Campus news in brief

Danks researches cognitive architecture

Professor of philosophy and psychology at Carnegie Mellon David Danks outlined a new look at cognitive architecture that explains how humans pay attention only to the things that matter, and use cognition to reason about our world.

In “Unifying the Mind: Cognitive Representation as Graphical Models,” Danks explains both these processes through graphical models. Graphical models, a university press release says, are “probability models that use graphs to show the relevance structure between different factors.”

“We move between cognitive processes that seem to share information readily. By making sense of how this happens and using graphical models to represent it, we can think about cognition in new ways, such as understanding it as different shared processes that work together,” Danks said in the press release. Danks is the first researcher to use graphical models to look at multiple areas of cognition and reinterpret several existing cognitive theories.

“Few philosophers address questions of interest to working scientists. David Danks is one of the few. His ideas about conceptualizing cognitive representations as graphical models have profound implications for all mind–brain investigators,” John Bruer, president of the James S. McDonnell Foundation, said in the press release. The James S. McDonnell Foundation gives grants to researchers who work toward “improved quality of life,” according to its website.

“Unifying the Mind” was published by MIT Press.

Roth awarded Friend of the CNBC award

Carnegie Mellon recently awarded Mark Roth, a staff writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the 2014 Friend of the Center for Neural Basis and Cognition (CNBC) award. Roth received the award because of his journalistic work bringing current scientific and medical issues to the public’s attention.

Roth returned to full-time reporting at the Post-Gazette after 20 years of editing, producing a series for the newspaper called “The Thinkers” that profiles research pioneers across disciplines. Roth has also taught science writing as an adjunct faculty member in Carnegie Mellon’s English Department since 2008.

“As a reporter, Mark gives an authoritative, but still accessible, voice to science, which is something that is sadly disappearing from many traditional newspapers. As a teacher, he pushes his students to do the same. He encourages them to ask intelligent questions and patiently helps them as they learn how to explain complex topics. These are skills that most of his students, myself included, have found to be extremely valuable no matter what career they pursue,” said Jocelyn Duffy, director of public relations for Carnegie Mellon’s Mellon College of Science, and former student of Roth’s, in the press release. “Carnegie Mellon students and readers of the Post-Gazette are extremely lucky that they get the chance to learn from Mark Roth.”

Roth received the award on Oct. 17 as part of the CNBC’s 20th anniversary celebrations.