Spotlight image
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Hide

Spring Course: Blogging about Cognitive Science

This spring, Prof. Seana Coulson & grad student Rose Hendricks will lead a seminar on Cognitive Science blogging. (more)

Pajak, B., Creel, S. C., & Levy, R. (In press). Difficulty in learning similar-sounding words: a developmental stage or a general property of learning? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition.
How are languages learned, and to what extent are learning mechanisms similar in infant native-language (L1) and adult second-language (L2) acquisition? In terms of vocabulary acquisition, we know from the infant literature that the ability to discriminate similar-sounding words at a particular age does not guarantee successful word–meaning mapping at that age (Stager & Werker, 1997). However, it is unclear whether this difficulty arises from developmental limitations of young infants (e.g., poorer working memory) or whether it is an intrinsic part of the initial word learning, L1 and L2 alike. In this study, we show that adults of particular L1 backgrounds—just like young infants—have difficulty learning similar-sounding L2 words that they can nevertheless discriminate perceptually. This suggests that the early stages of word learning, whether L1 or L2, intrinsically involve difficulty in mapping similar- sounding words onto referents. We argue that this is due to an interaction between 2 main factors: (a) memory limitations that pose particular challenges for highly similar-sounding words, and (b) uncertainty regarding the language’s phonetic categories, because the categories are being learned concurrently with words. Overall, our results show that vocabulary acquisition in infancy and adulthood shares more similarities than previously thought, thus supporting the existence of common learning mechanisms that operate throughout the life span.
Creel, S. C., Rojo, D. P., & Paullada, A. N. (In press). Effects of contextual support on preschoolers’ accented speech comprehension. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.
Young children often hear speech in unfamiliar accents, but relatively little research characterizes their comprehension capacity. The current study tested preschoolers’ comprehension of familiar-accented vs. unfamiliar-accented speech with varying levels of contextual support from sentence frames (full sentences vs. isolated words) and from visual context (four salient pictured alternatives, vs. the absence of salient visual referents). The familiar-accent advantage was more robust when visual context was absent, suggesting that previous findings of good accent comprehension in infants and young children may result from ceiling effects in easier tasks (picture fixation, picture selection) relative to the more-difficult tasks often used with older children and adults. In contrast to prior work on mispronunciations, where most errors were novel-object responses, children in the current study did not select novel-object referents above chance levels. This suggests that some property of accented speech may dissuade children from inferring that an unrecognized familiar-but-accented word has a novel referent. Finally, children showed detectable accent processing difficulty despite presumed incidental community exposure. Results suggest that preschoolers’ accented speech comprehension is still developing, consistent with theories of protracted development of speech processing.
Urgen BA, Pehlivan S, Saygin, AP (2016). "Representational similarity of actions in the human brain". 6th International Workshop on Pattern Recognition in Neuroimaging (PRNI), Trento, Italy
Visual processing of actions is supported by a network of brain regions in occipito-temporal, parietal, and premotor cortex in the primate brain, known as the Action Observation Network (AON). What remain unclear are the representational properties of each node of this network. In this study, we investigated the representational content of brain areas in AON using fMRI, representational similarity analysis (RSA), and modeling. Subjects were shown video clips of three agents performing eight different actions during fMRI scanning. We then computed the representational dissimilarity matrices (RDMs) for each brain region, and compared them with that of two sets of model representations that were constructed based on computer vision and semantic attributes. Our findings reveal that different nodes of the AON have different representational properties. PSTS as the visual area of the AON represents high level visual features such as movement kinematics. As one goes higher in the AON hierarchy, representations become more abstract and semantic as our results revealed that parietal cortex represents several aspects of actions such as action category, intention of the action, and target of the action. These results suggest that during visual processing of actions, pSTS pools information from visual cortex to compute movement kinematics, and passes that information to higher levels of AON coding semantics of actions such as action category, intention of action, and target of action, consistent with computational models of visual action recognition (link to paper:

