Alina Arseniev-Koehler, UCLA

Currently I am a graduate student at the University of California Los Angeles pursuing a PhD in Sociology. Substantively, my research interests include culture, cognitive sociology, language, and health and illness. Methodologically, I am interested in computational social science and machine-learning, with a focus on the computational analysis of language. My Master’s research aimed to provide a cognitively plausible, computational account of the schemata activated by news reporting on obesity. I also enjoy learning and teaching new computational techniques and help coordinate the Computational Sociology Working Group at UCLA.

  • After the past few years in graduate school, my interests and research have become increasingly focused in the intersections of language, culture, and learning, so I’m excited to meet the many others in DISI who are also passionate about these areas.
  • Primarily, my expertise is methodological. From working with large-scale text data (e.g., semi-structured interviews, news, and social media) I am familiar with a variety of computational methods to wrangle text data. I am most passionate about models of language learned by artificial neural networks (e.g., Word2Vec), and think a lot about how machine-learned language encodes meaning (and, how this compares to meaning encoded in human-learned language).
  • With fellow DISI participants I would love to work on the problem of polysemy (a word with more than one meaning), and ambiguity in language more broadly (such as homonymy, coreference resolution, etc.). In particular, I am very eager to develop computational methods to disambiguate polysemy that are cognitively plausible.

Jon Atwell, Northwestern University

I am a sociologist and Data Science Scholar at Northwestern University, a postdoctoral position. I have a background in math, economics, and philosophy. I've become very interested in how groups create shared cognitive infrastructures, from simple things like organizational norms around email greetings to complex ideas like justice or equality. In particular, I'm interested in what signals individuals may--or must-- be processing for these mental objects to become sufficiently similar and how that relates to the endogenous structuring of local environments. In my research I use a wide range of approaches including agent-based models, mathematical models, large-group behavioral experiments, and natural language processing.

  • At DISI I'm looking forward to hearing about others' big, long-term scientific agendas.
  • Expertise I bring to a project group: Cultural sociology, formal modeling, large group experiments, solid mid-range jumper.
  • I'm especially excited to learn from my peers about how other disciplines track and quantify the dynamics of group information processing.
  • For collaboration I've been mulling over a couple different projects. One would probably be an experiment attempting to further explore the relationship between learning and mental schema. I have research funds I'm able to spend on this. The other is thinking through and testing out ideas for linking neural networks and agent-based models.

Stephanie Ballard, University of Washington

I'm starting my second year as a PhD Student in the Information School at the University of Washington. My primary interest is at the intersection of artificial intelligence and ethics. In my work, I develop methods to help designers and engineers align AI applications with human goals and values.

1) DISI: I'm most looking forward to the connections we can draw across our work, even though we are all working in different areas.

2) Expertise: Design research, value sensitive design, participatory design, resourcefulness, troubleshooting, positive outlook and boisterous laughing.

3) Peers: I'm excited to learn about what methods other participants use in their research.

4) Collaborative project: I don't have any solid ideas yet, but there are a number of us who are interested in fairness and bias across a range of species (humans, primates, etc.) and expressions (human interaction, machine learning/AI, etc.). I think there's an interesting nugget there!

Amalia Bastos, University of Auckland

I am a PhD student at The University of Auckland. I am part of the Animal Minds lab and work with three different species: dogs, kea, and New Caledonian crows. My PhD thesis focuses on the signature-testing approach, which aims to identify which cognitive processes animals use to understand their environment.

  • I am looking forward to meeting people working across a range of different fields and having interesting interdisciplinary discussions. I hope that these will lead to some projects on some very difficult answers in cognitive science, such as the uniqueness of consciousness, language, and the limitations of mental time travel across different species and AI.
  • I work within comparative psychology. I currently work with three species: kea, New Caledonian crows, and dogs.
  • I am keen to learn how we can use programming and artificial intelligence to explore the uniqueness of animal minds, and to identify which cognitive processes humans and other animals are using to solve cognitive tasks.
  • A few topics I’m very interested in are: development of “Turing tests” for consciousness, morality and mental time travel, morality across species and AI, complex emotions in non-humans.

Andrei Boutyline, University of Michigan

I am a cognitive sociologist of culture. I have a long-standing interest in thoroughly integrating cultural sociology with the greater cognitive sciences. This theoretical and organizational project is what brings me to DISI. I am currently working on constructing a clear theoretical foundation for an interdisciplinary research program on cultural schemas--presently an often-used concept without a clear agreed-upon meaning. In my empirical research, I have been broadly interested in the structure and origin of large-scale social regularities in attitudes, tastes, and cognitive representations. In various projects, I have examined how people use their social identities as heuristics for organizing their attitudes, and the consequences this has for broad patterns of public opinion; the manner in which simple transformations of shared cultural schemas could yield the observed distributions of musical genre preferences; and the effects of the agonistic political communication environment on the manner in which political attitudes are held. I am also obsessed with foraging for mushrooms, which is not at all relevant to my research, but I thought I would mention it here in case someone wants to join up to forage the local woods during our off time.

