Second Conference of the RTG

Social Understanding, Emotion, and Metaphors

22.-23.06.2018, Ruhr University Bochum (room GA 04/187)


– A call for papers and further information will follow soon –


Confirmed Speakers:

Elizabeth S. Spelke (Psychology, Harvard)

Giovanna Colombetti (Cognitive Science, Exeter)





First Conference of the RTG

Linguistic Understanding and Emotion

05.-06.10.2017, University of Osnabrück


On the 5th and 6th of October 2017, the first conference of the DFG research training group (RTG) “Situated Cognition” was held in Osnabrück.

The first day was opened by two PhD students, who reported their progressing work and afterwards were given feedback by the audience. Matej Koher presented a paper where he suggests that explanations in cognitive science have wrongfully combined mechanistic decomposition with the representational theory of mind. He argues that these two accounts are incompatible. Afterwards Jumana Morciglio showed her advancements in her integrative theory of self-control and embodiment extending the traditional “cognitivist” view. Especially chronically weak-willed agents could profit including the body to self-control strategies, which are easier to train than habits. For example embodying certain emotions (e.g. pride) may provide a cognitive short cut to help people stick to their better judgements.

After two talks, which were strongly embedded in the situated cognition framework, Liuba Papeo from the Institute of Cogntive Sciences at the Université de Lyon presented her empirical findings as a counter opinion, arguing for a weaker notion of embodiment. Based on her research with brain damaged patients, she and her colleagues found evidence that patients with motor dysfunction are still able to comprehend the meaning of an action word. This effect cannot be explained by situated approaches and constitutes a problem affecting the core ideas of this framework. These results should find consideration in our underlying paradigm. Her talk was commented by the PhD student Samuel Cosper, who summarised her presented findings, emphasising that the motor cortex is sensitive and that the semantic representation may not reside within the cortex itself, but rather that the cortex itself serves a mediated/secondary function.

After fruitful discussions based on conceptual opposing views of the different talks during the day, debates were continued at the more relaxed atmosphere of the Asian fusion restaurant coa in Osnabrück.

On the second day, continuing with the theme of emotions, Andres Sanchez Guerrero, an associated postdoc of the RTG from the Münster University Hospital (UKM) introduced an account of situated dispositional structures in early childhood. The aim of his project is to combine approaches of the psychodynamic structure with the paradigm of developmental psychology and the situated cognition theory into one framework, bringing it back to clinical practice. Developing a new theory including the first years of life he wants to expand the age range of the OPD-CA-2 (Operationalized Psychodynamic Diagnosis in Childhood and Adolescence) to infancy as well.

Subsequently, the PhD student Elmarie Venter introduced her work on predictive coding, perceptual content and the experiencing subject, exploring the accuracy conditions for a model of the world in the predictive coding framework. She proposed that any analysis of perception in terms of predictive coding will remain incomplete if the self-as-subject is not explained.

Andrea Scarantino, from Georgia State University, was invited for a talk about his motivational theory of emotion, which holds that emotions are essentially irruptive and prioritized impulses to behave. He argued that emotions can help self-control by virtue of how they motivate, feel and evaluate the self and their contribution to setting and shielding distal goals from proximal ones mirrors cognitive habits of self-control. The PhD student Lasse Bergmann summarised this talk and raised the question whether emotions really can be brought into line with goals as suggested by Scarantino.

The PhD student Julian Packheiser started the neurophysiological block arguing that single-unit recordings provide insights into the mechanism of how cognition is organized and realized. Based on first data he concluded that cognitive processes are most likely not structured in a spatially and temporally linear pattern, but rather achieved through feedback processing and neural coupling between perception and action depending on task complexity.

Last but not least Onur Güntürkün from the Ruhr-University Bochum presented the reasons why cognitive performances of birds were underestimated for more than 100 years. Birds, especially pigeons, crows and parrots, are able to act on the same level of cognition as mammals although the structure of the brain is fundamentally different, as birds do not have a cortex. This is possible due to more tightly packed neuronal areas in the brain. He closed his talk stating that different organised brains can produce the same cognitive output.

All together this conference was a great opportunity and inspiration for the continuing work of the RTG. We are looking forward to continue with these stimulating discussions in the upcoming conference on the 15th of December 2017, hosted by the Ruhr-University Bochum, where the remaining PhD students present their projects.

More pictures:




RTG Opening Workshop

June 23 2017, Ruhr University Bochum

We are happy to report that the opening conference of the DFG research training group (RTG) “Situated Cognition”, held on June 23rd at Ruhr-University Bochum, was a complete success!

The conference was opened by the 12 PhD students, Benjamin Angerer, Lasse Bergmann, Samuel Cosper, Samantha Ehli, Dali Gamsakhurdashvili, Matej Kohar, Nicolas Kuske, Guido Robin Löhr, Jumana Morciglio, Julian Packheiser, Elmarie Venter, Julia Wolf, and the Post-Doc Dr. Beate Krickel. They presented the projects and introduced the key aspects of Situated Cognition. Thereby, an outlook on the work of the RTG for the next three years of research was provided.
The presentations were followed by three invited talks focusing on new empirical findings and theoretical challenges in the context of Situated Cognition.

Dr. Shirley-Ann Rueschemeyer from the University of York started off with her talk on “Perspective Taking during Communicative Acts”, in the course of which she presented her current collaborative research on the question in how far a listener’s understanding of a sentence is influenced by the presence of other listeners that have a different knowledge background. Her findings were striking: The presence of listeners with different contextual knowledge have an effect on the neural activations of the other listener. The so-called theory of mind system is driving activations in the flexible semantic system. So the presence of other listeners seem to alter the experience of words in different contexts.

In the second talk, Prof. Robert Rupert from Boulder University, Colorado, who is also the first fellow of the RTG, presented his approach to “Cognitive Systems and the Organism-based Continuity of the Self”. He addressed the highly debated issue of personal identity and challenged the neuroscientific view of the self, consisting only of a special kind of integrated collections of brain mechanisms, which are functionally characterized. He states that the self is not a psychological but a biological kind, constituted by a dynamic neural circuity, and that environmental influences do not lead to a different self.
The last talk was given by Prof. Peter König from Osnabrück University, who offered a deeper insight into the field of “Embodied Cognition”. According to his theory and studies, action is the key to cognition, for which the necessity of eye movements in the case of perception is a prime example. Furthermore, the results of his blind-spot study speak in favor of the predictive coding idea.

The day was completed by a joint dinner at Tapas restaurant in Bochum city which provided an excellent opportunity to continue discussions raised during the conference.