CS Wednesday Talks Fall 2011

December 7, 2011: David Havas, Spring 2012 adjunct assistant professor of cognitive neuroscience
The emotional power of fiction: A view from affective neuroscience
Abstract: Philosophers have puzzled over the paradox of fiction: how can we feel moved by a fictional situation or character that we know doesn't exist? In this talk, I propose an answer based on my research on emotional language comprehension. Beginning with Darwin and ending with Botox, I trace the development of, and evidence for, a theory that emotional expressions play a causal role in how we understand emotional sentences. I will highlight the role of brain and bodily systems involved in emotional experiences, and present recent data that explore the implications of the theory for applied interpersonal communication such as psychotherapy, and multicultural competence.
Biographical Statement: David Havas is a psychological scientist who received his training in cognitive-affective neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. His research on embodied emotions in language comprehension gained international attention, partly by demonstrating an effect of Botox in human cognition. David's current work explores the neural mechanisms that support interpersonal understanding of language and emotions. David will teach courses in the School of Cognitive Science at Hampshire College this spring.  

November 30, 2011: James Miller, professor of communications
Abstract: "Mediatization" is a term that theorists, especially Europeans, have come to use to describe the emerging condition of media ubiquity and growing social centrality. Today, other social institutions, like politics, can scarcely function without the media. This fosters the growth of independent media power. As new media proliferate, they become unavoidable, embedded in many aspects of our personal and built environments. This makes them nearly invisible, their functions taken for granted. Finally, extreme forms of mediatization are on the horizon, blurring the distinction between human subjectivity and digital devices. This talk will review these significant developments.

November 16, 2011: CS Div II and Div III students
Lightning Talks! by Brian Martin, Kira McCoy, Sam Nordli, and Alynda Wood.

November 9, 2011: Jose Fuentes, research programmer, Department of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University
Stories in Human Computation: Learning a Language While Translating the Web and Watching Porn While Removing Porn on the Web
Abstract: This talk will discuss how translating massive amounts of text and eliminating undesired exposure to porn can be solved by using human computation. The presentation encompasses two projects in which I have been engaged at Carnegie Mellon University since graduating from Hampshire.
Story 1:
Language differences are a major barrier for the global sharing of knowledge, and although computers can help us to translate massive amounts of text and video, humans still do a much better job. Duolingo is a language-learning site where the more you learn, the more knowledge you make accessible to the world. Since users create shared value when they learn on Duolingo, they don't have to pay for using Duolingo.
Story 2:
Porn is a big chunk of all the images and videos available on the web, and although many find porn offensive and don't want to see it, many also find it enjoyable and do want to see it. Buffer is a site where users consume porn while creating a buffer zone between pornographic and non-pornographic content. The more pornographic content users consume on Buffer, the better websites and search engines get at either removing porn or  just serving porn to those who actually want to see it.

This talk is sponsored by the School of Cognitive Science and by the Fund Supporting Professional Alums Returning to Campus (SPARC). SPARC was established by an alum and its purposes are to support opportunities for alums to share their professional work and experience with students and faculty on campus, and in so doing to broaden the education of currently enrolled students.

October 26, 2011: Jane Moriarty, Carol Los Mansmann Chair in Faculty Scholarship in the School of Law, Duquesne University
Scientific Evidence in the Courtroom: At the Crossroads of a Contentious Relationship
Abstract: Science has been a frequent presence in American courtrooms since the Salem Witchcraft Trials of 1692. The remarkable advances in science and technology have increased the prominence of expert testimony in contemporary trials and have put pressure on the legal system to develop standards to evaluate the reliability of such evidence in both civil and criminal cases.
The types and uses of science in the courtroom are multifaceted. DNA evidence is used to convict, identify, and exonerate individuals. Scientific and medical evidence is used to establish causes and degrees of illness and injury. Behavioral and social science is admitted on matters relating to eyewitness identification; insanity and incompetence matters; and child sexual abuse. Most recently, neuroscience has begun to help juries understand abhorrent behavior and effects of injury on cognition, while litigants have attempted to introduce neuroscience as a form of lie detection and to support a claim that violent video games negatively influence adolescent brain activity.
Despite the remarkable interdependence of science and the judicial system, the relationship between them is contentious. The differing goals, values, and methods in the respective fields have led to much consternation for science professionals and the legal community. This discussion will provide a foundation for understanding science in the courtroom, examining the differing roles of science and law, and highlighting ways to make the marriage between the two more harmonious. THIS TALK WILL BE HELD IN FPH EAST LECTURE HALL

