Aarhus University Seal

IMC Tuesday Seminars 2023

IMC seminar 2023-12-05

Using cognitive models to understand how semantic memory changes with impairment

Michael Lee, Department of Cognitive Sciences, University of California Irvine

Abstract: Understanding how semantic memory changes because of impairment is a basic challenge for cognitive science, and an important question for society. A rich source of real-world behavioral evidence to address this challenge is provided by memory tests routinely administered in clinical care settings. We use tens of thousands of test results from two tasks in the Mild Cognitive Impairment Screen (MCIS). These tests were taken by thousands of people ranging from healthy controls to patients with different levels of impairment and dementia. The first memory task requires people to identify the “odd one out” of a set of three animal names. The second task is a surprise free recall of all of the animal names presented in the first task. We develop novel cognitive models of both the odd-one-out choices and the free recall behavior. This model-based approach allows us to test different hypotheses about whether and how semantic memory changes as impairment increases. For the odd-one-out task, contrary to previous claims, we find no evidence that the semantic representation of the animals changes. Instead, changes in performance can be explained in terms of worsening access to memory and the use of compensating response strategies. For the free recall task, we find that access to episodic information worsens with mild cognitive impairment but semantic information remains relatively more intact. As impairment progresses to dementia, however, access to semantic information is also lost. We emphasize how the use of cognitive models increases the theoretical insight into the changes in semantic memory, and provides a fine-grained clinical measurement capability that can be used in detection, diagnosis, and treatment.

IMC seminar 2023-11-07

Shared responsibility in collective decisions

Bahador Bahrami, Senior Research Fellow, Humboldt Foundation; Senior Research Scientist, University of Munich

Abstract: Research investigating collective decision-making has focused primarily on the improvement of accuracy in collective decisions and less on the motives that drive individuals to make these decisions. We argue that a strong but neglected motive for making collective decisions is minimizing the material and psychological burden of an individual’s responsibility. Making difficult decisions with others shields individuals from the consequences of negative outcomes by reducing regret, punishment and stress. Considering shared responsibility as a key motivation to join groups helps understand behaviours with societal implications such as political voting, committing norm violations, predicting natural disasters and making health-related decisions.

IMC seminar 2023-11-28

Gamification of the reflective exercise in the Entrepreneurship classroom: Can a mountain goat really prod you to make better reflections – Tales of a “SavvyGoat”

Rajiv Vaid Basaiawmoit, Head of SciTech Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Aarhus University

Abstract: Entrepreneurship Education (EEd) in HEI’s is generally a practice based education (Neck & Greene, 2014). However, the fast-paced nature of EEd today from mapping the market needs to creating compelling pitches may unintentionally undermine the reflective component in experiential EEd. Educators who understand and value reflective learning try and incorporate reflections into an entrepreneurial process either by deploying reflective journals or diaries (Jones, 2019; Lundmark et. al., 2019, Hagg, 2021). 

The use of reflective logs, diaries, journals, post-course reflection essays are the most common form of reflection exercises in the EEd classroom today. However, I have identified 3 weaknesses of these current methods: 

Perception of value of the reflection log
Understanding what “reflection” really means
Reflections as a solitary activity

To address these weaknesses and to also improve the quality of reflections in especially science and engineering students, I have partnered up with a startup from London – called SavvyGoat – who have developed a tool that tries to gamify the journalling and reflection activity. In a very practice-oriented approach – this talk will ask if we can make the reflection task modular sprinkled throughout a course rather than at the very end? Are team reflections more effective than individual reflections or complementary? Do competition and reflection go hand-in-hand? 

IMC seminar 2023-11-21

Compensating Discrimination in Danish Schools

Julian Schüssler, postdoc, Centre for the Experimental-Philosophical Study of Discrimination (CEPDISC), Department of Political Science, Aarhus University

Abstract: Discriminatory practices among decision-makers aren't uniform; they can differ quite substantially. This isn't just a bland statement; it allows us to delve into the complex mechanisms behind discrimination. We study this in the context of biased grading in Danish schools. We argue that teacher biases are influenced by specific classroom experiences with demographic (gender/migrant) groups. This can lead to inequality-reinforcing biases, and other times, to compensating ones. Examining large-scale administrative data on Danish students, we show that there is wide variation in biases across teachers and a robust compensation effect. Teachers who have seen a particular demographic group under-perform display more positive biases towards that group than teachers who have witnessed over-performance. Methodologically, the analysis illustrates the utility of causal directed acyclic graphs when analyzing observational data in the social sciences. 

