Current Events

Regular colloquia are Wednesdays, 2:00 P.M. –  4:00 P.M., in 280 Park Hall (unless otherwise noted), North Campus, and are open to the public. To receive email announcements of each event, please subscribe to one of our mailing lists by clicking the link  that best describes you: studentUB Faculty and Staff, or Non-UB Cognitive Scientist. You can also subscribe to our calendar.

Background readings for each lecture are available to UB faculty and students on UB Learns. To access, please log in to UB Learns and select "Center for Cognitive Science" → "Course Documents" → "Background Readings for (Semester/Year)." If you are affiliated with UB and do not have access to the UBLearns website, please contact Eduard Mercado III, director of the Center for Cognitive Science. 

Fall 2019 Events

Spring 2020

The role of the insular cortex in the modulation of drug-associated memories by nicotine

March 11
 Greg Loney
Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, University at Buffalo

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At its core, drug addiction can be conceptualized as a powerful form of maladaptive learning. Individuals will habitually seek and consume drugs long past development of tolerance to the reinforcing properties of the abused drug and in the face of myriad deleterious consequences. Mnemonic representations of the past reinforcing and aversive properties of drug administration and withdrawal can be elicited by contexts and cues that were present during drug episodes and can serve to elicit either approach or avoidance, respectively, and can lead to relapse of drug taking for years past the last drug taking episode. There is ample evidence for nicotine in modulating the development, strength, and recall of drug-associated memories across multiple classes of abused drugs and across multiple learning paradigms that measure the impact of both the reinforcing and aversive properties of drugs. Furthermore, concurrent nicotine use is significantly correlated with problematic substance use across a wide variety of commonly abused drugs, including opiates, such that the use of nicotine containing products may either promote the development of opioid-use disorders or exacerbate their severity. One brain area in which nicotine could be exerting these effects is the anterior insular cortex (IC). The IC is critical for the acquisition and expression of both reinforcing and aversive drug-associated memories and is heavily implicated in nicotine addiction making it a prime target for intervention. Our lab employs a number of operant and classical conditioning paradigms in conjunction with chemogenetic and pharmacological manipulations to elucidate the involvement of the insula in the development and maintenance of problematic drug use and to understand the importance of the IC in nicotine-facilitated polysubstance use.

Slow loris (Nycticebus spp.) conservation through cognition

March 25
 Stephanie Poindexter
Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, University at Buffalo

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As wildlife tracking tools become readily available, our understanding of how animals use their environments and what that suggests about their spatial cognition is becoming more of a focal point in primate research. In addition to advances in data collection tools, globally, primate populations are declining and need conservation action. My research on the slow loris, a small-bodied nocturnal primate found throughout Southeast Asia, focuses on how they navigate their wild environment, what cues inform decisions, and how we can apply this new information to conservation.  In this talk, I will discuss the current threats to slow lorises, and how studying their movement and spatial cognition can improve conservation efforts. 

Are You Sure You’re Sure? Metacognitive Uncertainty Monitoring During College Exams

April 1
 Justin Couchman
Associate Professor, Psychology Department, Albright College

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Students often gauge their performance before and after an exam, usually in the form of rough grade estimates or general feelings. Are these estimates accurate? Should they form the basis for decisions about study time, test-taking strategies, revisions, subject mastery, or even general competence? Educators typically provide little instruction regarding this crucial area of self-regulation, resulting in a variety of sub-optimal strategies and misconceptions. In a series of experiments, we tested whether metacognition – the ability to monitor your mental states and use that information to regulate behavior – could be used as a tool to improve performance. We focused specifically on uncertainty monitoring, a metacognitive assessment of confidence in a decision. We looked across classrooms and cultures and found that concurrent judgements of uncertainty were generally accurate and a good predictor of performance. Indeed, making them appears to be a useful strategy to increase metacognitive processing and avoid common decisional biases. However, global judgements made before or after an exam often differed significantly from performance and may be influenced by cultural background, self narrative, and educational styles.
This investigation also shed light on two more general issues in cognitive science that simple exam procedures might be able to address. First, many people fall victim to the first-instinct fallacy, where they mistakenly trust their “gut” or initial reaction. We found that while this was a problem during exams, it was not as simple as the fallacy makes it seem.  Trusting first instincts and distrusting them both led to mistakes, while the most advantageous strategy was to use metacognitive monitoring to determine whether an instinct was reliable. Second, some philosophers have suggested that the self is generated by (or perhaps is) a constructive dialog consisting of our personal narrative and competing narratives from other selves and the environment. We agree that the self is at least a function of all those things. But, the underlying assumption of this line of thinking is that less true narratives will, over time, lose out to more true narratives resulting eventually in a properly calibrated self. On the contrary, our work and similar behavioral economic findings suggest that the most common scenario is one in which fallacious thinking and false narratives result in beliefs, values, and even selves that are out of line with reality. Metacognitive processes are the main underlying line of defense against both of these problems, and thus we recommend building metacognitive practice into exams.

Innovation in Biometric Computing: Experience with Smart Health and Cybersecurity

April 8
 Wenyao Xu
Associate Professor, Department of Computer Science & Engineering, University at Buffalo

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Biometric Computing technologies interact with people by tightly integrating sensing, communication, and computation with human objects. Through digitalizing our body, living behavior environment, biometric computing can augment human performance, illuminate the emerging socio-technological landscape, and enhance the quality of life. In this talk, I will introduce our exploratory research efforts on the biometric computing that address the challenges at the interaction among technologies, systems, data and applications including healthcare (e.g., Autism, Parkinson’s, MS, Obesity, Stroke Rehabilitation) and cybersecurity (e.g., identification, deception detection).​

Context-dependent encoding and the flexibilityof human learning

April 15
 Paulo Carvalho
Project Scientist, Human-Computer Interaction Institute, Carnegie Mellon University

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When listening to language is hard

April 29
 Rochelle Newman
Professor and Chair, Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences, University of Maryland

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Much of the research on speech perception has looked at relatively “easy” listening conditions:  adult listeners, listening to their native language spoken by an unaccented speaker, with relatively little background noise.  My research is focused on how processing changes when things get harder: when there is noise and other distractions, when the speaker has an accent or switches languages mid-sentence, and when the listener has less existing background knowledge (such as is the case for both young children and our canine companions). This talk represents a brief overview of recent results from my lab that cover a range of these topics. ​

Plenary Meeting

May 6th
Cognitive Science Plenary Meeting