The Rumelhart Prize at 10

Bechtel, W., Behrmann, M., Chater, N., Glushko, R. J., Goldstone, R. L., & Smolensky, P. (2010).  The Rumelhart Prize at 10. Cognitive Science, 34, 713-715.

At the August 2000 meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, Dr. James L. McClelland and Dr. Robert J. Glushko presented the initial plan to honor the intellectual contributions of David E. Rumelhart to cognitive science by awarding an annual prize of $100,000 funded by the Robert J. Glushko and Pamela Samuelson Foundation. McClelland was a close collaborator of Rumelhart, and together they had written numerous articles and books on parallel distributed processing. Glushko, who had been Rumelhart’s PhD student in the late 1970s and a Silicon Valley entrepreneur in the 1990s, is currently an adjunct professor at the University of Califonria, Berkeley. Rumelhart had just retired from Stanford University in 1998, suffering from Pick’s disease, a degenerative neurological illness. The David E. Rumelhart prize was conceived to honor outstanding research in formal approaches to human cognition. Rumelhart’s own seminal contributions to cognitive science included both connectionist and symbolic models, employing both computational and mathematical tools. These contributions progressed from his early work on analogies and story grammars to the development of back-propagation and the use of parallel, distributed processing to model various cognitive abilities. Critically, Rumelhart believed that future progress in cognitive science would depend upon researchers being able to develop rigorous, formal theories of mental structures and processes.

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The effects of similarity and individual differences on comparison and transfer

Day, S., & Goldstone, R. L. (2010). The Effects of Similarity and Individual differences on Comparison and Transfer. Proceedings of the Thirty-Second Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society.  (pp. 465-470).  Portland, Oregon: Cognitive Science Society.

Prior research has found that while people are generally quite poor at recognizing when a new situation is structurally similar to a known case, comparison of two analogous cases greatly improves the likelihood of achieving such recognition. Our study examines the effects of varying the similarity between these compared cases, both featurally and structurally. We find that between-case similarity has a significant impact on transfer, and that these effects interact with characteristics of the learner.

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Functional structure and coordination failure in real-time group behavior

Frey, S., & Goldstone, R. L. (2010). Functional Structure and Coordination Failure in Real-Time Group Behavior. Proceedings of the Thirty-Second Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society.  (pp. 2093-2098).  Portland, Oregon: Cognitive Science Society.

We reveal spontaneous group formation and differentiation in an online dynamic coordination experiment. We observe increased group stratification and attribute it to increases in pairwise cooperative behavior, rather than uncooperative behavior. Our network analyses document the fine scale structure of coordination failure in the face of many established determinants of coordination success. We explore previous work in coordination failure to frame our own findings. Factors that have been previously shown to improve coordination in discretetime, forced-decision experimental games do not prevent decisive coordination failure in our real-time, asynchronous group decision-making environment.

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Concept formation

Goldstone, R. L., Hills, T. T., & Day, S. B. (2010).  Concept formation.  In. I. B. Weiner & W. E. Craighead (Eds.) The Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology.  New York: John Wiley & Sons.  (pp. 381-383).

A concept is a mentally possessed idea or notion that can be used to categorize information or objects. Over the course of each person’s lifetime, thousands of concepts are learned, for nouns like corkscrew, justice, and doorknob, adjectives like green, symmetric, and beautiful, and verbs like kick, climb, and eschew. While some philosophers have maintained that we do not genuinely learn new concepts through induction (Fodor, 1988), most psychologists believe that concepts can be learned, and that the representational capacity of the learner increases as they acquire new concepts. Most efforts have been spent developing accounts of how people acquire and represent concepts, including models based on: rules, prototypes, exemplars, boundaries, and theories.

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Domain-creating constraints

Goldstone, R. L., & Landy, D. H. (2010).  Domain-creating constraints. Cognitive Science.

The contributions to this special issue on cognitive development collectively propose ways in which learning involves developing constraints that shape subsequent learning. A learning system must be constrained to learn efficiently, but some of these constraints are themselves learnable. To know how something will behave, a learner must know what kind of thing it is. While this has led previous researchers to argue for domain-specific constraints that are tied to different kinds/domains, an exciting possibility is that kinds/domains themselves can be learned. General cognitive constraints, when combined with rich inputs, can establish domains, rather than these domains necessarily pre-existing prior to learning. Knowledge is structured and richly differentiated, but its “skeleton” must not always be pre-established. Instead, the skeleton may be adapted to fit patterns of co-occurrence, task requirements, and goals. Finally, we argue that for models of development to demonstrate genuine cognitive novelty, it will be helpful for them to move beyond highly pre-processed and symbolic encodings that limit flexibility. We consider two physical models that learn to make tone discriminations. They are mechanistic models that preserve rich spatial, perceptual, dynamic, and concrete information, allowing them to form surprising new classes of hypotheses and encodings.