IMC seminar 2023-11-14

The path-dependence of caregiving

Arnault-Quentin Vermillet, postdoc, Department of Linguistics, Cognitive Science and Semiotics, Aarhus University

Abstract: Although child rearing in humans is fundamentally cooperative, the bulk of carework of families in WEIRD countries majoritarily falls on women. Biases in caregiving are reflected in and influenced by social policies, like the unequal distribution of parental leave, and ideas about traditional family structures, gender and sex norms. Moreover, the landscape of theories and practices in child development research focuses primarily on mother-infant dyads, relying on an evolutionary framework to explain the development of differentiated behaviours between men and women. In this IMC Tuesday Talk, I will present some of the work I did during my PhD. I will propose a social, behavioural and cognitive framework for studying caregiving organisation in parents, emphasising the importance of studying the dynamic behaviour of the family as a whole. Focusing on crying, an infant signalling behaviour that affords care, I will discuss 3 studies. In the first study, I evaluated the prevalence and development of cry duration in early infancy. In the second one, I investigated the extent of fathers’ and mothers’ engagement in nighttime caregiving when mothers are on leave, and when fathers are on leave. Finally, in the last study, I assessed the existence of gender differences in sensitivity to infant signals in two different experimental contexts: while asleep at night, and while engaged in a dyadic non-cooperative setting. Does sensitivity to infant cries drive the gendered division of care work? Come to find out!

IMC seminar 2023-11-07

Co-Perception: Sharing experience without coordination

Ophelia Deroy, Professor of Philosophy of Mind and Neuroscience at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich

Abstract: This talk explores the concept of co-perception, which differs from the traditional notions of joint attention and action. 
Co-perception encompasses the ability to discern objects and spaces perceived by others from those kept private, without relying on complex mind-reading or mutual coordination. This concept provides a new understanding of social scenarios, from shared contexts to competitive interactions, and the talk will present evidence on how sharing experiences extends beyond affective responses to impact perceptual processes.

IMC seminar 2023-09-19

Alignment: a universal mechanism for social creatures

Uta Frith, Emeritus Professor of Cognitive Development, UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience

Abstract: Social creatures align with each other spontaneously. They move together and learn together without needing a director to tell them what to do. Alignment occurs at many different levels. At the physical level the direction and synchrony of movement is copied as observed in flocks of birds or shoals of fish. At the goal level, alignment goes beyond copying to allow for complementary movements, a critical aspect of successful joint action. In humans only, there is a higher level still in the form of mental alignment. This has a critical role in communication and joint decision-making. A desirable consequence of alignment with others is an increase in affiliation and liking, which creates opportunities for altruism. Problems can arise from choosing the wrong level of alignment. Such problems are monitored and can often be solved by metacognitive processes.

IMC seminar 2023-10-31

Yer a Wizard! A Biocultural Approach to Supernatural Storytelling

Armin Stefanović, PhD candidate at the Doctoral School for Literatures and Cultures in English, University of Szeged, Hungary

Abstract: Supernatural storytelling is as old as the story itself. From myths and legends all the way to modern fantasy fiction, humans all around the world are attracted to various supernatural agents, magical powers, fantastic beasts, and imaginary worlds. Stories about the supernatural have always been an important aspect of human culture that we can trace from the Upper Paleolithic cave art, around 40,000 years ago. I argue that stories that have supernatural elements are an extension of our magical thinking capabilities. I hypothesize that they facilitate a cognitive play that helps us process and regulate emotions. Furthermore, I see supernatural stories, religious and fantasy alike, as playgrounds for magical thinking. They transmit this evolutionary significant tool to the new generation. I apply this theory to the understanding of the Harry Potter stories.

IMC seminar 2023-10-24

The Role of Ethics in Interdisciplinary Research in Artificial Intelligence

Giada Pistilli, Principal Ethicist at Hugging Face, PhD Candidate in Philosophy at Sorbonne Université

Abstract: As Artificial Intelligence (AI) becomes increasingly integrated into our daily lives, its governance cannot be left to STEM disciplines alone. This talk aims to shed light on the indispensable role of ethics in the interdisciplinary research landscape of AI. We will journey through the complexities that arise when ethical considerations intersect with legal frameworks and technical capabilities. We will then delve into the role of philosophy and, more specifically, ethics in guiding AI research and governance. We will scrutinize different facets of compliance and understand how moral values serve as its backbone. Following this, we will discuss a pragmatic approach to values through the lens of John Dewey's philosophy and contemplate the intrinsic nature of these values. The conversation will then pivot from ethics to law, examining the transition from the AI Act to the development and use of Model Cards. In an effort to bridge theory and practice, we will explore the governance of AI through the collaboration of ethics, law, and computer science. We will illustrate these relationships through a practical case study — the BigScience workshop and its multilingual Large Language Model, BLOOM.

