The Cognitive Science Community held its second annual Colloquium on Cognitive Science Saturday, featuring speakers, student presentations and a career panel and aimed to bring together University of Michigan students from all over campus interested in the multidisciplinary field of cognitive science. The Cognitive Science Community, which organized the event, is a student organization dedicated to fostering a community interested in the study of the brain.

Vivienne Chi, an LSA junior majoring in cognitive science and computer science, is the treasurer and special events coordinator of the Cognitive Science Community. Vivienne emphasized the interdisciplinary nature of the major, and how exciting it is when an event can bring together researchers and students from various departments and schools.

“It’s an opportunity to meet a lot of cognitive science people,” she said. “There aren’t many classes where cogsci students can get together because there are four tracks and people are all learning different material. It’s a great opportunity for people to come together and talk to each other about what they are studying.”

Cognitive science majors can focus in one of four areas: computation, decision, language or philosophy. Thus, students and faculty can be found studying cognition throughout many departments at the University.

Richard Lewis, director of the Weinberg Institute for Cognitive Science, echoed Chi’s sentiment, saying events such as the Colloquium bring together faculty and students at a large university. 

“The great thing about doing this here at Michigan is that Michigan is a huge, wonderful, diverse place with cognitive science happening all over multiple campuses,” he said in the opening remarks. 

Lewis expressed his enthusiasm for an event organized by students that brought together researchers from around campus.

“I’m excited about events like this because the Cognitive Science Community thought this up. In the span of a morning and an afternoon we are going to see research from across campus,” he said.

The colloquium featured talks by Psychology assistant professor Taraz Lee and Marketing professor Fred Feinberg. Lee discussed his path to a career in academia, his research on cognitive control and the phenomenon of choking under pressure. Feinberg explained how his research team uses big data from online dating sites to learn about human decision-making and dating behavior.

Later in the day, three undergraduates presented on their cognitive science research projects. Rohini Majumdar, an LSA junior studying cognitive science and economics, explained she was interested in cognitive science research because it combines data with human elements.

“I came in knowing that I wanted to study econ, but I was more interested in human decision-making,” she said.

The lab in which Majumdar works studies the ways doctors communicate with parents who need to make difficult medical decisions for their infants. The method they have found most effective is known as values-based decision-making and involves doctors facilitating a discussion with parents and encouraging them to make their own decisions rather than simply informing them of medical statistics.

“People want to hear the moral side of things; they are not always good at crunching the numbers,” she said. “It is kind of intuitive that parents should think about the choice they want to make, but we really needed to see the numbers to support that. In fact, values-based decision-making is good because it helps people be more decisive.”

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