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Cognitive Science Conference
Returns First Week of March

CSULB’s Psychology and Philosophy Departments, in cooperation with the university’s Center for Cognitive Science. will host the return to the Karl Anatol Conference Center of the annual cognitive science conference from Thursday, March 6, through Saturday, March 8, on the topic “Horizons of Vision Research.”

“This year, just as with last year’s mirror neuron conference, we have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to speakers,” said conference organizer Charles Wallis, director of the Center for Cognitive Science and a member of the Philosophy Department since 2000. “All the invited speakers on the program this year are important vision researchers in psychology, philosophy and/or neuroscience.”

All daytime presentations will be heard in the Anatol Center. The conference begins on Thursday, March 6, with University of Iowa’s Andrew Hollingsworth at 10:30 a.m., who will examine the use of visual memory to construct representations of scenes and to establish continuity across eye movements. The University of British Columbia’s Ronald Rensink will speak at 1 p.m.

CSULB’s Wayne Wright, a member of the Philosophy Department since 2005, will speak at 2:30 p.m. Wright is an expert on vision science, especially color perception. His presentation will include extensions of research he has published with Wallis in the forthcoming Oxford Handbook on Philosophy and Neuroscience and with UC Irvine’s Kent Johnson in Erkenntnis and forthcoming Visual Neuroscience. “Wayne is a very active researcher and terrific addition to the CSULB cognitive science community,” said Wallis.

The University of Western Ontario’s Melvyn Goodale, a Canada Research professor in Visual Neuroscience, will speak at 6:30 p.m. at the Long Beach Guest House Hotel on Pacific Coast Highway where all the evening discussions will be held.

On Friday, March 7, the University of Pennsylvania’s Russell Epstein speaks at 10:30 a.m., followed by UC Irvine’s Kimberly Jameson who will discuss forms of evidence typically used to demonstrate color representations across individuals and groups of individuals. The University of Toronto’s Mohan Matthen will speak at 2:30 p.m. and UC San Diego’s VS Ramachandran speaks at 6:30 p.m.

On Saturday, March 8, University of Southern California’s Irving Biederman, the Howard W. Dornsife professor of neuroscience, speaks at 10:30 a.m., UC Santa Barbara’s Jason Droll at 1 p.m. and the University of Illinois of Chicago’s David Hilbert at 2:30 p.m. NYU’s Laurence Maloney speaks at 6:30 p.m. on a series of experiments evaluating how well human observers estimate surface properties analogous to color such as gloss and roughness.

The interdisciplinary conference comes at a good time in vision research, said Wallis. “Traditional vision research has worked largely on the assumption that the brain processes visual input from the retina so as to construct a highly detailed, picture-like internal representation of the scene before the eyes through a cumulative series of computationally and representationally intensive operations,” he said. “Many of the researchers attending this conference have challenged that assumption, by revealing that the brain does not generate a single, general purpose visual representation. Instead, vision involves two streams of semi-independent processing geared toward different visual tasks and emphasizing different properties of the visual scene. Moreover, neither of these processing streams creates a complete, highly detailed picture-like representation of the entire visual scene.”

Conference researchers are pushing the understanding of vision to later and later processing stages. “As a result, scientists are now working to understand when and how visual processing integrates with other cognitive functions,” said Wallis. “In light of these two features of vision science, we see people reconsidering both how best to characterize vision’s functions and how best to study vision so as to capture these new functions. Our conference hopes to make a small contribution to that effort by bringing together vision researchers to share their ideas and findings.”

Wallis would compare this year’s conference with any other. “You won’t often get a chance to see so many highly regarded researchers in a single forum,” he said. “Additionally, the informal and relatively small nature of the conference makes it nearly unique. Participants and attendees consistently comment on how well this intimate and open conference makes for an exciting and informative event.”