Generally I am available on Fridays during the school year, and anytime during vacations and the summer. Email me (email@example.com) with the talks you are interested in hearing. If you want to hear more than one talk, you might be able to split the costs with another department.
Jim Davies (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an assistant professor at Carleton University's Institute of Cognitive Science. He investigates computational analogy, visual imagination, and creativity as the principal investigator of the Science of Imagination Laboratory. http://scienceofimaginationlab.org/
Science of Imagination (General)
Title: A Vision for the Science of Imagination
Imagination is a crucial process for hypothetical thinking, planning, dreaming, counterfactual thinking, and creativity. In this talk I will present how imagination can be studied scientifically, and the various endeavors we are currently pursuing in the Science of Imagination Laboratory in the Institute of Cognitive Science at Carleton University.
Below is my TEDxCarletonU talk, which is a non-technical, 12-minute version of the talk from March, 2010.
Title: Enhancing Creative Imagination
When you ask regular people to be creative, they come up with some surprisingly boring things. In this talk I will describe some creativity findings, what can be done to enhance creativity, and finally, suggest that maybe more creativity isn't always for the best.
The video here is for a talk given February 28, 2014 at Carleton University. 44 minutes.
Title: What makes some things compelling and others boring?
The talk is based on work from by book Riveted (2014). What do religion, television shows, and sporting events all have in common? They are all very interesting to people. Why do we find them so? You'd think that such a variety of phenomena would require a wide variety of explanations--but it turns out that the things people find compelling play on the same few psychological foundations in all of us. In this talk, Dr. Jim Davies will describe Compellingness Foundations Theory, a unified theory of why we find things interesting.
Title: Why People Can Find Abstruse Writing Compelling
In certain branches of the humanities, writing is difficult to understand, unclear, and deliberately written to be open to multiple interpretations, where in science writing, though sometimes filled with jargon, is written with the intent that there will be only one interpretation. What is the draw of difficult writing? In this talk, I will speculate on reasons from cognitive science. The talk is based on work from by book Riveted and from this article in Skeptic:
Davies, J. (2012). Academic obfuscations: The psychological attraction of postmodern nonsense. Skeptic 17:4, 44-47.
Title: The Role of Artificial Intelligence Methods in Cognitive Science
The gold standard for cognitive science is trans-disciplinary cognitive modeling of human behavior evaluated by quantitative comparisons with experiments involving human participants. However, this restrictive standard excludes much work in the history of cognitive science, and I argue sticking to this strict definition would impede future work in the field. In this talk, I examine conceptions of cognitive science and apply them to a breakdown of different kinds of cognitive modeling and AI, demonstrating that many different kinds of AI research have contributions to make to cognitive science. Even when a system cannot be evaluated by direct quantitative comparisons, rigorous methods exist to evaluate even novel qualitative work’s contribution.
Title: Visuo: Quantitative Estimation of Spatial Magnitudes Using Analogical Reasoning
Visuo is an implemented Python program that models visual reasoning. It takes as input a description of a scene in words (e.g., “small dog on a sunny street”) and produces estimates of the quantitative magnitudes of the qualitative input (e.g., the size of the dog and the brightness of the street). We claim that reasoners transfer quantitative knowledge to new concepts from distributions of familiar concepts in memory. We also claim that visuospatial magnitudes should be stored as distributions over fuzzy sets. We show that Visuo successfully predicts quantitative knowledge to new concepts. Based on work done with Jonathan Gagne.
Title: Modelling English Spatial Preposition Detectors
When shown a picture or asked to describe a scene people will use spatial prepositions to identify relations between objects. In this paper we present five algorithms for the detection of spatial relationships within an image. We discuss how best to represent human intuitions about spatial relationships using fuzzy ‘belief’ values and how such representations can be modeled after English spatial prepositions. The relationships modeled are above/below, adjacent to, occlusion, between, and close to.
Title: Constructive Adaptive Visual Analogy
I present Galatea, an implemented LISP program that implements adaptive problem-solving through transfer from distant analogs. It is the first program to transfer procedural problem-solving solutions using only visual information. I show that visual similarity can provide a useful means to access otherwise semantically-unrelated solutions. I present how the program works, how it models the results of two experiments, and its psychological plausibility.
Title: Don't Waste Student Work: Using Classroom Assignments to Further Wider Educational Goals and Research Abstract:
Every year college and graduate students across North America work on millions of assignments, and instructors and teaching assistants spend millions of hours grading them. These assignments help the students learn, but have no benefit for anyone else. In his talk, Dr. Davies will describe several kinds of assignments he has developed that he believes:
are particularly motivating
contribute to the greater educational and research communities.
Title: Creating Concept Questions (half hour lecture and optional half hour workshopping).
Abstract: Concept questions and polling are great additions to break up a lecture and introduce an engaging break that uses peer learning to help students with difficult concepts. In this talk, Dr. Davies (co-authored with Dr. Kim Hellemans) will talk about what concept questions are and how to use them to make lectures much more engaging.
Title: Engaging Yourself to Engage Students. (one hour)
Labs and lectures can be really boring, and I'm not just talking about the student experience. But there are ways to spice up a lab or classroom that saves you time and gets the students involved. In this talk Dr. Jim Davies will describe several tricks to make a great experience for everybody.
Title: The Cognitive Importance of Testimony
As a belief source, testimony has long been held by theorists of the mind to play a deeply important role in human cognition. It is unclear, however, just why testimony has been afforded such cognitive importance. We distinguish three suggestions on the matter. According to the number claim, testimony’s cognitive importance is the consequence of human cognitive agents typically acquiring at least as many beliefs from testimony as from any other distinct belief source. According to the reliability claim, testimony is cognitively important because it is at least as truth-conducive as any other source. According to the scope claim, testimony is cognitively important because, as least as much as any other source, it affords us the ability to represent significantly more of the world than we would be able to in its absence.
After laying out these three suggestions, we go on to argue that there is little hope of grounding testimony’s cognitive importance in either the number claim or the reliability claim. We conclude with a tentative exploration of the basis and plausibility of the scope claim. Based on work done with David Matheson: The cognitive importance of testimony
Title: The Microtheory Model of Belief Contamination
When imagining fabricated or hypothetical beliefs, we almost
never use them to infer things about the real world. Somehow these
beliefs (say, about future imagined events, or things that are true in
“The Fellowship of the Ring”) are kept functionally separate from the
beliefs we hold about the real world. It has been suggested that such
beliefs are kept in quarantine in a “pretense box.” Drawing on
solutions to this problem used in AI (particularly the CYC project) we
propose that this theory is insufficient, and offer our own, the
microtheory model (MTM) of beliefs, which holds that each belief is
tagged with the microtheories in which it is true. This is
philosophically-oriented talk based on a paper
co-authored with Jeanette Bicknell: Imagination and belief: The microtheories model of hypothetical thinking
Title: Task-Based Distributed Cognition
The limits of the extended mind hypothesis preclude it from including distributed cognitive systems without human beings, such as ant hills, computers, and brain areas. Intracranialist views suffer the same problems. This paper describes the task-based theory of distributed cognition, which solves these problems, providing a comprehensive framework for better defining the bounds of cognition in any conceivable system, at several levels of abstraction. I evaluate the theory by comparing anthropological data of a biomedical engineering laboratory and human mental imagery. This is based on a paper co-authored with Kourken Michaelian: Identifying and individuating cognitive systems: a task-based distributed cognition alternative to agent-based extended cognition
The Psychology of Science Fiction
I have published numerous book chapters relating psychology and cognitive science research to popular science fiction franchises. I can give talks on any of the topics explored in these chapters: