Developing Intelligence

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Synaesthesia refers to the phenomenon where certain perceptual stimuli induce an unrelated and illusory perception – for example, a digit-color synaesthete may experience a sensation of the color green whenever exposed to the number 3. The relationships between the inducers and the induced synaesthetic experience are widely considered random; one anecodotal explanation is that letter-color…

“Priming” refers to a pervasive phenomenon in which the repetition of a particular stimulus, response, or thought process facilitates its subsequent use. Might this phenomenon extend to more “executive” capacities as well?

There’s little evidence that “staging” the training of neural networks on language-like input – feeding them part of the problem space initially, and scaling that up as they learn – confers any consistent benefit in terms of their long term learning (as reviewed yesterday). To summarize that post, early computational demonstrations of the importance of…

An early classic in computational neuroscience was a 1993 paper by Elman called “The Importance of Starting Small.” The paper describes how initial limitations in a network’s memory capacity could actually be beneficial to its learning of complex sentences, relative to networks that were “adult-like” from the start. This still seems like a beautiful idea…

The ability to suppress unwanted thoughts and actions is thought (by some) to be crucial in your ability to control behavior. However, alternative perspectives suggest that this emphasis on suppression or “inhibition” is misplaced. These perspectives, largely motivated by computational models of the brain, suggest that alternative abilities (such as the activation or “active maintenance”…

For the basics about multivariate fMRI “mind-reading” techniques, see the video below. Some of it is based on this 2007 Haynes et al paper from Current Biology, described in more detail following the video.

New work by Minear & Shah shows that as little as 2 hours of practice can promote improvements in multitasking that generalize beyond the particular tasks trained. Specifically, they show that performance on individual tasks can be made more efficient while multitasking, but the efficiency of actually switching between them cannot. The data supporting this…

When you need to stop yourself from committing some response, do you simply freeze – like a deer in the headlights – or can you selectively inhibit only the undesired action? The question is important because the ability to stop or inhibit a planned or prepotent action may be a central feature of so-called “executive…

What if training ourselves on one task yielded improvements in all other tasks we perform? This is the promise of the cognitive training movement, which is increasingly showing that such “far transfer” of training is indeed possible, while short of being “universal transfer.” Interestingly, this phenomenon might be most likely to occur for some of…

My friend Geoff once said that “all cognition is social.” Smugly, I reminded myself that the conclusions of cognitive psychologists are drawn on evidence where social cues are kept constant. But even in the absence of confounding social cues, perhaps the underlying cognitive processes themselves are caused by social factors. A great example of this…