The Cognitive Science Seminar is one of the crown jewels of the Institute. It is both a course offering and a public lecture series.

Each semester's Seminar is organized around a different thematic area and offers seminars by national and international experts in the field. 

Current Semester

Agents: Why should they act? by Dr. Bonny Banerjee (IIS/Electrical and Computer Engineering)

In the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI), anything that can perceive its environment and act on that environment is called an agent (Russell & Norvig, 2020). In this view, humans, most living organisms, autonomous vehicles, and thermostats are agents. A key question to understand for the design of agent models is -- why do living organisms act? In AI, there are two leading theories that strive to answer this question: (1) to maximize expected reward (a.k.a. reinforcement learning), which is the dominant view in AI, and (2) to minimize the brain's prediction error (a.k.a. predictive coding or free energy principle). A number of other theories have been extensively researched in the natural and applied sciences. In this Cognitive Science Seminar course, we will discuss papers and invite speakers from AI, robotics, psychology, neuroscience, biology, and philosophy to understand the influential theories spanning over a century of research regarding why living organisms act. 

Click to add the recurring Zoom meeting to your calendar! To see a list of speakers and dates in PDF format, see this flyer.

cogsci flyer

Next Semester

Embodied Cognition by Dr. Shaun Gallagher, Lillian and Morrie Moss Professor of Philosophy

The cognitive science seminar for Fall 2023 will focus on embodied (or 4E – embodied, embedded, extended, enactive) cognition. We’ll examine diverse approaches to questions about the nature of the mind, the mind’s relation to the brain, perceptual experience, mental representation, sense making, the role of the environment, and social cognition. We’ll considers the strengths and weaknesses of the theories in question, contrasting embodied and enactive views with classic cognitivism, and discuss major criticisms and their possible resolutions. The seminar will provide a strong focus on enactive theory and the prospects for integrating enactive approaches with other embodied and extended theories, mediated through recent developments in predictive processing and the free energy principle. We’ll also discuss the practical applications of embodied cognition in the areas of education, humanities, architecture, economics, psychiatry and clinical reasoning.

Tentatively speakers will be drawn from the fields of Philosophy, Psychology, Psychiatry, Neurology, Computer Science, and Cognitive Science. 

Previous Semesters

Previous semester's Seminar themes:

  • Fall 2022 Educational Assessment and Validity
    Leigh Harrell-Williams, Counseling, Educational Psychology & Research
  • Spring 2022 The Ethics of Artificial Intelligence
    David Gray, Philosophy
  • Fall 2021 Computational Linguistics for the Social Sciences and Humanities
    Leah Windsor, IIS and English (Applied Linguistics) and Alistair Windsor, Mathematical Sciences
  • Spring 2021 Emotion and Cognition
    Ulrike Griebel, IIS, and Kim Oller, Communication Sciences and Disorders
  • Fall 2020 Reading Literacy, Foundational Skills, Comprehension, Knowledge, Assessment, and EdTech
    How cognitive science on reading literacy and assessment is transforming research and development (or if it isn’t, how it ought to).
    John Sabatini, IIS and Psychology
  • Spring 2020 The Brain Basis of Human Behavior
    Gavin Bidelman, IIS and Communication Sciences and Disorders
  • Fall 2019 Language Across Modalities
    Leah Windsor, IIS and English (Applied Linguistics)
  • Spring 2019 Models of Human Learning
    Philip Pavlik, IIS and Psychology (Cognitive)
  • Fall 2018 Harnessing the Data Revolution:Science in the Age of AI
    Andrew Olney, IIS and Psychology (Cognitive)
  • Spring 2018 The Evolution and Development of Neurodiversity
    D. Kimbrouh Oller, Communication Scieces and Disorder, and Ulrike Griebel