Month: October 2021

Dopamine Dynamics in Adaptive Decision Making

The Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences will host speaker Jeff Pettibone (Assistant Professor of Psychology at Finlandia University) at the next Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors forum. The presentation, “Dopamine Dynamics in Adaptive Decision Making”, will be from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. Friday (October 29) in Meese 109 and via Zoom.

Abstract: Adaptive decision-making relies on a distributed network of neural substrates that learn associations between behaviors and outcomes to ultimately shape and direct future behavior.  These substrates are organized in a system of cortical-striatal loops that are hypothesized to offer unique contributions to motivated behavior. Midbrain dopamine neurons strongly innervate these regions, however the consequences of dopamine fluctuations at these targets remain largely unresolved despite aggressive interrogation. Some experiments have highlighted dopamine’s role in learning via reward prediction errors (RPEs), while others have noted the importance of dopamine in signaling distinct aspects of motivation. The data presented will describe the precise role of dopamine in shaping decision-making during a stochastically rewarded trial-and-error task in rats.


New Faculty Lecture: Briana Bettin, CS and CLS

Dr. Briana Bettin will present a New Faculty Lecture on Friday, November 12, 2021, at 3:00 p.m. in Rekhi 214. Dr. Bettin is an assistant professor in both the Computer Science and the Cognitive and Learning Sciences departments. Her research interests span education, experiential design, and human factors. Her talk is titled, “Facets and Inclusions: Analogy as a Transformative Tool for Navigating CS Curricula.”

Briana Bettin

Abstract: Our increasingly digital society requires citizens to effectively communicate about and with computing technologies in order to thrive. Learning to navigate the digital landscape and computing topics can be immensely challenging. Shifting to “think like a programmer” is often challenging, and why the machine behaves as it does can appear antithetical to “the real world” assumptions students are used to in their daily lives. Coupled with stereotypical notions on the difficulty and societal impacts of computing and programming, students can easily become frustrated and discouraged from learning necessary skills and topics for the fourth industrial revolution.

This talk explores how using analogical representations to convey computing concepts and ideas can transform student relationships with computing material. Tying the “difficult novelty” of computing topics to lived experiences can help machine behaviors become relatable rather than flummoxing. Creative and cultural expressions using analogical representations create further avenues for CS curricular transformation, allowing students to foster their sense of self and community in relation to their computing studies. The lived experiences of students have many angles, and learning computing topics is a path paved with flaws. By transforming curricular dialogues to center students and their existing understanding, we can use these facets and inclusions to transform their experiences learning computer science.

Biography: Briana Bettin’s research blends user experience methodologies with education research to better understand programming students and the impacts of the classroom environment. She is a member of the Institute of Computing and Cybersystem’s (ICC) Computing Education research group.


The Human Factor, Design with the Human in Mind

The 2021 Michigan Tech Magazine is Live! And highlights the Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences’ new BS program – Human Factors.

How can people use technology to improve work, society, and life? Students in Michigan Tech’s human factors program set out to answer that question by studying human abilities and limitations, and how they apply to design. In one of the first undergraduate programs of its kind in the nation, students explore how humans use, interact with, and think and feel about technology, and investigate the roles both humans and machines will play in solving the problems of tomorrow.

“Many of today’s college students will eventually work in jobs and industries that don’t yet exist,” says Kelly Steelman, department chair and associate professor in the Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences. “We intentionally designed the human factors curriculum to encourage students to develop both depth and breadth of skills. Human factors students will take courses from across campus and engage in multidisciplinary, project-based work to pick up the diverse skill sets needed to succeed in a rapidly changing world.”

To read the full story see section: 1400 Townsend Drive, and to learn more about our Human Factors program visit https://www.mtu.edu/cls/undergraduate/human-factors/


ACSHF Forum: Monday, October 11

The Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences will host speaker Stefka Hristova  (Associate Professor Humanities) at the next Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors forum. The presentation, “Emptied Faces: In Search For An Algorithmic Punctum”, will be from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. Monday (Oct. 11) in Meese 109 and via Zoom.

Abstract: In his seminal work Camera Lucida, Roland Barthes wrote that in photographic portraits “[t]he air of a face is unanalyzable.” This argument connects to the larger theory of the photographic punctum, a laceration of time that signals the existence of a subject and forecasts its death. The punctum of the traditional portrait quickly became complicated as portraiture fueled composite portraiture linked to human typologies as exemplified by the work of Galton, Bertillon, and Lombrosso. This practice of combining and reconfiguring faces has found new currency in contemporary algorithmic culture where human faces are recorded, dissected, and recombined into seamless deep fake faces by what Deleuze and Guattari call “faciality machines.” This talk traces the articulation of faces in predictive algorithms through an investigation of the UTKFace data set. Further, it analyzes the rise of deep fake portraits through an engagement with Philip Wang’s This Person Does Not Exist and Mitra Azar’s DoppelGANger projects. This harnessing of portraits and therefore of human faces as raw material has been challenged in a counter project titled This Person Exists, which exposes the real people behind Wang’s project. This work brings back notions of personhood and humanity by revealing the original photographs as well as their authors and subjects and points to the ways in which algorithms feed on and erase humanity. I situate two additional sites of resistance to the decomposition of the human face: namely Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of “unknown tracts” and Barthes’ notion of the photographic punctum.


Erin Matas Named Association of Research Libraries Leadership Fellow

Library Director Erin Matas is one of 20 information professionals selected from the U.S. and Canada to join the 2021-22 ARL Leadership Fellows cohort. The ARL Leadership Fellowship develops and prepares the next generation of senior library and archival leaders. Past Leadership Fellows have emerged as successful leaders in a wide array of roles and settings, including as deans and directors of leading research libraries and archives.

“I am thrilled to join this cohort because of the impact that the program’s goals will have on my approach to library leadership,” says Matas. “ARL’s priority is to advance scholarship through systemic changes at the intersections of public policy, institutional policy and the ever-changing landscape of how we research, teach and learn. This program is an exceptional opportunity for library leaders to join these conversations and bring important guidance to their home institutions.”

In their press release, ARL shared that the 2021-22 cohort brings together an immensely diverse and highly accomplished group of library leaders, representing the broadest range of research institutions and communities since the program began in 2004

Provost Jackie Huntoon noted that Michigan Tech is proud to have a representative in the 2021-22 cohort of ARL Leadership Fellows. “Matas’ outstanding contributions on campus and beyond have clearly contributed to her selection. By participating as a Fellow, Erin will be able to continue to grow as a library professional and contribute her knowledge of best practices to the Michigan Tech community.”

Matas is the director of the J. Robert Van Pelt and John and Ruanne Opie Library and is pursuing an advanced degree in applied cognitive science and human factors at Michigan Tech.