Cognitive Science Network, new at SSRN

April 14, 2009

Unedited press release follows:

We are pleased to announce the creation of the Cognitive Science Network (CSN). It will provide a worldwide, online community for research in all areas of cognitive science, following the model of other subject matter networks within SSRN.

We expect CSN to become a comprehensive online resource for research in cognitive science, providing scholars with access to current work in their field and facilitating research and scholarship.

CSN’s founding director is Mark Turner, Institute Professor, Case Western Reserve University – Department of Cognitive Science.

Initially, CSN will begin with the following 7 subject matter eJournals, and subscriptions will be free during the start-up phase until October 2009.

COGNITION & CULTURE: CULTURE, COMMUNICATION, DESIGN, ETHICS, MORALITY, RELIGION, RHETORIC, & SEMIOTICS

View Papers: http://www.ssrn.com/link/Cognition-Culture.html
Subscribe: http://hq.ssrn.com/jourInvite.cfm?link=Cognition-Culture

Editor: Todd Oakley, Associate Chair, Associate Professor of Cognitive Science, Case Western Reserve University – Department of Cognitive Science

Description: Cognition & Culture focuses on the cognitive study of cultures as creations of human minds in environments. Its scope includes research on cultural manifestations, their differences and incommensurabilities, and their expressive and semantic regularities and universals. This eJournal announces working papers, meetings, and events associated with interdisciplinary research projects and aims at encouraging collaboration across disciplines. It presents research in cognitive science having to do with such fields as design, ethics, history, jurisprudence, morality, philosophy, politics, religion, sociality, science, and technology.

COGNITION & THE ARTS

View Papers: http://www.ssrn.com/link/Cognition-Arts.html
Subscribe: http://hq.ssrn.com/jourInvite.cfm?link=Cognition-Arts

Editor: Mark Turner, Institute Professor, Case Western Reserve University – Department of Cognitive Science

Description: A publication dedicated to the artful mind and its relationship to the full range of higher-order human cognition. All scientific approaches are welcome, including developmental, evolutionary, linguistic, and comparative. Cognition & the Arts construes artistic behavior broadly, to include not only the various recognized genres of the arts but also design, style, and performance, throughout the lifecourse.

COGNITION IN MATHEMATICS, SCIENCE, & TECHNOLOGY

View Papers: http://www.ssrn.com/link/Cognition-Math-Science-Tech.html
Subscribe: http://hq.ssrn.com/jourInvite.cfm?link=Cognition-Math-Science-Tech

Editors: Gilles Fauconnier, Professor, Department of Cognitive Science, University of California, San Diego, and Mark Turner, Institute Professor, Case Western Reserve University – Department of Cognitive Science

Description: Mathematical insight, scientific discovery, and technological innovation are hallmarks of higher-order human cognition. Cognition in Mathematics, Science, and Technology is dedicated to the cognitive science of mathematics, science, and technology – in phylogenetic descent, ontogenetic transformation, and historical action.

COGNITION LINGUISTICS: COGNITION, LANGUAGE, GESTURE

View Papers: http://www.ssrn.com/link/Cognitive-Linguistics.html
Subscribe: http://hq.ssrn.com/jourInvite.cfm?link=Cognitive-Linguistics

Editor: Mark Turner, Institute Professor, Case Western Reserve University – Department of Cognitive Science

Description:Cognitive linguistics goes beyond the visible structure of language and investigates the considerably more complex backstage operations of cognition that create grammar, conceptualization, discourse, and thought itself. The theoretical insights of cognitive linguistics are based on extensive empirical observation in multiple contexts, and on experimental work in psychology and neuroscience. Results of cognitive linguistics, especially from metaphor theory and conceptual integration theory, have been applied to wide ranges of nonlinguistic phenomena.” – Gilles Fauconnier. 2006. “Cognitive Linguistics.” Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science. John Wiley & Sons.

