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Foundations & Frontiers

The Foundations & Frontiers Speaker Series brings leading cognitive scientists to U-M (virtually) to present a special pair of presentations on the same day. The first presentation serves as an introduction to an important theoretical idea or method in the field -- the Foundations. The second presentation concerns the application of that idea or method to an innovative topic, thus exploring the Frontiers of the field in a way that highlights the significance of the theoretical idea.

Upcoming Events

Max Kleiman-Weiner

Max Kleiman-Weiner

Monday, October 31, 2022
4448 East Hall

Max Kleiman-Weiner is a co-founder of Common Sense Machines. He was previously a fellow at Harvard in the Data Science Institute and Center for Research on Computation and Society and completed a PhD in Computational Cognitive Science at MIT where he was a NSF and Hertz Foundation Fellow. His thesis won the Robert J. Glushko Prize for Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation in Cognitive Science. He has received best paper awards at COGSCI and RLDM for models of human cooperation and the William James Award at SPP for computational work on moral learning. Max was Co-Founder and Chief Scientist of Diffeo which was acquired by Salesforce in 2019. Previously, he was a Fulbright Fellow in Beijing, earned an MSc in Statistics as a Marshall Scholar at Oxford, and did his undergraduate work at Stanford as a Goldwater Scholar.

Schedule

3:00-3:30 pm Foundations Presentation
3:30-3:45 pm Q & A
—15 minute break—
4:00-4:50 pm Frontiers Presentation
4:50-5:20 pm Q & A

"Reverse Engineering Human Cooperation"

Presentation Abstract

Human cooperation is distinctly powerful. We collaborate with others to accomplish together what none of us could do on our own; we share the benefits of collaboration fairly and trust others to do the same. Even young children understand, learn from, and collaborate with others in ways that are unparalleled in other animal species and are still lacking in our most sophisticated artificial intelligences. What are the cognitive representations and processes that underlie these distinct abilities and what are their origins?

In the Foundations portion of the talk, I will review models of the emergence of cooperation that have been worked out over the past 50 years in game theory, psychology, evolutionary biology, and computer science. While highly influential, these models leave out some of the most important cognitive capacities that enable the unprecedented scale and scope of human cooperation. In the Frontiers portion, I will present a computational framework based on the integration of individually rational, hierarchical Bayesian models of learning, together with socially rational game-theoretic models of cooperation. In computational and behavioral experiments I will show how this framework can explain how the cognitive structures underlying cooperation might evolve, social knowledge can be learned, and how cooperative behavior is generalized in the moment across an infinitude of possible situations: inferring the intentions and reputations of others, distinguishing who is friend or foe, and learning a new moral value all from just a few observations of behavior.

Winter 2023

Angela Yu

Angela Yu

Monday, April 3, 2023
Location TBA

Angela Yu is an Associate Professor in the Department of Cognitive Science at the University of California, San Diego.

Schedule

3:00-3:30 pm Foundations Presentation
3:30-3:45 pm Q & A
—15 minute break—
4:00-4:50 pm Frontiers Presentation
4:50-5:20 pm Q & A

Previous Years Speakers

Winter 2021 Schedule

Dr. Sydney Levine

Dr. Sydney Levine
Friday, March 5, 2021

Dr. Sydney Levine is a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT and the Department of Psychology at Harvard University.

Schedule

3:00 pm - 3:30 pm      Foundations Presentation 
3:30 pm - 3:45 pm      Q & A
—5 minute break—
3:50 pm - 4:40 pm      Frontiers Presentation 
4:40 pm - 5:05 pm      Q & A

"Universalization: philosophical origins and cognitive applications"

Presentation Abstract

Some people think it is immoral not to vote, but why?  Current theories of moral psychology — based largely on outcomes, rules, or affect — have trouble explaining this intuition.  After all, one vote typically makes no difference in the overall outcome of an election.  Moreover, there is not necessarily a rule or norm that mandates voting.  And the thought of not voting isn’t particularly emotionally charged.  Rather, I propose that moral judgments in cases like this arise out of the logic of universalization — essentially the process of asking “what if everyone did that?”  

The logic of universalization is well-known to moral philosophers, appearing in the theories of Kant, RM Hare, George Singer, TM Scanlon and others.  In the Foundations section of this talk, I will introduce the concept of universalization and explore how and why it has been used so effectively in moral philosophy.  In the Frontiers section of the talk, I will demonstrate how I have used this philosophical concept as a starting place for a model of moral cognition.  I will define a computational model of universalization and show how it predicts subject judgments with quantitative precision.  In addition, developmental work suggests that universalization may even be used by children as young as 4.  Finally, I will end by showing how universalization may be the key to a unified theory of moral cognition.

Presentation Video

Fall 2020 Schedule

Dr. Frederike Petzschner
October 30, 2020

Dr. Frederike Petzschner is a Carney Institute Fellow in the Center for Computational Brain Science and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Brown University. 

Presentation Abstract

Dr. Petzschner gave two presentations on October 30, each followed by a Q&A session.

"A Brief History of Computation" (Foundations Presentation)
Our notion of what the capabilities and function of the brain and mind are has evolved fundamentally in the past century. As a result, we have moved from early Psychophysics to Behaviorism to the Cognitive Revolution, when theories of computation entered the forefront of modern Cognitive Science. This history and the fundamental questions posed at different times provide a great deal of insight into our modern thinking and paves the way where the field might take us in the future. In this lecture, I will try to provide a short guide through the history of computation and discuss what could be learned from it.

"Computational Approaches for Mental Health" (Frontiers Presentation)
The growing field of Computational Psychiatry provides a prime example of how theories of computation may provide not only insights into the function of healthy minds but also mental disorders. In this lecture, I will discuss three examples of where we apply computational methods to understand learning, perception or decision-making in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Gambling Addiction and Disorders of Interoception.

Presentation Video

 

For more information about the Foundations & Frontiers Speaker Series, please contact: 
Weinberg-Institute@umich.edu.