IMC seminar 2023-10-03

Measuring Persuasion in Text

Amalie Pauli, PhD student, Department of Computer Science, Aarhus University

Abstract: In a time, characterised by information and communication, the ability to persuade through text holds a new importance. We encounter text in news, advertisements and political debates, which holds an inherent agenda of convincing, persuading, or even misleading readers. We posit that language plays a role in this, and pose the question: How to computationally measure or quantify how persuasive the language use is in a text - or in a generative model? I don't have a convincing answer to this yet, but this is a focal point of my ongoing PhD-project. Methodologically, I am working with semantic representations of text with a focus on efficient settings. In this talk, I will both motivate the problem of detecting ‘persuasion’, and present my latest work on few-shot text classification using sentence embeddings and semantic label information in an efficient setting, that even runs on personal PCs.

IMC seminar 2023-09-26

Explicit metacognition: our human superpower

Chris Frith, Emeritus Professor of Neuropsychology, Wellcome Centre for Human Neuroimaging, UCL and Honorary Research Fellow, Institute of Philosophy, University of London

Abstract: Explicit metacognition is the uniquely human ability to reflect on the workings of our minds and to share these reflections with others. Through this sharing we learn how to interpret our feelings and how to manipulate our reports of them to gain advantage. For example, we can express our feeling of confidence in different ways depending on whether we want to cooperate with others or to compete with them. Explicit metacognition also allows us to learn from the experiences of others rather than through our own direct experience. Through this process lower-level cognitive processes can be changed, and new habits formed. This process is fundamental for enhancing social cohesion and for the creation of cumulative culture.

IMC seminar 2023-05-30

The Creative Potential of Evolving Constraints in Peer-to-Peer Reciprocal Coaching – A Three-way Investigation

Alan O’Leary, Associate Professor in Film and Media in Digital Contexts, School of Communication and Culture, Dept of Media and Journalism Studies, Aarhus University
Martin Høybye, PhD Student, School of Culture and Society, Dept of Archaeology and Heritage Studies, Aarhus University
Marie Hallager Andersen, dance artist and filmmaker

Abstract: How can the use of evolving creative constraints in interdisciplinary peer-to-peer reciprocal coaching contribute to the effective development of creative and creative-critical projects?

This presentation is a report of the experience and outcomes of the project ‘The Creative Potential of Evolving Constraints in Peer-to-Peer Reciprocal Coaching: A Three-way Investigation’, supported by IMC seed funding. The project was designed to gauge the utility of evolving creative constraints in the development of projects by the three participants (referred to as ‘makers’): a songwriter and doctoral researcher (Høybye), an academic video-essayist (O’Leary), and a dance artist and filmmaker (Hallager Andersen). 

The term creative constraints refers to deliberately adopted restrictions to choices in a given creative or creative-critical project. Constraint-based procedures are commonly employed and recognised as generative in artistic and design contexts, but they are also used in experimental academic work and have obvious relevance for practice research projects in an academic context. The modifier evolving refers to the adaptation of a constraint or set of constraints, or the application of further/different constraints, as a project proceeds, i.e., in response to work in progress. Three-way Investigation employed peer-to-peer reciprocal coaching to feed into the development of the three makers’ projects through the generation of evolving (sets of) constraints. This reciprocal coaching was peer to peer because each maker was expert in their own field and engaged in a project being offered for discussion and feedback even as each offered formative feedback on the other two makers’ projects. 

The presentation will set out the design of Three-way Investigation, and its theoretical coordinates. It will assess the utility of evolving constraint-setting by sharing the progress made in the four makers’ projects over a the series of peer-to-peer coaching meetings. 

IMC seminar 2023-06-27

Investigating the Ecology of Communication in Wild Spotted Hyenas

Frants Havmand Jensen, Senior scientist, Department of Ecoscience, Aarhus University

Abstract: Spotted hyenas are highly social carnivores that live in fluid fission-fusion societies called clans. Hyena clans are typically composed of multiple unrelated matrilines that cooperate to defend territory from other clans, and to defend resources within their territory from other megacarnivores. Yet hyenas also live in a strict matrilineal system where social rank determines access to resources, which means that lower ranking animals are better off finding and catching food on their own rather than sharing with conspecifics. Here we investigate the role that acoustic communication plays in mediating long-range interactions between individuals. We use a combination of machine learning approaches as well as traditional playback experiments to investigate how long-range contact signals - termed whoops - function in hyena societies, I will also go through some of the recent technological innovations we have implemented to investigate the role of communication in coordination and collective action on an unprecedented scale, and how we have just recently been able to tag an entire spotted hyena clan with sound and movement recording collars that allow for quantifying every single acoustic interaction within this complex social network.

