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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

Prof. Arun Ross and his colleague from NYU have had their research on the security of mobile fingerprint scanning featured in The New York Times, MSU Today, Popular Science, Homeland Security News Wire, and Science 360 News.

Professors Arun Ross, Xiaoming Liu, and Anil Jain received a 4-year grant from IARPA to conduct research on Presentation Attack Detection for fingerprint, face and iris biometric systems. [link]

CSE student Thomas Swearingen and his adviser Prof. Arun Ross won the runner up award for best paper at ISBA 2017. [link]

Research on laptop use and classroom learning by Prof. Susan Ravizza, Mitchell Uitvlugt, and Prof. Kim Fenn was featured in US News, BYU Radio, The Conversation, and numerous higher education journals [1, 2, 3, 4].

Prof. Cristina Schmitt received an NSF Grant, Effects of Variation and Variability in the Acquisition of Two Dialects of Spanish, to study first language acquisition of Spanish in the context of variability caused by contact between two very different varieties of Spanish: Paraguayan Spanish, which is heavily influenced by Guaraní (an indigenous language), and Rioplatense Spanish (spoken in Buenos Aires). [link]

Prof. Aline Godfroid received a Language Learning Early Career Research Grant for her validation project on "Measuring implicit and explicit L2 knowledge: Synthesizing 12 years of research."

Prof. 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.

For older news, check out our news archive here.