Saturday, April 9, 2011

Some updates on the Cognitive Atlas Project

It's been a while since I posted anything so I thought I would catch everyone up on what's been going on.  The project ended up having a number of very quiet months last year while we transferred the grant from UCLA to UT Austin.  Now that the grant is in place at UT, we have been cranking forward on the next release of the Cognitive Atlas, which we hope to release some time later this year.  Some new features will include:

  • a personal "dashboard" that will provide easy access to relevant infomation
  • improved interface for displaying relations, which will work better when there are large numbers of relations
  • an improved interface to PubMed
  • relations based on literature mining
  • many more improvements behind the scenes
We have also welcomed Jack Van Horn from UCLA to the Cognitive Atlas team; Jack will be working with the rest of the team to develop new ways to seed the database and visualize the results.  

I have also just recently made a thorough curation run through the database and will soon be cleaning out the database.  Discussions with a number of people (particularly Gwen Friskoff from Georgia State) highlighted that there were some terms in the database that were not really mental constructs.  For example, there were a number of linguistic concepts (such as "vowel" and "agglutinative language") which refer to things in the world rather than to mental constructs.  Because the concepts list in the Cognitive Atlas is meant to include only mental constructs, these are not appropriate for the knowledge base.  Instead, a concept like "vowel processing" would be appropriate because it would refer to a mental construct rather than to a thing in the world.  

Another common confusion is between tasks and concepts. For example, "trace conditioning" was previously listed as a concept in the database.  However, trace conditioning is an empirical phenomenon that is evoked using particular learning paradigm; it is, of course, supported by particular learning processes, and it is those processes that count as mental concepts, rather than the experimental paradigm, which should instead be listed as a task.  

Finally, we are in the process of making a thorough sweep through the task database, integrating with a number of other task lexica, and cleaning it up so that entries are more consistent.  

We look forward to your continued contributions and always welcome feedback about the project.