Rachel Bristol, University of California San Diego

I just completed my fourth year as a PhD student in UC San Diego’s Cognitive Science department. I previously completed an MA in Linguistics from the University of Delaware and a BA in English from the University of Oregon. I currently work with Dr. Federico Rossano in the Comparative Cognition Lab. Our lab studies social cognition across species and across the lifespan. Although I maintain strong interests in animal cognition, human development, and cognitive/linguistic evolution, I primarily study adult human language use. I am broadly interested in the cognitive and pragmatic aspects of what is sometimes called ‘recipient design’ – how speakers calibrate each and every utterance for a particular audience. I study how claims to knowledge are negotiated in conversational interaction, especially in cases of disagreement.

Adam Bulley, The University of Queensland, Australia

I am a final-year PhD student at the University of Queensland, Australia. In my research I use the tools of cognitive and evolutionary psychology to study the mind and behaviour of humans and other animals. Specifically, I investigate the evolution, development, and mechanisms of imagination, foresight, decision-making, and emotion.

Meia Chita-Tegmark, Tufts University

My background is in social developlental psychology and I currently work in a human robot interaction lab focusing on different aspects of humans' relations with social robots.

Colin Conwell, Harvard University

I am a graduate student in the Vision Sciences Laboratory at Harvard University. By day, I research the role of statistical pattern recognition in complex feats of inference (e.g. intuitive physics). By night, I research the experience of beauty, embodied most particularly for me in peaches and cream, stark desert still lifes, evolutionary spandrels, one hundred forty beats per minute, adagio for strings and buffalo sauce.

  • Goals for Diverse Intelligences: To make very smart talk with very smart people, popping ideas like pez machines.
  • Ways I Could Put the Team on My Back: Web programming (for online behavioral experiments), 3D animation in Blender® (for stimulus design), (some) ability to make machines learn things, firm commitment to compelling visualizations (prefably animated), and an unparalleled collection of international pop music (relevance unclear).
  • Things I Want Most Learn from Aforementioned Smart People / Pez Machines: What, really, is the free energy principle?
  • Topics That Move Me: Unsupervised representation learning; empiricism versus nativism; familiarity versus novelty, emergent complexity; alternative modes of information processing; bird brains; kindchenschema (cute animals).

Devin Cornell, University of California, Santa Barbara

I am a PhD student in Sociology at UC, Santa Barbara with a focus on culture, politics, discourse, and cognition. My work intersects formal studies of culture and computational social science methods, exploring culture at scale on social media and in mainstream news. My Master's thesis in-progress is based on a combination of field work done in Colombia in Summer 2017 and the mapping of discourse expressed on Twitter in this historical moment in the Colombian Peace process. I'm theorizing about discourse production and power as it situates actors within the broader political field they constitute.

  • At DISI, I'm most looking forward to diving into projects and learning from my peers things that challenge my understanding of the natural, cultural, and virtual world.
  • To DISI I can contribute my sociological imagination and perspectives on discourse, power, and culture that come from my research and personal experiences.
  • I can't wait to learn about how my peers use their creative imaginations and approach problem solving.
  • Super open to new ideas, but I'm thinking about how about conceptions of power in sociology can be situated within the broader world: plants, animals, and even machines that we create. Placing the idea of power into broader context will help us separate its manifestation from the cultural imaginaries we often use to theorize about it.

Anna Corwin, Saint Mary's College of California

I am an assistant professor in Anthropology at a small liberal arts school. My work focuses on how habitual linguistic practices shape experience. I've conducted ethnographic work in a Catholic convent looking at how prayer and social support practices shape the nuns' experiences of their bodies, aging, and the end of life. More recently, I've been working on presence and perception, looking at how Catholic nuns come to recognize the experience of God.

1) I'm looking forward to the interdisciplinary: seeing how our different training and backgrounds allows us to see problems and solutions differently.

2) As a linguistic anthropologist, my strengths are in qualitative methods, seeing social complexity, linguistic analysis, and a healthy skepticism of simple answers.

3) Looking at all the bios makes me hopeful that I'll learn a lot more about apes and robots ; )

4) I am interested in how various realities become "real" to us and how is it, given that we all have the same sensory 'equipment' so to speak, that we can occupy distinct ontological realities. Specifically, I'm curious about how people experience God(s) and spirits. For people who are expert-experiencers of the divine (Catholic nuns, shamans, Buddhist monks for example), are these forms of knowledge similar or distinct? Is there an identifiable form of human intelligence that is accessed by these practitioners? Are there shared intelligences that begin to emerge across cultural contexts? I propose a collaborative comparative project to examine the experiences of experts whose ways knowing the world derives from divine sources. We might ask, using multiple methods of investigation, how individuals who have reached expert-level spiritual attainment know what they know?