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Perceptual expertise: Bridging brain and behavior

Goldstone, R. L. (2010).  Foreward. in I. Gauthier, M. J. Tarr, & D. Bubb (Eds.) Perceptual expertise: Bridging brain and behavior. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. (pp. v – x).

perceptual learning is important for two reasons—because it is perceptual and because it is learning. Changes to perception are particularly important because they affect all subsequent cognitive processes that occur downstream. There is good evidence, both neurophysiological and behavioral, that perceptual learning can involve early changes to the primary visual, auditory, and somatosensory cortices. One might feel that the early perceptual system ought to be hardwired—it is better not to mess with it if it is going to be depended upon by all processes later in the information processing stream. There is something right with this intuition, but it implicitly buys into a ‘‘stable foundations make strong foundations’’ assumption that it is appropriate for houses of cards, but probably not for flexible cognitive systems. For better models of cognition, we might turn to Birkenstock shoes and suspension bridges, which provide good foundations for their respective feet and cars by flexibly deforming to their charges. Just as a suspension bridge provides better support for cars by conforming to the weight loads, perception supports problem solving and reasoning by conforming to these tasks.

If perceptual learning is crucially perceptual, it is also crucially learning. Consistent with the ripples of downstream influence that early perceptual changes exert, perceptual systems should generally be designed to change slowly and conservatively, so as not to disrupt their downstream consumers. For this reason, this book’s focus on perceptual expertise is appropriate. Expertise typically requires at least 10 years to attain (Ericsson, Krampe, & Tesch-Römer, 1993), sufficient time to influence perception, not simply decision trees or explicitly memorized strategies. The protracted time course of acquiring new perceptual tools is certainly frustrating for those in the business of judging wines, rock samples, cell structures, dives, or manufacturing flaws. One of the reasons why wisdom can’t be simply told (Bransford, Franks, Vye, & Sherwood, 1989) but rather must be lived is that wisdom is frequently perceptual and thus must be built into one’s neurological wiring.

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Goldstone, R. L., Day, S., & Son, J. Y. (2010). Comparison.  In B. Glatzeder, V. Goel, & A. von Müller (Eds.)  On thinking: Volume II, towards a theory of thinking.  Heidelberg, Germany: Springer Verlag GmbH.  (pp. 103-122).

It might not be immediately clear why the topic of comparison warrants a whole chapter in a book on human thinking. Of course, we are often required to make decisions that involve comparing two or more alternatives and assessing their relative value. Which car should I buy? Which job is more suited to my long-term goals? Would I rather have the soup or the salad? But in the grand scheme of human cognition, it might seem that such processes could be relegated to a subheading in a chapter on decision making. In fact, comparison is one of the most integral components of human thought. Along with the related construct of similarity, comparison plays a crucial role in almost everything that we do. Furthermore, comparison itself is a powerful cognitive tool—in addition to its supporting role in other mental processes, research has demonstrated that the simple act of comparing two things can produce important changes in our knowledge.

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Categorical Perception

Goldstone, R. L., & Hendrickson, A. T. (2010). Categorical Perception. Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science1, 65-78.

Categorical perception (CP) is the phenomenon by which the categories possessed by an observer influences their perception. Experimentally, CP is revealed when an observer’s ability to make perceptual discriminations between things is better when those things belong to different categories rather than the same category, controlling for the physical difference between the things. We consider several core questions related to CP: Is it caused by innate and/or learned categories, how early in the information processing stream do categories influence perception, and what is the relation between ongoing linguistic processing and CP? CP for both speech and visual entities are surveyed, as are computational and mathematical models of CP. CP is an important phenomenon in cognitive science because it represents an essential adaptation of perception to support categorizations that an organism needs to make. Sensory signals that could be linearly related to physical qualities are warped in a non-linear manner, transforming analog inputs into quasi-digital, quasi-symbolic encodings.

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The education of perception

Goldstone, R. L., Landy, D. H., & Son, J. Y. (2010).  The education of perception. Topics in Cognitive Science2, 265-284.

