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AISB event Bulletin Item

CALL FOR PARTICIPATION: Whitehead Lecture - Bayesian Just-So Stories in Psychology and Neuroscience, Wed 13th March, Goldsmiths, London UK

The seventh and final Whitehead Lecture of spring term 2013 will be given by Colin Davis. Colin 
is Professor of Cognitive Science in the Department of Psychology at Royal Holloway, University 
of London.

An abstract for the lecture and short biography for the speaker are appended below.

The lecture will take place at 4pm on Wednesday 13th March in the Ben Pimlott Lecture Theatre, 
Goldsmiths, University of London .


Bayesian Just-So Stories in Psychology and Neuroscience


ABSTRACT: Bayesian theories are all the rage in psychology and neuroscience. These theories 
claim that minds and brains are (near) optimal in solving a wide range of tasks. A common 
premise of these theories is that theorising should largely be constrained by a rational 
analysis of what the mind ought to do in order to perform optimally. I will argue that this 
approach ignores many of the important constraints that come from biological, evolutionary, 
and processing (algorithmic) considerations, and that it has contributed to the development of 
many Bayesian just-so stories in psychology and neuroscience; that is, mathematical analyses 
of cognition that can be used to explain almost any behavior as optimal. I will argue that the 
empirical evidence for Bayesian theories in psychology is weak at best, and that the empirical
evidence for Bayesian theories in neuroscience is weaker still. 
BRIEF BIO: Colin Davis obtained a PhD in cognitive psychology from the University of New South 
Wales in Sydney. After a few years working as a post-doctoral research fellow at the Macquarie 
Centre for Cognitive Science he moved to Bristol as a post-doctoral researcher. He was appointed
as a Senior Lecturer at Royal Holloway, University of London in 2006, becoming a Professor of 
Cognitive Science in 2010. In summer 2013 he will take up a Chair in Cognitive Psychology at the 
University of Bristol. Most of his research is focussed on language processing, and particularly 
the recognition of printed words. This lecture is based on an article he published with Jeffrey 
Bowers in Psychological Bulletin in 2012.