Research Groups

What Allows Human Language? Seeking the Genetic, Anatomical, Cognitive, and Cultural Factors Underlying Language Emergence

What Allows Human Language? Seeking the Genetic, Anatomical, Cognitive, and Cultural Factors Underlying Language Emergence

February 1-28, 2023
June 1 - July 31, 2023

 

Organizers:

Inbal Arnon (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Liran Carmel (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

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Language is unique to humans: while other species possess sophisticated communication systems, none approach the complexity of human language. Importantly, what allows this unique ability is still not understood. What is clear, however, is that the answer lies in the combination of multiple cultural, cognitive, genetic and anatomical factors. Recent years have seen significant advances in our understanding of the genetic and cultural properties of archaic human groups, our knowledge about the complexity of nonhuman communication systems, and our ability to test questions about human and language evolution using big data sets and novel computational tools. These advances have the potential to provide novel insights about three crucial questions, which will be the focus of this group: (a) the timeline of language evolution, (b) the factors involved in its emergence, (c) the extent to which human language is qualitatively different from nonhuman communication systems.

Answering these questions requires integrating across multiple research fields and scientific communities. The research will address them from an interdisciplinary perspective, by bringing together researchers working on the genetic, anatomical, cognitive, and cultural underpinnings of archaic and modern humans, alongside researchers of animal communication and cognition. Such a conversation can generate new answers on the long-debated question of how language emerged, and why it has only emerged in humans.

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Meta Reasoning: Concepts, Open Issues and Methodology

meta reasoning

Meta Reasoning: Concepts, Open Issues and Methodology

September 1- December 31, 2022

Organizers:

Rakefet Ackerman (Technion–Israel Institute of Technology)
Valerie Thompson (University of Saskatchewan)

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Metacognitive processes accompany people’s thinking while investing mental effort towards achieving their goals (e.g., taking decisions, learning, solving problems). Metacognitive Monitoring reflects feelings of (un)certainty about how well a particular thinking process progresses. Research has demonstrated that monitoring guides further action, such as acting, thinking further, seeking help, or giving up. Miscalibration arises when monitoring relies on unreliable cues (e.g., ease with which information comes to mind) and may misdirect investment of cognitive effort, leading to epistemic failures (e.g., errors, belief in fake news).

So far, metacognitive research has been mostly focused on learning—mostly remembering and knowledge retrieval—and thus often called Meta-Memory. Much less is known about metacognitive processes involved in higher-order reasoning. Relative to memorising or retrieving a piece of information, reasoning typically requires more time and effort, and involves a combination of cognitive processes (including memory). For this reason, we have recently developed a Meta-Reasoning framework in an invited review paper in the prestigious journal Trends in Cognitive Science (Ackerman & Thompson, 2017).

Meta-Reasoning research is nascent. New insights and research methodologies are accumulating, and we are now in the process of establishing a research community. A first step in this direction was establishing a web site and list serve (https://meta-reasoning.net.technion.ac.il/). This research group is the next step, aiming at bringing together experienced researchers with diverse expertise and a proven track-record in offering out-of-the-box research approaches. Our collective goal is to develop concepts, measures, research and research programs for pushing the Meta-Reasoning domain forward.

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New Christian and New Jewish Discourses of Identity between Polemics and Apologetics: Rhetoric and Representation from the Late Middle Ages to the End of the Early Modern Period

research group

New Christian and New Jewish Discourses of Identity between Polemics and Apologetics

September 1, 2022 - June 30, 2023

Organizers:

Claude Stuczynski (Bar-Ilan University)
David Graizbord (University of Arizona)

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The research group will be devoted to the multi-disciplinary study of how and why New Christians (Iberian Jewish converts to Christianity and their descendants who were living as Christians) as well as New Jews (New Christians who adopted normative Judaism, mostly in the Western Sephardi Diaspora) understood (1) their own identities, (2) Jewish and Christian identities in particular, and (3) identity in general. The group will approach these authors as simultaneous targets and creators of polemical and apologetic writings within a time span covering the end of the fourteenth to the eighteenth centuries.

The research will pay special attention to the historical generation, content, and contexts of narratives belonging to various (sometimes intersecting) genres, as well as their influence as unique genres. The researchers will especially analyze these narratives as their creators addressed questions of self- and communal identification—its nature, formation, boundaries, and manifold functions. All discussions will pay attention to the construction of the narratives as reactions to anti-Jewish and anti-converso argumentation, or, depending on the case, as spontaneous initiatives to argue for Judaism against Christianity and/or to support the “Men of the Nation,” also known as the “nação” (Nation), a group comprising New Christians and New Jews. This will be a unique occasion to bring together scholars from the fields of Iberian studies (Spain, Portugal and the Iberian colonies) and Jewish studies, medievalists and early-modernists, historians and literary scholars, to map, contextualize and understand polemical and apologetic discourses and explore their impact in framing New Christian and New Jewish identities.

By comparing the New Christian or converso phenomenon to the New Jewish or Western Sephardi experience through this particular prism, we invite comparisons: both to understand the specific contexts and idiosyncratic discursive configurations and also to identify overlapping continuities and analogies between the New Christian and the New Jewish “condition.” In other words, we believe that this will be an innovative way to better understand what it meant to be a member of the Iberian/Sephardi “Hebrew nation (nação)”.

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Ergodic Theory

[RG #2] Ergodic Theory

Organizers:

Hillel Furstenberg (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Donald S. Ornstein (Stanford University)
Benjamin Weiss (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

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Monetary Economics

[RG #4] Monetary Economics

Organizers:

Don Patinkin (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Menahem E. Yaari (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

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