October 19, 2011
Panel on Applied Careers in Animal Behavior
Four panelists will discuss applied work in animal behavior. Hampshire alum Elise Gouge is an animal trainer and behavior consultant for companion animals in homes, shelters, and farms. She will speak about how to make a living as a trainer/animal behavior consultant and give an overview of the world of companion animal work. Trustee Kenneth Rosenthal, past president of The Seeing Eye, will discuss the world of guide dogs and how to pursue a career in guide dog training and behavior. Current Div III student Claire Wurcer spent the past year raising a guide dog puppy for another school, Guiding Eyes for the Blind, and will talk about how to raise a service animal in the campus environment. Finally, Dr. Noah Charney, a naturalist and biologist, will talk about the role of animal behavior in conservation. He will focus on his work with salamanders and other sensitive species in Massachusetts, and will discuss career opportunities in this field. The panel will be introduced by Sarah Partan, associate professor of animal behavior, Hampshire College.
Panelists to Include:

  • Elise Gouge, animal trainer and behavior consultant, graduated from Hampshire in 1995 and consults widely in the valley.
  • Kenneth Rosenthal is a Hampshire trustee, former Hampshire staff member, parent of a Hampshire alum (04F), and the past president of The Seeing Eye in Morristown, NJ.
  • Claire Wurcer is a Div III student working on a study of acoustic and visual cues used for dog training.
  • Noah Charney received his Ph.D. in organismic and evolutionary biology from the University of Massachusetts, has taught at Hampshire, and recently published a book on Tracks and Sign of Insects and Other Invertebrates.

October 12, 2011: Thomas Cain, visiting assistant professor of psychology
Fear, Dissonance, and Bias
Abstract: A growing body of empirical evidence suggests that fear causes people to exaggerate the likelihood of risky things happening, regardless of what caused them to feel fear. I will discuss research in which I examined the proposal that this exaggeration may be due to a disconnect between a person's cognitive appraisal of a situation and her or his emotional reaction to it. It was hypothesized that this disconnect creates a dissonance that people are then motivated to reduce. Additionally, I will be discussing research that examined whether fear leads to increased bias against Muslims.

October 5, 2011: Timothy D. Wilson, Ph.D., University of Virginia
Affective Adaptation and the Pleasures of Uncertainty
Abstract: How do people adapt to emotional events? I will present a model of affective adaptation that argues that people attend to self-relevant, unexplained events, react emotionally to them, explain or make sense of the events, and thereby adapt to the events (i.e., they attend to them less and have weaker emotional reactions to them). One implication of this argument is that if people can be prevented from making sense of positive events, the pleasure that these events cause might be prolonged. I will present evidence for this "pleasure of uncertainty" effect and discuss its implications.

September 28, 2011: Cognitive Science; The Next 20 Years, A Town Hall Meeting
Abstract: Bring your ideas to this open discussion facilitated by Laura Sizer, dean of Cognitive Science.

September 21, 2011: Paul Dickson, assistant visiting professor of computer science
Recording Hampshire
Abstract: How often have you gone to class, participated, taken great notes, and then a day or to later realized that you missed something critical? Have you ever missed a class and struggled to catch up on the material presented that day? Presentations Automatically Organized from Lectures (PAOL) is an ongoing research project run jointly between Hampshire and the University of Massachusetts that seeks to automatically record lectures to make it easier to review classroom material. This talk will describe the project and discuss recording classes at Hampshire. PAOL will be used as an example to open a discussion about the appropriate place for recorded lectures in the college environment.

September 14, 2011: Salman Hameed, assistant professor of science and humanities
What does it mean when people say they accept or reject evolution? Lessons from the Muslim world
Abstract: The topic of biological evolution often flares up in American politics. Rick Perry has recently stated that evolution is "just a theory." Scientists often cite that more than half of the U.S. population does not accept biological evolution. But what does it mean when people say they don't "believe" in evolution? We have been conducting oral interviews with Muslim physicians and medical students in 8 countries. Our survey is still in progress, but we are finding complex ways in which these educated Muslims view evolution, and the broader relation of science and religion. I will highlight our preliminary findings from Malaysia, Pakistan, and from Pakistani physicians working in the U.S., and place the evolution-creation debate in a broader context.

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