The aim of the research at the LSCP is to understand the psychological mechanisms underlying the acquisition and operation of uniquely human cognitive functions, such as language, social cognition, and consciousness. This research is organized around four teams:
- Language and its acquisition
- Computational mechanisms of cognitive development
- Cognitive development and pathology
- Brain and consciousness
- Unconscious perception : We study how the human brain processes information in the absence of consciousness. Our research uses unconscious stimulation methods such as subliminal priming, visual masking and crowding. We also study the depth of processing and learning capacities during sleep.
- Perceptual awareness : Our research focuses on the neurocognitive mechanisms underlying conscious access, and the transition from unconscious contents to the conscious content. We are interested in taxonomy of states of consciousness, and in particular the possibility of an intermediate form called partial consciousness, engaging specific bayesian mechanisms.
- Consciousness in infants : We study the development of consciousness in the babies, as well as its links with the parallel development of language and learning mechanisms, and metacognition.
- Introspection: We study introspection, which corresponds to a reflexive form of consciousness, as well as its neural basis.
The aim of research at LSCP is to understand the psychological mechanisms underlying the acquisition and functioning of human cognitive functions. Language is one such prominent human competence. The linguistic competence can be decomposed into sub-levels, say phonology, syntax and semantics. In the projects grouped in this team, we study each of these components: how they are implemented in the adult functioning system and how this system can be acquired by infants. One common inspiration for us lies in the interactions between different levels: phonology and the lexicon, segments and prosody, lexicon and syntax, syntax and semantics, semantics and other cognitive abilities (e.g., theory of mind or reasoning abilities).
We seek to model pieces of this complex system, taking into account how its parts fall together at the adult stage and to propose solutions to bootstrapping problems that arise in language acquisition, due to the interdependence between linguistic levels.
From a methodological point of view, we believe that understanding how natural human language develops and works involves more than the application of a single scientific method to a single type of data. We thus use a triple research strategy, integrating expertise in formal linguistics, experimental psychology (including imagery studies), and computational modeling.
Infants learn their first language at an impressive speed. During the first year of life, even before they start to talk, infants convege on the consonants and vowels of their language, and start segmenting and learning words. Such performance is very difficult to acheive for adults learning a second language. Yet, infants, manage it effortlessly, without explicit supervision, while being immersed into a complex and noisy environment. In addition, infants do not seem to follow a logical order (sounds, then words, then sentences) as adults would do, but rather, they start learning all of these linguistic levels in parallel.
The aim of this project is to decipher this puzzling learning process by applying a 'reverse engineering ' approach, i.e., by constructing an artificial language learner that mimicks the learning stages of the infant. We use engineering and applied maths techniques (signal processing, machine learning) on large corpora of child-adult verbal interactions in several languages. We develop psychologically plausible (unsupervized) and biologically plausible (bio-inspired) algorithms which can discover linguistic categories (morphemes, syllables, phonemes). The validity of these algorithms are then tested in infants or newborns using behavioral techniques (eye tracking) or noninvasive brain imagery (Near InfraRed Spectroscopy, EEGs).
See the web page of the project: http://www.lscp.net/persons/dupoux/bootphon/
Human cognitive abilities are strongly genetically influenced, and nevertheless are very immature at birth and develop over a prolonged period through complex interactions between intrinsic and extrinsic factors. We are generally interested in the way human cognition is shaped by genetic factors, environmental influences, and their interactions. Our approach is to study developmental disorders insofar as they highlight complex causal chains between genetic factors, neural properties, and cognitive functions that are not apparent in normal development. We study mainly language disorders (dyslexia and specific language impairment), at the cognitive level using psycholinguistic methods, at the neural level using brain imaging, and at the genetic level, in collaboration with molecular genetics labs.
Our team is composed of cognitive scientists working on the neurobiological and psychological foundations of consciousness. We are especially interested in how conscious and unconscious processes differ at both the psychological and neural level. We use various behavioral methods (e.g., priming, psychophysics) and brain imaging techniques (e.g., fMRI, EEG) to study how humans process things unconsciously (e.g., as in situations of subliminal perception, sleep or hypnosis) and compare it to situations of conscious processing. This approach offers the opportunity to understand the limits and extents of unconscious processes, the functional and physiological specificity of consciousness and, ultimately, why we need to be conscious at all.
Our research follows four main axes:
Through these teams, we integrate into a common approach cognitive psychology techniques for infants, children and adult humans, as well as brain imaging, neuropsychology, and modeling.