December 4, 2013
Islamic structures of science and society
Lydia Wilson, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the Graduate Center, CUNY
This lunch is hosted by the School of Cognitive Science and by the Center for the Study of Science in Muslim Societies (SSiMS)
Abstract: I will argue that an analysis of the relationship between science and Islam can provide a fresh lens through which to look at the functioning of modern political Islam and contemporary Muslim societies. In analysing contemporary critiques of science in the Muslim world, echoes with the situation under totalitarian regimes were hard to ignore, most obviously in: 1) treatment of dissenters; 2) other forms of political interference; 3) a creation and defence of an alternative scientific epistemology; and 4) a definition of, and attacks on, an enemy. This last gives an insight into political and social attitudes more broadly. The definition of the enemy under Soviet theory was class-based (bourgeois or capitalist); under the Nazis it was race-based (non-Aryan and in particular Jewish); in certain Islamic science discourses today it is geopolitical (Western science, often conflated with “modern”). There have been various characterisations given of “Western” science in the Muslim world, and a variety of responses, from total rejection to complete assimilation. But even within societies creating an Islamic epistemology for science, scientists play a high profile role, including within extremist movements, both violent and non-violent. For example, the Muslim Brotherhood appointed an engineer to be prime minister, and engineers are vastly over-represented in jihadist attacks in the past 20 years. This ambivalence to science can be seen as one instance of the ambivalence to Western culture more generally.
Biography: Lydia Wilson is the Mellon postdoctoral fellow at CUNY Graduate Center. After completing a Ph.D. in medieval Arabic philosophy (University of Cambridge, UK), she shifted to the modern Middle East, building on previous journalism experience to pursue anthropological research, particularly anthropology of conflict. Lydia reviews regularly for the Times Literary Supplement, and edits the Cambridge Literary Review.
November 20, 2013
The affective science of free-range bacon
Eric Anderson 01S, Hampshire College alum and Ph.D. student in the Interdisciplinary Affective Science Lab at Northeastern University
Abstract: Research on moral psychology has exploded in recent years but has focused on improbable hypothetical scenarios (trolley dilemmas). This makes inferences about actual moral real-world behavior difficult. Everyday food choices are a domain infused with moral considerations for some individuals. These concerns have even shaped the market-place with organic, sustainable, fair-trade, free-range labels. Some people experience conflict between hedonically pleasant meat meals, and knowledge that animals may suffer during meat production. In this talk, I will describe completed and ongoing work that explores the relationship between moral considerations, animal mind perception, and the pleasure of eating bacon.
Biography: Eric Anderson (S01) was first inspired to study the mind in a cognitive psychology class at Hampshire College. Since then, he studied prairie dog communication in the desert, strategy use in mental arithmetic, morality in dementia patients, and affective influences on vision. Currently he is studying the role of moral considerations in the perception and hedonic experience of food. His work has been published in top academic journals (Science) and takes an interdisciplinary approach with collaborators in anthropology, psychiatry, and computer scientist. He is pursuing technology (smartphones, pervasive sensors, video games, big data) as a tool for exploring the mind. In the future, he is interested in leveraging social science research to understand real-world issues such as racism, poverty, and environmental damage. Eric is currently a Ph.D. student in the Interdisciplinary Affective Science Lab at Northeastern University.
November 13, 2013
Reflections on the Integrity of the Cognitive, Psychological, and Behavioral Sciences
Neil Stillings, professor of psychology
Abstract: Over the last few years what might be called a reliability, or replication, crisis has developed in a broad swath of the cognitive, psychological, and biobehavioral sciences. I will describe and to some extent pull together some of the strands of the crisis, including prominent cases of fraud, doubts about the tradition of null-hypothesis significance testing (NHST), voodoo correlations in social neuroscience, critiques of biobehavioral genomics, some highly publicized replication failures in social psychology, Nobel-prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman’s call to address these failures, changes in the publication practices of journals and other shifts in scholarly incentives, doubts about randomized controlled trials of new drugs, and the resurgence of cultural relativism in cognitive psychology. I will make an initial attempt to separate media-driven exaggeration from genuine problems, and then review some suggestions for addressing the problems. This will be an informal talk intended to inspire faculty and students to reflect on the nature of our scientific pursuits.
Biography: Neil Stillings, professor of psychology, has taught at Hampshire College since 1971. His Ph.D. is from Stanford and he holds a B.A. from Amherst College. His interests include learning, visual and auditory perception, and the psychology of language. Music perception, relationships between cognition and culture, and the psychology of science learning are current research interests.
