CogSci Affinity & Discussion Groups

The Society is pleased to offer the following Affinity and Discussion Sessions, scheduled to take place during the CogSci 2020 virtual conference.

Joining a Group Discussion

To access an affinity or discussion group:


  1. Check the date and time of the session you wish to attend
  2. Enter the CogSci virtual platform and go to the Chat Lounge
  3. Click on the relevant chat room, cut and paste the access url into your browser to enter the session

These group sessions are free to attend for all CogSci 2020 registrants, and pre-registration is not required

Affinity Groups

Jewel in your open light


Date & Time: Wednesday July 29 2pm EDT (11am PST) and (7pm BST)

About: This Affinity Group will involve a 1h15 min session hosted as a virtual community of practice bringing together amazing BIPOC cognitive science, neuroscience, health and BIPOC arts and culture platforms together. Join us to create possibilities for collective imagining from community and youth leader perspectives. We’ll hear three challenges framed as stories, bringing our whole selves, collective knowledge and lived experiences to reimagine the world around us and our relationship to it. No prior cognitive science knowledge is required to attend the session.

Platforms present include:

Eliana Colunga, Colarado/Sparks Society

Anita Shervington and Kiki, Makeda and Damia, BLAST Fest

Naomi Mwasambili, Chanua Health

Sade Abiodun, Princeton/BlackInNeuro

Tony Valenzuela, Black Box TV

Erinma Ochu, Engaging Environments

CogSci Allies: Chantal Prat and Andrea Stucco (Washington, US) Join us to envision a shared responsibility in creating BIPOC societal impact for cognitive science. This session falls during #BlackInNeuroWeek2020, and will amplify solidarity with #CogSci2020 With permission, the session will be recorded, all contributors credited via an open access link for a BIPOC artist to listen to the recording to produce an artwork as a response. The associated artwork will be shared open access, with a DOI (shareable and referenceable link), with everyone credited, via Figshare. The session opens with Audre Lorde’s poem ‘Coal’ from which the session title is derived. A code of conduct will ensure the space is welcoming and inclusive to all. Community partners, young people and storytellers can use the waiver form to attend the session for free.

How to build more inclusive and welcoming Cognitive Science? An intergenerational crowd-sourcing session

Contact: ;

Date & Time: Wednesday July 29, 4:00PM – 5:30PM EDT

About: This Affinity Group will crowd-source concrete “tips and tricks” that members of our community (trainees, faculty, etc) have used within their professional lives for making their mentorship and research more inclusive to members of underrepresented and minoritized communities. The motivation for this session is unprecedented historical and currently lived events (#metoo, #BLM, #covid19), which have cast a stark light on the urgent need to identify and remediate systemic barriers to inclusivity and access within all facets of our society, including academia. These range from active bias and geopolitical issues to sensory-motor disability barriers.

In our own discipline, cognitive science, some progress has been made with respect to dedicated groups of scholars coming together to form professional societies whose missions are to address systemic barriers (e.g., Women in Cognitive Science in 2001, Women in Cognitive Science Canada in 2016, SPARK Society in 2019).  However, the recognition of such barriers is not enough to create actionable change that all of us, as individuals, can readily incorporate within our classrooms, laboratories, and scholarship.

Thus, our desired outcome will be a comprehensive list of ideas and resources that the SPARK Society and Women in Cognitive Science Canada will share broadly with the cognitive science community and continue to update at its websites. Questions/comments will come from conference attendees, particularly trainees, who can also submit contributions anonymously ahead of time (please see link below). Our ultimate goal is to increase a collective sense of welcoming and belonging in our discipline.

Please share your thoughts ahead of the meeting by completing this short form:

Queer in AI @ Cogsci


Date & Time: Thursday July 30th, 2:00PM – 3:30PM EDT

About: Queer in AI is pleased to host an Affinity Group event at CogSci 2020. Queer In AI’s mission is to make the AI/ML community one that welcomes, supports, and values LGBTQIA+ scientists. We also recognize the growing impact AI/ML has on queer people and work to raise awareness of these issues and to encourage and highlight research related to these problems. The Cognitive Science Society has many overlaps with the AI/ML community, and Queer in AI is looking forward to creating an inclusive space for queer cognitive scientists at CogSci 2020 by hosting a video social.

CogSciPUI: Cognitive Science Faculty (and Interested Future Faculty) at Primarily Undergraduate Institutions

Contact: ;

Date & Time: Friday July 31st, 4:15PM – 6:15PM EDT

About: This Affinity Group will provide an opportunity for connection and community-building among cognitive science faculty (and interested future faculty) at primarily undergraduate institutions (PUIs). We will engage in free-form discussion about issues related to pursuing cognitive science research at PUIs, which tend to be highly teaching-intensive and student-centered. Such issues have historically lacked visibility at the CogSci conference, despite the fact that high-quality cognitive science research is carried out at many PUIs and many undergraduates attend the conference each year. Possible group discussion topics include strategies for engaging undergraduates in cognitive science research, maintaining an active lab during the COVID-19 era of remote work, fostering interdisciplinary research at PUIs (where there may be few other cogsci-aligned faculty), and advancing equity and inclusion at PUIs (many of which are racially/ethnically homogeneous). We welcome graduate students and postdocs interested in learning about PUI faculty positions, and our discussion may include strategies for pursuing such positions.

