Research Directions at RuCCS
There are several distinct foci in the current research directions adopted by participants in the Center for Cognitive Science.
- One focus is on fundamental research concerned with understanding the nature of the cognitive processor -- of the architecture of the mind. This research, which involves both theoretical and empirical studies, is concerned with such issues as the processor's resource limits, its memory structures, the forms of representation(s) it uses, the basic operations it makes available, the discipline of sequential and/or parallel execution it permits, restrictions on interprocess communication, decomposition of the processors into modular components, and so on. These are all questions that concern the architecture of the cognitive processor, including its perceptual, memory, reasoning, and motor control capacities.
- A second and complementary focus involves fundamental research into the knowledge and the strategies that people bring to bear in reasoning and in solving problems using the architectural resources provided. This pursuit raises issues of knowledge-acquisition, learning, and representation, and makes close contact with purely formal and computational studies in computational logic and artificial intelligence.
- A third focus is on relating these research issues to the data of biological science -- particularly to the mechanisms studied in neuroscience, and the more microscopic mechanisms studied in cellular biology, biochemistry and genetics. It also involves relating cognitive theories to the data of clinical neurology.
- A fourth focus, which brings together all three of the above areas, concerns the process of perception, both human and machine. The main focus so far has been on vision, visual attention, and the perception of spatial layout. The Laboratory of Vision Research, under the direction of Bela Julesz, and several departments -- notable psychology and biomedical engineering -- have strong research programs in vision research.
- A fifth focus is concerned with investigations of language competence and language use. Language acquisition, language universals, and linguistic performance provide evidence for inferring the nature of mental processes, as well as for the design of models of linguistic capacities. Currently a theoretical approach, called Optimality Theory (see the Optimality Archive) provides a major focus, applying universal principles of language and a form of constraint satisfaction technique to linguistic research. RuCCS theoretical and computational linguists have been developing approaches to linguistic structure within Optimality Theory, which derives the grammar of particular languages from universal constraints.
- A sixth focus brings the empirical research into contact with traditional questions in philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, philosophy of science, epistemology, and also philosophical logic. Rutgers has a particularly strong philosophy group whose members have been concerned with such fundamental issues in cognitive science as the nature of meaning and the foundations of computational, cognitive and intentional processes.
- Finally, many of the research programs sketched above have practical applications in a number of areas of active investigation at Rutgers. Some of these are:
- Application of studies in human and computer vision and attention to the design of remote operation tools, including teleoperation, telerobotics, telelearning and teleconferencing aids.
- Studies of the process of design, and the development of design-aids in selected domains -- particularly aids to engineering and software design.
- Studies of the human-machine interface and the relationship of this design problem to the study of bottlenecks in human information processing. In general, this pursuit is concerned with providing data to help optimize the distribution of labor between human and machine skills.
- The study of computational aids for training, education, collaborative work, and group communication.