October 30, 2013
Seeking Good Debate: Religion, Science, and Conflict in American Public Life
Michael Evans, Ph.D., Neukom Fellow in the Neukom Institute for Computational Science and the Department of Film and Media Studies at Dartmouth College
This lunch is hosted by the School of Cognitive Science and by the Center for the Study of Science in Muslim Societies (SSiMS)
Abstract: Why do science and religion seem to generate contentious public debate? In this talk I draw on computational linguistic analysis of over 10,000 newspaper articles, biographical research on key participants, and qualitative interviews with ordinary Americans to show that apparent conflicts in the public sphere over “science and religion” issues such as stem cell research, human origins, environmental policy, and the origins of sexuality actually result from a disconnection between the structure of elite debate in the American public sphere and the ideals of deliberative debate expected by ordinary Americans. I show how this insight helps explain several anomalies in current scholarship, such as why religious beliefs do not always impede support for science, why there is a gap between trust in science and trust in scientists, and why religious conservatives continue to dominate American public life. I also discuss the implications for science communication, particularly around issues where religion is involved.
Biography: Michael Evans is an interdisciplinary scholar who uses computational and qualitative methods to study contentious debates over science and technology issues. He has written about the social sources of public conflict over science and religion, how scientific elites shape interested publics, how narratives of continuity bolster scientific credibility, the role of religion in science communication, and the deliberative preferences of ordinary Americans, among other topics. He received his Ph.D. in Sociology and Science Studies from the University of California, San Diego. Currently he is a Neukom Fellow in the Neukom Institute for Computational Science and the Department of Film and Media Studies at Dartmouth College
October 23, 2013
How Did We Get to Division II?
CS Student Panel: Kyrie McIlveen, Div II; Emma Opitz, Div III; and Louisa Smith, Div III
What were our most helpful resources for Div II? How did we find our faculty? Things we wish we had known that would have helped us, and will help you! Bring your questions, and your suggestions.
October 16, 2013
Lightning Talks by Coppinger Endowment Funded Students, reporting on their summer 2013 projects
Jolie Anderson, Research Assistant to Professor Kim Bard, University of Portsmouth, United Kingdom
Socio-emotional experience and primate social cognition
Abstract: I learned to code reliably videos of human and chimpanzee infants in a variety of environments, focusing on joint engagement (the act of being engaged with someone about something), as well as the topic of engagement, the partner, the initiator, and the emotional tone of each interval of engagement. I was also able to spend a significant amount of time with my supervising professor and received indispensable advice about graduate school and the life of a researcher in the field of developmental and comparative psychology.
Kathleen Leeper, research assistant to Professor Charles Nichols, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center
Serotonin receptor pharmacology in Drosophila and mammalian systems
Abstract:My research this summer was an exploration of the pharmacology of the 5HT-2a serotonin receptor, notable for its role in the signaling pathways of the classical hallucinogens. I was involved with projects using three model systems (in vitro cell culture, different Drosophila strains, and male rats) to examine the effects of various hallucinogenic (LSD, psilocybin) and non-hallucinogenic drugs on neural gene expression, morphological changes, learning and memory, and receptor internalization.
Emma Opitz, Research Assistant to Professor Tecumseh Fitch and Dr. Daniel Liu Bowling, Department of Cognitive Biology, University of Vienna, Austria
Tone of Voice and the Affective Character of Musical Mode
Abstract:The study of the connection between music and language was an argument that even Darwin weighed in on. We, however, followed Spencer's (1857) argument and attempted to differentiate between arousal and valence in emotional sentences. Participants listened to sentences spoken in 4 different emotional categories and in 3 different languages and rated both their arousal and valence. The sentences were analyzed for their acoustic parameters prior to this study. Using multivariate statistics we examined the relationship between listeners’ ratings of the sentences and the acoustic parameters that were most important in conveying the intended emotion to the listener. We found that tonal properties of the voice differ as a function of emotional arousal and valence, and are correlated with the perception of these qualities.
October 9, 2013
Vocal Performance in Birds: defending territories, learning songs, and learning preferences
Dana Moseley, Ph.D., adjunct instructor of animal behavior, Hampshire College
Abstract: Mating behavior in many species involves communication displays that are vigorous or difficult to perform. Since these displays operate under physical constraints, their performance is likely to honestly reveal the individual's quality. Individuals that are able maximize display features are thus predicted to be favored by sexual selection. In songbirds, males produce song both for mate attraction and territory defense. Aspects of a song's vocal performance might allow females to assess an individual as a prospective mate and other males to assess the fighting prowess of signalers in territorial disputes. In Swamp Sparrows (Melospiza georgiana [italics]), I examine the connections between vocal performance and signal reliability. By investigating vocal performance in terms of its development, production, and perception, I seek to gain a deeper understanding of how vocal performance behavior develops and has evolved.
