Cognition Futures

Cognition Futures is a research team within Orthogonal Research and Education Laboratory (OREL). We investigate how to advance cognition studies through adding nuance to models and theories of experience, with particular focus on: ontogeny & developmental-evolutionary lenses, embodied intelligence, and phenomenology. We are also interested in the historical and philosophical underpinning cognitive science, particular the epistemic trajectories that have lead to current fields of academic inquiry. 


Cognition Futures Methods Project 

Jesse Parent, Amanda Nelson, Brian McCorkle, Avery Lim, S. Hussain Ather, Morgan Hough, Bradly Alicea

The role of the interface between internal and external factors which shape an agent's experience have been considered for millennia. In the 21st century, we have access to new technologies and ideas, but what are the breakthroughs we need that will afford new discoveries? Similarly, what disciplinary boundaries are appropriate as opposed to inhibitory; how much does neuroscience overlap with or have functional or explanatory distinctness from psychology, or other disciplines within the original umbrella of the Cognitive Science project? These questions drive our work in methods for cognition studies and phenomenology.


Towards Sharing Cognitive Environments: Methodology and Theory - Virtual Reality, Embodied Intelligence, and Beyond

Jesse Parent, Avery Lim, Amanda Nelson, Brian McCorckle, Morgan Hough, Bradly Alicea | WeRobot2022

Technology has been a fundamental generator of new affordances for communicating, relating, and sharing information: human experience continues to grow more robust and integrative. While the state of the art in artificial intelligence and robotics falls short of loft claims for general, transferable intelligences, the quest for greater cognitive capacity and comprehension in artificial agents and humans continues. How does virtual and augmented reality offer new mediums to share experience, particularly across diversity in cognitive robustness and nuance?

Building off of previous work in affective computing, embodied intelligence & development, and cognitive offloading, we examine the technical, theoretical, and philosophical aspects of creating transferable virtual cognitive interfaces. With case studies of: intellectual and developmental disabilities; emerging digital and hybrid social platforms; and education and training, we consider the gap between current technologies and their potential developments. 

Our Virtual Lives and Digital Companionship: Opportunities and Challenges of Shared Experience in an Augmented Century

Jesse Parent, Avery Lim, Jenny Liu Zhang, Bradly Alicea | WeRobot2022

For much of dominant scientific and cultural history, in disciplines studying human experience, the mind was seen as independent from its environment, and our means for interfacing with other entities was limited to our immediate physical surroundings. Yet in the 21st century, paradigms and lived experiences have undergone significant transformations. Given the amount of communication in which we engage via technological interfaces, and with or through digital or augmented means of companionship, how do we interpret and navigate our personal experience? Here we examine broader societal and cultural forces at play in an era of myriad sources of information and opportunities for stimulation, from interest-based digital communities, "fake news", ever-enhanced artificial assistants, and nuanced robots and interactive agents. We consider a broad contextual scope concerning pressures from existing social and power dynamics, and examine the means of mapping such influence in our own lives. We also propose a new methodology for exploring one's personal experience, moving throughout various degrees of hybrid digital existences. With lenses such as neurodiversity and variety of lived experience; technology-reinforced power structures; and means by which to comprehending one's experience is influenced, we provide an overview of our recent work at the nexus of society, technology, and ethics.

Discussion Group:  "Trajectories in Cognitive Science", CogSci 2021, The Cognitive Science Society

Jesse Parent, Avery Lim, Anusha Sharma, Bradly Alicea | CogSci2021

A 90 minute series of discussions, panels, and a tour of trajectories in cognition studies. Our panelists come from a diverse background (non traditional students, nonbinary/transgender, among others), as well as show a commitment to inclusivity and open science. Outside of that, the nature of the discussion group itself is intended to look at underdeveloped or underrepresented points of view, and designating alternatives to more normalized or main stream concepts and paradigms within the cognitive science arena.

Charting the Future of Academic Fields with Cultural Evolutionary Trajectories

Bradly Alicea, Jesse Parent | Cultural Evolution Society 2021

What led to the evolution of theories and models across  various scientific fields, and how do these models and arguments frame their historical trajectory? One (unsatisfying) answer is that each field has its own personalities and historical context, generating a large number of potential trajectories in the process. By contrast, the notion of history converges on the same answer due to the universality of certain truths also raises more questions than answers.

 To understand how these trajectories form and sustain over decades or even centuries, an agent-based model of intellectual cultural evolution will be proposed. At the level of individual agents, cultural evolution is characterized using a dual inheritance model: mentor-mentee transmission (genealogical) and peer-to-peer transmission (sociocultural learning). We also advocate for combining phylogenetic approaches to genealogy with cybernetic models of sociocultural learning. Common ancestral fields diverge over time as subfields form and become epistemically isolated. When ideas are constrained by field-specific boundaries, we can observe linguistic and even semantic divergence. Reintegration of genealogical branches (reticulations) are also useful in understanding how ideas are shared between fields. Collaborations and interactions resulting from sociocultural learning will produce reticulating cycles amongst our phylogenetic branching relationships.

In this way, we demonstrate that future trajectories can be approximated as a series of divergence and regulatory events. Our approach can be more broadly applied to the phenomenology of evolution. More generally, we can attach each level of inheritance to levels of evolutionary description: nonlinear regulatory processes being the proximal description, and tree structures serving as the ultimate description. These insights may also help illuminate unexplored areas within the map of possible spaces, particularly interdisciplinary areas between traditional disciplines.

A Survey of Computational Models of Cognition

Jesse Parent | International Workshop on Embodied Intelligence 2021

A tour of the existing landscape of modeling cognition, with a novel taxonomy and programming appendices & jupyter notebooks. This project identifies existing themes and trajectories in computational models for cognition and suggests areas that are ripe for future researchers to explore. Associated educational materials are also in development. 

FrontierMap: A Trans-Disciplinary Learning Database

Jesse Parent, Bradly Alicea | CSV,CONF,V5; Princeton Envision 2021

The Lay of the Land in Computation & Cognition: developing a set of visual maps, literature review, educational notes, and related material to serve as a set of primers to aid in researchers defining their research agendas.


Research Group Members & Opportunities

Prospective Lab Members

Cognition Futures is a subgroup within Orthogonal Research and Education Lab (OREL), and will require acceptance into OREL in order to work with our team. OREL & Cognition Futures are inclusive communities, with a particular emphasis on interdisciplinary research, combined with support and mentoring for early career researchers. 

If you are interested in joining our research group, reach out to OREL Director Bradly Alicea (bradly.alicea @  and Cognition Futures Lead Jesse Parent (jesse @ Please provide a small statement of research interest indicating topics or projects you'd like to work on, alongside your CV.

We are currently accepting Fall '22 - Spring '23 internship applications.

Last Updated: September 22, 2022

Current Members

Alumni & External Partners