Psychological and Brain Sciences BBC Search Candidate Talk: Jan Wessel (University of Iowa) – “How surprise affects behavior and cognition”

November 26, 2018
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Wilson Hall 214 (Danforth Campus)

“How surprise affects behavior and cognition”

Behavior Brain & Cognition search, candidate talk

Abstract: Cognitive flexibility is the ability to adjust ongoing behavior and cognitive processes in the face of rapidly changing situational demands. It is achieved via the deployment of control processes in situations in which the intended outcomes of goal-directed behaviors are in peril. Such situations can be caused by unexpected perceptual events, unexpected action outcomes, action errors, and many other situations in which cognitive control is needed. In this talk, I will outline a broad, general theory of cognitive flexibility that revolves around the psychological construct of surprise (a universal mental computation signaling the need for control) and a neural mechanism for inhibitory control (a specific mechanism that is triggered during surprise). As such, I will propose that surprising events lead to the deployment of inhibitory control as part of an adaptive cascade of processes, which serves to interrupt ongoing motor and cognitive representations. This allows the cognitive system to rapidly reassess the appropriateness of current representations in light of the changed situational demands. I will present data from our recent experiments using healthy and abnormal human populations, and will offer converging, multi-modal evidence for this theory from scalp- and intracranial electrophysiology, brain stimulation, and behavioral experimentation. Finally, I will present some evidence couching this theory into an even wider framework of controlled processing under uncertainty.

Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences seminars

For inquiries contact Cheri Casanova.