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Nijmegen Lectures 2015, February 25 - 27 -

Lecturers & Discussants

Lecturer Susan Carey
Susan Carey is a professor at Harvard University, where she joined the Psychology Department in 2001, after having taught at MIT (24 years) and NYU (5 years).  She did her graduate work at Harvard, working with Jerome Bruner and Roger Brown.   Her work seeks to explain - how human beings, unique among animals, create the huge conceptual repertoire that characterizes adult thought.  Only humans can think about cancer, global warming, infinity, wisdom, moral obligation. Her work on this broad problem combines historical case studies, animal cognition studies, and mainly studies with human infants, children and adults.   Case studies include mathematical concepts (integers, rational number), scientific concepts (physics: heat/temperature, matter, weight and density; biology:  life/death/bodily function; biological inheritance of properties) and, in her most recent studies, abstract relational and logical concepts.

Lecturer Elizabeth Spelke
Elizabeth Spelke is a professor in the Department of Psychology and director of the Laboratory for Developmental Studies at  Harvard University . She did her undergraduate studies at Harvard with child psychologist Jerome Kagan, and her Ph.D. at Cornell with developmental psychologist Eleanor Gibson. Her first academic post was at the University of Pennsylvania, where she worked for nine years. Thereafter she moved first to Cornell, then to MIT's Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, and then to Harvard in 2001. Her research focuses on inferring the origins and nature of human cognitive abilities, including the cognitive brain functions underlying our concepts of objects, people, space, and number. Based on a large number of studies with human infants, children, adults, and non-human animals, she suggests that humans have a set of sophisticated innate mental skills.

The discussants for Wednesday, February 25th

Harold Bekkering has been Professor in Cognitive Psychology at the Radboud University Nijmegen since 2002. Before Radboud, he worked at Universities in Maastricht, St. Louis and Groningen, and he was a senior scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Psychological Research in Munich. At the moment, he is a member of the Board of Directors of the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour.  Bekkering’s research interests cover the broad field of Cognitive Neuroscience including Cognitive, Social and Developmental Psychology, Cognitive Robotics and Educational Neuroscience. His main interest is unravelling the neurocognitive processes between Intention and Action in Social Interaction. He also studies the sensorimotor foundation of higher cognitive functions like Language and Number processing. He has co-authored more than 170 peer-reviewed papers in journals like Science, Nature, Nature Neuroscience and central Psychology and Neuroscience journals. He has received prestigious national (VICI, TOP, Gravitation) and international grants (FP5, FP6) and he is leading a substantial research group called “Action and NeuroCognition”.

Andrea Bender is Associate Professor in general psychology at the University of Bergen, Norway. Starting out as a cultural anthropologist, she worked in interdisciplinary projects at the University of Freiburg, obtained a Heisenberg Fellowship from the DFG, repeatedly visited the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen as a guest researcher, and co-chaired an international research group at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research (ZiF) in Bielefeld before moving to the Department of Psychology in Bergen. Since 2011, she has been a member of the governing board of the Cognitive Science Society, devoted to promoting the rapprochement of anthropology and cognitive science. Her research interests focus on the interdependencies of culture, language, and cognition, which she investigates various domains such as number, space & time, causality, and grammatical gender. Since 1997, she has carried out fieldwork in the Pacific, particularly Tonga, and has coordinated cross-cultural research in eight other countries. She is co-author of two books on culture, language, and cognition, and has published articles in Science, PNAS, Cognition, and Topics in Cognitive Science.

The discussants for Thursday, February 26th

Andrea Frick studied developmental psychology under the supervision of Friedrich Wilkening at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, where she received her Ph.D. in 2006. From 2007 to 2008, she worked as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of California, Santa Cruz, funded by a scholarship from the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), where she collaborated with Meg Wilson and Su-hua Wang. Subsequently, she did a second post-doctoral fellowship with Nora Newcombe at Temple University in Philadelphia, as part of an NSF-funded project, devoted to understanding and improving spatial cognition. From 2011 to 2014, she worked as an SNFS Ambizione Fellow at the University of Bern, Switzerland, where she received the Venia Docendi (Habilitation). Since 2014, Dr. Frick is an Associate Professor of Developmental Psychology at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland. Her research area is cognitive development, with a special focus on the development of spatial cognition, mental representations, and imagery abilities. She is currently investigating the questions of how spatial and mental transformation abilities are influenced by active experience, how they affect later academic performance in math and geometry, and how we can promote these abilities early in life.

Christian Doeller is a Principal Investigator at the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Associate Professor at the Faculty of Science and Speaker of the Donders Graduate School for Cognitive Neuroscience at Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands.
Memory is at the very heart of our personality: the myriad snapshots of our daily experience have a pervasive and enduring influence on the self. But how is the multitude of individual memories organized in the brain? To unravel the underlying neural mechanisms, Doeller investigates brain systems which support the transformation of experience into enduring episodic memories and seeks to understand how these networks help us to map and navigate our environment. Seminal contributions include the discovery of grid cell-like neural representations of space in the human network for episodic memory. Doeller is ERC-StG and NWO-Vidi awardee and has published in leading journals, including Nature, Science, PNAS, PLoS Biology and Current Biology. Doeller is regularly involved in activities to promote public engagement with science. He is also one of the founders of the Young Academy of Europe, a pan-European initiative of outstanding young scientists and scholars who aim to influence science policy and to contribute to the European science agenda.

The discussants for Friday, February 27th

Bart Geurts studied philosophy in Nijmegen, and was affiliated with several universities in Germany and the Netherlands, the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen, and IBM Germany, before returning to his alma mater in 1999, where he now holds the chair for philosophy of language and logic. His main research interests lie in the semantics and pragmatics of natural language, and he has worked on a broad range of topics, including presupposition, anaphora, conversational implicatures, negation, quantification, and speech acts; but he has been known to trespass (with varying degrees of success) on other areas, too, including language acquisition, human reasoning, social cognition, and even syntax.

Ágnes M. Kovács is Associate Research Fellow at the Department of Cognitive Science, Central European University, Budapest. She studied psychology at the Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj Napoca, Romania and completed her PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience at the Scuola Internazionale di Studi Superiori Avanzati, Trieste in 2008, after which she was a postdoc at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. In 2012 she started a five year project on the ‘Representational preconditions for understanding other minds’ funded by a European Research Council Starting Grant. Her research focuses on how the developing human mind manages to make sense of the complex social and physical world, investigating the basic cognitive mechanisms that allow infants to learn from and about social partners. Her work targets processes that allow us to sustain simultaneous multiple representations of the world, which are fundamental in various domains such as bilingual language acquisition and reasoning about other people's mental states as different from one’s own mental states.

Last checked 2017-02-21 by Ina Grevel

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