Van Biervliet Lecture | Professor Michael J. Frank

21-06-2018 from 16:00 to 17:00
Henri Dunantlaan 2, aud 4
Roma Siugzdaite
Add to my calendar

The Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience at UGent (CCN) is happy to announce its third special lecture in the series of Van Biervliet lectures

Professor Michael J. Frank (Brown University, U.S.A.) will talk about chunking as an adaptive strategy for data compression in working memory.



Michael J. Frank


Chunking as an adaptive strategy for data compression in working memory

The amount of visual information that can be stored in working memory is inherently limited, and the nature of this limitation has been a subject of intense debate. The debate has relied on tasks and models that assume visual items are independently encoded in working memory. Here we propose an alternative to this assumption: similar features are jointly encoded through a 'chunking' process to optimize performance on visual working memory tasks. We show that such chunking can: 1) facilitate performance improvements for abstract capacity-limited systems, 2) be optimized through reinforcement learning, 3) be implemented by neural network center-surround dynamics, and 4) increase effective storage capacity at the expense of recall precision. Human subjects performing a delayed report working memory task show evidence of the performance advantages, trial-to-trial behavioral adjustments, precision detriments, and inter-item dependencies predicted by optimization of task performance though chunking. Furthermore, by applying similar analyses to previously published datasets, we show that markers of chunking behavior are robust and increase with memory load. Taken together, our results support a more nuanced view of visual working memory capacity limitations: tradeoff between memory precision and memory quantity through chunking leads to capacity limitations that include both discrete (item limit) and continuous (precision limit) aspects.


This is a free event but registration is required.



Jules Van Biervliet (1859-1945) was the first psychologist at Ghent University. He came from a family of well know medical doctors. Jules was a doctor in arts and philosophy, candidate in medicine and doctor in physical sciences. In 1890, he was a professor in metaphysics and psychology at Ghent University. A year later, he founded a laboratory for Experimental Psychology at Ghent University, the first in Belgium and one of the first in Europe. To prepare for this, he went for training to the laboratory of Wilhelm Wundt in Leipzig, of which he wrote an interesting account. He also inspired Binet in the development of the first intelligence test, as can be read here.