Research Training Group in Computational Cognition
The Research Training Group in Computational Cognition pursues the re-integration of cognitive science and artificial intelligence. Students in the program will be trained in both fields and will combine insights from both fields to understand intelligence in humans and machines. We have identified two areas of research where this re-integration will be particularly fruitful.
First, there is a schism between low- and high-level cognition. We understand a lot about the neural signals underlying basic sensorimotor processes, and we know a fair bit about the cognitive processes involved in reasoning, problem solving, or language. However, explaining how high-level cognition can arise from lowlevel mechanisms is a long-standing open problem in cognitive science. Machine learning has recently made great progress on deep learning methods and recurrent neural networks. At the same time, cognitive scientists have explored similar ideas, such as predictive coding for unified neural theories of learning. PhD projects in the first cluster will tackle problems, such as grammar learning, structured representations, or the production of complex behaviors with neural modeling. Thus, integrating ideas from cognitive science and AI will allow us to finally bridge the gap between low- and high-level cognition.
Second, human intelligence deals with highly structured, yet incomplete knowledge. Thus, the underlying representations and processes are able to generate new concepts and to take into account uncertainty. Along these lines, analogical reasoning, language, pragmatic inference and concept formation have been proposed as being the key to understand human intelligence. PhD projects in the second cluster will tackle exemplary problems of these domains that are easy for humans, but still hard for AI. They include analogical reasoning, concept invention, and pragmatic inferences. For each of these cognitive processes, there are reliable data and insights from cognitive science that will allow us to model these processes. This is a large advantage compared to the early days of AI where little was known about human cognition. The new Research Training Group will be integrated into the Cognitive Science PhD program that was established in 2002. Students in the Research Training Group will benefit from a highly interdisciplinary environment that is, nevertheless, focused on a common theme and that provides many methodological synergies between projects.