Seed Funded projects 2022 - June session

Presentation of studies and results from projects that received an IMC Seed Funding grant in 2022


IMC seminar 2023-06-20

The taste of cooperation – Disentangling bottom-up versus top-down influences of shared food experience on social affiliation

Qian Janice Wang, assistant professor, Department of Food Science, University of Copenhagen
Anna Zamm, assistant professor, Department of Linguistics, Cognitive Science and Semiotics, Aarhus University

Abstract: Sharing food is a culturally universal bonding experience. Emerging evidence suggests that eating the same food, or even sharing from the same plate, can promote trust and cooperation between strangers. However, the sensory and cognitive mechanisms by which food sharing facilitates social affiliation are still unknown. The present project aims to disentangle sensory (shared food experience) from cognitive (knowledge of sharing) contributions to social outcomes of food sharing. Two lab-based food-sharing studies will be conducted where, by manipulating what participants are told about the shared foods and what they actually eat, we can disassociate the cognitive knowledge of food-sharing from the sensory experience. Partners will subsequently complete a social coordination game that either requires cognitive cooperation (Study 1, economic game) or sensorimotor coordination (Study 2, synchronization of dyadic finger-tapping). Thus, the present project will elucidate how different pathways to social affiliation via food-sharing (sensory versus cognitive) impact coordination across distinct domains of social behavior. 

IMC seminar 2023-06-20

Voice- and speech-based markers of neuropsychiatric conditions: assessing methodological and ethical foundations for clinical application

Alberto Parola, postdoc, Department of Linguistics, Cognitive Science and Semiotics, Aarhus University

Abstract: Promising ML applications have shown great potential to identify vocal and speech markers of the most important neuropsychiatric conditions (e.g., Hitczenko et al., 2021; Cohen et al., 2021; Corcoran et al., 2020) and to develop systems able to monitor patients' symptoms and assist clinicians during the assessment process. However, these efforts face important limitations: the limited replicability and generalizability of previous results (Parola et al., 2022; Fusaroli et al., 2021), few attempts to explicitly account for the heterogeneity of the disorders (Mittal, 2021), and no concrete translation into effective clinical applications yet. What is critically lacking is an explicit reflection on the risks and limitations of ML applications that can support the development of robust, effective, and ethically grounded translational work. In this project, we will explore avenues to improve the clinical impact of ML applications in speech and voice research, focusing primarily on applicability and ethical concerns.  

To this end, we draw on an already collected large dataset of voice and speech samples from the Danish High Risk and Resilience Study - VIA7 study (Gantriis et al., 2019), which examined 522 children born to parents diagnosed with schizophrenia (SZ) or bipolar disorder (BP). Our goal is to develop conservative (i.e., more robust and generalizable) ML and NLP pipelines to identify vocal and language markers of clinical symptoms in children at high-risk, that can serve as a reference for future studies. In addition, we aim to assess the impact of heterogeneity (e.g., socioeconomic, demographic, and clinical differences) and the presence of potential methodological biases and limitations, and robustly test the reliability of the results against various preprocessing and analytical procedure. Finally, we will explore how ML techniques can concretely support the development of robust, effective, and ethically founded clinical applications, and evaluate how to include from the very design of a study a consideration of risks, limitations, and ethical practices. The final outcome is to provide a first solid effort - both conceptually and methodologically - for the development of better practices in ML, SSP and NLP clinical research.

IMC seminar 2023-06-13

A ‘fine ear for messiness and contradictions’: ‘Literariness’ at work in interdisciplinary collaboration

Angela Woods, Professor of Medical Humanities, Department of English Studies, Durham University

Abstract: Over the last ten years, the UK has seen a sharp increase in the number of intellectually ambitious, humanities-led research investigations of health and human experience. These projects have both responded to and helped define a ‘critical’ turn in medical humanities characterised by more ‘entangled’ and experimental ways of working. In my roles as Co-Director of Hearing the Voice (a large, interdisciplinary study of voice-hearing based at Durham University from 2012-2022), Director of the UK’s Institute for Medical Humanities, and collaborator and advisor to other research teams, I have become fascinated by the way projects in our field imagine, actualise and value the contributions of particular disciplines. This talk will share findings of an interview study Dr Jamie Rákóczi and I conducted with literary studies academics who had worked on two or more critical medical humanities projects. What happens to literature, literariness, the literary text, and the literary scholar as they get caught up in collaborative, interdisciplinary, critical, and health-related projects? What are the theories of literature and of interdisciplinarity that emerge—not in abstraction, contemplation, or op-ed rhetoric but on the ground: in negotiation with funders, colleagues, managers, clinical and community collaborators? This talk will, I hope, be an invitation to wider discussion of some of the specific challenges and critical potential of research in and beyond the critical medical humanities. 

