Hesperus is Bosphorus

A group blog by philosophers in and from Turkey

Philosophy/Cog-Sci Workshop at Bogazici. Saturday 24/11/2012

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Brains, Mind and Language #2

A philosophy/cognitive science workshop.

Saturday 24/11/2012, 1pm-6pm Venue: TB130 [This is on the ground floor of the philosophy department. As the building is closed at weekends, one should enter from the back of the building).


13:00 – 14:30 
Emrah Aktunc (Philosophy)
“Resolving Duhemian Problems in Cognitive Neuroscience”

14:45 – 16:15
Annette Hohenberger (Cognitive Science Department, Informatics Institute, ÖDTU)
“The Understanding of Normativity, Free Will and Emotions in Preschool Children.”

16:30 – 18:00
Oliver Wright (Psychology, Baçheşehir)
“The Whorfian (linguistic relativity) Hypothesis and Empirical Investigations in the Domain of Color.”

Abstracts below the fold:


Resolving Duhemian Problems in Cognitive Neuroscience.  Duhem’s problem arises in different fields of science, especially in contexts where the tools and procedures of measurement and analysis are numerous and highly complex. I describe an example of Duhem’s problem as it arises in fMRI studies and discuss certain procedures applied to address this problem. I argue that the problem is more fruitfully approached in terms of error probabilities as formulated by Deborah Mayo in her error-statistical account of evidence and inference. Using the notions of this account we can better understand the central issues and point to potential resolutions of Duhem’s problem arising in functional neuroimaging as well as other fields of science.

On the early understanding of normativity in Turkish preschoolers . Our social life is regulated by norms on how to interpret and act in certain interactions. Key features of normativity, as pointed out by Searle and others, are status functions of objects and the constitutive rules that provide them deontic power in social interactions.

When do children develop an understanding of social norms and normativity? Recent studies in developmental cognitive psychology have shown that from 2 years onwards preschoolers already appreciate norms in a variety of contexts such as pretend play (pretending a banana being a telephone) and games (playing a novel game according to some rule).  Children react with normative protest in the face of rule violations by a third party if that third party had committed itself to the rule before.

Here, I will present and discuss results from two recent studies with Turkish preschoolers, in the age range of 2-3 and 3-5 years. These studies, for the first time, also take emotional aspects of rule understanding and normativity into consideration.

In the first study, Tunçgenç (2012) found, in a game paradigm, that 2-3 year old preschoolers showed more normative protest towards a puppet that violated the norm when it had committed itself to the rule of the game than if it had not. Older children showed more protest than younger children. In a modification of the game where the puppet was physically constrained and thus could not act freely, children showed no less normative protest as towards a freely acting puppet; however, they showed more helping responses. Cognitive and emotional responses – normative protest and helping – may not yet be integrated at that age and may therefore exist alongside each other.

In the second study, Köksal (2012) found, in a peer-conflict paradigm, that 3-5 year old preschoolers having separately been taught different rules to play with the same toys, when brought together, normatively protested each other’s (apparent) rule violations. While both age groups showed the same cognitive responses (normative protest), they showed different emotional responses (facial and vocal emotional responses). The younger ones were more annoyed and angry than the older ones. Older ones may be more apt at emotion regulation, possibly mediated through a better cognitive grasp of the mechanisms through which normative rules regulate behavior in such interactions.

In a wider perspective, developmental studies on children’s understanding of normativity may shed light on the origins of human culture insofar as norms are at the heart of mutual, cooperative human interactions. The mutually binding nature of norms, which, once accepted by all members of the community may have decreased emotional reactivity to a level suitable for fruitful and sustained collaboration. The function of norms seems to be universal but may be modulated by and interact with other aspects of social life specific to particular communities. Taking an interdisciplinary and cross-cultural perspective on the development of normativity may be beneficial for psychologists, philosophers, social and political scientists, as well as anthropologists for gaining a better understanding of the cognitive and emotional underpinnings of human normative behavior.


Investigating the Linguistic Relativity (Sapir-Whorf) Hypothesis Using Color.  The domain of color represents a classic area of research into the relationship between language and thought. Color language varies widely across cultures and evidence appear to show that differences in color language influence performance of numerous tasks using color stimuli. In this talk I will describe a number of empirical studies using colorful stimuli, the results of which appear to provide evidence for the LRH. Relevant theories, explaining how differences in color language might lead to differences in task performance will be described. In the final section of the talk, I will take a more critical approach and suggest that, in fact, the influences of color language on color cognition are less pervasive than is generally believed to be the case.


Written by Lucas Thorpe

November 18, 2012 at 5:28 pm

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