Upcoming events:

Past events:

Modeling Minds II: Levels of Explanation.

16th of December 2016
Radboud University Nijmegen,
Spinoza building, Donders Room A.00.07


One of the main aims of the science of brain, cognition and behaviour is to provide explanations of cognitive phenomena. Answering different types of questions about a given phenomenon (e.g., what? how? why? where? when?) can be seen as providing explanations at different levels. This idea of ‘levels of explanation’ is of prime importance for understanding explanatory practices in cognitive science. For instance, the (kinds of) questions you ask in your research guide the methods you employ and the answers you formulate. Also, it is necessary to be able to tell whether two different explanations are situated at the same level and are for instance competing, or whether they span two different complementary levels and are potentially consistent. In spite of the importance of clarity on such issues, much ambiguity and disagreement remains about what exactly defines the different levels of explanation, and how they are related to each other.

In this workshop, we aim to bring together philosophers, computational modelers and cognitive (neuro)scientists to present and discuss different perspectives. The goal is to build common ground on both the theoretical issues related to levels of explanation and how they inform and guide the daily practice of studying the mind and brain.

Questions addressed include:

This workshop is a second event in the Modeling Minds workshop series jointly organized by the Donders Center for Cognition and the Philosophy of Mind and Language group at the Radboud University Nijmegen.


16th of December (Friday)
09:00 - 09:30 Registration, coffee & tea
09:30 - 09:45 Welcome
09:45 - 10:45 Willem Frankenhuis
Levels of explanation in biology
10:45 - 11:00 Coffee & tea break
11:00 - 12:00 Bart Geurts
No sense without competence
12:00 - 12:30 Exercise
12:30 - 13:30 Lunch
13:30 - 14:30 Pim Haselager
Levels of agency
14:30 - 15:30 Exercise
15:30 - 15:45 Bathroom break
15:45 - 17:00 Grand finale: panel and plenary discussion

Abstracts: Click here

Registration: Click here

Organizers: Katja Abramova, Iris van de Pol


Modeling Minds

23-24th of April 2015
De Lindenberg, Nijmegen

Since its inception, cognitive science has been built on modeling as a core research methodology. Models come in many different kinds and forms, including neural network, symbolic, logicist, probabilistic (Bayesian), heuristic, dynamical, robotic, and evolutionary models. Also, models can be used for many different purposes, including description, prediction, explanation, emulation, and prescription.

In this two­day workshop, we focus specifically on the explanatory role of models in cognitive science, spanning the full diversity of modeling types. Even though explanation is a key scientific aim of modeling in cognitive science, there is no consensus about what makes a model explanatory. It’s become evident that making good predictions is not sufficient (and possibly, not even necessary) for good explanations. But then what is? Recently, it has been proposed that models that describe mechanisms may serve as explanations. Yet, questions remain on how mechanisms explain. Besides, even if mechanisms can suffice as explanations, it isn’t clear if only mechanisms explain.

This workshop brings together philosophers and modelers in the cognitive sciences to exchange ideas on what, how and in what sense models explain. With this workshop we aim to build more common ground between cognitive scientists interested in models as explanations, and to make visible the diversity of contemporary modelling approaches and their views on explanation.

Slides from the workshop are available here


Katja Abramova1,2, Marc Slors2, Iris van Rooij1

1. Radboud University, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Computational Cognitive Science
2. Radboud University, Department of Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies, Philosophy of Mind and Language


Via email to e.abramova'at'ftr.ru.nl


23rd of April (Thursday)
9:00 Registration
9:30 Welcome
9:45-10:15 Introduction to the workshop & start-up activity
10:15-11:15 Sanneke de Haan, University of Amsterdam
Does explanation require the uncovering of underlying mechanisms?
11:15-11:30 Coffee break
11:30-12:30 Nina Gierasimczuk, University of Amsterdam
Investigating human reasoning through the lens of logic and games
12:30-14:00 Lunch break
14:00-15:00 Ralf Cox, University of Groningen
Fractal coordination dynamics in human behaviour
15:00-16:00 Catarina Dutilh Novaes, University of Groningen
Reasoning biases and non-monotonic logics: the case of preferential logics
16:00-16:15 Coffee break
16:15-17:15 Panel discussion
24th of April (Friday)
10:00-10:15 Intermediate summary/reflections on Day 1
10:15-11:15 Pim Haselager, Radboud University Nijmegen
Robots as models
11:15-11:30 Coffee break
11:30-12:30 Jelle Zuidema, University of Amsterdam
Nonsymbolic models of compositional semantics
12:30-14:00 Lunch break
14:00-15:00 Matteo Colombo, Tilburg University
Bayesian cognitive science, under-considered alternatives, and the value of specialization
15:00-16:00 Johan Kwisthout, Radboud University Nijmegen
A complexity-theoretic perspective on approximate Bayesian inferences
16:00-16:15 Coffee break
16:15-17:15 Panel discussion
17:15-17:30 Closing