William Bialek

Event Dates (Pacific Time): 
Wednesday, February 17, 2016 - 1:00pm

KIBM Distinguished Visitor, William Bialek - Back to behavior(ism)?

Professor of Physics, Princeton University
Wednesday, February 17, 2016
1:00 pm
CNCB Large Conference Room, UC San Diego
Map and directions here

The twentieth century saw (at least) two very different approached to the study of the mind.  In the first half of the century, the behaviorists tried to reduce our actions to a sequence of stimulus-response relationships, while in the second half of the century the cognitive scientists focused on our internal mental life.  A crucial failure of the behaviorist approach was that it posited a Markovian model of behavior—stimuli induced responses without reference to any additional hidden states.  These states, literally states of mind, would become the primary concern of the cognitive scientists.   

We might expect, even in the simplest of organisms, that the brain has very many internal states that are not directly observable from the outside, and hence that sequences of behaviors should be dramatically non-Markovian;  a complete analysis of a seemingly simple behavior should then provide evidence for these hidden states.  I’ll present a first step in this direction, using the spontaneous behavior of walking flies as an example.  We’ll look at the current state of our analysis methods, the surprising combination of richness and simplicity that is revealed by these methods, and then focus on (still tentative) efforts to provide a compelling theoretical framework.

Dr. Bialek's homepage: https://www.princeton.edu/~wbialek/wbialek.html