Featured Classes
Spring 2017:
  • COGS118C: Neural Signal Processing
  • COGS160: Advanced Interaction Design
    This is a studio class for students who are passionate about diving deep into interaction design and honing their design skills. Introduces social computing, input & interaction techniques, and information design. Students will regularly present work in a studio format. Pre-req: (CSE 8B or CSE 11) and (Cogs 120 or CSE 170).
  • COGS160: Communication in Infancy
    A mixed Practicum/Seminar course designed to provide hands-on experience in research on infancy and early childhood. Students learn skills and are assigned responsibilities based on the project to which they are assigned. Students also participate in a journal club and prepare brief end-of-quarter presentations and reports. This is a 3 quarter sequence: content, skills, and responsibilities evolve and expand every quarter. Contact Dr. Deak [] directly for permission to enroll in this course.
  • COGS160: Brain Waves
    This course will provide an introduction to rhythms and large-scale electrical potentials of the brain. Topics will include the resonance properties of neurons, rhythmic interactions between neurons, and the coordination of activity across large populations of neurons that is measurable in the local field potential (LFP) and electroencephalogram (EEG). In addition, this course will discuss the advantages of temporally coordinated neural activity, and the insights that can be gained about the brain and cognitive disorders from studying this coordination. Pre-req: Cogs 17 or Cogs 107A.
  • DSGN100: Prototyping
    Note: DSGN 1 is required and priority will be given to Design Minors; to come the first week of class to see if you can get in. Explores cognitive principles of thinking through making. Introduces methods and tools for prototyping user experiences. Students make various prototypes and participate in weekly critique sessions. Topics: experience design, rapid prototyping, sketching, bodystorming, cardboard modeling, UI hacking, and design theory. Prerequisites: DSGN 1.
  • COGS180: Neural Coding/Sensory Systems
    This course covers recent advances in the understanding of common neural mechanisms and computational principles underlying the brain’s ability to process multiple sources of sensory information—vision, audition, olfaction, touch, and equilibrioception—and translate them into actions. Prerequisites: Cognitive Science 1, Cognitive Science 14B, Cognitive Science 101A, and Cognitive Science 109.
  • COGS122: Interaction Design Startup
    Explores tools and processes for innovating novel business concepts to solve problems involving the interaction between humans and technology. Students will work with an interdisciplinary team to understand unmet user needs and to create a value proposition that balances technical feasibility, financial viability, and desirability. Pre-req: COGS120 or COGS187A or COGS187B or DSGN100.

Research Opportunities (199s)
  • How children reason about the social world?
    Want to work with Dr. Adena Schachner’s Mind and Development Lab on studies exploring how children reason about the social world? We would like to invite motivated students to join our lab as research assistants for Winter Quarter 2017 and beyond (minimum 3 quarter commitment). We are currently running studies ...
    (click for details)

Recent News & Links (see all)

Intuit: An Employers Perspective on Landing the Internship

TIPS AND TRICKS: An employers Perspective on Landing the Internship

Join Intuit for a panel discussion with a few of our university recruiters amd recent grads. Learn tips for interviews, offer negotiation, and communication wth employers. 


EDS 198: Teaching Computational Thinking for Everyone

Teaching Computational Thinking for Everyone

EDS 198 (Directed Group Study) - Dr. Beth Simon

T/Th 12:30-1:50 - Spring 2017


Do you believe that computation and computing is critical for everyone in the 21st century?  Do you want to help others learn, not only how to program, but how to think logically, debug technical situations, and create video games in a simple programming language?  If so, this class is for you!

Tech Talk and Pre-Hack Tutorial

Teradata is hosting a tech talk and pre-hack tutorial on Monday, February 27th 6-8pm in the Qualcomm Conference Center. There will be pizza!

Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Services Hackathon

The Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Services Hackathon sponsored by Teradata will be held from March 3rd-5th, 2017 in the CSE building.

UC Executive Order-Immigration Resource

The University of California has a released a website with information on immigration and resources relevant to the Executive Order.

Winter 2017 Design@Large Talks


CSE Building, Room 1202

Wednesdays 4pm - 5:15pm

Department Events
Campus Wide Events