COGNITIVE NEUROSCIENCE

View Papers: http://www.ssrn.com/link/Cognitive-Neuroscience.html
Subscribe: http://hq.ssrn.com/jourInvite.cfm?link=Cognitive-Neuroscience

Editor: Mark Turner, Institute Professor, Case Western Reserve University – Department of Cognitive Science

Description: Cognitive Neuroscience is dedicated to research on the neurobiological substrate of higher-order human cognition. All methodologies are welcome – philosophical to physiological, modeling to mapping, statistical to individual case study – in forging a research initiative that transcends the limitations of any one discipline or paradigm.

COGNITIVE SOCIAL SCIENCE

View Papers: http://www.ssrn.com/link/Cognitive-Social-Science.html
Subscribe: http://hq.ssrn.com/jourInvite.cfm?link=Cognitive-Social-Science

Editors: Mathew D. McCubbins, Professor of Political Science, Chancellor’s Associates Chair, University of California, San Diego – Political Science, Adjunct Professor & Co-Director of the USC-CalTech Center for the Study of Law and Politics, University of Southern CaliforniaGould School of Law, and Mark Turner, Institute Professor, Case Western Reserve University – Department of Cognitive Science

Description: Mental events, however distributed, provide the defining problems of the social sciences. What are our basic cognitive operations? How do we use them in judgment, decision, action, reason, choice, persuasion, expression? Do voters know what they need to know? How do people choose? What are the best incentives? When is judgment reliable? Can negotiation work? How do cognitive conceptual resources depend on social and cultural location? How do certain products of cognitive and conceptual systems come to be entrenched as publicly-shared knowledge and method? Economists, political scientists, sociologists, anthropologists, and all other social scientists refer as a matter of course to mental events and typically must assume some general outline of what those mental events can be and how they can arise. They explore networks of mental events in social systems and in social cognition. Given this convergence of cognitive science and the social sciences at their intellectual cores, and the increasing body of research activity at their intersection, the Cognitive Science Network provides an eJournal to track and distribute new and classic research in the emerging field of cognitive social science.

EMERGENCE OF COGNITION

View Papers: http://www.ssrn.com/link/Emergence-Cognition.html
Subscribe: http://hq.ssrn.com/jourInvite.cfm?link=Emergence-Cognition

Editor: Mark Turner, Institute Professor, Case Western Reserve University – Department of Cognitive Science

Description: Dedicated to the study of the emergence of cognition, especially human higher-order cognition, phylogenetically and ontogenetically, in evolution and development.

HOW TO SUBSCRIBE
You can subscribe to the eJournals by clicking on the “subscribe” links listed above. You can also subscribe to all of the eJournals at once by clicking here: http://hq.ssrn.com/jourInvite.cfm?link=CSN-all-inclusive-journal

Individual subscriptions to the CSN eJournals will be free during the start-up phase, ending October 2009. After that, individual subscriptions, for all CSN eJournals, will be $40 per year. Organizational Site Subscriptions will also be available.

You can modify your subscriptions by going to the SSRN User HeadQuarters: http://hq.ssrn.com. If you have questions, please email UserSupport@SSRN.com or call 877-SSRNHelp (toll free 877.777.6435). If you are calling from outside of the United States, please call 00+1+585+4428170.

SUBMITTING PAPERS TO SSRN
Authors are invited to submit papers to the eLibrary without charge through SSRN’s User Headquarters at http://hq.ssrn.com.

Additionally, departments, centers, and other institutions may host their own institutional Research Paper Series to showcase and distribute faculty research. For more information, email Cathy_Blocher@ssrn.com.

SSRN’s eLIBRARY
SSRN’s searchable electronic library contains abstracts, full bibliographic data, and author contact information for more than 228,300 papers, over 110,700 authors, and full text for more than 187,000 papers. The eLibrary can be accessed at http://ssrn.com/search.

SSRN supports open access by allowing authors to upload papers to the eLibrary for free through the SSRN User HeadQuarters at http://hq.ssrn.com, and by providing free downloading of those papers.

Downloads from the SSRN eLibrary in the past 12 months total approximately 7.2 million, with approximately 27.6 million downloads since inception. Downloads are currently running at a rate of 7 million per year.

