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2011-2012 Colloquium Series: James McClelland

Brain-Mind Distinguished Speaker Series
MSU Room 145 CAS 5:15 – 6:45 PM 24 Oct 2011

“Emergence in Cognitive Science: Semantic Cognition”

James L. (Jay) McClelland
Lucie Stern Professor and Chair, Department of Psychology
Director, Center for Mind, Brain and Computation
Stanford University

Bio Info:


WEBINAR: In addition to the live presentation, viewers around the world can view it live via a webinar or can view it offline later. Registration for the webinar should be done via login with
Some refreshments will be served outside the lecture hall from 5 to 5:30.

ABSTRACT: The study of human intelligence was once dominated by symbolic approaches, but over the last 30 years an alternative approach has arisen. Symbols and processes that operate on them are often seen today as approximate characterizations of the emergent consequences of sub- or nonsymbolic processes, and a wide range of constructs in cognitive science can be understood as emergents. These include constructs such as concepts, mental hierarchies, rules of language, declarative memory, and putative neurocognitive modules, as well as processes such as decision making and learning -- processes that exhibit non-linear transitions as they occur over different time scales. The greatest achievements of human cognition may be largely emergent phenomena. It remains a challenge for the future to learn more about how these greatest achievements arise and to emulate them in artificial systems.

In this talk, I will consider a case in point from the study of human semantic cognition -- the process by which we make inferences about objects and their properties. I will explore the nature of mental representations of semantic knowledge, the development of these representations, their neural basis, and the degradation of these representations in neurological degenerative diseases.

MEET THE SPEAKER: contact George Stockman ( if you would like to meet with the speaker than Monday prior to the talk or Tuesday between 10 and 2.