Our Research projects
Neurocognitive correlates of the influence of number word syntax on magnitude processing
Linguistic irregularities of number naming systems such as inverted number words (e.g., the German number word for 32 translates to “two-and-thirty”), affect the processing of Arabic numerals. However, to date, studies have mainly focused on the effects of inversion on performance in number processing. The neuro-cognitive effects of number syntax processing in non-inverted but still intransparent number word systems such as French have not yet been explored to a similar extent although the French number word system might be particularly suited for studying the neural correlates of number word syntax processing.
In this project, we investigate the development of the unit-decade-compatibility effect (UDCE) in number magnitude comparison in adults and children using combined behavioral and neuroimaging (fMRI) data, because the UDCE known to be sensitive to linguistic irregularities. This allows us to triangulate the neuro-cognitive correlates of number word syntax processing and their developmental trajectories. Thereby, the proposed project will contribute to the knowledge of how number word syntax is processed in the developing brain and pave the way for improved remediation or education concepts.
2023 – 2026
Boundary conditions of conceptual spaces.
The topographical structure underlying the representations of conceptual knowledge remains vividly debated. Two main accounts can be distinguished: the spatial account and the non-spatial account. We hypothesise that contextual factors determine the topographical structure at the cognitive and neural level. This proposal aims to delineate the conditions that define the topography of conceptual knowledge. Two major questions will be addressed:
1. What is the impact of contextual factors on the architecture of conceptual knowledge and its behavioural and neural expression?
2. What role do other potential boundary factors such as expertise and familiarity with concepts play in the construction of conceptual representations?
We will manipulate the transitivity of a set of elements as well as the flexibility of the architecture when learning and combining several sets in behavioural experiments and using functional imaging. The project investigates these questions in healthy adults.
The project is part of an international grant, involving the University of York (S. Goebel & T. Hartley) and the University of Potsdam (M. Fischer). Our partner in York will focus on developmental aspects while our partner in Potsdam will focus on the question whether the organizational principles of conceptual knowledge transgress to the motor level.
Fake news from early adolescence to young adulthood: From basic understanding of cognitive mechanisms to the evaluation of a pedagogical intervention in the classroom
The spread of online fake news is emerging as a major threat to human society and democracy. Logical reasoning seems to be critical for media truth discernment, regardless of whether it is consistent with one’s belief. Fact checking is the most common method to cope with fake news but its efficiency is debated. Media truth discernment has been studied essentially for political news in one political, electoral and media system and no study to date has investigated the development of media truth discernment during adolescence when we start to be massively exposed to news on social media. The FakeAd project aims to determine (a) the cognitive abilities involved in media truth discernment in adolescents and adults across different political, electoral and media system (with Ipsos), (b) the development of media truth discernment during adolescence and the effect of social presence on its development and (c) the effect of a dedicated intervention to improve media truth discernment in adolescents (with Nathan).
Mathieu Cassotti & Émilie Salvia
Considerable efforts have been devoted at identifying the effects of emotion-evoking stimuli on adults’ willingness to engaged pro-environmental behaviors , but surprisingly there are to date few study that have examined whether these effects change with age during adolescence. This lack of knowledge is surprising given that 1) recent investigations provide evidence that adolescence is a specific time-window during which emotional sensitivity appears to be particularly important and might be a critical factor to explain the development of prosocial behavior at this age and 2) the negative effects of human activities on the environment are increasingly visible and request concrete actions. Therefore, the aim of the Ad-Eco project will be to determine the extent to which positive (e.g., joy, pride) or negative (e.g., sadness, guilt) emotional induction procedures can stimulate the will of adolescents to engage in more eco-responsible practices. Critically, the project will go beyond the simple collection of their intentions to act by examining their decision to participate in design workshops set up at school and aimed at exploring original solutions to solve ecological problems.
2022 – 2025
On the Cognitive principles underlying operational biases in the temporal domain.
Space, time and number are intertwined dimensions at the cognitive and neural level. Recent evidence suggests that numerical and temporal information is projected onto a spatially organized conceptual dimension (i.e. a conceptual space). The Operational Momentum Effect (OME) is a consequence of the spatial character of the mental magnitude representation and describes the tendency to overestimate the outcome of additions and underestimate the outcome of subtractions. An analog effect has been described in the temporal domain (Bonato, Fias & Zorzi, 2021). Compared to a baseline condition without arithmetic combination, participants overestimated the duration of addition and underestimated the duration of subtraction (Temporal Momentum Effect, TME). The current project further characterizes the underlying functional principles of the TME in a number of psychophysical experiments with healthy adults. The results will provide important information about the generalizability of the TME and will finally help understand how humans code and operate on temporal information.
Alex de Carvalho
Using Cognitive Science to Design a Computerized Language Assessment for French-learning Preschoolers, from 3 to 7 years of age
Language is a core ability that children need to succeed in school, since understanding teachers and peers, following narratives, telling stories, participating in conversations, learning to read, and learning to do math all rest on linguistic abilities. However, not all children have access to enough language exposure and interactions at home, during their first years of life. Consequently, this can dramatically impact their success in school. How can we intervene and identify children who might need help when they enter the school system? This project aims to develop a computerized tool that will be able to identify healthy children who might nevertheless be at risk (e.g., small vocabulary, poor language abilities) early during development. The point of identifying children with language difficulty as early as possible is to be able to provide the help they will need to overcome this difficulty early enough, before these difficulty start to dramatically affect them, for example when they will have to start learning to read at school.
