AI Seminar

Computational and Empirical Explorations of Fast, Complex Cognition: Interactive Skill, Language Processing, and Humor Perception

Richard L. Lewis

In this seminar I'll provide an overview and highlights of three ongoing research projects that all have the aim of developing detailed computational models of fast, complex cognition, and the fixed cognitive architecture that supports it.

(1) The first project is about understanding the nature and development of skilled human-computer interaction. I'll describe a new approach to modeling, Cognitive Constraint Modeling (CCM), that is intended to be used to analytically identify the asymptotic bounds on human performance in specific task situations. CCM derives a detailed schedule of cognitive processes via constraint satisfaction over explicitly declared performance objective functions (e.g., "go as fast as possible" ), task constraints, and constraints on cognitive architecture.

(2) The second project is about understanding the nature of real-time language comprehension. Our focus is on the fast compositional processes of extracting linguistic structure from text, and the working memory that supports this. We have developed a process theory based on two key principles of human memory—decay and similarity-based interference–embodied in an ACT-R computational model that incrementally parses sentences and generates reading times. This is the first such model to make single-parameter quantitative predictions of reading time across multiple experiments.

(3) The third project is about understanding the nature of another rapid, complex cognitive skill: appreciating the humor in jokes and cartoons. This is a new project that attempts to gain insight into humor perception using the modern tools of cognitive psychology–in particular, high speed eye-tracking and pupilometery–along with the 68,647 New Yorker cartoons published since 1925.

Yes, there will be cartoons.
Rick Lewis is Associate Professor of Psychology and Linguistics at the University of Michigan. His research focuses on understanding the computational foundations of human cognition and language, using computational modeling and a variety of empirical techniques. He received his PhD in Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon University in 1993 with Allen Newell. His dissertation on language modeling eventually led to a new line of psycholinguistic empirical work and a new computational theory of language processing that continues today. Rick was previously an Assistant Professor of Computer and Information Science at Ohio State University, a Post-doctoral Fellow in Psychology at Princeton University, and has held visiting professorships at the University of Potsdam and the University of Freiburg in Germany. He was most recently Senior Project Associate at NASA Ames Research center where he spent part of a sabbatical.

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