Roger Stanton Explains the Use of Research Methods in Cognitive Science

Roger StantonAccording to Roger Stanton, cognitive science is an endlessly fascinating topic that yields a number of interesting results. Over his career, Roger Stanton has studied how the human brain works – and what behavior results from various forms of stimuli.  In this interview, Roger Stanton shares the various aspects of cognitive science.

Community Blog: Hello and welcome!

Roger Stanton: Thank you – it’s great to be here.

Community Blog: What are the main research methods typically used in cognitive science?

Roger Stanton: Well, there are actually several methodologies we typically use in the research of cognitive science.  They range from behavioral experiments to neurological investigations to computer simulations.

Community Blog: So are there certain areas in which you personally focus?

Roger Stanton: In my research I focus on human category learning, which is an investigation of how humans are learn to place events in categories and how we mentally represent those categories.  For example, when you see a round object as a “plate” and not a “saucer”, you have chosen to categorize it as a plate.  The question I’m interested in is what led you to that decision and how do you represent the category of “plates.”

Community Blog: Which methods are most present in your work?

Roger Stanton: I generally have concentrated on behavioral experiments and computational modeling.

Community Blog: What are behavioral experiments?

Roger Stanton: Behavioral experiments are experiments in which a limited number of variables are manipulated, and these manipulations affect behavior in some way.

Community Blog: How do behavioral experiments provide insight to the researcher?

Roger Stanton: By measuring responses to stimuli, a researcher can better understand how these stimuli have been processed.  The main dependent variables we examine are accuracy and response time.

Community Blog: What is reaction time?

Roger Stanton: Reaction time is known as the time between when a stimulus is presented and when an expected or appropriate response will occur. It can often indicate a number of differences between these two separate cognitive processes.

Community Blog: Who’s responsible for the most significant advancements in this research method?

Roger Stanton: That’s difficult to say.  Each year the Rumelhart Prize is given to an individual to acknowledge important contributions to cognitive science research.  The prize is in honor of David Rumelhart who was an important figure in the formal study of human cognition.

Community Blog: What were Rumelhart’s contributions?

Roger Stanton: He did a lot of work in the formal analysis of human cognition and computational modeling.  The parallel distributed processing text that he and James McClelland published is one of the most important texts in the field.

Community Blog: What are computational models?

Roger Stanton: Computational models are those that require a logically and mathematically formal representation of a given problem.

Community Blog:
When are computational models used?

Roger Stanton: In the experimental verification and simulation of general and specific properties of intelligence.

Community Blog:
How do computational models assist researchers?

Roger Stanton: They help researchers to better comprehend the functional organization of a specific cognitive phenomenon.  They serve as a method for testing theories of cognition.  To really test a theoretical proposition, it’s important to formalize the predictions and test those predictions across a range of conditions.

Community Blog: How would a researcher approach this method?

Roger Stanton:
There are two approaches. The first concentrates on abstract mental functions and operates by utilizing symbols. The second is referred to as “subsymbolic,” and follows the associative and neural properties of a human brain.
 
Community Blog: Thank you so much for your time. We appreciate your insight into this challenging field.

Roger Stanton: Absolutely. Thanks for having me.

Roger Stanton has gained extensive experience in mathematical models in the field of psychology, as well as neurobiological bases as related to category learning.

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