SSRN’s PROFESSIONAL DIRECTORY
Searching on an individual’s name in the author field on our search page at http://ssrn.com/search provides the best single professional directory of scholars in the social sciences and humanities. Complete contact information for authors, including email, postal, telephone, and fax information, is available there.

SSRN’s MISSION
SSRN’s objective is to provide rapid, worldwide distribution of research to authors and their readers and to facilitate communication among them at the lowest possible cost. In pursuit of this objective, we allow authors to upload papers without charge. And, any paper an author uploads to SSRN is downloadable for free, worldwide.

Sincerely,

Mark Turner
Director
Cognitive Science Network


Synesthesia? In every school

February 28, 2009

Do the math:  930,000 U.S. kids with synesthesia, out of 60 million students.  (Okay, “synaesthesia” for the British search programs.)

You might have one. A pyschologist in Britain did the research.

For the first time, psychologists have documented the prevalence of a form of synaesthesia – the condition that leads to a mixing of the senses – in a large sample of children. Over a twelve month period, Julia Simner and colleagues tested 615 children aged six to seven years at 21 UK schools and conservatively estimated that 1.3 per cent of them had grapheme-colour synaesthesia, in which letters and numbers involuntarily trigger the sensation of different colours.

“[This] implicates over 170,000 children age 0–17 in the UK alone, and over 930,000 in the USA,” the researchers said, “and suggests that the average primary school in England and Scotland (n = 168 pupils) contains 2.2 grapheme-colour synaesthetes at any time, while the average-sized US primary school (n = 396 pupils) contains 5.1.” Inevitably, the prevalence for synaesthesia as a whole, considering all the sub-types, would be even higher.

A hall-mark of grapheme-colour synaesthesia is that the colour triggered by a given letter or number is always the same – a fact the researchers exploited to identify the condition in school children.

Indeed, when asked to associate letters with colours, the children identified as synaesthetes showed more consistency over a 12-month-period than the other children did over a ten second period!

Researchers calculated about 5 such students in the average U.S. school, assuming a student population of about 400.

400!  In Texas that’s a tiny high school that may have difficulty fielding a football team.

In Brain, a journal of neurology (abstract available, full text with subscription).

ResearchBlogging.orgJ. Simner, J. Harrold, H. Creed, L. Monro, L. Foulkes (2008). Early detection of markers for synaesthesia in childhood populations. Brain, 132 (1), 57-64 DOI: 10.1093/brain/awn292


Tip of the old scrub brush to Research Digest Blog.

Resources:


Robert Zajonc, and what he revealed to teachers, politicians, and propagandists

December 23, 2008

The Situationist brings the sad news:  Psychologist Robert Zajonc died on December 3. (It’s a repost of a story by Adam Gorlick from Stanford News Service.)

Zajonc wasn’t a household name (I didn’t even know it rhymes with “science”), but his research was.

Psychologist Robert Zajonc, pioneer of social psychology

Psychologist Robert Zajonc, pioneer of social psychology

Plus, he led a stunning, dramatic and sometimes wonderful life, surviving horrors in the Holocaust and contributing great things to science.

Gorlick’ s memorial may be best read there, and I encourage you to click over there to read it.

Several of  Zajonc’s articles are listed as “Classics” at Science Magazine, including his 1981 defense of research spending, in the first year of the Reagan administration.

I also urge you to consider what teachers might do with some of Zajonc’s findings, things that propagandists and dastardly politicians (and a few nice politicians) have already used:

  • People like images they see over and over, the “mere exposure” effect  (It’s important what pictures you post in your classroom, yes?)
  • Parental contact with older children can raise their IQs — well, parental contact does raise the IQs of older children, but having less time for younger children tends to keep the younger kids’ IQs from developing as much.  (Did you read to your youngest kid last night?)
  • Challenging kids to tell why things work the way they claim makes them smarter. (This was the same research:  The younger kids’ challenging the older kids made the older kids smarter.  Heck, their challenging of the parents probably make the parents smarter, too.  Do we make students defend their views to other students?)
  • Facial expression affects emotions (“Emotions and Facial Expression,” Zajonc, Science 8 November 1985: 608-687; DOI: 10.1126/science.230.4726.608-b)
  • People who perform tasks well, perform them even better in front of an audience.
  • People who perform an unknown task before an audience tend to make more mistakes than they would if they practiced it in private.

