Research

I'm a computational cognitive scientist. I use computer models to try to understand how the human mind works. I'm particularly interested in what can happen when information is passed through long chains of minds, where cognitive biases and selection pressures can lead to complicated dynamics that shape things like languages or beliefs about how the world works.

In early 2014, I became a Postdoctoral Scholar at the Language, Cognition and Culture Lab at the University of Auckland. I work with Quentin Atkinson, Russell Gray and others on computational language phylogenetics. I am continuing to work with my former Berkeley lab mates Michael Pacer and Andrew Whalen on questions surrounding cultural transmission and learning.

In late 2011, I became a Postdoctoral Scholar working in the Computational Cognitive Science Lab at the University of California, Berkeley. I mostly worked with Tom Griffiths on problems related to how human languages change over time.

I got my PhD at the University of Adelaide between 2008 and 2011. My supervisors were Dan Navarro and Amy Perfors. My PhD thesis tried to develop psychological explanations for why different languages use different word orders and why the word order of languages change over time. This work involved taking an information-theoretic perspective on language and asking what is the optimal way to convey, over a noisy serial channel, information about a world whose going-ons have statistical structure which is known by both communicating agents.

Before getting into CompCogSci, I completed an honours degree in Pure Mathematics at Adelaide. I was most interested in computational number theory and algebra, particularly applications to cryptography. I wrote my honours thesis on cryptographic applications of discrete logarithms. I had planned to go on to do PhD research on lattice-based cryptography, but life had other plans.

Publications

Presentations