IMC seminar 2023-05-23

Social interaction in cool costumes

Ingela Visuri, Senior lecturer, Department of Religious Studies, Dalarna University; Postdoctoral researcher, Interacting Minds Centre, Department of Culture, Cognition and Computation, Aarhus University

Abstract: It is widely acknowledged that education promotes well-being, but we also know that many autistic pupils struggle to participate in school. This presentation provides an overview of the outcomes achieved through an action research project conducted in two special educational schools for autistic pupils (10-19 years old) where we implemented a play-based approach to encourage and enhance participation in school activities. The initial aim was to support social learning through live action roleplay (larp), but as our understanding of participation was widened, we incorporated additional elements such as collaborative world-building, storyline development, character creation, costume design, and a workshop where the pupils crafted magical support animals. This promoted increased agency among the pupils as they got to choose between various activities and determine in what way they preferred to participate. In this presentation, I will primarily highlight two aspects: (1) the role of playfulness and humor in strengthening the relationships between pupils and educators, and (2) the recognition that participation can take various forms, of which some may not be immediately apparent. From a cognitive point of view, I will also propose that (a) larping provides a safe and brave space where autistic individuals can push their social boundaries, and (b) that narratives are particularly favorable in relation to autism, as they provide an interactional context that facilitates social interaction.

Seed Funded projects 2022 - May session

Presentation of studies and results from projects that received an IMC Seed Funding grant in 2022


IMC seminar 2023-05-16

Interacting Minds Interdisciplinary Research Podcast

Savhannah Schulz and Kirsi Tilk, Interacting Minds Centre, Aarhus University

Abstract: Interacting Minds is an interdisciplinary research podcast and science communication project hosted by Arnault Quentin Vermillet and Savhannah Schulz. In each episode ofthe podcast, the two are joined by fellow interdisciplinary researchers to explore and discuss the work they have been doing and share a glimpse of the journey that brought them there. Outside of the recording studio, the project attempts to understand how researchers can build and maintain sustainable science communication platforms to build meaningful knowledge sharing exchanges with the public.

IMC seminar 2023-05-16

Communication Structures, Knowledge Distribution, and Meta-Knowledge Updating

Kyosuke Tanaka, postdoc, Department of Management, Aarhus University

Abstract: Transactive memory systems (TMSs), colloquially known as ‘knowledge of who knows what,’ have been identified as a source of competitive advantage for organizations. To serve as a source of continuing competitive advantage, TMSs must be non-replicable across organizations but also adaptable to changing tasks and environmental conditions. This study investigates how a TMS updates when tasks change. Focusing on meta-knowledge—knowledge about the links between domains of knowledge and locations of that knowledge in a team, we develop a computer simulation where agents complete multiple decision-making tasks, with new task knowledge given to the team in between tasks. We vary the agents’ team communication network (centralized vs. decentralized) and the nature of knowledge distribution (generalized vs. specialized) to examine the extent to which new knowledge is incorporated into the team’s transactive memory, which in turn impacts team performance. From the simulation results, we derive testable hypotheses and propose an experimental design. Finally, by conducting an online group experiment, we test the hypotheses.

IMC seminar 2023-05-09

Faces, Voices, Social Expectations, and First Impressions: Insights from Autism

Ruth Grossman, Professor, Department of Communication Sciences & Disorders, Emerson College

Abstract: During every face-to-face conversation, whether in person or on Zoom, we process a myriad of visual and auditory signals that lead us to form first impressions of our conversation partners within seconds. Research has shown that first impressions formed of autistic individuals tend to be less favorable than those formed of non-autistic individuals. This presentation will explore some of these findings, as well as various factors that lead to these less favorable impressions, including facial and vocal expressions, as well as the social expectations of the conversation partners.

