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Consciousness, Cognition & Computation Group
Center for Research in Cognition & Neurosciences
Université Libre de Bruxelles CP 191
Av. F.-D. Roosevelt, 50
1050 Bruxelles
BELGIUM

Tél:  +322 650 32 96
Fax: +322 650 22 09

 

Artist's impression
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| Bio | [Re]Searching | Publishing | Teaching | Editing | Networking | Sayings | Wasting time | Books I am reading | Natural Philosophers |

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 Biographical sketch 
1986 Licence en Sciences Psychologiques et Pédagogiques, ULB
1991 Ph.D. (Psychology), Carnegie Mellon University
1993- Research Associate with the NFSR
1997- Coordinator of ULB's Cognitive Science DEA Programme
1998- Head, Cognitive Science Research Unit
2001 Agrégation de l'Enseignement Supérieur, ULB
2001-2 Visiting scholar, University of Colorado at Boulder
2002- Senior Research Associate with the NFSR
2006- Research Director with the NFSR
2009- Member of the Royal Academy of Belgium
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 Research interests 

Cognitive Science
Implicit Learning
Consciousness
Computational models of cognition

I am interested in consciousness and in the role that elementary learning processes play in behavior. It turns out that many such learning processes are implicit, that is, they occur without intention and without resulting in verbalizable knowledge. Thus it appears that many things we learn about, such as language, are learnt without concomitant awareness of the relevant information. The main thrust of my research in this controversial domain consists of formulating computationally explicit theories of the learning mechanisms involved in different tasks and of exploring the theories' implications empirically. For a number of principled reasons (see downlodable paper Principles for Implicit Learning), the connectionist framework appears best suited to capture many aspects of human implicit learning performance, and hence that is the framework that I work with. To get an overview of these ideas and findings, check out these slides from the workshop I delivered at the Tucson 2002 meeting.

More recently I have also explored the idea that consciousness is something that one learns rather than a static property of some representations and not others. That is, it is in virtue of the fact that the brain continuously learns about its own internal states that some of these states become available to consciousness. I call this the "Radical Plasticity Thesis". To get an overall feel for my perspective on these issues, read Consciousness: The Radical Plasticity Thesis.

Ongoing projects include the following:

    Foundational issues:

    1. Theoretical work on the role of consciousness in learning, and on the nature of conscious experience (with Luis Jiménez, Universidad de Santiago)

    Consciousness and Sequence learning:

    2. Empirical and Modeling work on the nature of abstraction and on the role of sensitivity to repetition distance (inhibition of return) in sequence learning (with Maud Boyer, CO3)

    3. Empirical and modeling work meant to explore the relationship between direct and indirect measures of sequence learning using the Process Dissociation Procedure (with Arnaud Destrebecqz, CO3)

    4. Empirical and modeling work aimed at exploring the extent to which amnesic patients can learn about high-order sequential contingencies (with Patrick Féry, Nicolas Schmidt, CO3; and Muriel Vandenberghe, CO3)

    5. Modeling work aimed to develop a new model of sequence learning that is (1) able to process disjoint contingencies, (2) able to capture the time course of processing in a single trial, and (3) able to capture the distinction between direct and indirect measures of sequence learning (with Arnaud Destrebecqz and Bob Reuter, CO3)

    Neural correlates of implicit learning and skill acquisition:

    6. Empirical work meant to explore the role of REM sleep in memory consolidation (with Pierre Maquet, Philippe Peigneux, Martial Vanderlinden and others from the Neuropsychology Unit, Ulg)

    7. Empirical work on the neural correlates of consciousness in sequence learning tasks (with Arnaud Destrebecqz and the team of the Cyclotron Research Center at the Université de Liège)

    8. Empirical work on the fine-grained analysis of chunk formation during skill acquisition, using Seibel's 1023-choice reaction time task (with Michael Dubois, CO3).