Steven Crane, Stanford University

Steven Crane graduated from Stanford University in 2012, majoring in Human Biology with a concentration in the Psychology and Philosophy of Successful Aging. His key interests include the basic psychological and philosophical orientations towards the self and life experiences that make for a healthy, happy, thriving existence, and what methods or personal practices can shift those orientations for the better. Steven served as a Course Associate for the Human Biology Program (covering culture, evolution, psychology, development, and health and environmental policy) and spent a year as a medical English instructor at Ehime University in Japan. He has assisted William Hurlbut with a number of projects connected to strategic planning for the Templeton World Charities Foundation and a research project on oxytocin and moral elevation. This fall, Steven will begin an MS program at Stanford in Community Health and Prevention Research.

Recent work focuses on the differences between humans, non-human animals, and machines in a project called The Boundaries of Humanity: Humans, Animals, and Machines in the Age of Biotechnology.

1) What about DISI 2018 are you most looking forward to?

  • Connecting with a global group of peers from different backgrounds and disciplines
  • Developing theories and practices that improve human well-being

2) What expertise can you bring to a project group?

  • I do not yet have in-depth disciplinary training in any one area, but to the extent that a genuine "interdisciplinary expertise" is valuable, I do have that. Our Boundaries project (see above) involves extensive expert meetings and literature review across a broad swath of the biological, computational, and social sciences and the humanities. The areas where my study has gone deeper include stress physiology, experimental psychology (particularly development and emotion), gene editing (scientific and social issues), neuroscience, and public health.

4) Now that you've had a few months to ruminate on this: any ideas for a collaborative research project you'd like to pursue with your fellow DISI participants? Be concise (1-2 sentences)

  • Psychosocial interventions for the promotion of social connectedness and human flourishing
  • Integrating implicit processes and embodied practices with more traditional, cognitive approaches to understanding human intelligence

Efrén Cruz Cortés, University of Colorado

Efrén is a recent Electrical Engineering PhD graduate from the University of Michigan. Their research is on Machine Learning and AI, developing theory and algorithms for ML tasks involving complex data. Efrén also studies the fair use of algorithms in an automated society. To understand how to "fairly" use AI in society we must understand "fairness" in a methematical sense, as well as the limitations and potentialities of artificially intelligent systems. Efrén also collaborates extensively with artists and performers as a way of both bringing ideas to the public and to chalenge our rotten econo-political system. They work primarily with dancers because of the connection dancers have with their bodies and bodies around them, Efrén is trying to connect their knowledge with AI to better design strategies of protest and mass mobilization in general.

Daniel Czegel, Eotvos University, Budapest

I am a first year PhD student in evolutionary biology with educational background in physics, cognitive science, and complex systems. My current research mostly focuses on transferring ideas between learning and evolutionary theories; I am also interested in statistical patterns of language production and language change, and their possible cognitive and cultural origins.

I'm looking forward to meet people with a uniquely interdisciplinary research attitude and an open mindset in intellectual life in general.

I believe that I can contribute by placing complex questions of a broad domain into more quantitative grounds, phrasing them in terms of mathematical models of appropriate simplicity, grasping the essence of the phenomenon. Also I think I can provide a bridge between designing experiments, analyzing (already available) data, and modeling.

I'm always open to new ideas and also methodologies to learn. I have no specific set of skills in mind, but I'm sure the summer institute will broaden my perspective substantially.

I think an interesting avenue to pursue would be a mathematical formalization of the appearance of idea/creative insight. Such formalization could be empirically supported by existing knowledge/data in comparative cognition, human psychology, neurobiology, and collective cultural processes such as the appearance linguistic novelties and could be based on existing modeling frameworks of AI and collective behavior.

Joshua Doyle, Duke University

I just finished my fourth year as a PhD candidate in sociology. Before attending Duke, I received a BA in sociology from Indiana University. My primary interests in sociology are in culture & cognition, social psychology, and the relationship between social trust and decision-making. More specifically, my dissertation examines how individuals’ expectations for whether or not others in their society will act altruistically influences their own pro-social behaviors. I use combination of experimental methods and statistical analyses of observed data in my research. I am the current manager of the Worldview Lab at the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University.

Hamza Giaffar, Cold Spring Harbor laboratory

I'm a fourth year PhD student at CSHL in NY. My graduate research program is focused on computational/theoretical approaches to understanding the olfactory system. In addition to this, I do some work in the evolutionary dynamics of biological and cultural complex systems such as language and in relating spiking network topology to dynamics. I have a background in chemistry (MSci).

Ivan Gonzalez Torre, Universidad Politecnica de Madrid

I am fourth-year PhD student in Physics of Complex Systems at Universidad Politécnica de Madrid. Nowadays I am working on quantitative linguistics focusing in oral communication. Our interest is to characterise the complexity patters in human voice and to propose methods that makes possible automatic segmentation and comparison with other signals like animal communication.

I have background on statistical physics, multifractal analysis applied to images, time series analysis with visibility graphs, time series forecasting and a little bit about number theory and bioinformatics. I spend my free time training contemporary circus with friends, cycling and travelling with my camper van.

