Glushko Dissertation Prize

The Cognitive Science Society and the Glushko-Samuelson Foundation will award up to five outstanding dissertation prizes in cognitive science. The goals of these prizes are to increase the prominence of cognitive science, and encourage students to engage in interdisciplinary efforts to understand minds and intelligent systems. The hope is that the prizes will recognize and honor young researchers conducting ground-breaking research in cognitive science. The eventual goal is to aid in efforts to bridge between the areas of cognitive science and create theories of general interest to the multiple fields concerned with scientifically understanding the nature of minds and intelligent systems. Promoting a unified cognitive science is consistent with the belief that understanding how minds work will require the synthesis of many different empirical methods, formal tools, and analytic theories. 2011 was the inaugural year of this prize, and a new competition is held annually.

The prizes are funded by the Robert J. Glushko and Pamela Samuelson Foundation, based in San Francisco.

Robert J. Glushko is an entrepreneur in Silicon Valley who received a Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology in 1979 under David Rumelhart’s supervision. He is an Adjunct Full Professor in the Cognitive Science Program at the University of California, Berkeley. He also funds the David E. Rumelhart Prize for Contributions to the Theoretical Foundations of Human Cognition.

Up to five Robert J. Glushko Dissertation/Ph.D. Thesis Prizes in Cognitive Science will be awarded annually. Each prize will be accompanied by a certificate and a $10,000 award to be used by the recipient without any constraints. Prize winners will also receive three years of complimentary membership in the Cognitive Science Society starting with the year in which they have won the prize.
Prize-winners must have received a PhD degree no more than two years before the January 25 nomination deadline. For the 2019 prizes, dissertations will be considered from individuals who received their PhD degrees during the period from January 25, 2017 to January 25, 2019.
Prize-winning dissertations/Ph.D. theses are expected to transcend any one of the individual fields comprising cognitive science. They should centrally address issues of interest to multiple fields that comprise cognitive science, including: psychology, computer science, philosophy, linguistics, anthropology, neuroscience, and education.
The dissertation/Ph.D. thesis prizes are open to any student who has conducted dissertation/thesis research related to cognitive science, regardless of nationality or originating department.


1. The deadline for nominations is January 25. Self-nominations are welcome. Awardees will be announced by April 15.

2. Candidates for the award, or an advisor who nominates a candidate, will use Submittable to submit the following materials electronically by the deadline above.

  • A cover letter indicating the name and current contact information for the candidate, title of the dissertation, Ph.D. institution, date on which the Ph.D. was awarded, and contact information for the three faculty who will be contributing letters of support.
  • A curriculum vitae of the candidate
  • The dissertation itself
  • A précis of no more than 4,000 words (references do not count in the word limit) written by the candidate describing the dissertation research. This description should clearly express the importance, novelty, and interdisciplinary contribution of the dissertation. The précis should be suitable for review by a broad spectrum of cognitive scientists.

3.  In addition, nominators (including self-nominators/candidates) should arrange for 3 letters of support from faculty members. They can be uploaded directly to the Submittable submission site (Or, if the nominator provides e-mail addresses, each faculty support letter writer will receive an e-mail with instructions). Alternatively, the support letters may be sent to ensuring that the name of the nominee is included in the subject line.

Prize Committee

The Robert J. Glushko Prize is administered by the Prize Selection Committee in consultation with the Glushko-Samuelson Foundation. Screening of nominees and selection of the prize winner will be performed by the Prize Selection Committee. Scientific members (including the Chair) of the Prize Selection Committee will serve for up to two four-year terms, and are appointed by the Governing Board of The Cognitive Science Society in consultation with the Glushko-Samuelson Foundation. A representative of the Foundation also serves on the Prize Selection Committee.

Adele Goldberg (Chair), Professor of Psychology, Princeton University
Nicholas Chater, Professor of Behavioral Science, University of Warwick
David Danks, L.L. Thurstone Professor of Philosophy and Psychology, Carnegie Mellon University
Thomas Griffiths, Henry R. Luce Professor of Information Technology, Consciousness and Culture, Princeton University
Barbara Knowlton, Professor of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles
John E. Laird, John L. Tischman Professor of Engineering, University of Michigan
Fei Xu, Professor of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley

2019 Winners

Kirsten Adam – 2018 PhD thesis “Characterizing the limits of visual working memory,” from University of Chicago, précis

Max Kleiman-Weiner – 2018 PhD thesis “Computational foundations of human social intelligence,” from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, précis

Martin Maier – 2018 PhD thesis “Language, meaning, and visual perception: Event-related potentials reveal top-down influences on early visual processing,” from Humboldt University, précis

Jean-Paul Noel – 2018 PhD thesis “Leveraging multisensory neurons, circuits, brains, and bodies to study consciousness: From the outside-in and the inside-out,” from Vanderbilt University, précis

Katharine Tillman – 2017 PhD thesis “Constructing the concept of time: Roles of language, perception, and culture,” from University of California, San Diego, précis

2018 Winners

Melody Dye – 2017 PhD thesis “Bridging Levels of Analysis: Learning, Information Theory, and the Lexicon ” from Indiana University, précis

Chaz Firestone – 2017 PhD thesis “Cognition Does Not Affect Perception” from Yale University, précis

