At the present time the principal contributing disciplines are psychology, computer science, linguistics and philosophy, although at Rutgers there are individuals with strong interests in cognitive science located in a variety of departments -- perhaps a greater range of academic departments than is typical of the field at large. For example, the department of biomedical engineering and the CAIP Center (Computer Aids for Industrial Productivity) have special strength in the area of computational and biological perception and speech recognition. Several groups in the mathematics and electrical engineering departments have strong interests in aspects of computational architecture and neural networks, as do, of course, the neuroscience researchers in the center for behavioral and neural sciences. Click on any discipline below to visit its site.
The study of learning and conceptual change at Rutgers ranges across disciplines—computer science, lingusitics, psychology and philosophy—and levels of analysis—the molecular, cellular, behavioral, and computational. Work in the different disciplines and at the different levels of analysis is integrated by a shared concern for the questions of domain specificity and initial data representations. The first question concerns the interplay between learning mechanisms tailored to particular learning problems (for example, learning language, or learning spatial layouts) and learning mechanisms that operate without regard to the structure of the material to be learned (for example, associative learning mechanisms). The second question focuses on the problem of choosing an initial representation of experience that facilitates the development of a more economical and effective representation as more experience is gained. The problem of the learner's initial representation is central to language learning, to the success or failure of many machine learning algorithms, and to the ability of many animals to extract from their experience a representation of the temporal and spatial structure of their environment.
Several labs at Rutgers pursue research on learning at the neurobiological level: Randy Gallistel (Psychology), Louis Matzel (Psychology), Tim Otto (Psychology), Tracey Shors (Psychology), Gleb Shumyatsky (Molecular Genetics), Mark West (Psychology). These labs combine the behavioral level of analysis with electrophysiological, anatomical, and molecular levels of analysis.
Issues in the learning of language promote interaction between another large group of cognitive scientists at Rutgers : Mark Baker, Jerry Fodor, Lila Gleitman, Rochel Gelman, Alvin Goldman, Jane Grimshaw, Ernie Lepore, Alan Prince, Steve Stich, Karin Stromswold, Krysten Syrett and Bruce Tesar.
Concept learning is studied both experimentally (Jacob Feldman's, Alan Leslie, Rochel Gelman) and from a formal and philosophical perspective (Jerry Fodor, Ernie Lepore, Alvin Goldman). Within this group, there are cross-laboratory focii on the learning of numerical concepts, the distinction between the living and non-living (animacy), and the emergence of a theory of mind (intentionality).
RuCCS is well-known for its commitment to developmental cognitive science. We believe that development is not itself a distinct topic area, but rather that developmental questions are central to every topic area in cognitive science. This is reflected in the interests of the core RuCCS faculty listed below.
We have two core labs that are devoted to the study of cognitive development, Rochel Gelman's Cognitive Development and Learning Lab and Alan Leslie's Cognitive Development Lab. Both labs are equipped for work with young children and infants. The development of vision is also studied in the Kowler lab. Both the Musolino and Stromswold labs focus on the acquisition of language. All of these labs are in the same building as RuCCS.
The acquisition of concepts is a long-standing and active interest of philosopher, Jerry Fodor. Lila Gleitman studies the acquisition of syntax and is a visiting professor at RuCCS each fall term. We have a number of linguists with strong interests in universal grammar and learnability, including Alan Prince, Jane Grimshaw, Mark Baker, and Bruce Tesar.
Core faculty with developmental interests:
- Jerry Fodor (Philosophy and RuCCS)
- Rochel Gelman (Psychology and RuCCS)
- Lila Gleitman (U. Penn, Psychology and RuCCS)
- Eileen Kowler (Psychology and RuCCS)
- Alan Leslie (Psychology and RuCCS)
- Julien Musolino (Psychology and RuCCS)
- Karin Stromswold (Psychology and RuCCS)
- Kristen Syrett (Linguistics and RuCCS)
A number of RuCCS affiliates also have labs devoted to the study of development (see List of Affiliates).