Some of Professor Zajonc’s most influential work concerned “social facilitation” — the effect of the presence of others on a person’s performance of a specific task. Previous research on the subject appeared contradictory, suggesting that spectators helped performers in some cases but not in others. But in which cases?

What Professor Zajonc found was that when performers have mastered a skill at a high level, they are helped by the presence of an audience. (Think of professional musicians or athletes.) But he also found that when a performer has mastered a skill only imperfectly, the existence of onlookers is a hindrance. (Think of Sunday duffers in any arena.)

Elsewhere in his work, Professor Zajonc explored the nexus between psychology and physiology. In one widely reported study, he found that smiling or frowning can alter blood flow to the brain as facial muscles relax or contract. This in turn affects the parts of the brain that regulate feelings, helping induce happy or sad emotional states.

And do you ever wonder about why old couples tend to resemble each other so much?  Zajonc worked that out, too.

Why didn’t he get a Presidential Medal of Freedom?

Resources:


Tom Chapin, “It’s Not on the Test”

October 18, 2008

A couple of recent studies show the moral, intellectual and educational bankruptcy of the so-called No Child Left Behind Act.  The groundswell necessary to scrap the thing has not caught up to the urgency of doing so, alas.

Tom Chapin, the youngest of the musical Chapin Brothers who once included Harry Chapin, worked in advanced childhood education before we knew what it was.  As host of ABC Television’s “Make A Wish,” Chapin significantly contributed to one of the finest education programs ever broadcast.  It’s a sin that it’s not on DVD for kids now.  “Make A Wish” demonstrated what television could do, in that era before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) turned its back on the public interest requirements of the Communications Act of 1934, and before commercial television pulled the plug on dreams that commercial television might be a great engine of education and cultural enrichment.

Chapin is back, with a modest poke at the NCLB balloon, and a more powerful vote for arts education in public schools:  “It’s Not on the Test”:

I ponder the research I’ve seen over the years, both inside the Department of Education and out, and the statistical and anecdotal stories that show art training and education (not the same thing) improve academic performance, and I wonder what squirrels have eaten the brains of “reformers” who kill arts programs for the stated purposes of “improving test performance.”  Einstein played the violin.  Feynman drummed.  Churchill painted, as did Eisenhower.  Edison and his team had a band, and jammed when they were stuck on particular problems, or just for fun.  When will education decision makers see the light?

May this little spark ignite a prairie fire of protest.

Where are you protesting this week?


Even babies chunk data

July 21, 2008

How do you apply this information in your lesson plans?

Even babies chunk data for memorization. That is, even babies find it easier to remember things if the new items include chunks of already familiar information.

Not Exactly Rocket Science discusses new research that shows infants as young as 14 months use this memorization trick.

Which of these strings of letters is easier to remember: QKJITJGPI or BBCITVCNN?

Chances are, you chose the latter string, where the nine letters are the combined names of three television networks. This neatly illustrates a fundamental property of human memory – that we remember long strings of information more easily if we can break them down into bite-sized chunks. In this case, a nine-letter string can be divided into three lots of three letters. You probably use similar strategies for remembering telephone numbers, credit card details, or post codes.

Now, Lisa Feigenson and Justin Halberda from Johns Hopkins University have found that infants just 14 months old can use the same technique, delightfully known as “chunking” to increase the limited scope of their memories. Their work suggests that this technique isn’t something we learn through education or experience – it’s more likely to be a basic part of the way our minds process information.

Much more, here.


Does gender-separated schooling work better?

June 16, 2008

Even public school districts toy with the idea of separating genders in the primary and secondary grades.  Some people argue that there is experimental evidence to support the plan, plus there are the arguments about physical differences between the genders, which suggest different educational strategies for girls than for boys.

The No Child Left Behind Act requires schools to implement programs that are supported by research.  Is there solid research to support separating the genders?

Apart from the hoaxes, such as the much ballyhooed “Crokus” in boys brains, the evidence for separating the genders based on physical differences may be a lot slimmer than advocates claim.

