Steven Piantadosi and Celeste Kidd to join BCS at Rochester

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It’s great to be able to announce that the Center of Language Sciences at the University of Rochester is about to grow. Two new faculty, Steven Piantadosi and Celeste Kiddwill join our Brain and Cognitive Science department, starting in the Summer of 2014. Chances are you know both of them, but here’s a short intro.

Celeste’s research focuses on decision making, attention, and language development in infants and children. Her recent work includes research on the trade-off between too much and too little information/surprisal in learning and how infants seem to be striving for a middle ground (the ‘Goldilocks effect’). She also recently revisited the well-known marshmallow study, putting an intriguing new twist on it: her study suggests that kids can prioritize long-term over short-term rewards, if they have evidence that the long-term rewards will reliably be delivered (see the paper).

Steven’s research focuses on probabilistic inference to learn and process language. His thesis investigated probabilistic models of semantic acquisition — how complex thoughts are acquired through composition out of simpler thought elements (thesis). He has also authored several beautiful papers on how communicative pressures (formalized in terms of information theory and probabilistic inference) are cross-linguistically reflected in the phonological structure of the mental lexicon. Another line of his research focuses on recursion – see, for example, his recent work on recursion in Piraha (talk).

Together they won the 2010 Computational Modeling Prize (Perception/Action) of the Cognitive Science Society.

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