Human Cognition Colloquium: Dynamic geometries of thoughts, memories, and conversations

Colloquium | February 3 | 3 p.m. | 1102 Berkeley Way West

 Jeremy R. Manning, Dartmouth College

 Department of Psychology

Our ongoing thoughts reflect how we perceive the world, remember our past, and communicate. I will describe approaches that my lab is using to model the dynamics of real-world thoughts and how our brains support those thoughts. Our central advance is to define mathematical spaces whose coordinates reflect different thoughts that people might have. We characterize experiences as they unfold in time, or thoughts about those experiences, as trajectories through these spaces. According to this framework, each experience (or sequence of thoughts) has a characteristic “shape” that we can define mathematically. We can then use geometric tools to compare the shapes of trajectories that reflect what is happening now, what we think about what is happening now, and what we remember later about what happened in the past. This provides a powerful framework for studying the dynamics of thought, particularly in response to “naturalistic” stimuli that carry rich structure at a wide range of spatiotemporal and conceptual scales. This framework can also yield deep insights into how we communicate our thoughts, knowledge, and experiences.