The Department of Psychology and the CBS (cognitive and behavioral sciences) Colloquium Series will present a talk, titled “Language Use Under Social and Cognitive Constraints,” with Illinois State alum David W. Vinson ’10, M.S. ’12, Friday, January 23, at 2 p.m. in 48 DeGarmo Hall.

According to his website, Vinson is a Ph.D. student in cognitive and information sciences at the University of California, Merced. He holds a master’s in cognitive psychology and bachelor’s degrees in psychology and philosophy. His focus lies at the intersection of cognition and computational social science with an emphasis on using natural data sets to develop tools for natural language processing and network theory.


A current series of studies aims to explore how social-network structures and cognitive states contribute to language use in customer reviews. Some recent theories of language see it as a complex and highly adaptive system, adjusting to factors at various time scales.

For example, at a longer time scale, language may adapt to certain social or demographic variables of a linguistic community. At a shorter time scale, patterns of language use may adjust to cognitive affective states of the language user. If so, language may be used as an indication of certain cognitive and social influences on behavior.

Until recently, data sets large enough to test how subtle effects of cognitive states and sociocultural properties—spanning vast amounts of time and space—influence language change have been difficult to obtain. The emergence of digital computing and storage has brought about an unprecedented ability to collect and classify massive amounts of data.

The researchers analyzed over 1 million online business reviews using network analyses and information theory to quantify social connectivity and language structure. Review rating provides an indication of the reviewer’s cognitive affective state. Results indicate that some proportion of variance in individual language use can be accounted for by differences in cognitive states and social-network structures, even after fairly aggressive covariates have been added to regression models. The use of big data as an arena for testing the influence of cognitive and social variables on customer behavior will also be discussed.

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Click image to view and print the full-size flyer.

CBS Colloquium Series

The CBS Colloquium Series brings high caliber researchers to the Illinois State University campus to share their work with the local academic community. Individual faculty members invite speakers to campus based on their interests. The Department of Psychology also invites alumni to speak in the series in an effort to maintain strong connections with former students and provide them with a chance to pass on their knowledge to current students. The series provides both faculty and students with a variety of professional development opportunities and allows students to network with professionals in their field of study.

This speaker series is funded by the Department of Psychology and the College of Arts and Sciences. To support the Department of Psychology and help enhance its educational mission with advanced teaching methods, guest speakers, and more opportunities for students to learn through research experiences, please consider making a gift to the department through the Illinois State University Foundation.

If you need a special accommodation to participate in this program, please contact the Department of Psychology at (309) 439-8651. Please allow sufficient time to arrange the accommodation.