The School of Psychological Sciences

Dynamic Cognition

My focus, so far, has involved the dynamics of the cognitive process. It started during my PhD with am attempt to understand how ideas form and then shift away into new directions and later on with a project on the neural (temporal and synchrony) codes for visual short-term-memory and for visual binding. This is a parsimonious idea that can solve the problem of the combinatorial explosion that arises when one has to encode (or represent) complex ideas, like large-red-car. Assuming we have units that encode “red” and “car” and “large” (their number has to be the size of the lexicon, N), we will need to use N^3 such units to encode all the combinations. The synchrony hypothesis was based on results from visual neuroscience, suggesting the existence of a neural synchrony code binding: if we see a red-X and a blue-Y, this will be coded by units that code for red and for X and which fire in synchrony (i.e., within the same 10 ms interval), and by other units coding for blue and for Y also firing in synchrony but out of synchrony with the X/red units.

More recently I was interested in the dynamics of the decision-processes. This involves the process of evidence integration, response selection, and post-decision processes, such as those mediating confidence judgements or phenomena associated with cognitive dissonance. There are many open questions and puzzles that arise in this field. How do we integrate evidence? (do we give equal weighting to early vs late one?)  How long do we integrate it before we settle on a decision? Is this integration time adaptive to task and stimulus contingencies? Do we change our mind after we make a decision, if presented with additional information? Why do we change our mind when a new and irrelevant/inferior alternative (that we do not chose) is added to the choice-set? Can we improve the quality of the decisions, by focusing on affective and intuitive aspects of the decision processes (which alternative feels better), instead of over-thinking or deliberating (analytically) about the decision? These and other such questions are the focus of the research in my lab.