  • I am looking forward to know about others scientific areas and approaches. I firmly think that interdisciplinary and collaborative research groups are very powerful. I also hope to meet new funny friends during DISI.
  • The expertise I can bring to the project is my background in maths and physics. I can provide some tools, algorithms and models that are used in other areas for understanding the collected data. I have experience working with physical models, testing null hypothesis, proposing stochastic models, etc. Because of this, I have good skills on analytics and programming with Python or other languages.
  • I hope to learn a lot about behaviour and cognition on humans and animals.
  • I’m currently interested in methods that try to understand the complexity of language without the human bias segmentation. This is without the need categorising language structures as phonemes, words, etc. In this way, to be able to carry out comparative studies between different species of animals

Jake Hanson, Arizona State University

I am an astrophysics PhD student entering my fourth year working with Sara Walker on the Origin of Life. Our approach utilizes information theoretic measures to quantify the difference between living and non-living systems. Specifically, I work on understanding where the information is stored (i.e. the predictive power) during a collective decision making process in ant colonies.

I am most looking forward to learning about research from fields that are seemingly very disparate from my own. I think that useful models in science are essentially coarsegrainings/compressions that throw away information not relevant for prediction, so seeing models from a variety of disciplines will give me more intuition as to how this process works and, hopefully, an opportunity to test some quantitative methods.

My personal expertise is a blend of physics, math, and astronomy. I am more interested in breadth than depth in any one of these subjects, so my strength is the ability to call upon a wide variety of toy models and natural phenomenon in order to test novel ideas and build intuition. Perhaps as a consequence of my diverse interests, I am proficient in computer programming, network theory, and information theory.

What I look forward to learning most from my peers is their view on living systems and the universe. Is life fundamentally different than non-life? Is information a fundamental part of the physics in our universe? Why are extremely low probability physical configurations realized uncharacteristically often in living systems?

If I were to propose a research project it would be trying to formalize the role of symmetry in causal descriptions of the world. The more symmetric a system is, the better it can be compressed, but there is a tradeoff between compression and accuracy - how can we quantify this tradeoff and what does it tell us about how animals perceive their environment?

Kari Hanson, UC San Diego

I completed my PhD in biological anthropology in 2017 studying primate brain evolution and neurodevelopmental disorders, with a focus on autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and Williams syndrome as part of a spectrum of variation in human cognitive potentials. My dissertation work utilized methods from postmortem neuroanatomy and histology, and my postdoc with the Institute for Neural Computation and Center for Multimodal Imaging & Genetics uses techniques from neuroimaging and machine learning to target genetic contributions to differences in brain structure. My work aims to conceptualize neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders as a part of the spectrum of variation and diversity in human brain phenotypes, and to understand the genetic and developmental influences that contribute to neurodiversity.

  • I'm most looking forward to interacting with scholars from a diversity of backgrounds in all respects, both academically and in terms of unique lived experiences.
  • My expertise is broadly methodological, and while most of what I do is heavily grounded in specific techniques and methodological approaches (e.g., neuroanatomy, imaging, histo/chemistry) I want to believe I have skills to lend in other approaches, including computational and statistical methods.
  • I'm really excited to learn from my colleagues what is happening at the forefront of various fields in social and behavioral sciences, as well as technology.
  • I’m currently interested in developing models of neurodiversity based on anatomical characterizations of typically-developing human and non-human brains (and brains across the autism spectrum and in other neurodevelopmental disorders), and connecting with individuals who may have access to interesting cases or ideas for similar projects.

Kristyn Hensby, The University of Queensland, Australia

I am a final-year PhD student in Developmental Psychology and Human-Robot Interaction. I am interested primarily in the social and cognitive mechanisms underpinning how young children learn from current technologies and humanoid robots. My current work focuses on imitation/overimitation, normativity, language learning and moral development.

Josephine Hubbard, The University of California Davis

I am a first-year PhD student in Animal Behavior at University of California Davis. I am primarily interested in how animals cope with anthropogenic pressures. My current PhD research will focus on how the behavior or cognition of a non-human primate contributes to their successful exploitation of human-dominated landscapes. Specifically, I am interested in exploring aspects of decision-making, problem-solving and social learning in the urban context. I am also interested in how external (environmental) or intrinsic (individuals, community structure) traits contribute to the functioning of complex societies or structures. Additionally, I'm interested in exploring the downstream effects of perturbations to a complex system and how can they be predicted. In order to address these questions, I study long-tailed macaques at various gradients of human disturbance in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Ivo Jacobs, Lund University

I am a researcher at postdoctoral level in the Cognitive Zoology Group at Lund University. Our current project aims to reconstruct the cognition of extinct dinosaurs by comparing crocodilians and birds. All birds are dinosaurs, but we focus on one group: the paleognaths. These includes birds such as ostriches, emus, nandus, kiwis and tinamous. They have been studied less than other birds, despite them being better models for ancestral birds. Crocodilians are the closest living relatives of dinosaurs (including birds), which is why we study them too (American alligators). Researchers often study the biology and behaviour of extant birds and crocodilians to discover more about dinosaurs. We focus on their cognitive abilities, which alongside paleontological findings, will be vital in revealing the cognition of extinct dinosaurs. In the past, I've worked mostly with apes and corvids on physical and causal cognition, and I have an overall broad interest in 'diverse intelligences', especially their evolution.

