Our Very Own Dr. Quion Zhang is Giving a Colloquium

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October 12th 2021, 11am

Speaker: Professor Qiong Zhang, Department of Psychology, Rutgers University


Title: Understanding Human Memory as a Constrained Optimization Problem


How can methods from machine learning be brought to bear on cognitive psychology’s classic questions about mental representations and cognitive processes? The literature on human memory has primarily focused on identifying a set of behavioral patterns that are consistently shown across experiments, but with relatively little concern for why humans demonstrate these patterns in the first place. In contrast, my research explains human memory behavior by understanding how close it is to optimal behavior, by adapting the theory of rational analysis from psychology literature. This creates an opportunity to draw inspiration from the best examples of intelligent systems in computer science.

Humans live a resource constrained existence. We can only process a fraction of our experiences at one time, and we store a shockingly small subset of these experiences in the memory for later use. Properly identifying optimal behavior requires taking into account the limitations and constraints of human cognition. In this talk, I will discuss a few directions I have taken to understand what the solutions are to different constrained-optimization memory problems, their evidence over human empirical data, and how we can leverage the optimal solutions as guidance in developing technology to improve human memory.

Bio: Dr. Zhang is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology and is also affiliated with the Department of Computer Science and the Rutgers Center for Cognitive Science. Dr. Zhang received her Ph.D. in 2019 from Carnegie Mellon University jointly in the Machine Learning Department under the School of Computer Science, and the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition. She completed additional postdoctoral training in the Princeton Neuroscience Institute before joining Rutgers. She was a visiting researcher in the Department of Artificial Intelligence at the University of Groningen in 2016 and interned as a research scientist at Facebook Reality Labs in 2018.