The COGNITIVE SCIENCES CENTRE (CSC)
at Southampton University
Stevan Harnad, Director
Electronics and Computer Science
University of Southampton
SO17 1BJ UNITED KINGDOM
phone: +44 2380 592582
fax: +44 2380 592865
In recent years the multiple disciplines that study thinking ("cognition") have discovered that there is a great deal to be gained from concerted research and communication. The Cognitive Sciences include Psychology, Anthropology, Sociology, Linguistics, Communication and Computer Science, subareas of Social and Behavioral Biology, Brain Science , Archeology, Philosophy, and several other subdisciplines. The common element uniting the Cognitive Sciences is a research interest in how the mind, and systems that can do what the mind can do, function: What internal structures and processes give them the capacity to do what they can do? Such systems (minds, and systems with capacities like those of minds) are called Cognitive Systems, and the disciplines that study their functioning are the Cognitive Sciences.
Cognitive Sciences Centres, Programmes and Departments are currently being created with increasing frequency in the UK, the US and other countries as the importance and fruitfulness of joint efforts in the pertinent disciplines becomes ever more widely recognised. Two excellent interdisciplinary Centres of this kind in this country, and among the first ones in the world, are the one at Edinburgh and one at Sussex. Both are highly productive and influential, but there is a need for many more such centers in the UK (the US has dozens, and their rate of formation is increasing every year), focussing interdisciplinary efforts within their Universities as well as between them on investigating the acquisition and nature of all forms of cognitive capacity, individual, collective and interactive, in adults, children, animals and machines.
The Cognitive Sciences Centre (CSC) at The University of Southampton will have its own distinctive "blend" of cognitive science, drawing on the strengths of the pertinent disciplines here, with an emphasis on the grounding of cognitive capacities in (1) sensorimotor capacities and (2) interactions with the world, including (3) interactions with other cognitive systems (Harnad 1987, 1994). This central property of cognitive systems is variously referred to as "situatedness" and "embeddedness". It stands in contrast to the more disembodied, purely computational approaches that are still majoritarian in the cognitive sciences.
The University of Southampton already has considerable strength in the areas pertinent to "grounded cognition," including cognitive, developmental and social psychology in the Psychology Department, categorisation/classification studies in Sociology, cognitive archeology in Anthropology, robotics, machine vision/speech and Virtual Reality in electronics and computer science, interactive learning in the Interactive Learning Centre and Multimedia Laboratory, neural networks in ECS and Engineering, cognitive neuropsychology and neurophysiology in Clinical Neurological Sciences, ecology and artificial life in the Biological Sciences, animal cognition in the Anthroozoology Institute, Pragmatics (and soon Chomskyan Syntax) in Linguistics, and still further ongoing work in other pertinent Departments at University of Southampton.
Two other resources for the Centre are the highly influential international journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences (BBS), published by Cambridge University Press and devoted to interdisciplinary Peer Commentary across the cognitive sciences, and BBS's electronic counterpart, Psycoloquy, sponsored by the American Psychological Association, likewise devoted to Peer Commentary across the same disciplines. The Editor in Chief of both journals will be the Director of the CSC and the communicative resources of both journals will be part of the voice and profile of the CSC.
Activities of the CSC
(1) An internal seminar series, in which those within the University, in the various departments involved (hence the plural "scienceS"), regularly present their current research to their fellow cognitive scientists in the interdisciplinary forum provided by the participating departments and individuals. This has been one of the great strengths of existing Centres of this kind, as, if not for the common rubric and forum provided by the joint focus on cognition, such investigators would normally not know of one another's work, let alone join to discuss it. The email list carries CSC announcements, abstracts, etc. to all the pertinent disciplines.
(2) Collaborative CSC research projects and grant applications, again within the University and the departments involved. A CSC offprint series and electronic preprint archive. The CSC will have long-term Research Fellows as well as short-term Visiting Research Fellows.
(3) Shared CSC postgraduate students and thesis projects (and, once a course program is established, undergraduate student projects as well), directed by collaborating faculty members in the various disciplines involved.
(4) Collaborative CSC research projects, and grant applications, with cognitive scientists at other institutions, in the UK, Europe and US (e.g., HFSP projects).
(5) An external CSC speaker series, with cognitive scientists from other institutions giving talks for the Southampton cognitive science community. Hosting conferences and workshops on specific CS topics.
(6) A formal program of CSC studies (postgraduate and/or undergraduate) in the cognitive sciences (at some Universities this leads to a separate degree in Cognitive Science, but I think degrees from the standard participating departments, with a concentration on cognitive sciences, is probably all that is needed). The Cognitive Psychology Laboratory's research programme is well underway, several interdepartmental research grant applications are in preparation, and plans are underway for several interdepartmental internal collaborative research projects.
Interests within and outside Faculty
The CSC will be directed by Professor Stevan Harnad, with the collaboration of Professor Michael Sedgwick (Clinical Neurological Sciences), Professor Tony Hey (Electronics and Computer Science), Professor Chris Harris (Electronics and Computer Science), Professor Wendy Hall (Multimedia Laboratory) and Professor Bob Remington . The University has already made a substantial commitment in start-up funds for Professor Harnad's Cognitive Psychology Laboratory, which investigates how people and machines learn to categorise concrete objects and how abstract categories and symbols are grounded in this sensorimotor capacity. The Centre will in turn integrate the work of the Laboratory with the resources in Cognitive Sciences in other disciplines at the University, as well as with the work of other Cognitive Scientists in the UK and worldwide, through the activities of the CSC.
joint research with Mike Sedgwick and Mohammed Fath-El-Bab
joint research with Angelo Cangelosi
As the Laboratory and Centre become active, substantial collaborative interdisciplinary grant-supported research will be conducted. Interdepartmental collaborative research applications, including joint bids to industrial sources, will be made by combining resources with the complementary expertise of the computational modelers, roboticists and vision/speech researchers in the research groups of Professors Hey and Harris. There will also be joint work with the human electrophysiology Laboratory of Professor Sedgewick on the evoked potential correlates of category learning as well as the sensorimotor dimensions of categorisation, with support to be sought from the MRC as well as private biomedical companies.
Initially, the activities of the CSC will consist of scheduling the internal and external seminar series, coordinating research projects and grant applications, maintaining an email list, internal and external, as well as an FTP and WWW Archive on the Net, making public the activities of the CSC and the papers of its participants. These activities will take place within the context of the existing activities and budget of the Cognitive Psychology Laboratory.
References [Click here to retrieve full papers]
Brown M. and C.J. Harris (1994) Neurofuzzy Adaptive Modelling and Control, Prentice Hall, Hemel Hempstead
Harnad, S. (ed.) (1987) Categorical Perception: The Groundwork of Cognition. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Harnad, S. (1994) Grounding Symbolic Capacity in Robotic Capacity. In: Steels, L. and R. Brooks (eds.) The "artificial life" route to "artificial intelligence." Building Situated Embodied Agents. New
Harnad, S. (1994) Computation Is Just Interpretable Symbol Manipulation: Cognition Isn't. Special Issue on "What Is Computation" Minds and Machines (J. Fetzer, ed., in press)
Harnad, S. Hanson, S.J. & Lubin, J. (1994) Learned Categorical Perception in Neural Nets: Implications for Symbol Grounding. In: V. Honavar & L. Uhr (eds) Symbol Processors and Connectionist Network Models in Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Modelling: Steps Toward Principled Integration. pp. 191-206. Acadamic Press.
Szepesvari, Csaba; Lorincz, Andras. (1993) Behavior of an adaptive self-organizing
autonomous agent working with cues and competing concepts. Adaptive Behavior,
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