IMC seminar 2023-05-02

Functional connectivity patterns enabling working memory processes

Barbara Berger, Postdoc, AIAS-COFUND Fellow, Aarhus University

Abstract: Working memory (WM) is one of the three key components of executive functions (EF) along with inhibition and cognitive flexibility. EF are at the core of our everyday functioning enabling us to focus our attention, inhibit responses and allow updating of rules we follow. While these components are functionally distinct, they are also intertwined with often shared, partially overlapping cortical mechanisms and regions. Item maintenance in WM, for instance, also requires attention allocation, inhibition of unwanted sensory input and motor output as well as the ability to switch one’s focus. Hence it is not surprising that such complex set of operations are supported by a large distributed network of cortical areas. Our brain supports this chaotic mix of tasks by optimally aligning activation in various different regions apparently seamlessly. Unless something goes wrong.
The impairment of EF processes in general and WM in particular can have devastating effects on people. Depending on the severity, it can make it impossible for patients to function autonomously.
In this talk I will present findings from my research using non-invasive electrophysiology (EEG/MEG) combined with neurostimulation (TMS) identifying long-range network dynamics that can reliably predict behavioural outcome of higher cognitive operations that are part of the family of EF, like the allocation of cognitive resources for successful WM performance. I will present network disruptions manifested in disorders like for instance Schizophrenia that could underly WM impairment and a brief outlook why and how understanding basic mechanisms can directly translate to therapeutic interventions.

Seed Funded projects 2022 - April session

Presentation of studies and results from projects that received an IMC Seed Funding grant in 2022

IMC seminar 2023-04-25

Heart Talk

Johanne Nedergaard, PhD student, Department of Linguistics, Cognitive Science and Semiotics, Aarhus University
Mikkel Wallentin, Professor, Department of Linguistics, Cognitive Science and Semiotics, Aarhus University

Abstract: Speech addressed to the self (self-talk) is a prominent part of most people’s conscious experience. This self-talk can have both beneficial (planning, self-regulation) and detrimental (anxiety, rumination) consequences. In this study, we focused specifically on physiological consequences of difference kinds of self-talk. We measured participants’ whole-body movements, respiration, and heart rate while they talked to themselves covertly in either a positive or a negative manner as well as during silent counting (the control condition). Our main hypothesis was that positive and especially negative self-talk would be associated with elevated heart rate in the absence of motor movement compared with the control condition. The relationship between inner speech, cognition, and the body has important implications for theories on rumination and depression.

IMC seminar 2023-04-18

Stage Presence in Dance: A Cognitive Ecological Ethnographic Approach

Sarah Pini, Assistant Professor, Department of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics, University of Southern Denmark

Abstract: The concept of presence in Western culture informs a cluster of different connotations, encompassing metaphysical, existential, psychological, cognitive, and performative dimensions (Heidegger, 1996 [1927]; Merleau-Ponty, 2012 [1945]; Derrida, 1997 [1967]; Clark, 1997; Noë, 2012). Here I focus on the concept of stage presence in different dance and performance practices. The classic model of stage presence broadly relates to the performer’s individual quality to enchant audience’s attention, and by focusing primarily on the agency of the skilled performer, it neglects audience’s participation (Sherman, 2016). Scholars who adopted an enactive and phenomenological perspective (Pini 2021; Pini 2019; Sherman, 2016; Zarrilli, 2009, 2012; Macneill, 2014) have tackled this classic view, revealing and accounting for the complexities of such encounter. Through a cognitive ecological and ethnographic approach (Hutchins, 1995, 2010) I investigate variations of presence in different dance practices and choreographic contexts: the case of the Ballet National de Marseille and the re-creation of Emio Greco’s piece Passione (Pini and Sutton, 2021), improvising together and interkinaesthetic agency in Contact Improvisation (Deans & Pini, 2022; Pini, McIlwain & Sutton, 2016); environmental attunement and ecological agency in Body Weather, a radical movement ideology informing the short dance film AURA NOX ANIMA by Palestinian-Australian visual artist Lux Eterna (Pini, 2022; Pini & Deans 2021). By exploring how dancers articulate their lived experience of presence, and how different dance ecologies shape different enactments of presence, I suggest adopting an ecological notion of stage presence in dance and performing arts.

IMC seminar 2023-03-28

Towards a Phenomenology of the Sense of Belonging and the Emotional Impact of Migration

Alba Montes Sánchez, Postdoc, Center for Subjectivity Research, Department of Communication, University of Copenhagen

Abstract: In this talk I seek to articulate a notion of "sense of belonging" that can shed light on the emotional impact of migration. Psychology research into the latter focuses on two complex phenomena, acculturation stress and migratory grief, but studies them in isolation from each other, and pays little attention to their common root: a challenged sense of belonging. The sense of belonging has recently been conceptualized in two ways. According to one account, it is an "existential feeling": a background affective orientation that shapes an individual’s space of possibilities (Ratcliffe 2008). As such, it amounts to a pre-reflective sense of togetherness that allows us to experience the world as a shared space (Wilde 2021). According to another proposal, the sense of group belonging is an episodic feeling, akin to other standard emotions, with an intentional target (the subject’s relation to the group), a formal object (the hedonically positive value of certain commonalities between oneself and the group) and a focus of concern (roughly, fitting in and being valued by other group members) (Szanto forthcoming). I argue that both notions are necessary. Episodic feelings of belonging arise against the backdrop of an existential feeling and respond to its disturbances and alterations, and these in turn shed light on the relations between acculturation stress and migratory grief.