Haneul Jang, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

I am a third year PhD student at Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany. I am especially interested in foraging cognition of primates: how primates including humans localise food sources and navigate efficiently in natural habitats with spatial mental map, temporal knowledge, and the use of the knowledge of the others. For MSc I studied foraging strategies of Javan gibbons in Indonesia. My PhD project currently focuses on comparing the spatial performance between Mbendjele BaYaka foragers in the Republic of Congo and Taï chimpanzees in Côte d’Ivoire. I aim to understand 1) how primates including humans have shaped their cognitive capacities in adaptation to the environments, 2) which aspects of human cognition are shared in primate lineage versus which aspects are unique, and eventually 3) what makes humans unique.

  • Through DISI I look forward to building fruitful collaborations with researchers from diverse fields, which would allow interdisciplinary approach to understand the evolution of human cognition and behaviours.
  • I conducted long-term observational studies on foraging behaviours of human foragers and nonhuman primates in rainforest. My expertise is in spatial cognition of primates, collecting/analysing behavioural-ecological and spatial data.
  • I am keen to learn how to bridge between lab and field studies and how to implement this to field experiment. I also hope to learn quantitative and mathematical methods for evolutionary modelling.
  • I hope to create a project with DISI colleagues on cross-species and cross-cultural comparative studies to understand the evolution of cognition and behaviours. We can build new/existing empirical evidence with a combination of field and laboratory works, resulting in integrated information about socio-ecology, behaviours, and cognitive abilities of the study populations, and theorize this with mathematical models.

Bleu Knight, New Mexico State University

For my recently completed dissertation research, I used neuroinformatics-based approaches to study the environmental cues that contribute to cell fate decisions in the human brain. I'm a perpetual learner. Subjects I like to indulge in frequently include fine art, computer science, chemistry, neuroscience, and complex systems. I fantasize about teaching computers to understand the difference between verifiable results and falsified data so that they can distill all of the relevant facts from scientific literature (and make them easier for me to learn).

  • I am most excited about connecting with people who traverse and challenge disciplinary boundaries.
  • My expertise is in the area of neuroinformatics, specifically relating to neuronal differentiation and sensory systems. In a group, I offer a broad knowledge base, enthusiasm, persistence, and some organizational/management oversight skills where they are needed. I am proficient in Python, R, Matlab, & some aspects of SAS.
  • I would love to learn more about cellular automata, information theory (especially related to memory and storage), quantum computing, and various machine learning architectures.
  • I am interested in exploring the emergence and propagation of ideas and would be open to exploring this from a variety of angles. Specifically I have thought about the emergence of topics in scientific literature and exploring a potentially reciprocal relationship with topic emergence in the news media.

Christopher Krupenye, University of St Andrews

I am interested in the nature and origin of social cognition, especially theory of mind and third-party knowledge, in humans and other animals. My research focuses largely on experimental investigation of the social cognitive abilities of humans' closest relatives, the great apes, with comparisons to human adults and infants. The goal is to understand the cognitive mechanisms underlying the social skills of each population, and how they change across evolution and development. What makes the human mind unique, how did these capacities evolve, and how do they emerge during ontogeny? I received a PhD in Evolutionary Anthropology at Duke University in 2016 and then completed a postdoctoral position in psychology at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology before starting a research fellowship at the University of St Andrews this past January.

  • At DISI, I'm looking forward to engaging with scholars across disciplinary lines and learning about ways that our combined efforts can move each field forward.
  • My expertise is in social cognitive mechanisms, experimental methods, and comparative psychology.
  • I'm keen to learn more about computational modeling and its utility in modeling cognitive architecture and cognitive evolution.
  • I'd be curious to develop collaborative projects aimed at modeling the architecture of social cognition within and across species.

Hilda Loury, San Francisco State University

I am a master's student and instructor in the Department of Philosophy at San Francisco State University. I completed my bachelor's degree in philosophy, with a minor in cognitive science, at the University of California, Los Angeles. I work in aesthetics, cognitive science, and feminist philosophy - and especially at their intersections.

Sara Mahmoud, University of Skövde, Sweden

I am a PhD student at my first year in Cognitive systems. My background is Electrical and Electronics Engineering specialized in Software engineering. My Master project was in Drones and wireless sensor networks. Due to my technical backgound and experience, I continued my studies in Artificial intelligence and machine learning direction. My PhD project focuses on machine intelligence inspired by human cognition. The Project (Dreams4Cars) is a bio inspired project funded by EU Horizon 2020. The aim of the project is to learn by simulation where the car dreams of new situations that it hasn’t experienced.

About DISI, I am looking for new experience in cognitive science and understanding the field of cognition from a different angle. Artificial cognitive system is about understanding the living creature cognition and being inspired by it to model an artificial cognition.

What I can bring to project group, is technical experience in robotics an embedded systems. In addition to some machine learning and AI techniques.

