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List of Past Events

Hybrid Event - Austin Baker and Carolyn Jane Lutken (Rutgers University, Center for Cognitive Science)

Tuesday, April 05, 2022, 01:00pm - 03:00pm

Hybrid - Registration Required

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In-Person Location: PSYCH Room 105, Busch Campus


Austin Baker - 1PM - 1:50 PM

Austin Baker HeadshotDr. Austin A. Baker is a philosopher and cognitive scientist specializing in empirically informed philosophy of mind and social philosophy. Their research addresses social prejudice through the interdisciplinary lenses of philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, and law. Dr. Baker received their PhD in Philosophy and Graduate Certificate in Cognitive Science from Rutgers University and is currently a Postdoctoral Assistant Professor at the Rutgers Center for Cognitive Science. They are further affiliated with Chaz Firestone’s lab in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Baker also writes on transgender rights and discrimination and in their scholarship and teaching is dedicated to making academia more inclusive of gender-diverse people.


Nonverbal Marginalization: Cognitive Architecture and Normative Harms

Abstract: The nonverbal cues that accompany speech (e.g., facial expressions, gestures, and eye gaze) can be as communicatively significant as the meanings of the words used. In this talk, I identify and discuss a very common—but philosophically and empirically unexamined—phenomenon: the behavioral tendency to nonverbally engage with people in ways that are sensitive to contextual power dynamics (e.g., smiling and nodding more at powerful people). I offer a mechanistic account of this tendency (which I call ‘nonverbal marginalization’), arguing that it can manifest and reinforce implicit cognitive biases about social identities like race, gender, sexual orientation, and disability. I then go on to argue that we can understand the normative harms that nonverbal marginalization creates through the lens of epistemic injustice, and show how nonverbal marginalization can shed novel light on two significant bodies of literature from social psychology—imposter syndrome and performance gaps between high and low power social groups. I conclude with a discussion of how individuals and institutions can go about mitigating the effects of nonverbal marginalization.

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Carolyn Jane Lutken - 2PM - 2:50 PMimage

Dr. Jane received her B.A. in English literature from Whitman College before teaching English in France. During this time, she developed an interest in language acquisition (both first and second) which led her to pursue an M.A. in Linguistics from Newcastle University. There she learned that she was not only interested in linguistics (particularly syntax), but in the cognitive processes underlying language learning and language production and comprehension. She received her PhD in Cognitive Science from Johns Hopkins in January 2021, under Dr. Geraldine Legendre. She is currently working with Dr. Karin Stromswold to further pursue the relationship between linguistic competence and processing mechanisms.


Errors as Evidence: A Cross-Linguistic Investigation into Children's Use (and Misuse) of Complex Wh-Questions

Abstract: This research investigates the relationship between competence and processing in children’s first language acquisition, particularly of biclausal wh-questions. English-speaking children make consistent errors in production and comprehension of these questions. In production, these errors surface in the form of medial wh-phrases as in (1) when the child wishes to express (2) (Thornton, 1990). In comprehension, children respond to questions such as (3) as if the relativizer what were the question to answer (de Villiers and Roeper, 1995).

(1) What do you think who the cat chased?
(2) Who do you think the cat chased?
(3) Q: How did the boy say what he caught? Response: A fish!

These errors are particularly interesting because they resemble “Wh-Scope Marking” (WSM), which is attested in languages such as German (as seen in (4)), but not in English.

(4) Was hat Stefan Selina erzählt, was er stehlen wird?
What did Steven tell Sherry (what) he would steal?

Together, errors such as those in (1) and (3) suggest children may temporarily adopt multiple UG licensed grammars (Yang, 2002; Legendre, Vainikka, Hagstrom, & Todorova, 2002). This would be an example of syntactic creativity: the use of a UG-licensed grammar which is not the target grammar (Schulz, 2011). This research investigates whether these errors are true examples of syntactic creativity. I will begin by describing an ongoing investigation of the cross-linguistic variation in WSM and the particular pragmatic contexts which license it. I will focus on a series of experiments which examine English and German-speaking children’s ability to produce and comprehend biclausal wh-questions. Not only do our data indicate no correlation between the two error types in English (which we would predict under a parameter-based view of the grammar), we find that these errors are correlated with children’s working memory. Furthermore, we find that German-speaking children’s performance on these tasks shows a striking resemblance to the English-speaking children, which would not be predicted under a parameter-based view. These findings suggest that these errors are not the result of variation in the target grammar or grammar competence, but rather the result of something English and German-speaking children share: their immature processing mechanisms. I will finish by discussing research I am currently pursuing investigating errors made by adult-speakers which further support this claim (so far!).