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).