    Consciousness and artificial grammar learning:

    10. Modeling of biconditional grammar learning (with Bert Timmermans, VUB)

    11. Modeling of the processing of disjoint contingencies (with Luca Onnis and many others)

    Implicit learning and language acquisition:

    12. Modeling work aimed at capturing aspects of the development of sensitivity to orthographic regularities in French: Natural language learning as a giant artificial grammar learning experiment! (with Sébastien Pacton & Pierre Perruchet, Université de Bourgogne)

    Consciousness, conditioning, and simple RT:

    13. Empirical work dedicated to exploring dissociations between conscious awareness and performance in simple conditioning (delay vs. trace) and reaction time tasks (with Arnaud Destrebecqz, CO3; and Pierre Perruchet, Université de Bourgogne)

    Consciousness and cognitive control:

    14. Empirical work dedicated to exploring the relationships between consciousness and cognitive control and normal and elderly participants (with Vinciane Gaillard, CO3) on the one hand, and in children (with Andy Bremner, CO3 & Birkbeck college)

    Consciousness and implicit change detection:

    15. Empirical work dedicated to exploring the fate of the representations associated with non-perceived changes in visual scenes (with Cédric Laloyaux, CO3)

    Forward models and meta-representation:

    16. Modeling work dedicated to applying forward models to both sequence learning and the self (with Bert Timmermans & Antoine Pasquali, CO3)

These different projects aim at contributing to develop a perspective on cognition that is based on the notion that learning is an integral part of human information processing and that the latter is best described in terms of continuous, graded and distributed representation and processing systems.

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 Selected publications 

Go here for a list of downloadable publications

Cleeremans, A. (2005). Computational correlates of consciousness. Progress in Brain Research, 150 81-98. PDF

Maquet, P., Laureys, S., Peigneux, P., Fuchs, S., Petiau, C., Philips, C., Aerts, J., Del Fiore, G.,
Degueldre, C., Meulemans, T., Luxen, A., Franck, G., Van Der Linden, M., Smith, C., & Cleeremans, A. (2000).
Experience-Dependent Changes in Cerebral Activation During REM Sleep, Nature Neuroscience, 3(8), 381-386. PDF

Atkinson, A., Thomas, M., & Cleeremans, A. (2000). Consciousness: Mapping the theoretical landscape, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 4(10), 372-382. PDF

Cleeremans, A., Destrebecqz, A., & Boyer, M. (1998). Implicit learning: News from the front. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 2, 406-416. PDF

Cleeremans, A. (1997). Principles for implicit learning. In D. Berry (Ed.), How implicit is implicit learning? , pp. 195-234. Oxford: OUP.

Cleeremans, A. (1993). Mechanisms of Implicit Learning: Connectionist Models of Sequence Processing. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Cleeremans, A. & McClelland, J.L. (1991). Learning the structure of event sequences. Journal of Experimental Psychology : General, 120, 235-253.

Cleeremans, A., Servan-Schreiber, D., & McClelland, J.L. (1989). Finite State Automata and Simple Recurrent Networks. Neural Computation, 1, 372-381.

Goodies:

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 Teaching 

I teach the Philosophy of Cognitive Science (Philosophie des Sciences Cognitives, PHILB-315) class in the Faculté de Philosophie et Lettres, together with philosopher Jean-Noël Missa. This class is accessible to any licence-level student from the Faculté de Philosophie et Lettres or from the Faculté des Sciences Psychologiques et de l'Education. Someday I'll port the syllabus for that class on the Web. In the meantime, students might be interested in my Guide du Mémoire, a collection of little snippets of wisdom about how to design and write your thesis, all organized as an FAQ (in french only, and mostly targeted at psychology students).

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 Editorial Work 
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 Scientific Societies 
  • European Society for Cognitive Psychology (ESCoP), President 2009-2011
  • Belgian Association for Psychological Science (BAPS), President 2005-2008
  • National Committee for the Psychological Sciences (Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences), Deputy Secretary-General 2000-
  • Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness (ASSC), Executive Board member 2000-2009
  • Cognitive Science Society (COGSCI), full member
  • American Psychological Society (APS), full member
  • Experimental Psychology Society (EPS), full member

Goodies:

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 Mottos 
OK, here is a serious one:

"My heart is in the work" (Andrew Carnegie)

I still remember the moment I first saw it engraved on the ceiling of Carnegie Mellon's Baker Hall and breaking out a sweat getting all anxious about finishing the Ph.D. I hadn't started yet.

In light of the above, here is one that I've grown to appreciate:

"The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win it, you're still a rat" (Lily Tomlin)

Here is a weird one that I still haven't figured out the full meaning of:

"No matter where you go, there you are" (Buckaroo Banzai)

Fans of the genre will already have recognized the cryptic statement as the most memorable line from cult-movie classic "Buckaroo Banzai: Across the 8th Dimension". Note that neither its objectionable origin (in some circles) nor my lack of complete understanding of its meaning prevented me from using it as the title of a paper. With the possible exception of some pieces from the growing Zombie literature, I believe this paper to be the only one named directly after an obscure B-movie. How's that for an achievement?

