Our Research projects


Grégoire Borst

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).


Teresa Iuculano

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.


Elise Klein

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.


Mathieu Cassotti

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.


André Knops

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.


Olivier Houdé & Grégoire Borst

Nowadays new technologies offer the opportunity to investigate repetitively and noninvasively - using brain imaging techniques - cognitive learning processes in children. The goal of the APEX project is to investigate in 4th and 5th grades children and 11th and 12th grades adolescent the respective effects of two executive trainings of two key processes of the prefrontal cortex – Inhibition and Working Memory – using the most adapted brain imaging techniques to date (Magnetic Resonance Imagery). The APEX project aims at first devising computerized executive training tasks on tactile tablets, a device that can be used in ecological settings both at school and at home. We will then investigate the effects of these two executive training conditions at a cerebral level, both anatomically (anatomical MRI and diffusion MRI) and functionally (functional MRI), in relation with the polymorphism of certain genes and a set of cognitive and academic performance. The data collected will ultimately allow us to propose pedagogical interventions validated experimentally


Mathieu Cassotti

What are the situations in which a group is stuck on ideas or technologies that have proven to be ineffective and cannot lead to cutting edge solutions? This question is critical given that difficulty to come out with innovative ideas in certain industrial contexts occurs even though all the necessary conditions for innovation are fulfilled. The IDefixE project was based on the view shared by Partner 1 (LaPsyDÉ, Paris Descartes) and 2 (CGS, Mines ParisTech) forged during their collaboration that some of the issues and shortenings of the dynamics of the industry is best explained in terms of cognitive limitations. Indeed, as shown in decision making studies, people are biased and the capacity to generate new and innovative ideas is constrained by heuristics that lead to fixation effect. In this context, the aim of the IDefixE project was to identify the key cognitive processes that allow to generate innovative ideas and to determine to what extent it is possible to develop set a of management tools to overcome these fixation effects in industries.


Wim De Neys

Decades of reasoning and decision-making research have shown that human judgment is often biased by intuitive heuristics. Recent studies on conflict detection during thinking nevertheless indicate that despite their biased response, adults typically do detect that their answer is not fully warranted and conflicts with logical considerations. This conflict sensitivity suggests that people are biased because they fail to override the tempting intuitions and has important implications for our view of human rationality and the design of intervention programs to de-bias our reasoning. The core objective of the present project is to address the development of children’s conflict detection efficiency over the critical elementary and secondary school years.


Olivier Houdé