Discussion Groups

Neural Network Models of Cognition


Date & Time: Thursday July 30th, 4:15PM – 6:15PM EDT

About: Our affinity group is for individuals who are interested in using neural network (including connectionist, PDP, and deep learning models) to capture aspects of human cognition. Topics of interest include language processing and reading, perception and attention, learning and memory, cognitive control, semantic cognition, mathematical cognition, cognitive development, and the neural basis of these processes.

At CogSci2020, we will gather to:

  1. Share highlights of each participant’s relevant research to inform others about it (2 min per participant).  Participants who wish to can list themselves and a few sentences with embedded links about their work in a Google doc that we will be sharing with all participants.  If you would like to receive a link to the file to add your information, please send email to
  2. Discuss ways to encourage ongoing interactions among members of the group.
  3. General discussion, let by Jay McClelland, on the topic ‘What can Deep Learning and other neural network modelling approaches tell us about human cognition?’
NSERC Information Session: Discovery Grants and Scholarships and Fellowships


Date & Time: Friday July 31st, 10:40AM – 12:00PM EDT

About: A Program Officer from the Discovery Grant Program’s Biological Systems and Functions Evaluation Group team will present on applications to the program and answer questions from the attendees. A Program Officer of the Scholarships and Fellowships team will also present on programs available to trainees and on tips for applicants. Following the presentations, questions from the audience will be addressed. The presentations will be delivered in English but questions are welcome in both official languages of Canada. Informational material will be available for reference throughout the day.

Primary Data Entry


Date & Time: Saturday Aug 1 from 11:00 (Toronto time)


This Discussion Group will study the contradiction between capabilities of newborns and their social achievements – the “Primary Data Entry” (PDE):

  1. Acquisition of knowledge is an integrated process that implies the possession of some initial data because new knowledge can be assimilated by discovering new key relationships between cause and effect within previous knowledge, and/or finding links between elements of initial knowledge and new information domains. The initial assimilation of even simple social tasks requires primary knowledge of social reality.
  2. The appearance of communication requires a shared understanding of the signal’s meaning (i.e., uses) within a particular context among a community of users (Wittgenstein, 1973). Therefore communication requires abstract thinking. There is no evidence that at initial stages of development – 0-3 Stages of the Model of Hierarchical Complexity (Commons et al., 1982; Commons, 2016) – organisms are able to operate abstract phenomena and communicate on their own. This may mean that at the initial stages of the development infants are not able to communicate with caregivers effectively enough to acquire first social phenomena on their own.
  3. At the same time newborns demonstrate successful performances in their social tasks, i.e., they anyway assimilate social knowledge.

This contradiction challenges our knowledge of the modalities of social interaction. How can human newborns acquire initial social knowledge, considering: (i) their communication inability and lack of abstract thinking; (ii) the minimum set of social knowledge needed from the birth to begin acquiring social phenomena and cognitive development; and (iii) the presence of thousands of different linguistic communities with their specific social reality. (Danilov and Mihailova, 2019).

That is, the Discussion Group will study the development of consciousness and social interaction modalities: 

  1. a) by posing the PDE problem. Different studies evidently show that newborns are able to successfully recognize social phenomena that are not present in their social reality. The presentation lasts 5 min approx.;
  2. b) by observing different viewpoints on how infants may acquiring initial knowledge, also reflecting their difficulties, the review lasts 3 min approx.;
  3. c) and puts forward a hypothesis about the meaningful interaction of organisms at 0-3 stages of development (without abstract thinking) – the Model of Coherent Intelligence. The presentation lasts 3 min approx.;
  4. d) Questions and Answers: further discussion aims to determine the PDE problem and indicate directions for future studies
The New Human


Date & Time: Saturday August 1st from 12:00 EDT

About: This Discussion Group will explore the ways in which cognitive science is reshaping of key assumptions about the human mind. Literary scholars working on mental phenomena at ‘Literature and Mind’ center at UCSB note that, currently, progress in fields such as data driven machine learning and computer vision is providing unprecedented opportunities for the prospect of human-level artificial intelligence. But, as has been argued in computer science, the computational theory of mind, which claims that mental processes are computational processes, is insufficient to fully account for biologically evolved intelligence. For machine intelligence to take us all the way to human-level intelligence, we need explanations that span multiple levels of organization (neural, somatic, social) that take shape at multiple time-scales (evolution, development, life-long learning). The goal of this group is to provide a virtual space is for cognitive humanists and cognitive scientists to discuss our current research on the developing nature of human mind with each other.

Researchers in Analogy

Date & Time: Saturday, August 1st from 7PM EDT / 6PM CDT / 9AM AEST


The Cognitive Science Society meeting is the main “watering hole” for researchers in analogy to get together. Research on analogy benefits from interactions between those studying analogy, similarity, learning, and reasoning in humans, other animals, and machines. This discussion group is open to anyone attending the meeting who is interested in analogy.

Join us on the CogSci space!

The Cognitive Science Society is pleased to announce the establishment of the CogSci Grove which aims to mobilise cognitive scientists to offset carbon emissions associated with their professional activities.