The Cognitive Science Lab (CSL) is the primary home of Dr. Mark Blair’s research group. The team conducts numerous studies in the broad areas of learning and attention.
The CSL is also a research space open to scientists who are affiliated with the cognitive science program. Faculty and students from Psychology, Linguistics, Philosophy, Computing and Mathematics have all conducted research projects within the lab.
Our lab focuses on trying to understand how people allocate attention effectively to the most relevant information in order to make decisions. Whether we are looking at how people categorize fictional organisms, respond to the imperfect feedback in their lives, or play video games, we are interested in both the theoretical paradigms and the real life applications of cognitive science.
Our research projects use both behavioral and computational methods in order to explore attention and learning. Our lab uses eye-trackers to measure participants overt attention, in a sense allowing us to see what they see. Some of the questions that we ask in the lab explore how people learn to allocate this overt attention to their learning environment. What happens when you provide someone with a probabilistic environment in which to learn? Can we learn when the information we receive is less than ideal? If there’s a cost for accessing certain information, does this affect how people will learn a task and in turn how they seek out information?
While eye-tracking gives us a behavioral measure of human attention, our lab also explores the theoretical underpinnings of cognitive processes. By using reinforcement learning and dynamic field theory models we can explore the computational processes involved in attentional learning, asking such questions as; Are there cognitive process by which we learn because of reinforcement? Do we learn because of the errors that we make? How can we relate the theory of how processes work to what the brain is actually doing? How can we relate the results we see in the lab to the theories that define cognitive science? By taking the information we find with our eye-trackers and comparing it to how a computer model learns how to do the same kinds of tasks, we can evaluate how close the models of attention fit the results that we have found, a finding which gives us an insight into the underlying processes of attention and learning.
Our lab is a teaching lab. This means we are always looking for motivated undergraduate students from a variety of backgrounds who have an interest in attention, learning, and expertise. If you are interested in volunteering in the lab, or just want more information, please browse over to our join page. There are also plenty of opportunities for graduate students at the Masters and PhD level who are looking to gain valuable experience in an active lab. If you are a Masters or Doctorate student who is interested in research positions in the cognitive science lab please contact Mark Blair directly.
For directions to the lab, click here!