Human cognition and our flexible knowledge

Chris Liverani

What are we researching?

People have knowledge about the world, for example, about everyday objects (apple, hammer), activities (travelling, singing) or concepts (equality, inspiration). This knowledge enables them to use language, act logically, remember things and reason. What does a mental representation look like?

Why are we doing this research?

With this research, we try to understand better how people store knowledge in their memory and use it. What do people imagine when they think of something, and how does their mental representation correspond to the world? An important theme in our research is the interaction between the senses, actions, and mental representation.

How are we doing this research?

In the lab and via the internet, we have participants read words or sentences and react to pictures or sounds. We measure what information people use quickly and remember about these experiences.

How does our research make an impact?

The main contribution of our research is to gain a better understanding of the cognitive mechanisms that enable people to understand the world, communicate about it and plan behaviour. If we better understand how people learn, remember, and use their knowledge, we will also be able to apply it to many different areas. Understanding these cognitive processes can, for example, help optimise education. It can help us understand why cognition is impaired in neurological diseases and impairments or healthy ageing. If we know how people understand language, we can make communication clearer. Understanding human cognition is used to create 'smart' algorithms, and so on. Fundamental knowledge about how human cognition works is vital in many areas, and our research is trying to contribute to this.

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