You are here: Home Keynotes





Dedre Gentner


Dedre Gentner is a professor of Psychology at Northwestern University. She is a leading researcher in the study of analogical reasoning and published foundational work on structure-mapping theory. She is also interested in topics such as language acquisition and learning as well as concepts and conceptual structure. In 2016, Gentner was awarded the Rumelhart Prize for Contributions to the Theoretical Foundations of Human Cognition.


Analogy, Abstraction and Relational Knowledge 

A prominent stance in recent Cognitive Science is that human concepts are naturally embodied—concrete and contextually situated. Whether we also possess abstract concepts has been controversial. I will argue that we form abstract relational concepts from embodied experience and that we do so via analogical comparison—specifically, via structural alignment and mapping. Although structure-mapping ability is present early in infancy, analogical ability is vastly increased by acquiring language and other symbol systems. In particular, metaphoric language is a route to new abstractions both in individual learning and in language evolution. I’ll present evidence from children and adults to support these claims.

Seana Coulson

Seana Coulson


Seana Coulson is a professor of Cognitive Science at the University of California San Diego. Her main research interest is how people deploy their cognitive resources to construct meaning. She employs a variety of techniques in her research including production data, reaction times, and event-related potentials. Coulson is acknowledged, particularly, for her work on conceptual blending as well as joke, metaphor, and gesture comprehension.


Understanding Words

What is it to understand the meaning of a word? Distributional semantics provides one sort of answer to this question. Word meanings are multidimensional vectors induced from the linguistic contexts in which they occur. Embodied meaning provides a somewhat different answer: word meanings include (in part) simulations that recruit sensorimotor activations. I discuss empirical data from my lab that bears on each of these proposals, paying special attention to the N400, an ERP component conventionally associated with semantic retrieval. Finally, I consider whether an unholy alliance between these proposals is possible or desirable.


Marcel Brass


Marcel Brass is a professor of Psychology at the Humboldt University Berlin. His main research interest is motor and cognitive control. He is well known for his behavioral and brain imaging research on imitation, task switching and intentional control of action. As head of the Social Intelligence Group in Berlin, Brass is currently investigating the neurocognitive mechanisms underlying social cognition, cognitive flexibility and human volition.


Free will: An empirical perspective

The question whether free will exists or not has a century old history in philosophy. Only a few decades ago, however, neuroscientists and psychologists have started to investigate this question empirically. Based on neuroscientific findings, prominent researchers have claimed that free will is an illusion. Such claims had a strong impact on the free will debate both in psychology and philosophy. Moreover, these claims have found their way into the public media, potentially affecting free will beliefs of people outside academia. In my talk, I will first discuss the validity of the claim that neuroscience has disproven free will. Furthermore, I will address the question if it matters whether people believe in free will or not.



Matthew Crocker


Matthew Crocker is a professor of Psycholinguistics at the University of Saarland, who is esteemed for his research on language processing. Currently, Crocker uses high-resolution experimental methods to develop computational theories and models of how people map the linguistic signal into meaning. He works on a variety of topics such as visually-situated spoken language understanding, as well as probabilistic and connectionist models of lexical, syntactic and semantic processing.


The Neurocomputation of Sentence Meaning

I will outline recent results from my lab supporting the view that event-related brain potentials directly index two core mechanisms of sentence comprehension: association-driven retrieval of each word from semantic memory (N400) and expectation-based semantic integration with the unfolding sentence meaning (P600). I will then present a neurocomputational model of language comprehension which directly instantiates these two systems, including explicit linking functions to both behavioural and neurophysiological comprehension measures.