Finally, here is what wrestler Roddy Piper has to say, starring as the character Nada in John Carpenter's cult-movie classic They Live — undoubtedly one of the very best B-movies of all times, and a hilarious social satire as well:

"I came here to chew gum and kick ass.... and I am all out of bubble gum" (Nada)

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 Leisure 

Are you kidding? Between finishing up some of these and taking care of them, I only have time to go for cheap thrills!.

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 Books I am reading 

Here is part of my library, organized in reverse chronological order, and with no distinction between genres. Most I've read, but not quite (yet).

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 The Cabinet of Natural Philosophers 

If you made it all the way down here you deserve to know about my collection of photographic portraits of friends and esteemed colleagues, the ever-expanding "Cabinet of Natural Philosophers". If you're not in there, make sure I take out that camera next time we meet!

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 HOT OFF THE PRESS 
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Frontiers in Psychology
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Check out Frontiers in Psychology, now fully launched

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Oxford Companion to Consciousness
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Check out the Oxford Companion to Consciousness, which I co-edited with esteemed colleagues and friends Tim Bayne and Patrick Wilken. Special thanks from the three of us to all the contributors!

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... amazon.co.uk
... amazon.com
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 EVENTS 
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ASSC18 Meeting
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ASSC18
The 18th Conference of the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness

Chair: Bruno Van Swinderen

July 16-19, 2014
Brisbane (Australia)
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BELSPO IAP
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IAP P7/33 Network
An international BELSPO IAP Network dedicated to conscious vs. unconscious learning

Coordinator: Axel Cleeremans

Visit the COOL web
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 BOOKS 
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Unity Book
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An ASSC book:
Cleeremans, A. (Ed.) (2003). The Unity of Consciousness: Binding, Integration, and Dissociation
Oxford University Press.
Hardcover - 288 pages
May 29, 2003
ISBN: 0-19-850857-3

Based on the ASSC4 meeting, with contributions from Frith, Chalmers, Tononi, Treisman,Young, Shoemaker, Humphreys, Cotterill, Dienes, Hurley, O'Reilly, Engel, Perruchet, Tallon-Baudry, & Varela ...
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... amazon.co.uk
... amazon.com
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Cleeremans/French Book
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The latest on implicit learning:
French, R.M. & Cleeremans, A. (2002). Implicit Learning and Consciousness: An Empirical, Philosophical, and Computational Consensus in the Making.
Psychology Press.
Hardcover - 188 pages
April 4, 2002
ISBN: 1841692018

With contributions from Cleeremans & Jiménez, Shanks, Johnstone & Kinder, Dienes & Perner, Perruchet & Vinter, Meulemans & Van der Linden, Redington & Chater ...
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... amazon.co.uk
... amazon.com
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 CODE 
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IAC in Processing
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A tribute to Interactive Activation
Nifty little interactive applet demonstrating a vintage (1981!) Interactive and Competition (IAC) network in action. Trick question: Is the network conscious?
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 SHOWS 
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Radical in Leiden
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Sylvius Lecture
Mediasite presentation of a lecture delivered at Leiden University in March 2012.
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 MEDIA 
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La Recherche
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Interview in La Recherche
Download the .pdf of a recent interview of me in the French language science magazine "La Recherche". Obviously, it's in french. And it's got nothing to do with black holes.
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For real fans only:
30/06/03 Interview on Radio France International

... listen ...

(You'll need Real Player, knowledge of french, and lots of empathy)
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 POINTERS 
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Resources

Web

  • Jason Kottke, weblog pionneer, always has interesting stuff to write about on kottke.org...

  • Boing Boing — "a directory of wonderful things" — is another terrific weblog that consistently offers interesting and often humorous commentary on social and technological issues.

  • Wikipedia — is a free online encyclopedia, the contents of which literally emerge out of the community formed by its users. It's Parallel Distributed Processing in action: Fast, self-organizing and self-correcting... Use it!

  • Processing is a really cool cross-platform, open-source software development tool. I've used it to code this nifty little demo of Interactive Activation and Competition neural networks.

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 BLINKS 
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www.flickr.com
This is a Flickr badge showing public photos from axc tagged with badge. Make your own badge here.
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 STATUS 
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Axel Cleeremans's Facebook profile ...


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