Friday, 31 March 2017

Screening of a film by Robbie Campbell (SOAS)

in conversation with
Fabia Franco and Nicola Brunswick (Psychology) 
& The DaCapo Music Foundation

Robbie Campbell will be presenting an immersive sensory ethnographic film (71 mins) as one strand of his research on the relationships between specific learning difficulties and indigenous processes of music making and acquisition. His case study on Chopi timbila xylophone music in Mozambique attempts to demonstrate and explore parallels between existing interventions for dyslexia and dyspraxia, and the holistic cultural system of socially, informally and aurally transmitted music. This audio-visual presentation hopes to encourage discussion on various themes relating to specific learning difficulties and dyslexia, music education, cross-discipline dialogue, and methodological approaches. 

Everyone welcome!

Please contact Fabia Franco for further information:

Monday, 20 March 2017

Research Seminar: Visiting Speaker Dr Andrew Dunn (Nottingham Trent University)

*** Everyone Welcome! No need to book in advance***

Date: Thursday 30th March
Time: 16:00-17:00
Room: College Building C126

Dr Andrew Dunn (Nottingham Trent University)

'Cold Words and Rich Comments: Environmental Primes and Person Perception' 

Humans are categorical creatures who readily and rapidly make judgements of others based on the way they look or sound. These judgements can be remarkably accurate or wildly off the mark. Irrespective, they can have a significant impact on our behaviour and of those being judged. Here we will explore unpublished data from several experiments looking at the effects of context information (race, socio-economic status and perceived pathogen threat) on judgements of perceived criminal culpability, attractiveness and health. I will show that subtle changes in contextual information have a nuanced but significant impact on how we perceive and judge others. I will argue that there is no such thing as a context free experiment because we are inherently sensitive to our environment and that it leads us to naturally categorise the world with unexpected consequences. Accordingly we should be mindful of such effects as Psychologists but also as citizens of a democratic industrialised society, under threat from an artificially heightened fear of others. 

Dr Andrew Dunn is a senior lecturer in Psychology and an experimental psychologist with interests in the functional mechanisms of perception, attention, memory, motor action, and the application of evolutionary theory and methods to understanding human behaviour.


Friday, 3 March 2017

Research Seminar: Visiting Speaker Dr Joe Levy (University of Roehampton)

*** Everyone Welcome! No need to book in advance***

Date: Thursday 16th March
Time: 16:00-17:00
Room: College Building C133

Dr Joe Levy (University of Roehampton)
'Why Statistical Representations of Word Meaning are Interesting for Psychology' 

For the last twenty years there has been increasing interest in the use of computational methods to capture certain aspects of word meaning. These methods capture how words are used by looking at the other words that they co-occur with, building patterns of co-occurrence or “semantic vectors” that can be used to measure the semantic distances between words. The techniques used have been driven by technological concerns but there has always been an interest in them from some psychologists. I will describe some current techniques and argue that semantic vectors may be able to play an important role in computational/statistical models of human behaviour. I will illustrate these points by examining the use of semantic vector methods in solving vocabulary multiple-choice tests.

I am a cognitive scientist with interests in language, memory and social cognition. I have used techniques from computational modelling, cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience.

Along with colleagues from Roehampton, recent projects have included:
the use of experimental methods, EEG and fMRI to examine action observation and perspective taking; the use of fMRI to measure the association of the default mode network and measures of empathy; accounting for variation in children’s reading performance with measures of metacognition.

A current focus is work with my colleague John Bullinaria (University of Birmingham) that continues our long collaboration of working on computational measures of word meaning. Our techniques have been very successful in generating numerical representations of the patterns of usage of different words in large bodies of text. The differences or distances between these "semantic vectors” can be shown to reflect the semantic relationships between different words. Recently, we have applied our technique to successfully improve models of cortical activation during word meaning processing tasks. Currently, along with Dr Samantha McCormick at Roehampton, we are looking at the various ways our semantic vectors can explain the linguistic structure of and human performance on vocabulary multiple choice tests. Plans for the future include exploring further applications of these semantic representations in the modelling of linguistic, cognitive and neuroscientific phenomena.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Next Seminar in the Psychoanalysis and Liberation Series

Impossible Spaces Johan Siebers (Middlesex University) 

This seminar explores the requirements for critical theory - a form of theory, as Horkheimer says, that aims to liberate people from forces that enslave them - in the present geopolitical constellation. Freud observed that there are three impossible professions: government, education and psychoanalysis, "in which one can be sure beforehand of achieving unsatisfying results". But each of these has to do with the aim of critical theory: liberation. Government's utopian goal is the free society; education's goal is the enlightened, autonomous person, in control of their own thought process; the goal of psychoanalysis is "where id was, the ego shall be". What, then, makes the professionalisation of liberation impossible? Is this impossibility total or is there a different path to freedom, or perhaps a freedom in becoming aware of the nature of the impossible? What would it be to create a possibility for utopia, the non-space that is a good space (Thomas More), in other words, for impossible spaces? What can politics, education and psychoanalysis learn from each other, as possible ways of doing what is impossible? The seminar will explore ways of thinking about these questions by contrasting Freud's theory of the no-longer-conscious with Bloch's theory of the not-yet-conscious, and by indicating the centrality of hope borne out of the encounter with the darkness of the lived moment.

Johan Siebers is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Middlesex University and Associate Fellow and Director of the Ernst Bloch Center for German Thought at the Institute of Modern Languages Research, School of Advanced Study, University of London. His research and publication interests are in metaphysics, critical theory and the philosophy of communication. He is founding editor of Empedocles: European Journal for the Philosophy of Communication.

Venue: Room C205, College Building, Middlesex University, Hendon, London


Contact: Maaike Engelen (