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· 12 October 2015, 11:57 ·

Posture helps robots learn words, and infants, too!

What kind of information do children and infants take into account when learning new words? And to what extent do they need to rely on interpreting a speakers intention to extract meaning? A paper by Morse, Cangelosi and Smith (2015), published in PLoS One, suggests that bodily states such as body posture might be used by infants to acquire word meanings in the absence of the object named. To test their hypothesis, the authors ran a series of experiments using a word learning task with infants—but also a self-learning robot, the iCub.

Read the full article over at Replicated Typo.

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· 3 October 2015, 18:14 ·

Twenty-five years of a reunited Germany

On the 3rd of October, twenty five years ago, Germany was no longer a divided country. I was not quite three years old, but the fall of the wall and the reunification meant that my life would take a very different turn and I sometimes wonder what my life would have been like if it didn’t happen. Time for a brief reflection and some historical documents.

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· 17 September 2013, 17:41 ·

The Snowden leaks have shown us (once again): We cannot trust secret services

The Snowden leaks have been revealing; they have uncovered a massive surveillance programme that was operating without democratic legitimisation. In a way, this is not surprising. In hindsight, it seems improbable that security agencies would not use all the information avialble, particularly when it’s so easy to collect. A former officer of East Germany’s secret service, the StaSi, admitted that ‘this would have been a dream come true’ for him and his likes.. But what I want to argue here is that we shouldn’t accept this surveillance as necessary. Even if it were lawful, it is detrimental to democratic societies. Even if the NSA isn’t the StaSi, it comes dangerously close, and is need to be constrained.

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· 4 September 2013, 20:40 ·

Say goodbye to the city

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· 6 April 2013, 01:39 ·

Sticking the tongue out: Early imitation in infants

The nativism-empiricism debate haunts the fields of language acquisition and evolution on more than just one level. How much of children’s social and cognitive abilities have to be present at birth, what is acquired through experience, and therefore malleable? Classically, this debate resolves around the poverty of stimulus. How much does a child have to take for granted in her environment, how much can she learn from the input?

Research into imitation has its own version of the poverty of stimulus, the correspondence problem. The correspondence problem can be summed up as follows: when you are imitating someone, you need to know which parts of your body map onto the body of the person you’re trying to imitate. If they wiggle their finger, you can establish correspondence by noticing that your hand looks similar to theirs, and that you can do the same movement with it, too. But this is much trickier with parts of your body that are out of your sight. If you want to imitate someone sticking their tongue out, you first have to realise that you have a tongue, too, and how you can move it in such a way that it matches your partner’s movements.

Read the full article over at Replicated Typo.

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· 2 April 2013, 22:10 ·

Gender biases on the job market in academia: There are already quotas, but they are implicit

The issue of supporting quotas for supporting women in board room positions and academia are highly contested: Is it really fair that women receive extra support through guaranteed quotas during the application process? Does this not bias the employment process, whereas less qualified personnel was employed? In a blog post over at the LSE’s Engenderings, Linnea Sandström has made a case in favour of quotas, and I want to present some research here that suggests that there is already an implicit selection process favouring one sex over the other—only that it works in favour of men, and that this imbalance is not just attributable to life style choices. Rather, there is a bias direct against female applicants, even when the information about the applicant is the same. Therefore, quotas are about balancing an already existing bias, rather than introducing a new one.

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· 24 February 2013, 23:19 ·

Why do journals provide broken BibTeX files?

I have already written about my love for BibTeX and BibDesk for referencing. One of the best things about it is that you can often fetch bibliographic information straight from the journal’s websites, Google Scholar or other sources.

However, whilst this is great most of the time, there are many cases where journals are delivering broken BibTeX that BibDesk cannot parse, or that are just not well formed. What’s following is a brief rant on journal’s low quality BibTeX download and a few general observations.

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· 24 February 2013, 23:12 ·

Sophie Hunger and Erik Truffaz

Sophie Hunger and Erik Truffaz – Dirge – ARTE Live webTV from Karambolage on Vimeo.

This week I had the chance to see Erik Truffaz and Sophie Hunger live, albeit not sharing a stage, which was still wonderful.

I am currently applying for PhDs in developmental psychology and language acquisition, and communication in general. Furthermore, I have a few more things lined up, articles to work on, and a pretty interesting internship coming up. More about these things once they actually materialise. I also have a few topics for blog posts, which I will put up soon if all goes well. Watch this space!

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· 9 February 2013, 17:47 ·

Pentax DA 21mm Limited

This is my main (because only) wide angle prime and I bought it primarily for my cycle tour to Copenhagen. There is little to fault this lens: It’s sharp, photos are crisp, it’s got a good resolution, natural colours, plus it’s small and lightweight.

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· 5 February 2013, 14:47 ·

Pettit on the relationship between the market and the state

On the Politics in Spires blog, Philip Pettit has published an excellent piece on a republican[1] perspective on democracy, freedom and the markets. In his article, there’s one point that’s particularly notable in my opinion: He argues that the markets should not be taken as an independent entity, but are a socio-political construct, determined not only by the actions of individual market participants, but by the social structure.

“[W]e can avoid being seduced into the libertarian view — now, alas, almost an orthodoxy — that the market is a relatively autonomous sphere which depends only contingently on the framework of custom and law, and on the role of the state in supporting that framework. The role of the state in relation to the market — the role of the community, operating through the state — is constitutive and not just regulative, enabling and not just constraining. And it is extensive in even a greater measure than my five sets of rules suggest, since it also includes providing for the infrastructure of education, communication, transport and insurance that any contemporary economy requires.”

I think that this is an essential point to make: Any riches, and any losses in property are the consequence of a particular status quo and the current social order, as determined by the rules and regulations in a society. Let me elaborate:

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