For example, do boys really hear differently from girls?   Are the physical differences so great?  Consider the opening paragraph for a lengthy article on the issue by Elizabeth Weil, in The New York Times Magazine last March:

On an unseasonably cold day last November in Foley, Ala., Colby Royster and Michael Peterson, two students in William Bender’s fourth-grade public-school class, informed me that the class corn snake could eat a rat faster than the class boa constrictor. Bender teaches 26 fourth graders, all boys. Down the hall and around the corner, Michelle Gay teaches 26 fourth-grade girls. The boys like being on their own, they say, because girls don’t appreciate their jokes and think boys are too messy, and are also scared of snakes. The walls of the boys’ classroom are painted blue, the light bulbs emit a cool white light and the thermostat is set to 69 degrees. In the girls’ room, by contrast, the walls are yellow, the light bulbs emit a warm yellow light and the temperature is kept six degrees warmer, as per the instructions of Leonard Sax, a family physician turned author and advocate who this May will quit his medical practice to devote himself full time to promoting single-sex public education.

Mark Liberman, who writes at Language Log, deals with these issues dispassionately, and scientifically.  He started a policy of publishing on the blog questions that he gets from journalists on the issues.  Here’s his first published answer, for example, and as you can see, it’s a bit of an information-loaded doozy:

1. I’ve read a few posts on Language Log, but please tell me more about what you think about Dr. Sax’s arguments about sex-based differences in the brain?

In his books, Leonard Sax is a political activist using science to make a case, not a scientist evaluating a hypothesis.

Science is sometimes on his side, sometimes neutral or equivocal, and sometimes against him. He picks the results that fit his agenda, ignoring those that don’t; and all too often, he misunderstands, exaggerates or misrepresents the results that he presents.

There’s detailed support for these assertions in some Language Log posts from 2006:

David Brooks, cognitive neuroscientist” (6/12/2006)
Are men emotional children?” (6/24/2005)
Of rats and (wo)men” (8/19/2006)
Leonard Sax on hearing” (8/22/2006)
More on rats and men and women” (8/22/2006)
The emerging science of gendered yelling” (9/5/2006)
Girls and boys and classroom noise” (9/9/2006)

This doesn’t mean that his conclusions are false, but it does mean that his appeals to science are not trustworthy.

More nuance than some policy groups might be able to deal with, but enough information to direct a genuinely interested person to some good sources.

You’ll also want to read “Retinal Sex and Sexual Rhetoric,” and “Liberman on Sax on Liberman on Sax on Hearing.”

In our weekly staff meetings with then Assisstant Secretary of Education for Research Chester W. Finn, at the old Office for Educational Research and Information, Finn often opened the meetings by turning to the Director of Research and asking whether, in the past week, we had learned how people learn.  When satisfied that this key breakthrough had not been achieved in the previous week, which would change much of what we did, Finn would say something like, “Now that we know we don’t know what we’re doing, let’s go through the agenda.”

Keeping an appropriate sense of humor about the issue, Finn still provided sharp reminders that the science behind learning, for all of the volumes available, is very tenuous and thin.

When science is so thin, the policy side of the discipline can be waved around by a good presentation coupled with plausible sciency-sounding material.  “Plausible” does not equal “good,” and often it doesn’t even equal “accurate.”

Liberman’s critiques are detailed, and they point out questions that the average school board member or principal is probably ill-equipped to realize, let alone ask from an “expert” or consultant selling a program to the district.

Before we teach critical thinking to the kids, we need a lot more critical thinking from administrators.  Liberman tries to light the path to that critical thinking.

What do you think?  Does gender-separate education work better?  Are there such great differences in the learning abilities and methods of boys and girls that we ought to separate them?

What about other shibboleths we hear?  Classroom size?  Testing?  Delivery of material?  Difficulty of material?   Where is there good research for reforming our schools, for the better?


Jill Bolte Taylor in the NY Times

June 2, 2008

Jill Bolte Taylor’s inspiring story of stroke and recovery in a brain function specialist got a nice treatment in the New York Times a week ago:  “A superhighway to bliss.


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