Professor Gert WestermannProfessor
For more information on my research group and our publications see our lab webpage: http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/westermann-lab/
My research is in developmental cognitive science: In my group we use a variety of methods (eye tracking, EEG, NIRS, fast mapping, computational modelling) to study mainly infants' cognitive and early language development. In general I am interested in the question how intrinsic and environmental factors combine to shape a developmental trajectory and eventually, the adult system.
Main research areas:
Curiosity-based Learning and Development
Infants are curious learners and explore their environment freely. In my group we study if there is systematicity to this exploration and we aim to understand how infants actively shape their learning environment to optimize their learning. We also use computational models to develop mechanistic explanation of curiosity-based, intrinsically motivated learning.
Object and Word Learning
We explore how infants learn about objects in the world during their first year of life, and how they learn words for these objects (and actions) during the second year of life. Using eye tracking and pupil dilation, we have investigated how infants combine different object properties (e.g., visual appearance and sound) into a coherent whole, how early words enable infants to shape object categories, and how knowing the name of an object affects the mental representation of this object. We have also investigated how temperament, and specifically shyness, affects early word learning.
I am interested in the relationship between brain and cognitive development and have used computational models to explore this link. This work has so far focused on the development and adult processing of verb inflections, demonstrating how experience-dependent brain development can lead to specialized processing structures that internalize the statistical properties of the environment in the ‘hardware’ of the brain.
British Academy/Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowship (PI), Information selection in infants’ curiosity-based learning, 2016-2017
British Academy/Leverhulme Trust Small Research Grant (co-PI, with Katie Twomey; £9,554), Curiosity-based infant categorisation: an empirical view, 2015-2016
Leverhulme Trust Doctoral Scholarship Programme (PI, £1,050,000), Interdisciplinary Research on Infant Development, 2015-2019
British Academy/Leverhulme Trust Small Research Grant (co-PI, with Eugenio Parise; £9,458), Categorization Processes in 9-Month-Old Infants: Ostensive Labelling vs. Common Visual Features, 2014-2016
LuCiD: ESRC International Centre for Language and Communicative Development (co-PI with 21 others, PI: Elena Lieven; £9.3 million), 2014-2019
Lichtenberg Fellowship,University of Göttingen (€68,000), Germany, January - July, 2013
Lancaster University Friends Programme Grant (PI, with Melissa Allen, Dina Lew, Katie Alcock, Gavin Bremner, Karen Mattock; £4,191), Support for publicity and student projects at the Lancaster Babylab, 2011-2012
ESRC Research Grant (PI; £99,937), Multisensory processing of objects in infancy, 2011-2012
British Academy Small Grant (co-PI, with Louise Bunce; £7,118), Young children's understanding of the fantasy-reality distinction: perceptual or conceptual processing?, 2010-2011
ESRC Research Grant (PI; £105,468), The effect of labels on category formation in infancy, 2009-2011
British Academy Small Grant (PI; £3,502), Investigating past tense formation in adults: a neurophysiological study, 2008-2009
ESRC Research Grant (PI; £288,082), Understanding the processing of verb inflections through statistical analyses, experiments and neural networks, 2006-2009
Royal Society Research Grant (co PI with Joseph T. Devlin; £9,400), TMS investigations of morphology in Broca's area, 2006-2007
PhD, Centre for Cognitive Science, University of Edinburgh
PhD Supervision Interests
Infant cognitive development, computational modelling, language processing
Selected Publications Show all 65 publications
Early Word Learning
Westermann, G., Mani, N. 10/11/2017 London : Routledge. 161 p. ISBN: 9781138843523. Electronic ISBN: 9781315730974.
Curiosity-based learning in infants: A neurocomputational approach
Twomey, K.E., Westermann, G. 26/10/2017 In: Developmental Science. 13 p.
Learned labels shape pre-speech infants’ object representations
Twomey, K.E., Westermann, G. 5/07/2017 In: Infancy.
Labels constructively shape object categories in 10-month-old infants
Althaus, N., Westermann, G. 11/2016 In: Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. 151, p. 5-17. 13 p.
All the Right Noises: Background Variability Helps Early Word Learning
Twomey, K.E., Ma, S., Westermann, G. 23/09/2017 In: Cognitive Science. 26 p.
The effect of shyness on children's formation and retention of novel word–object mappings
Hilton, M., Westermann, G. 11/2017 In: Journal of Child Language. 44, 6, p. 1394-1412. 19 p.
Pupillometry in infancy research
Hepach, R., Westermann, G. 06/2016 In: Journal of Cognition and Development. 17, 3, p. 359-377. 19 p.
From altered synaptic plasticity to atypical learning: a computational model of Down syndrome
Tovar Y Romo, A.E., Westermann, G., Torres, A. expected in 2018 In: Cognition. 171, p. 15-24. 10 p.
A neuroconstructivist model of past tense development and processing
Westermann, G., Ruh, N. 2012 In: Psychological Review. 119, 3, p. 649-667. 19 p.
A student's guide to developmental psychology
Harris, M., Westermann, G. 2014 Hove : Psychology Press. 320 p. ISBN: 9781848720176.
Westermann, G., Mareschal, D., Johnson, M.H., Sirois, S., Spratling, M.W., Thomas, M.S.C. 01/2007 In: Developmental Science. 10, 1, p. 75-83. 9 p.
The shape of words in the brain
Kovic, V., Plunkett, K., Westermann, G. 01/2010 In: Cognition. 114, 1, p. 19-28. 10 p.
Multisensory processing of objects in infancy
01/05/2011 → 30/06/2012
Young children's understanding of the fantasy-reality distinction: perceptual or conceptual?
01/06/2010 → 30/06/2011
The effect of labels on category formation in infancy
01/10/2009 → 31/01/2011
British Journal of Developmental Psychology