What I am keen to learn from my peers, is deeper understanding of human/ animal brain and cognition, decision making in intelligent creatures and learning and development process in human and animals.

Collaborative projects, a project that models a human cognition and behavior into a computational model for artificial system. More specific could be about decision making and learning approach for interactive systems.

Carson Miller Rigoli, University of California San Diego

I am a fourth year PhD student in Cognitive Science at the University of California San Diego. My current research focuses on complex (mostly human) rhythmic behavior. As part of that research, I am very interested in adopting multi-scale theoretical framworks and critically examining how both folk psychological and unstated theoretical assumptions color literatures on motor processing, musicality, cultural evolution and cross-cultural cognition. In addition to my current methodological tools of computational modeling and behavioral experimentation, I have used electrophysiology, corpus studies and both linguistic and ethnographic fieldwork techniques. I am also part of research team currently investigating the dynamics and history of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary studies of the mind.

What about DISI 2018 are you most looking forward to?

I am most interested in hearing from our faculty specializing in recognizing intelligences -- both because I feel relatively unprepared in the topic and because I feel that an understanding of what constitutes a cognitive or intelligent system is part of a strong foundation for all other topics discussed.

What expertise can you bring to a project group?

I have experience in human behavioral experimentation, electrophysiology, computational modelling and some ethnographic and field methods. Topic-wise, I am most familiar with human audiomotor behaviors such as dancing, singing and speech and with applying ideas from the dynamical perspectives to understand how culture and context influence how and when we move.

Is there anything you are especially keen to learn from your peers?

I am especially interested to hear from others with sociological, ecological and anthropological approaches about how they understand movement at the scale of individuals and communities as well as over time.

Any ideas for a collaborative research project you'd like to pursue with your fellow DISI participants?

I am interested in cognitive behavior that occurs at many timescale -- I would love to work on a framework to compare computational and theoretical models of human cognition, plant cognition and cultural evolution that would give us insights into cognitive processes that are outside the moment-to-moment, developmental and evolutionary scales that dominate most thinking about cognition and intelligence.

Corinna Most, UC San Diego/Iowa State University

I just finished my Ph.D. in Biological Anthropology (Primate Behavior) at UC San Diego and will be moving to Iowa State University over the Summer to begin working as an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology. I'm interested in the phylogeny and ontogeny of social cognition, and I study wild olive baboons in Kenya. My Ph.D. research focused on the effects of maternal responsiveness and secondary attachments to siblings and adult male friends on the development of infant baboons' social competence.

1) What I am most looking forward to at DISI is participating in a community of researchers whose interests and expertise overlap with mine but also extend far beyond them, and engaging in stimulating and productive discussions that will lead to the development of novel research projects.

2) My expertise is in the field of non-human primate behavioral studies, but I am also familiar with child development methods and theories as well as the animal cognition literature, as I borrowed from both disciplines for my Ph.D. research. I would therefore be able to contribute my knowledge of animal (including human) behavior and development to a project group.

3) I'm eager to learn more about how the social sciences and AI studies can inform each other, as that is an aspect of cognitive research that I don't have a lot of experience with.

4) The collaborative project that I would like to pursue involves modelling how primate infants develop/learn social skills in the absence of active teaching on the part of experienced individuals. I would be especially interested in including social affordances in this model.

Huamani Orrego, Univesity of British Columbia

I’m a second-year student in Integrated Studies in Land and Food Systems, and I’m conducting a research, working with Dr. Suzanne Simard, on the possible convergence between Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Mycorrhizal Networks in the Great Bear Rainforest of BC, Canada. Through my research, I hope to show that trees, plants and forest ecosystems, along with Indigenous wisdoms can helps us comprehend these spaces in a much better way and our roles within them and ultimately teach us how to be better humans.

Most looking forward to: Sharing with participants and staff! I’m really excited by all the incredible talks and presentations that we will have during the institute, but I am most excited about the informal conversations, sharing of ideas and sharing opportunities in general that might arise during our stay.

Expertise: Plant intelligence. Traditional ecological knowledge and small human community dynamics.

Learn from peers: I’m really interested in everything about cognition, both human and non-human. I’m especially interested in the intersections between language and cognition, behaviour and social dynamics. I’m always excited to pick the brains of physics to understand matter and energy better and the underlying invisible forces that form the visible material world. And, I’m super curious about AI as it is the subject I’m less familiar with.

Projects: Devising day to day and approachable practices to disrupt the dichotomy between culture and nature. How would these practices look like? How could they be actively integrated in our normal lives?

I see a lot of work and interest in human and animal intelligence and cognition but nothing on the plant world. I know this is a controversial topic but I would love to carry a project to come up with methodologies to work with plant cognition, plant sentience and plant intelligence.

Eva Portelance, Stanford University

I study linguistics, specializing in grammar induction and syntax. I am interested in using computation to model how the brain processes language. I did my undergraduate degree at McGill University in linguistics and computer science. More broadly I am interested in human creativity, be it with language or other, and how we can understand the patterns behind what seems on the surface the product of our imagination. In a previous life I was a textile artist - I studied textile design at the Montreal Center for Contemporary Textiles.