Sagi Jaffe-Dax – 2016 PhD thesis  “Neural Basis and Computational Account for Dyslexia” from Hebrew University of Jerusalem, précis

Eric Schulz – 2017 PhD thesis “Towards a Unifying Theory of Generalization” from University College London, précis

Michelle Spierings – 2016 PhD thesis “The Music of Language: Exploring Grammar, Prosody and Rhythm Perception” from Leiden University, précis

2017 Winners

Alexandra Carstensen – 2016 PhD thesis “Universals and variation in language and thought: Concepts, communication, and semantic structure” from University of California, Berkeley, précis

Judith Ellen Fan, 2016 PhD thesis “Role of cognitive actions in learning” from Princeton University, précis

Julian Jara-Ettinger, 2016 PhD thesis “The inner life of goals: Costs, rewards, and commonsense psychology” from MIT, précis

Samuel G. B. Johnson,  2016 PhD thesis “Cognition as sense-making” from Yale University, précis

Dave F. Kleinschmidt,  2016 PhD thesis “Perception in a variable but structured world: The case of speech perception” from University of Rochester, précis

2016 Winners

Lang Chen, PhD thesis “White matter connectivity explains category-specific brain activation and impairment: A neurocomputational model of semantic cognition” from University of Wisconsin – Madison, précis

Isabelle Dautriche, PhD thesis “Weaving an ambiguous lexicon” from University of Paris Descartes and Ecole Normale Supérieure, précis

Jan Engelmann, PhD thesis “An empirical investigation of the evolutionary and ontogenetic roots of trust” from Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, précis

Philip Pärnamets, PhD thesis “Observing and influencing preferences in time” from Lund University, précis

Andrew Saxe, PhD thesis “Deep linear neural networks: A theory of learning in the brain and mind” from Stanford University, précis

2015 Winners

Harm Brouwer – 2014 PhD thesis “The Electrophysiology of Language Comprehension: A Neurocomputational Model” from University of Groningen, précis

Da Cheong (Jena) Hwang – 2014 PhD thesis “Identification and Representation of Caused Motion Constructions” from University of Colorado, précis

Brenden Lake – 2014 PhD thesis “Towards more human-like concept learning in machines: Compositionality, causality, and learning-to-learn” from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, précis

Jessica Sullivan – 2014 PhD thesis “The Roles of Inference and Associative Learning in the Construction of Mappings Between Number Words and Numerical Magnitudes” from University of California – San Diego, précis

2014 Winners

Samuel Gershman – 2013 PhD thesis “Memory Modification in the Brain: Computational and Experimental Investigations” from Princeton University, précis

Celeste Kidd – 2013 PhD thesis “Rational Approaches to Learning and Development” from University of Rochester, précis

Victoria Leong – 2013 PhD thesis “Speech Rhythm Cognition : A Multi-Disciplinary Account” from University of Cambridge, précis

Ian Lyons – 2012 PhD thesis “A Sense of Order: Ordinality and the meaning of symbolic numbers” from University of Chicago, précis

Takao Sasaki – 2013 PhD thesis “Psychology Of A Superorganism” from Arizona State University, précis

2013 Winners

Douglas Knox Bemis – 2012 PhD thesis “Simple Composition During Language Processing: An MEG Investigation” from New York University, précis

Neil Cohn – 2012 PhD thesis “Structure, Meaning, and Constituency in Visual Narrative Comprehension” from Tufts University, précis

George Kachergis – 2012 PhD thesis “Mechanisms for Cross-Situational Learning of Word-Referent Mappings: Empirical and Modeling Evidence” from Indiana University,précis

Andrew Lovett – 2012 PhD thesis “Spatial Routines for Sketches: A Framework for Modeling Spatial Problem Solving” from Northwestern University, précis

Liad Mudrik – 2011 PhD thesis “Processing Visual Context Violations: The Roles of Attention and Awareness” from Tel Aviv University, précis

2012 Winners

Timothy F. Brady – 2011 PhD thesis “Structured Representations in Visual Working Memory” from MIT – précis

Jennifer L. Culbertson – 2010 PhD thesis “Learning Biases, Regularization, and the Emergence of Typological Universals in Syntax” from Johns Hopkins University- précis

Nazbanou Nozari – 2011 PhD thesis “Is Comprehension Necessary for Error Detection? A Conflict-based Account of Monitoring in Speech Production” from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign- précis

Steven T. Piantadosi – 2011 PhD thesis “Learning and the language of thought” from MIT-précis

Rachel Wu – 2011 PhD thesis “Learning (to Learn) from Spatial Attention Cues During Infancy” from Birkbeck, University of London – précis

2011 Winners

Vera Demberg-Winterfors – 2010 PhD thesis “A Broad-Coverage Model of Prediction in Human Sentence Processing” from The University of Edinburgh – précis

Michael Frank – 2010 PhD thesis “Early Word Learning Through Communicative Inference” from MIT- précis

Chi-Tat Law – 2009 PhD thesis “Mechanisms of learning a visual motion discrimination task” from University of Pennsylvania- précis

Eric Mandelbaum – 2010 PhD thesis “The Architecture of Belief: An Essay on the Unbearable Automaticity of Believing” from University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill – précis

Edward Vul – 2010 PhD thesis “Sampling in human cognition” from MIT – précis

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