Thank you for attending the Marshall M. Weinberg Symposium, which was hosted virtually by the Weinberg Institute on March 25th.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Weinberg Symposium, and Professors Chandra Sripada and Susan Gelman co-organized this year’s event.

In a Q&A format, Professor Sripada discusses below some of the highlights of the 2022 symposium

Converging Fields 

Q. What is the most exciting aspect of this year’s Weinberg Symposium? How is it similar or different from past symposia? 

Cognitive science is inherently interdisciplinary, and the Symposium always reflects that by bringing together people from different areas. This year is special because we’ve got the widest range of fields we’ve ever brought together (a primatologist, a developmental psychologist, a culture researcher, and a philosopher!). It works well because the topic is “concepts”, which is a foundational notion in cognitive science. So all these fields have their own distinctive vantage point on the topic.

Symposium Theme

The 2022 Weinberg Symposium theme focuses on “concepts” in cognitive science--the mental representations that are the constituents of thought and the basis for reasoning.

Q. How did you decide on the theme of concepts?

Concepts are a foundational topic in cognitive science, but there has been a flurry of recent work that has made some real progress on key questions (like, do primates have the concept of “other minds”; how about small children)? So we knew that now is the perfect time to get some leading researchers in the field together to discuss, and maybe even debate, their latest findings!

Q Will the symposium theme appeal to Cog Sci students on any particular study track?

The theme will appeal to all the tracks in cognitive science. Concepts are what are expressed in the words we use (Language), they shape how we think and what we choose (Decision), and there is substantial interest in how they are learned by human children and potentially machines (Computation). And yet, there remain basic questions about what concepts really ARE (Philosophy).

Leading Thinkers in Cognitive Science

The stellar line-up of speakers at this year’s Weinberg Symposium includes NYU psychology professor Marjorie Rhodes, NYU philosophy professor Michael Strevens, psychology professor and chair Sandra Waxman of Northwestern, and Michael Tomasello, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke.

Q. What else can you tell us about this year’s speakers… how do you think they’ll approach the symposium theme?

Our speakers are leading thinkers in cognitive science, all working on the topic concepts. But beyond this, they were all chosen because they come at the issue from very different vantage points (e.g., primatology, child development, cross-cultural studies). So they will each have their own “starting places”. But the hope is that the Symposium will give them, and the audience, a chance to see where their views converge, where there are disagreements, and also where there are gaps that need to be addressed. 

Q. What can students and other attendees expect or look forward to from the 2022 Weinberg Symposium? 

The speakers are world-renowned experts in their respective fields, so you can expect to hear about fascinating, cutting edge research. You can also expect a lively pace and lots of interaction–talks are relatively short (~30-35 minutes) and there will be plenty of time for Q&A after each talk. We have asked the speakers to avoid the jargon and keep things understandable, so you can expect clear, relatable presentations! 

Panel Discussion and Participation

Q. In terms of the format, students will have the opportunity to engage with speakers during virtual, small-group break-out rooms during the lunch period. Are there other opportunities for participation?

We will cap the Symposium off with a panel discussion. Our invited speakers will be joined by local luminaries from the University of Michigan. This will be a great chance for the panelists to dialogue with each other and the audience to join in the fun!

Visit the Weinberg Symposium webpage to learn more about this event.