Biography: Dana Moseley recently completed her Ph.D. in the Organismic and Evolutionary Biology Program at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and received her B.S. from UNC Chapel Hill. In her dissertation she investigated how birdsong functions and develops in terms of male song production and female preferences. She is currently continuing collaborations with her former advisor, Jeff Podos, and a neuroscientist at the University of Massachusetts, and is currently teaching CS292 "Animal Communication: Vocal Learning in Birds" at Hampshire College. She plans to continue her research by going on to a post-doctoral position.
October 2, 2013
Brainswarming: The Next Generation of Brainstorming
Tony McCaffrey, adjunct assistant professor of cognitive psychology
Abstract: What can a swarm of bees teach humans about solving problems together? A great deal. I am developing an online platform for group problem solving that combines insights from human psychology and the behavior of swarms of insects. The result is a model that allows large groups to problem solve together from remote locations and at different times (asynchronously). As organizations and companies become global, they need such problem solving tools that manage their collaborative efforts. I welcome your critique of features that I may be overlooking on my brainswarming model.
Biography: Tony McCaffrey, adjunct assistant professor of cognitive psychology, received a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; master's degrees in theology, philosophy, and computer Science; and a B.A. in computer science. He is teaching CS-151, "Finding Your Creativity Profile," this term.
September 25, 2013
Observation as a Game Design Skill
Ira Fay, assistant professor of computer science and game design
Abstract: To successfully analyze, create, and improve games, aspiring game designers must carefully observe the experience of playing games. In this talk, Ira will demonstrate two different games and will facilitate a discussion with the audience regarding their observations. In addition, there is a game development tradition that new team members share their observations of the current project with senior team leadership. In that spirit, Ira will share some of his observations of Hampshire after a mere two weeks of classes!
Biography: Ira Fay is an assistant professor of computer science and game design at Hampshire College and is the CEO of Fay Games, a studio primarily focused on games for educational impact. He previously co-founded the undergraduate game design and development program at Quinnipiac University, where he was an assistant professor of game design and development. Before beginning his academic career, Ira was a senior game designer at Electronic Arts (Pogo.com), where he led Pogo iPhone game development and released several top web games. Prior to Pogo, Ira worked at Z-Axis (Activision) on X-Men 3, at Maxis on The Sims 2, and at Walt Disney Imagineering on ToonTown Online. Ira graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with a bachelor's degree in computer science and master's degrees in information systems management and entertainment technology. He is also a published board game designer. is teaching Introduction to Game Design and Introduction to Game Programming this term.
September 18, 2013
Buddha, ego, and research in the (social) sciences
Thomas Cain, visiting assistant professor of psychology
Abstract: Buddhist philosophy has some interesting commonalities with scientific research methodology. Buddhist philosophy references ego (atman) and how it can distort our perception of reality. Reality is, of course, what the sciences are attempting to document objectively. This talk will be a discussion about 'true objectivity,' whether we can ever actually have it (or really want it), and the ways in which ego reliably gets in the way of obtaining it.
Biography: Thomas Cain is teaching Introduction to Social Psychology and Quantitative Methods in the Behavioral Sciences this term. He received a Ph.D. in social psychology from Rutgers University and a B.A. in psychology from DePaul University.
September 11, 2013
Pleasure: An Interdisciplinary Romp Through the Cognitive Sciences
Laura Sizer, dean of the School of Cognitive Science and associate professor of philosophy
Abstract: As familiar as pleasure is to all of us (if we are lucky), it raises several philosophical puzzles: if pleasure is a feeling, does that mean that there is some feeling that all pleasures share? If not, then what is it that makes something a pleasure? What role does pleasure play in our cognitive lives? In a happy life? In this talk I will look at pleasure from the perspectives of philosophy, the psychological and neurosciences, and examine the evolution of pleasure, all in the hopes of getting a clearer sense of what pleasure is and does.
Biography: Laura Sizer received a B.A. in philosophy from Boston University in 1990, and a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2000. She specializes in the philosophy of mind and philosophy of psychology/cognitive science. Her research currently focuses on affect (emotions and moods), but she is also interested in questions about consciousness, representation, music, and personal identity. She has published in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, Philosophical Psychology, and Mind and Language. In addition to her primary research and teaching interests, Professor Sizer teaches topics in applied ethics; the philosophy of language; philosophy of biology; and the relationship between science and religion.