University of Illinois
Humans are unique among the great apes in our capacity to reason explicitly about the relations among things—an ability that underlies our capacity for mathematics, science, engineering and everything else that distinguishes us as a species. Reasoning about relations requires us to represent relations as entities in their own right, to bind arguments to those relations, to map systems of structures based on shared relations and to use the resulting mappings to constrain inference and learning. During human evolution something happened to our brains that makes it possible for us to do these things. I will discuss my work simulating how the human brain accomplishes these tasks, and how the resulting algorithms account for aspects of human thinking, especially those that make us most uniquely human.
John Hummel got his Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota in Experimental Psychology and Cognitive Science, was a Professor at UCLA from 1991 – 2005 and is currently a Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Illinois. His work focuses on how people perceive, represent, learn and reason about relations. He, his students and colleagues conduct both behavioral research with human subjects and computational work, using artificial neural networks to simulate relational perception, learning and thought.