While the field of perceptual learning has mostly been concerned with low- to middle-level changes to perceptual systems due to experience, we consider high-level perceptual changes that accompany learning in science and mathematics. In science, we explore the transfer of a scientific principle (competitive specialization) across superficially dissimilar pedagogical simulations. We argue that transfer occurs when students develop perceptual interpretations of an initial simulation and simply continue to use the same interpretational bias when interacting with a second simulation. In arithmetic and algebraic reasoning, we find that proficiency in mathematics involves executing spatially explicit transformations to notational elements. People learn to attend mathematical operations in the order in which they should be executed, and the extent to which students employ their perceptual attention in this manner is positively correlated with their mathematical experience. For both science and mathematics, relatively sophisticated performance is achieved not by ignoring perceptual features in favor of deep conceptual features, but rather by adapting perceptual processing so as to conform with and support formally sanctioned responses. These “Rigged Up Perceptual Systems” (RUPS) offer a promising approach to educational reform.

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Gureckis, T. M. and Goldstone, R. L. (2010) Schema. In P. C. Hogan (Ed.) The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the Language Sciences.   Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.  (pp. 725-727).

A schema is a high-level conceptual structure or framework that organizes prior experience and helps us to interpret new situations. The key function of a schema is to provide a summary of our past experiences by abstracting out their important and stable components. For example, we might have a schema for a classroom that includes the fact that it typically contains a chalkboard, bookshelves, and chairs. Schemas provide a framework for rapidly processing information in our environment. For example, each time we enter a classroom, we do not have to consider each element in the room individually (e.g., chair, table, chalkboard). Instead, our schemas “fi ll in” what we naturally expect to be present, helping to reduce cognitive load. Similarly, schemas also allow us to predict or infer unknown information in completely new situations. If we read about a third grade classroom in a book, we can use our established classroom schema to predict aspects of its appearance, including the presence of a coatroom and the types of posters that might decorate the walls.

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The effect of verbal interference and the internal structure of categories on perceptual discrimination

Hendrickson, A. T., Kachergis, G., Gureckis, T. M., & Goldstone, R. L. (2010). The effect of verbal interference and the internal structure of categories on perceptual discrimination.Proceedings of the Thirty-Second Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society.  (pp. 1216-1221).  Portland, Oregon: Cognitive Science Society.

Recent research has argued that categorization is strongly tied to language processing. For example, language (in the form of verbal category labels) has been shown to influence perceptual discriminations of color (Winawer et al., 2007). However, does this imply that categorical perception is essentially verbally mediated perception? The present study extends recent findings in our lab showing that categorical perception can occur even in the absence of overt labels. In particular, we evaluate the degree to which certain interference tasks (verbal, spatial) reduce the effect of learned categorical perception for complex visual stimuli (faces). Contrary to previous findings, our results show that a verbal interference task does not disrupt learned categorical perception effects for faces. Our results are interpreted in light of the ongoing debate about the role of language in categorization. In particular, we suggest that at least a sub-set of categorical perception effects may be effectively “language-free”.

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Priming a central executive search process: exploration and exploitation in generalized cognitive search processes

Hills, T. T., Todd, P. M., & Goldstone, R. L. (2010). Priming a Central Executive Search Process: Exploration and Exploitation in Generalized Cognitive Search Processes.  Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 139, 560-609.

The trade-off between exploration and exploitation is common to a wide variety of problems involving search in space and mind. The prevalence of this trade-off and its neurological underpinnings led us to propose domain-general cognitive search processes (Hills, Todd, & Goldstone, 2008). We propose further that these are consistent with the idea of a central executive search process that combines goal-handling across subgoal hierarchies. In the present study, we investigate 3 aspects of this proposal. First, the existence of a unitary central executive search process should allow priming from 1 search task to another and at multiple hierarchical levels. We confirm this by showing cross-domain priming from a spatial search task to 2 different cognitive levels within a lexical search task. Second, given the neural basis of the proposed generalized cognitive search process and the evidence that the central executive is primarily engaged during complex tasks, we hypothesize that priming should require search in the sense of a self-regulated making and testing of sequential predictions about the world. This was confirmed by showing that when participants were allowed to collect spatial resources without searching for them, no priming occurred. Finally, we provide a mechanism for the underlying search process and investigate 3 alternative hypotheses for subgoal hierarchies using the central executive as a search process model (CESP). CESP envisions the central executive as having both emergent and unitary processes, with one of its roles being a generalized cognitive search process that navigates goal hierarchies by mediating persistence on and switching between subgoals.

