Accepted to the FENS Hertie Winter School 2016

This week, I received confirmation that I will be able to attend the FENS Hertie Winter School in Obergurgl, Austria in December. This year’s topic is Memory Mechanisms in Humans: from Physiology to Behavior and Computational Models. This will be a great opportunity for me to expand my network and to learn more about memory on different levels and from different perspectives.

In the last months, I have been spending a lot of time and energy on finishing my PhD. Which is great. But it does make me feel a bit too focussed. This winter school comes at a perfect time: by December, I will have submitted my PhD thesis and will be thinking more about what to do in the future. I hope that meeting other researchers in Obergurgl and learning more about what some of the leading labs in the field are working on will give me new ideas and broaden my perspective again.

Proceedings for CogSci 2016 are online

The annual meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (i.e., CogSci) will start in Philadelphia next week. The proceedings are now available online. Our conference paper is part of those proceedings and can be cited as:

Sense, F., Meijer, R. R., Van Rijn, H. (2016). On the Link between Fact Learning and General Cognitive Ability. In Proceedings of the 38th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.

Ready for ICCM

I finalized my poster yesterday and had it printed. On silk. Nice and foldable so I don’t have to take a poster tube. I am looking forward to the International Conference on Cognitive Modeling (ICCM) and present this preliminary, exploratory work there. I’ll be good to talk to some people and get some input.

Here’s the poster if you’re interested:

ICCM16 poster thumb

Can’t wait to hang out with Garrett Swan at Penn State. While I am there, I’ll be working on my CogSci talk…

Psychonomics submission accepted as poster

As reported about a month ago, I submitted an abstract to the annual meeting of the Psychonomic Society in Boston in November. Today I received an e-mail that the submission was accepted as a poster. Awesome!

As I mentioned in the previous post, I didn’t expect to get a talk because those are handed out based on seniority. In fact, the acceptance e-mail states:

I am pleased to inform you that your submission to the Annual Meeting of the Psychonomic Society has been accepted for presentation as a poster. […] All of the spaces on the spoken program were filled by Fellows of the Society and the nine Member Select-Speaker Award recipients. […] No other Member papers, Student Member or non-member papers could be put on the spoken program. In addition, a few spoken paper requests by Fellows could not be honored. I apologize if you are a Fellow and were given a poster instead of a spoken presentation. Once the spoken program was full, posters were assigned no matter what preference was indicated.

Which means I am quite happy to have my Student Member submission accepted at all.

I did not get a CANTAB Research Grant

I submitted an application for the CANTAB Research Grant and last week, I got the following reply:

We were particularly impressed with your application and the research you are hoping to complete but unfortunately we had to pick just one winner from your region and your proposal was not successful on this occasion.

Which sounds very nice. But the mail continued “[w]e would however still very much like to support your research” and went on to offer me a 20% discount.

I just wish these defaults text were less over the top. I much preferred the message I got when I didn’t get a Travel Award for CogSci:

I am sorry to inform you that you did not receive the travel award for which you applied. We had many more requests than could be filled, and the choice of awardees was somewhat a matter of chance, chance that unfortunately fell to others.


State-trace paper published online

We submitted our paper “Opportunity for verbalization does not improve visual change detection performance: A state-trace analysis” to Behavior Research Methods and it is now available online.

In the paper, we tested whether engaging in articulatory suppression (i.e., repeating aloud non-sense syllables) during a visual change detection task is necessary to obtain useful data. We conclude that, “Enforcing precautionary articulatory suppression does not seem to be necessary to get interpretable data from visual change detection tasks.”. This conclusion is based on a Bayesian state-trace analysis of data from 15 participants that each did about 2,500 trials of a simple visual change detection task.

This paper is based on the work that I did during the first year of my PhD (’12 – ’13). It has gone through multiple re-writes and I am very happy that it is now published in Behavior Research Methods. My thanks to my co-authors (Candice Morey, Melissa Prince, Andrew Heathcote, and Richard Morey) for their help and contribution.

Abstract submitted to Psychonomics

Yesterday was the deadline for abstract submissions for the annual meeting of the Psychonomics Society in Boston in November. I’d really like to go to present my work there so I submitted an abstract. Usually, when you write an abstract, you include the research question, how you addressed it, what you discovered, and what it means. In this case, I went a slightly different route: I explained the question and how we are going to address it but then stated that we just pre-registered an experiment. Thus, we don’t have the results yet. But I think the data will tell an interesting story either way and I hope that the abstract makes that clear.

I am curious whether they will accept it and let me present the results there. Unfortunately, the selection of submitted abstracts seems to be largely based on seniority so I don’t think my chances are too good as a student member. We’ll see.

Experiment pre-registered on OSF!

Back in March, I slowly formed the idea for an experiment investigating the effects of motivation on fact learning. I got my good friend Berry van den Berg involved – he knows a lot about rewards, attention, and motivation. We decided to manipulate motivation by means of monetary rewards. To this end, we split the items in two groups: half are associated with a high reward and the other half are associated with a low reward. During the learning, the color in which the items appeared indicated whether they’d yield a high or a low reward.

Crucially, the amount is paid out based on how many items are correctly recalled on a test 15 minutes after the learning session. What we are interested in, however, is how this affects behavior during learning. Participants are studying the facts with our adaptive fact learning system so they don’t have any control over the order in which new items are introduced and old items are repeated – the system handles all that. In a way, the learning and the system have different priorities here: the learner will (or, I guess: should) try to focus on the high reward items to maximize their pay-off. The system, on the other hand, treats all items equally and will try to make sure that items are repeated before they are forgotten, which, in turn, will probably be more urgent for low-reward-prospect items.

We are very curious how the learner’s intentions and the system’s mechanisms will interact and how this will be reflected in both the behavioral outcome measures and the estimated model parameter. You can find more details as well as the sampling plan and the planned analyses in the Open Science Framework repository for the project.

This is the first time I pre-register an experiment and also the first time I use optional stopping in the data collection. I am also very glad to have Don van Ravenzwaaij on board for this project – he helped me with all that stuff a lot. Now I am very curious for the data to pour in. The first data collection session is scheduled for today…

Application submitted for the CANTAB Research Grant

I just submitted my application for the CANTAB Research Grant. The title of the outlined proposal is Mapping the Cognitive Terrain of Individual Differences in Fact Learning. What I would like to do with CANTAB is run an experiment that is a fine-grained exploration of the cognitive concepts that are related to the parameter that is estimated by our fact-learning model. The model estimates the parameter to figure out when a learner is likely to forget an item and to make sure it is repeated before that happens. We have shown in earlier work that this parameter is an excellent predictor of subsequent test performance but we know very little about the underlying cognitive processes it reflects.

One would assume that the parameter reflects mainly memory-related processes (given its roots in the ACT-R declarative memory module). But it is not unreasonable to assume – in my opinion – that additional attentional-executive processes are also reflected: someone that is better at keeping their attentional resources engaged in the task (i.e., learning) might end up learning things quicker. But we don’t know. With this project, I hope to find out.

(As such, this project would be a great extension of the work I have submitted to CogSci  [and was accepted] and that is still in progress.)

CogSci 2016 paper revision submitted

The conference paper I submitted to CogSci 2016 has been accepted for an oral presentation. I implemented the reviewers’ suggestions and clarified some points in the paper and just submitted the revised and final version of the paper. I also uploaded the final version of the conference paper to the corresponding Github repository. You can find the PDF there.

Now I am curious what time slot they’ll assign me for my presentation. I hope it’s early on during the conference but not in the very first session.