Brownian thought space

Cognitive science, mostly, but more a sometimes structured random walk about things.

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Location: Rochester, United States

Chronically curious モ..

Friday, June 29, 2007

Cog Psych top 25!

Looks like I have lots of friends ;) Our paper is climbing the download ladder! An interaction between prosody and statistics in the segmentation of fluent speech • Article Cognitive Psychology, Volume 54, Issue 1, 1 February 2007, Pages 1-32 Shukla, M.; Nespor, M.; Mehler, J. Copy for download from here

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Apple, Pear, Banana Theory

A Short Primer (aka Computational Linguistics) Finding linguistics too hard? Prefer the cosy comfort of cloudy equations? Prefer to let the computer do the work instead of trying to actually understand messy natural languages? Here is what you do -
  1. Take one or several corpora.
  2. Look for apples.
  3. Look for bananas.
  4. Look for pears.
  5. Notice how apples aren't always followed by bananas or pears. Notice how there are many more apples than there are bananas, and how infrequent pears are.
  6. Set this up as some fancy equation - not ANY old equation; it must be Bayesian.
  7. Design some experiment to test the idea that people are sensitive to these statistics*.
  8. Publish papers, give talks.
  9. Move on to pineapples, artichokes and oranges. Relabel these apples, bananas and pears (abiding by the time-tested "what's-in-a-name" principle).
Example equation - p(apples|bananas) = [ p(bananas|apples) * p(apples) ] / p(bananas) Advantages - Easy to do. Both setting up the equations and the experiments can be quite complex and fulfilling. The Extended Version - Natura Morta (aka Fruits on tables) Not happy? Want to go further? Look at the table these fruits lie on. Is it wooden? Is it plastic? Recast your equations to take this 'context' into account. Look for context sensitive p(apples|bananas) equations - is this number larger on wooden as compared to plastic tables? Make the bold claim - given sufficient contexts, and sufficient fruit, everything will be understood.
NB: Remember, the ONLY job of linguists is to discover the fruit. Once that triviality is out of the way, the Apple, Pear, Banana Theory is what is important. *If you find that adult participants don't behave like the equation, either (a) you're missing some statistical property or (b) you're onto something interesting; please post as a comment to this post ;)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Theistic explanandum

Friday, June 08, 2007

The Discreet Charms of the Neuroscientists

For everyone who's suffered to look at endless reds and blues on brain pictures as 'evidence', here's a thought-provoking paper by people from Yale, titled The seductive allure of neuroscience explanations. One of the critical (and scary) finding from their study is that
Even irrelevant neuroscience information in an explanation of a psychological phenomenon may interfere with people’s abilities to critically consider the underlying logic of this explanation.
"But Mo, aren't you doing imaging as well?" Well, yes. Sorry. Not everyone is seduced by neuroscience! Some do it because behavioral tasks can be so messy - the failure to spot a difference in behavior might or might not reflect a real difference in processing by the brain. Which of course leads to the interesting question as to WHY something which shows up differently in a brain scan doesn't lead to a difference in behavior.