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Proximity and precedence in arithmetic

Landy, D. H., & Goldstone, R. L. (2010).  Proximity and precedence in arithmetic. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology63, 1953-1968.

How does the physical structure of an arithmetic expression affect the computational processes engaged in by reasoners? In handwritten arithmetic expressions containing both multiplications and additions, terms that are multiplied are often placed physically closer together than terms that are added. Three experiments evaluate the role such physical factors play in how reasoners construct solutions to simple compound arithmetic expressions (such as “2 + 3 × 4”). Two kinds of influence are found: First, reasoners incorporate the physical size of the expression into numerical responses, tending to give larger responses to more widely spaced problems. Second, reasoners use spatial information as a cue to hierarchical expression structure: More narrowly spaced subproblems within an expression tend to be solved first and tend to be multiplied. Although spatial relationships besides order are entirely formally irrelevant to expression semantics, reasoners systematically use these relationships to support their success with various formal properties.

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When do words promote analogical transfer?

Son, J. Y., Doumas, L. A., & Goldstone, R. L. (2010).  When do words promote analogical transfer?  The Journal of Problem Solving3, 52-92.

The purpose of this paper is to explore how and when verbal labels facilitate relational reasoning and transfer. We review the research and theory behind two ways words might direct attention to relational information: (1) words generically invite people to compare and thus highlight relations (the Generic Tokens [GT] hypothesis), and/or (2) words carry semantic cues to common structure (the Cues to Specific Meaning [CSM] hypothesis). Four experiments examined whether learning Signal Detection Theory (SDT) with relational words fostered better transfer than learning without relational words in easily alignable and less alignable situations (testing the GT hypothesis) as well as when the relational words matched and mismatched the semantics of the learning situation (testing the CSM hypothesis). The results of the experiments found support for the GT hypothesis because the presence of relational labels produced better transfer when two situations were alignable. Although the CSM hypothesis does not explain how words facilitate transfer, we found that mismatches between words and their labeled referents can produce a situation where words hinder relational learning.

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Recognizing group cognition

Theiner, G, Allen, C., & Goldstone, R. L. (2010). Recognizing group cognition. Cognitive Systems Research11, 378-395.

In this paper, we approach the idea of group cognition from the perspective of the ”extended mind” thesis, as a special case of the more general claim that systems larger than the individual human, but containing that human, are capable of cognition (Clark, 2008; Clark & Chalmers, 1998). Instead of deliberating about ”the mark of the cognitive” (Adams & Aizawa, 2008), our discussion of group cognition is tied to particular cognitive capacities. We review recent studies of group problem solving and group memory which reveal that specific cognitive capacities that are commonly ascribed to individuals are also aptly ascribed at the level of groups. These case studies show how dense interactions among people within a group lead to both similarity-inducing and differentiating dynamics that affect the group’s ability to solve problems. This supports our claim that groups have organization-dependent cognitive capacities that go beyond the simple aggregation of the cognitive capacities of individuals. Group cognition is thus an emergent phenomenon in the sense of Wimsatt (1986). We further argue that anybody who rejects our strategy for showing that cognitive properties can be instantiated at multiple levels in the organizational hierarchy on a priori grounds is a ”demergentist,” and thus incurs the burden of proof for explaining why cognitive properties are ”stuck” at a certain level of organizational structure. Finally, we show that our analysis of group cognition escapes the ”coupling-constitution” charge that has been leveled against the extended mind thesis (Adams & Aizawa, 2008).

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Social Learning and Cumulative Mutual Improvement in a Networked Group

Wisdom, T. N., & Goldstone, R. L. (2010). Social Learning and Cumulative Mutual Improvement in a Networked Group.  Proceedings of the Thirty-Second Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society.  (pp. 1405-1410).  Portland, Oregon: Cognitive Science Society.

We used a simple problem-solving game task to study imitation and innovation in groups of participants. Guesses were composed of multiple elements with linear and interactive effects on score, and score feedback was provided after each of a number of rounds. Participants were allowed to view and imitate the guesses of others during each round, and the score information accompanying others’ guesses was either shown or hidden in two conditions. When scores were not visible, social learning was impeded; participants were less efficient in their searching of the problem space and achieved lower performance overall. When scores were visible, higher performance was observed, and results indicated a more equitable sharing of productive exploration among participants within groups as a result of selective imitation and cross-participant cumulative mutual innovations.

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