New preprint: "Understanding the role of linguistic distributional knowledge in cognition"

I have recently submitted a paper based on some work I have been doing at my job at the Embodied Cognition Lab at Lancaster University. In it, we look at a large set of linguistic distributional models commonly used in cognitive psychology, evaluating each on a benchmark behavioural dataset.

Linguistic distributional models are computer models of knowledge, which learn representations of words and their associations from statistical regularities in huge collections of natural language text, such as databases of TV subtitles. The idea is that, just like people, these algorithms can learn something about the meanings of words by only observing how they are used, rather than through direct experience of their referents. To the degree that they do, they can then be used to model the kind of knowledge which people could gain in the same way. These models can be made to perform various tasks which rely on language, or predict how humans will perform these tasks under experimental conditions, and in this way we can evaluate them as models of human semantic memory.

We show, perhaps unsurprisingly*, that different kinds of models are better or worse at capturing different aspects of human semantic processes.

A preprint of the report is available on Psyarxiv.

*unsurprising to you as you read this, perhaps, but actually this is the largest systematic comparison of models as-yet undertaken, and thereby the first to actually effectively weigh the evidence on this question.

New(ish) paper: "Entrainment to the CIECAM02 and CIELAB colour appearance models in the human cortex"

Not so long ago I had a paper published in Vision Research.  It's on some work I did some years ago with my friend and collaborator Andrew Thwaites.  In it we look at the entrainment of magnetoencephalographic activity in early visual cortex to colour information in visual stimulus using two competing computational models of colour.  In other words, when and where people's brainwaves directly track the colour of moving images they were seeing on a screen, using two theories about how colour could be represented in the brain.

The paper is in Elsevier's "open archive", which hopefully means you can read it for free.  If not, hit me up.

I don't talk about my work too much here, but if you're interested you can read more about what I do on my more professional website.

Podcast Viewer

I made a tool to convert a podcast's RSS feed into a webpage on which episodes can be easily streamed.

When you visit the page, you'll see a box in which to paste the RSS feed's URL:

A screenshot of the page you see when you visit

Stick in a feed's RSS URL, and you get all available episodes in a list, reverse chronologically by release date:

A screenshot of an example page:

Categorized as Blog

How to link to a specific scene in a Hype document

If you've made a multi-scene Hype document which is hosted online as a web page, you can link directly to a named scene in that document using this handy script:


Ed Brayton back on the air

A nice surprise to read yesterday that Ed Brayton is back on the air with a relaunch of his old radio show Culture Wars Radio.

I am a long-time fan of Ed's writing and particularly his radio shows. (So much so that I mirror episodes of his old shows to make sure they remain available.) Intelligent, informed, non-partisan discussion of American politics and law, particularly constitutional law. This time he has a co-host, former professor of constitutional law Dan Ray. The first episode is a discussion of the recent Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling, and a bit about Trump's legal troubles.

I'm super pleased to hear Ed on the radio again.

Check out the podcast via iTunes, or subscribe to the feed directly. It looks like Ed is supporting production of the show through Patreon, so go take a look there too.

New paper: "Relating dynamic brain states to dynamic machine states: Human and machine solutions to the speech recognition problem"


I just had a paper published in PLOS Computational Biology.  It's on some work I did with the Centre for Speech, Language and the Brain at Cambridge University.  In it, we used a machine model of speech recognition to map phonetic sensitivities in human auditory cortex using magnetoencephalography neuroimaging data.

The paper is open-access, so you can read it here.

If you're interested, you can read more about the kind of research I do over at my "professional" website.

Nate Harrison's audiovisual essays

A while ago I came across a widely-seen Youtube video about the history of the Amen breakbeat, which was a reposting of a recording of a 2004 documentary audio installation by artist Nate Harrison. It details the artist's view of the rise of the break, as well as what this might tell us about the effects of intellectual property on cultural development.

Can I Get An Amen? — Nate Harrison (2004)

Having enjoyed the piece's dry-yet-engaging style, as well as learning about such a specific cultural phenomenon in some detail, I sought out other pieces by the same artist. Luckily, they're posted on his online gallery, as well as on Several of them are somewhat-abstract video installations which are less interesting to me, but there are several other audiovisual essays which I have enjoyed, on various aspects on art, media and tools.