instigate acts of violence? The current research identifies revenge propaganda as the most likely type to instigate atrocities. We coded 242 speeches by a Serbian politician for references to revenge, nationalism, stereotyping, dehumanization, justice, victimization, past atrocities, political institutions and direct threats. After reading one speech or a control, participants answered questions about empathy, intentionality, and whether violence is morally justifiable. Only speeches focusing on revenge and past atrocities intensified justifications of violence. Only revenge speech increased overall negative attitudes towards the out-group. On the level of personality, those who are more politically conservative, feel the world is unjust, engage more in violent media and are male are more likely to justify violence. These findings have implications for the elusive goal of preventing atrocities. The regulatory framework established fifty years ago in the United States is showing signs of severe strain, and this research draws upon behavioral research to construct a systematic evidence-based framework for analyzing the risk that inciting speech will result in imminent lawless action.

Learn more about Richard Wilson.

Paul Bloom, Yale University

Friday, November 30th


Room: Oak 117

The Cognitive Science Colloquium Series is proud to present Paul Bloom, Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science at Yale University.

Dr Epstein will provide a talk entitled "Pleasures of Suffering".

People are hedonists, seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. This view is central to much of psychology and it fits many people’s own sense of why they do what they do. But what about our appetites for spicy foods, hot baths, horror movies, sad songs, BDSM, and hate reading? It runs out that people often seek out pain and suffering—in pursuits such as art, ritual, sex, and sports, and in longer-term projects, such as training for a marathon or signing up to go to war. Drawing on research from developmental psychology, anthropology, and behavioral economics, I suggest that these seemingly paradoxical choices show that we are driven by non-hedonistic goals; we revel in difficult practice, we aspire towards moral goodness, and we seek out meaningful lives.

Learn more about Paul Bloom.

Dr. Cristine Legare, University of Texas at Austin

Friday, October 19th


Room: Oak 109

The Cognitive Science Colloquium Series is proud to present Dr. Cristine H. Legare, Associate Professor of Psychology from University of Texas at Austin.

Dr Epstein will provide a talk entitled "The Evolution and Ontogeny of Ritual".

Convergent developments across social scientific disciplines provide evidence that ritual is a psychologically prepared, culturally  inherited, behavioral trademark of our species. I will draw upon the anthropological and evolutionary science literatures to provide a psychological account of the social functions of ritual in group behavior. Solving the adaptive problems associated with group living requires psychological mechanisms for identifying group members, ensuring their commitment to the group, facilitating cooperation with their coalition, and maintaining group cohesion. I will review evidence that the threat of social exclusion and loss of status motivates engagement in ritual throughout development and provide an account of the ontogeny of ritual cognition. The intersection of these lines of inquiry promises to provide new avenues for theory and research on the evolution and ontogeny of social group cognition.

Learn more about Dr. Cristine Legare.


Russell Epstein, UPenn

Friday, April 27


Room: Oak 109

The Cognitive Science Colloquium Series is proud to present Dr. Russell Epstein, Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr Epstein will provide a talk entitled "Anchoring the cognitive map: Neural mechanisms for landmark-based navigation".

Learn more about Russell Epstein.

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.

Will Gervais' Profile

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.

Barbara Landau's Profile

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.

Philip Corlett's Profile