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10th December 2014, Seminar at NETS: "Space and action to reason: from gesture to mathematical representations"

 Istituto Universitario di Studi Superiori di Pavia (IUSS)
Centro di Ricerca in Neurocognizione e Sintassi Teorica (Ne.T.S.)

Dottorato in Neuroscienze Cognitive e Filosofia della Mente
(in collaborazione IUSS e Università “Vita-Salute” San Raffaele di Milano)

“Space and action to reason: from gesture to mathematical representations”

10th December 2014, 10.30-12.30

Aula 1-17
IUSS, Palazzo del Broletto
Piazza della Vittoria n. 15 – Pavia


PROF. VALERIA GIARDINO - Ecole Normale Supérieure, Parigi


The goal of the talk is to discuss in an interdisciplinary framework the reasons why several forms of visualizations are commonly used to externalize thought. First, it is assumed that visualizations are widespread because they amount to cognitive advantages. Second, it is conjectured that these cognitive advantages depend on humans’ cognitive architecture, and in particular on their capacity of diagramming. By diagramming, humans recruit several systems already available for perception or action – such as the visuo-spatial system, the conceptual system, and the motor system – and establish an external connection between them, by means of a particular cognitive tool such as a diagram. This enriches humans’ inferential powers.

The methodological strategy is to test the existence and the scope of diagramming by looking at two of its possible instances. The first instance is gesture “for the self”, namely for reasoning and not for communicating, e.g. for remembering and making inferences about the features of an environment; the hypothesis is that physical objects such as maps or tables are a sort of “crystallized” gesture. The second instance is the use of spatial representations in mathematics, e.g. in topology; the hypothesis is that most of the systems of representation are used dynamically as spatial interfaces where a connection among different cognitive systems is established and experiments are performed.