Event Date: Friday, 12 May, 2017, 11 a.m.
Location: Palazzo Matteucci, P.za Torricelli 2, Pisa, PI, Italia [Aula Magna]
Speaker: Prof. Max Louwerse (Tilburg University)
Title: One shall know a word by the linguistic and perceptual company it keeps
Abstract: Debates on meaning and cognition suggest that that an embodied cognition account is exclusive of a symbolic cognition account. Decades of research in the cognitive sciences have shown that these accounts are not at all mutually exclusive. Acknowledging that cognition is both symbolic and embodied generates more relevant questions that propels rather than divides the cognitive sciences, questions such as how computational symbolic findings map onto experimental embodied findings, and under what conditions cognition is relatively more symbolic or embodied. This presentation discusses the Symbol Interdependency Hypothesis, which argues that language encodes perceptual information and that language users rely on these language statistics in cognitive processes. It argues that the claim that words are abstract, amodal and arbitrary symbols is an oversimplification and that comparing language to computer code does not do justice to the evolution of the language system. Instead, language has evolved such that it maps onto the perceptual system, whereby language users rely on language statistics which allow for bootstrapping meaning also when grounding is limited.
Max M. Louwerse is Professor of Cognitive Psychology and Artificial Intelligence at Tilburg University. He received his PhD in Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh, and was Full Professor in Psychology and Intelligent Systems at the University of Memphis, where he also served as Director of the Institute for Intelligent Systems. He published over 120 journal articles, book chapters and conference proceedings on a diversity of topics, including intelligent tutoring systems, embodied conversational agents, multimodal communication, verbal and nonverbal communication, symbolic and embodied cognition, and language statistics. Louwerse is initiator and principal investigator of the DAF Technology Lab, a virtual and mixed reality lab for immersive education, innovative research and corporate partnerships. He received over 12 million euro in funding as a PI or Co-PI on projects investigating training in virtual and mixed reality (European Union, OP Zuid), multimodal communication in humans and agents (National Science Foundation), intelligent tutoring systems (NSF, DoD), electronic health record systems and medical informatics (NIH) and distributional semantics (US Intelligence Community). He served as president, treasurer and governing board member on international societies and serves on editorial boards of various journals in psychology, linguistics, and cognitive science. Louwerse holds a patent with another patent pending, and has received awards for his teaching and research. He currently works on a project with a European bank on user profiling and with 33 small and medium-sized companies on a consortium investigating smart industry, including virtual reality, and is one of the founding fathers of Mind Labs, a research consortium on interactive technologies and behavior.