1) What I look forward to:

Meeting people from totally different fields of study, but in one way or another, really similar interests!

2) Skills I can share:

I know some about human adult language and about formalizing theories. I am also a relatively proficient coder with practiced knowledge of Bayesian inference and good foundations in neural network based approaches to machine learning.

3) What I want to learn:

I really want to know more about children’s communicative patterns and language learning. I also want to talk to recognizers more to try to understand how we might better utilize computational models to discover new patterns and insights about human cognitive processes rather than using them to corroborate existing theories.

4) Research project/ ideas:

For now, I have some questions following the pre-survey. It alluded to one of the themes being communication in computers: How do we recognize and conceive what is communication in an artificial model of cognition? Does communication require reciprocity? intention? world awareness? shared assumptions? … and if so, how are these things manifested in our models? I’d like to try to find an answer to these questions given the broader perspective that the wide range of fields and research ideologies we come from offers us.

Rachna Reddy, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

I am a fifth-year Ph.D. student in Anthropology at the University of Michigan. I am interested in the emotional and cognitive underpinnings of social relationships, their function, and how they change over time and at boundaries of social life. Current projects include my dissertation research on the behavior of adolescent and young adult chimpanzees at Ngogo in Kibale National Park, Uganda, and developmental psychology research on the social interactions between young children and animals. My B.A. is in Evolutionary Anthropology from Duke University.

Lynette Shaw, University of Michigan

I am fellow in the Michigan Society of Fellows at the Center for the Study of Complex Systems. My PhD is in Sociology, and I have an undergraduate degree in Physics. One of my main areas of focus has been on theorizing and modeling of the emergence of cultural dynamics (i.e. social construction) from individual mental representation, with primary attention to how automatic associative processing can serve as a nonrational microfoundation for general social theory. I also am interested in the development of more systematic measurement theory to explicitly connect machinng learning based analyses of text to cultural processes and the use of agent-based modeling approaches to understand cultural phenomena. More generally, I am also interested in understanding how macro-level order arises from individual level processes of information simplification, interpretation, and communication. Outside of the arena of culture and cognition, I also have undertaken empirical and theoretical work on the social construction of value as it pertains to the rise of new digital currencies such as Bitcoin.

1) What about DISI 2018 are you most looking forward to?

I am excited to get to talk with others about their work and interests and especially by how my way of thinking might be expanded and improved by hearing about their way of thinking.

2) What expertise can you bring to a project group?

My focus has been on the emergence of shared interpretations from individual cognition, and specifically, the role of automatic sense-making through associative processing in those dynamics. These are subjects which I believe have resonance beyond just human systems. I also have a background teaching a graduate-level course in Agent-Based Modeling and am happy to share my experience in that arena for those who would like to know more.

3) Is there anything you are especially keen to learn from your peers?

I would love to learn more in the arena of Information Theory and how it might be applied to capture the structure of subjective experiences and model their aggregation into shared understandings and interpretations.

4) Now that you've had a few months to ruminate on this: any ideas for a collaborative research project you'd like to pursue with your fellow DISI participants? Be concise (1-2 sentences)

I’ve been preoccupied lately by how cognitive/computational limitation at the individual level might engender the emergence of new macro-level structures. I have a toy ABM along these lines that I would love to share and further develop with others, and/or, talk to others about whether this idea resonates in their areas of expertise.

Laura Soter, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

I will be entering my second year in the PhD program in philosophy at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and I am in the process of putting together a joint PhD in philosophy and psychology. I did my undergraduate at Carleton College in Minnesota, where I double majored in philosophy and cognitive science. I am most interested in the intersection of philosophical ethics (both normative and meta) and psychology work on social cognition. More specifically, my primary area of interest is “moral cognition:” how people think about and make moral decisions and what factors influence this - particularly, the roles of affect/the emotions (in particular, the roles of fear and empathy) and our developmental/evolutionary history in moral cognition – and the normative and theoretical significance of all this.

Nadya Vasilyeva, UC Berkeley

I study explanation and causal reasoning in adults and across development. I approach explanation both as a process and a product: I investigate cognitive consequences of engaging in explanation (process) and of producing different types of explanation, such as formal, causal-mechanistic, teleological, structural, mathematical, etc., of different levels of complexity (product). My research on causal reasoning examines the role of stability, or robustness of causal relationships across varying background circumstances. In my current research projects, I explore how explanation and causal reasoning contribute to learning, inductive inference, and decision-making, and how this relationship varies with context, domain-specific experience and development. In one of the active projects, I focus on the role of structural reasoning in representations of social categories, and examine consequences of engaging in structural explanation for reasoning about socioeconomic inequality. I'm also interested in how agents solve the explore/exploit dilemma in learning: choosing to exploit the current mental representation of the world or explore a different one.

1) I'm looking forward to learning about intelligence/mind/cognition from all the different perspectives, and meeting many interesting people!

2) Background in cognitive development and philosophy. Experimental design.

3) I'd like to learn more about the "programming" and "recognizing" components.