IMC seminar 2023-03-21

Past Fictions for the Posthuman Future: the Value of Literature for Consciousness Research

Mette Leonard Høeg, Hosted Research Fellow, The Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, University of Oxford

Abstract: In this presentation, I argue for the value of integrating literary studies in consciousness research and ethics to develop a strong ethical and existential dimension in the field. More specifically, I consider the potential of fictional narrative for developing concepts of selfhood and personal identity that cohere with the reductionist explanations of human consciousness and self in modern empirical consciousness research and are sustainable in a posthuman future. My central claim is that looking to the literary representations of human consciousness and existence that reject or are free from conventional essentialist ideas of self, agency and anthropocentrism can help 'normalise' the reductionist scientific descriptions of humans and reduce their psychologically and socio-culturally disruptive impact. I use Virginia Woolf’s The Waves as an example and show how the novel’s non-anthropocentric and nonessentialist conceptions of self and consciousness overlap with materialist theories in neuroscience and -philosophy, but present these in a distinctive narrative framework and poetic terms that bring out the inherent emancipatory potential of the materialist explanation of human existence and offer the reader the possibility of relating to these experientially and emotionally.

IMC seminar 2023-03-14

Empathy maps: what are they and how could they contribute to medical education?

Patrick Cairns, PhD student, Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences, Aarhus University

Abstract: Most people want their doctor to be empathetic, but to what degree should it be a part of a doctor’s education? Should doctors be expected to rely on their innate person skills when faced with finite time and resources, as well as a curriculum depicting a predominately biomedical view of people? In this talk, PhD student Patrick Cairns will explore the topic of empathy in healthcare in general, as well as the use of a novel and simple communication tool in medical education: an empathy map. He will do this through the lens of his own PhD journey.

Seed Funded projects 2022 - March session

Presentation of studies and results from projects that received an IMC Seed Funding grant in 2022

IMC seminar 2023-03-07

Educational institutions and voter turnout during the long nineteenth century

Jonathan Stavnskær Doucette, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Aarhus University

Abstract: Danish democracy became consolidated during the long nineteenth century. Subsequently, political engagement has been consistently high and anti-democratic parties have received very little electoral support. However, this unique democratic experience has not been subject to quantitative examination due to a lack of data. Our project makes this possible by coding new data on turnout and electoral results for all elections between 1849 and 1915 at a geographically fine-grained level. 

In addition, we propose that Folk High Schools, which sought to teach civic skills to students, increased political engagement and democratic support. The project advances our understanding of Democratic consolidation in new democracies.

IMC seminar 2023-03-07

Adding Danish to the Semantic Priming Across Many Languages project

Yngwie Asbjørn Nielsen, Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences, Aarhus University

Abstract: Semantic priming - the facilitation of linguistic processing observed when a word follows a semantically related word - is a cornerstone within cognitive science, linguistics, and natural language processing. Large-scale databases on semantic priming have provided researchers with invaluable resources for designing experiments and developing computational models of language processing. However, the existing databases have insufficient sample sizes and are often restricted to a single language: English. In an extensive collaboration organized by the Psychological Science Accelerator, researchers from across the world will explore cross-linguistic differences in the semantic priming effect and build a new, highly-powered database spanning multiple languages. In this project, we will add Danish to a state-of-the-art resource openly available to linguists, cognitive scientists, and anyone interested in improving our understanding of language in general and Danish in particular.

IMC seminar 2023-03-07

Understanding learning through documentation – an implementation pilot

Ella Paldam, Head of Learning, The Science Museums, Aarhus University

Abstract: Several projects at the IMC collaborate with external partners such as museums, libraries and schools to develop creative and constructionist learning environments. Educators are invaluable collaborators because they know the learners and the cultures at partner institutions. Yet, external partners also represent a challenge: when we collect data from children, we commit to a complicated set of ethical and legal data regulations. For some partner institutions, the work load of setting up secure data handling infrastructure and negotiating data agreements through state and municipal offices render this type of research unfeasible. This puts at risk opportunities to strengthen the learning potential at these institutions through collaborative research and development projects. 

When we implement creative learning environments, a key component is professional development of educators at partner institutions. Taking inspiration from international collaborators from Fondazione Reggio Children (Reggio Emilia, Italy), the Tinkering Studio (San Francisco Exploratorium), and Project Zero (Harvard Graduate School of Education), we invite educators to document learning using established practices and thinking routines. The documentation is designed to make learning visible in order to deepen learning. Yet, the potential of documentation as a research tool is still underdeveloped. 

