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Michigan State UniversityCognitive Science Program

Memory as the product of forethought

Dr. Nicola Clayton & Mr. Clive Wilkins, University of Cambridge

Monday, February 6 at 5:30 p.m., 118 Psychology

Watch the talk here!


Mental time travel allows us to re-visit our memories and imagine future scenarios. Memories are not just about the past~ they are also prospective. Nor are they a fixed store of what actually happened; memories move and alter the spaces they inhabit like bodies. In this lecture we explore the complex relationships between memory and human experience, with reference to ‘The Moustachio Quartet’, a series of novels that can be read in any order. We integrate evidences from science, art and the performing arts to explore the subjective nature of memory and mental time travel, arguing that such capacity evolved primarily for prospection, as opposed to retrospection. We question the notion that mental time travel is a uniquely human construct, and argue that the most convincing evidence for the independent evolution of mental time travel comes from our distantly related avian cousins, the corvids so clever that they are often referred to as ‘Feathered Apes’. These birds cache food for the future and rely on long-lasting and highly accurate memories of what, where and when they stored their stashes of food to make decisions about where to cache for tomorrow.

Suggested Reading

Clayton, N. S. (2014). Ways of Thinking: From Crows to Children and Back Again. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 68, 209-241. [pdf]

Laland, K., Wilkins C. A. P. & Clayton, N. S. (2015). The Evolution of Dance. Current Biology 26, R5-9. [pdf]

MSU CogSci in the News and Announcements

Dr. Mark Becker has published five papers so far this year in Perception,Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance,Packaging Technology and Science,Visual Cognition, and Applied Ergonomics.

Sunpreet Arora and Anil Jain were part of a team that won Best Paper at BioSig 2016 for their paper titled "3D Whole Hand Targets: Evaluating Slap and Contactless Fingerprint Readers".

Dr. Anil Jain was part of a team that won Best Poster at BioSig 2016 for a poster titled "Advances in Capturing Child Fingerprints: A High Resolution CMOS Image Sensor with SLDR Method".

Dr. Anil Jain and Dr. Arun Ross were awarded a three-year NSF grant under the Secure & Trustworthy Cyberspace (SaTC) program for their proposal entitled "Imparting Privacy to Biometric Data in Cyberspace".

Dr. Arun Ross (with Dr. Nasir Memon, NYU) was awarded a three-year NSF grant for their project entitled "The Master Print: Investigating and Addressing Vulnerabilities in Fingerprint-based Authentication Systems".

Science writer Carl Sherman's story on stuttering for the Dana Foundation website, titled Seeking Clues to Stuttering Deep Within the Brain, featured research by Prof. Devin McAuley.

Summer 2016
Dr. Mark Becker was invited by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and the National Institute of Standards and Technology to present his work investigating individual differences in cognition and personality that predict rare target detection at their Workshop on Developing Personnel Selection Tools for Forensic Scientists.

Summer 2016
Prof. Mark Reimers and colleague Bruce McNaughton received an NSF grant to study the dynamics of hippocampal-cortical communication during memory formation and recall.

Summer 2016
Prof. Susan Ravizza became a senior editor for the journal Brain Research.

Summer 2016
Prof. Mark Reimers received a Templeton Foundation grant to study the molecular coherence of genetic variants related to behavioral traits, including IQ.

Prof. Kim Fenn did an interview with Michigan Radio about the link between sleep deprivation and false confessions. You can listen to the story here.

Prof. Devin McAuley and colleagues' research on stuttering has been featured in a piece by WLNS. You can watch the video and read the story here.

Prof. Kim Fenn and colleagues recently had their sleep deprivation and false confession study featured in Time magazine, CBS news, IFLS, and on the subreddit /r/news.

Prof. William Hartmann and colleagues published their study "Transaural experiments and a revised duplex theory for the localization of low-frequency tones" in The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America.

Prof. Carol Myers-Scotton, adjunct professor in MSU's linguistics department, published a chapter in The Cambridge handbook of bilingual processing titled "Cross-language asymmetries in code-switching patterns, implications for bilingual language profuction."

Prof. Susan Ravizza's recent work on students' technology use in the classroom was featured in an article on Healthline.

Prof. Mark Reimers is leading an NSF-funded working group on data analysis for the new BRAIN technologies.

Prof. Jeremy Gray was co-author on a recent publication in Science, “Estimating the reproducibility of psychological science”.

Recent graduate Mina Hirzel was awarded the Baggett Fellowship, a one year post-baccalaureate research fellowship at the University of Maryland, College Park. Mina was an undergraduate researcher in the MSU Language Acquisition Lab for two and a half years.

For older news, check out our news archive here.