What We Do
The group's central interest is how our brain is optimized for interacting with the world, and how this leads to neurocognitive functions such as action and intentions, social behaviour, learning and language.
In our view, our brain makes models of the world based on previous experiences, and these models are combined with current sensory observations to come to an optimal deduction of their underlying causes.
Our position is that our brain is a prediction machine, i.e. we continuously attempt to match incoming sensory inputs with top-down expectations or predictions.
The conceptual power of this process - often referred to as the predictive coding account - is that it unifies the neurocognitive functions that were hitherto considered separate.
However, studies in the field of Cognitive Neuroscience so far have focused on basic perception (perceiving Gabor patches) and simple actions (writing strokes).
We have the ambition to investigate the role of predictions to explain and unify higher cognitive functions like Social Cognition and Language.
As Aristotle already pointed out, "Humans are by nature social animals". Sociality is a dominant force that shapes thought, behavior, physiology, and neural activity. However, how are social processes triggered and do they really differ from non-social processes?
We try to understand social interaction in general and investigate how we build internal models to predict other’s goal-directed actions, such as individual object preferences. We also study important social phenomena like in-group/outgroup differences from a predictive coding perspective.
Another aim is to contribute to a better theoretical understanding of individual differences in social interaction and we therefore investigate participants that cover a wide range of social interaction skills, including participants falling within the Autism Spectrum.
Language and concepts
Another main topic of interest in our group is the interaction between top-down and bottom-up information processing streams in the organization of conceptual knowledge in the brain. Does our conceptual knowledge shape our perception of the world?
We test the assumption that language-mediated categories could be considered as one of the top-down factors that constrain sensory perception and investigate the timing aspects and the neurophysiological mechanism of language-perception interactions. We are also interested in social communication aspects of language.