Alex de Carvalho
Exploring the relationship between spoken language comprehension and cognitive control skills in children’s ability to read connected text
The LANGCOG project aims to better investigate the many existent relationships between speech and text comprehension in children and to delineate the cognitive control abilities that may support these abilities. We relate children’s processing of spoken sentences to their ability to read written sentences (by recording eye movements) and their ability to control their thoughts in non-linguistic tasks. Our goal is to identify commonalities and differences in processing abilities in speech and text, within the same child, and identify cognitive control abilities that support speech and text comprehension, jointly and individually. We believe that by identifying what explains the differences between children in how well they comprehend speech and text, we can develop new ways to improve their ability to read and understand the sentences they read. The questions investigated here take on significant educational importance by identifying what explains child literacy attainment, a primary skill that predicts educational and work success in the 21st century.
Mathematical learning, stress and brain plasticity in school-age children.
The ability to calculate and reason with numbers is crucial for academic and professional success, as well as to properly function in today’s society. Every day, we use numbers – and perform simple calculations – when we shop, when we check/update our calendar, when we keep score on our sport’s team, or play a board/card game. Critically, there are massive individual differences in the ability to deal with numbers, which already exist from the early school years. But why are some children good at math and others are left behind? And how can we find effective ways to help those who struggle?
There are many factors that can influence – and which can interact – with the development of math skills. For instance, our positive (or negative) emotions towards the subject (i.e., math) can play an important role in shaping brain systems dedicated to its learning. Our sleep’s habits and schedule can also influence math learning by acting on brain plasticity mechanisms important for rules’- and memory- consolidation.
StrApMat aims to elucidate how these – and other – factors can shape brain plasticity mechanisms for math learning, during the early school years. In the long run, we hope that this knowledge could provide us with effective ways to reduce educational inequalities in mathematics.
FACTS AND FIGURES
Facts and Figures - Neurofunctional Structures and cognitive processes of number processing and arithmetic fact retrieval.
What can we learn from brain damages about numerical processes in the unaffected brain? This is the central issue of this project.
Two basic processes are differentiated in numerical cognition: numerical magnitude processing and arithmetic fact retrieval. The distinction between these processes and their neurocognitive correlates is still controversial. We investigate the neurocognitive correlates of both processes in stroke patients and healthy controls via parallelized cross-sectional and longitudinal (training-)studies. The parallelized experimental design enables us to address the same questions regarding magnitude processing and fact retrieval in stroke patients and healthy controls. Analyzing stroke lesions by means of multivariate lesion analysis and (dis)connectivity analyses allows to identify causal relationships between fact retrieval and its neural correlates. Spatial-numerical associations (e.g. in Neglect) are examined as a pathological model for unimpaired magnitude processing. At the same time, parallelized experiments in healthy controls on fact retrieval and numerical magnitude rule out the influence of pathological interference. The goal of the project is to advance our understanding of (un)impaired number processing, and allow for implications for diagnosis and interventions of numerical impairments in both acalculic and dyscalculic individuals.
This project aims to better characterize the cognitive processes involved in overcoming cognitive biases in creativity and to determine to what extent it is possible to develop set interventions to help a creative leader to overcome these biases in industry. Using an experimental approach, this project will reach 3 major objectives: 1) to increase our understanding of the cognitive processes involved in the detection of the categories of solution leading to fixation effects in creative ideas generation. 2) to assess the effect of new forms of training aiming at developing the ability of a creative leader to detect the fixation effects of his team, using an interdisciplinary approach (from experimental psychology to management science). 3) to examine how new management training might increase the efficiency of fixation effect detection in industrial context, based on the interventions developed in the research part of the projects.
How Domain-general Functions Contribute to the Development of Numerical Competencies
The project aims to identify the respective contributions of "domain-general" (i.e. inhibition and attention) and "domain-specific" factors in the development of numerical skills (e.g. mental calculation) in infants and children.
Over three consecutive years, we will study four groups of infants and children initially aged from one year to 7 years. We
measure domain-general and domain-specific abilities using standardized tests and targeted experimental protocols.
experimental protocols. We will also measure the neural substrates of arithmetic, inhibition and attention abilities by
using magnetic resonance imaging to better understand the neural development underlying behavioral performance.
performance. In the fourth year of the project, we will compare the effects of two learning methods focused
respectively on domain-general and domain-specific abilities, in the context of mental calculation in elementary school.
Wim De Neys
Given the importance of sound reasoning for all aspects of life from the classroom to the office, it is not surprising that cognitive and educational scientists have been trying to develop educational “de-bias” interventions to help people avoid biased thinking. However, results of these interventions have been less than optimal. One reason lies in individual bias locus variance. If different individuals are biased for different reasons, they will obviously benefit from a different type of training. Hence, a straightforward solution to boost the efficiency of intervention programs is to target each type of program at those specific individuals that need them most. This requires the type of individual level analysis or diagnosis that current fundamental research fails to provide. The DIAGNOR project will directly address the lack of individual level analysis in previous work. We propose an in depth and systematic exploration of the individual differences question with an ambitious combination of large scale behavioral, neuroscientific, and developmental studies.