This seed explores whether we can develop the educators’ documentation practices into a reliable source to deepen our understanding of children’s learning. Through systematic repeated interviews with educators that explore their documentation, we trace pedagogical changes caused by the implementation of new approaches to learning. By asking educators to point to and reflect on visible traces of learning from their own practice, we explore an aspect of documentation that holds potential for future IMC-based projects. 

IMC seminar 2023-02-28

Polysemiotic kinship systems as instruments of cumulative cultural evolution

Simon Devylder, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellow at the Arctic University of Norway in Tromsø, Norway

Abstract: When people talk about kinship systems, they often use co-speech gestures and other representations to elaborate (Enfield 2005, Gaby 2016). This paper investigates such polysemiotic (spoken, gestured, and drawn) descriptions of kinship relations, to see if they display recurring patterns of conventionalization that capture specific social structures. I present a case study from Paamese, a Melanesian ethnolinguistic community from Vanuatu, where 40 Paamese speakers were asked to talk about their family in semi-guided kinship interviews (Enfield & Levinson 2003). Analyses of the speech, gesture, and drawings produced during these interviews revealed that lineality (i.e. mother’s side vs. father’s side) is lateralized in the speaker’s gesture space. In other words, kinship members of the speaker’s matriline are placed on the left side of the speaker’s body and those of the patriline are placed on their right side, when they are mentioned in speech. Moreover, when Paamese speakers describe marital relations, they make a distinctive sagittal gesture on the left-diagonal axis or on the right-diagonal axis depending on the gender of the referred relative. Anecdotal evidence from the drawings performed on the ground during the interviews also appear to mark this contrast with crossed diagonals.

We interpret these results as evidence for the existence of a Paamese ‘polysemiotic kinship system’ and make the broader claim that they are instruments of cumulative cultural evolution, used to conceptualize, capture, and transmit knowledge about the structure and practices of a society. 

IMC seminar 2023-02-21

Culture and folk Theory of Mind

Renatas Berniūnas, MSCA Postdoctoral Fellow, Interacting Minds Centre, Aarhus University

Abstract: In this talk, before going to my fieldwork to study “Minds in the wild: conceptualising and attributing the mental among Mongolians” (MSCA project), I want to address some conceptual issues pertaining to the notion of “mind” and to the Theory of Mind at large. As a cognitive anthropologist, I will evaluate the role of culture in understanding the folk concept and theory of mind. Often, culture has been dismissed or neglected in theorising and empirically studying ToM (or social cognition at large) in cognitive sciences and philosophy. Moreover, the English term “mind” has been employed to represent a universal category of human thought. However, there is little systematic non-English cross-cultural data about the very concept of the “mind” or how the mental sphere is categorised and organised. To illustrate some points, I will provide an example from Mongolia – the indigenous mental term “setgel” and its connection to the wider cultural context. 


IMC seminar 2023-01-31

Models and Mechanisms of Turn-Taking in Human & Non-Human Animals

Christopher Cox, PhD student, Department of Linguistics, Cognitive Science & Semiotics and Interacting Minds Centre, Aarhus University; Department of Language & Linguistic Science, University of York

Abstract: What can we learn about human language from communicative exchanges in bush crickets and whales? Communicative sound exchanges play a crucial role in the lives of many biological organisms and take a mind-blowing variety of forms - bush crickets communicate with mates over short distances by producing sound pulses during the closing stage of their wing cycle, and elephants produce low-frequency vocalisations at such high amplitudes that they vibrate through the surface of the ground to be detected by other elephants up to 10 kilometres away. No matter the form, all of these types of exchanges need to take timing into account. Interacting animals have to account for when the others are communicating, in some cases to avoid overlap (e.g., cetacean and avian species) and in other cases to produce synchronous vocalisations (e.g., anuran and katydid species).

In human communicative exchanges, timing is also key. A lot of research tries to disentangle how we learn to speak effortlessly to each other, shift rapidly between being talker and listener, and display a surprisingly low number of overlaps. In this talk, I will first systematically review the studies on how the ability to take turns develops in young human infants and identify crucial issues in the current way of investigating this capability. To provide alternative perspectives, I will then systematically review how turn-taking has been investigated and mathematically modeled in non-human animals - where researchers cannot rely as strongly on personal intuitions as to how turn-taking takes place. Finally, I will present a first exploratory analysis of child-caregiver turn-taking dynamics using models inspired by the non-human animal literature.