4) I study explanation and understanding, and there's a TON of interesting related directions.

A few specific questions:

-how do cognitive agents develop understanding of unusual causal systems and/or non-causal systems. What are the early constraints on the space of explanatory hypotheses? What abstract forms of causal systems are favored in causal learning, and why? Are some types of systems inherently harder to learn than others (e.g., homeostatic systems; non-agentic explanations, such as evolution theory or Mathematical explanations (from "why can't you divide 7 marbles among 3 kids?" to mathematical proofs); explanations relying on constitutive* relationships (as I explain in my pitch ;)), or do these preferences develop as a result of repeated exposure to a small subset of possible causal explanatory hypotheses?

- interface of AI systems with humans; explainable AI. As AI systems are getting progressively better at making accurate predictions, the underlying decision-making mechanisms are also getting more complex and less transparent, both to their creators (e.g. deep AI systems) and for humans interacting with them. What properties should an AI system have for humans to engage with it productively, and to trust its suggestions? Would trust in accuracy of predictions be increased if they were accompanied by satisfying explanations?

A few Meta-level questions:

- what counts as understanding across our different disciplines? How many ways are there to understand? What are the criteria for cognition in systems where information processing is set up in ways very different from humans as model organisms (such as plants)?

- A question constrains the space of answers one could possibly find. What kinds of questions are asked and answered in these domains about the nature of intelligence/mind/cognition? What kinds of contrast classes (alternatives) are considered, and what aren't? What counts as a good explanation?

Rob Voigt, Stanford University

I'm a computational sociolinguist finishing the fourth year of my PhD at Stanford. I'm interested in how phenomena like bias, cultural difference, social meaning, and misunderstanding take shape in language, and I investigate these questions by applying computational methods to large datasets. Most recently I've been looking at language in police-community interactions, historical media representations of immigrants, and gender biases in online communication.

Looking forward to: Interesting conversations with folks from vastly different backgrounds, potential for getting involved in projects I would never have otherwise encountered.

Expertise: Computational linguistic analysis of text and audio, web scraping, computer vision, machine learning, neural networks, hierarchical models, Chinese and Japanese, social psychological experimental design.

Keen to learn: What are the "big questions" for you and what makes a question interesting for you, creative methods from other fields, fundamental assumptions (and their justifications) from other fields, how do you work with lanugage data (human or non-human)

Project ideas: In a way I feel most excited about the potential to contribute from a methodological perspective by being the computational person on a project unrelated to my usual research; I will post project ideas about animal personality, sound symbolism, implicit bias, and/or political language

Michael Wood, University of Notre Dame

I'm a PhD candidate in Sociology at the University of Notre Dame. My ongoing research investigates the relation between culture and reasoning from a variety of different approaches including metaphor analysis and construal-level theory, and develops new methods for studying cognition from text. I'm a contributor at

  • I'm most looking forward to expanding my knowledge of the field and extending my opportunities for collaboration. I've also always wanted to go mushrooming so I'm totally going to take Andrei up on his offer.
  • My contributions: schema and metaphor theory, computational text analysis, network analysis
  • From peers, I want to learn more about collective intelligence and how to study it. I'm also curious to see how effectively we can create an interdisciplinary conversation that is empirically and theoretically productive.
  • I'm interested in developing a project to study learning and perception. I'm also interested in studying how collective intelligence emerges.

Haleh Yazdi, University of California San Diego

As a PhD student in developmental psychology at the University of California San Diego, I take a cross-cultural approach to studying how children residing in different societies develop beliefs about sharing, fairness, morality and intergroup biases.

  • I look forward to discussing ideas with fellow researchers working across a range of disciplines and interests. I strive to conduct research with real-world implications and imagine that these dialogues will help bridge the gap between theory and application.
  • My expertise is in cross-cultural developmental research. I use economic games, surveys and interviews to explore how culture and society shape our development of prosocial behaviors. I can offer my experience with pursuing site-specific questions across countries that differ in resource availability, global status, social stability, and religious structure (e.g., Iran, India, Canada, Tanzania, U.S.).
  • I am keen to learn from researchers who study animals and artificial agents—I hope to obtain further insights into social cognitive mechanisms that are uniquely human, as well as identify some of the reasons for the differences between humans and non-humans.
  • My interests are wide, but I get excited over any research projects having to do with moral development, essentialist beliefs about social categories, notions of free will, children's treatment of intelligent agents and robots (e.g., why are kids so rude to Siri?) and cross-cultural perspectives.

Chen Zheng, Columbia University

I am about to start my third year in the program of Cognitive Science at Columbia University. My current research explores the mechanisms of collaborative joint actions, i.e., how people deliver and detect intentions, communicate, share mental representatives, etc. in a collaborative setting so that we can coordinate with one another flexibly, especially when such coordination does not involve any explicit communication. I'm interested in this topic on the behavioral, computational, and neurological levels. My own intelligent reasoning is largely influenced by my experience as a former statistics major - we live in a statistical world where subtleties are so abundant that they cannot be fully explained by statistics.