Professor Jeffrey Bowers
Professor Jeffrey Bowers
(See a map)
Language and Memory
I received my degree in psychology (BSc) at the University of Toronto (1987), and completed a Ph.D. with Daniel Schacter and Kenneth Forster at the University of Arizona (1993) on the topic of long-term priming. I then moved to Montreal for a post-doctoral position at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Centre Hospitalier Cote-Des-Neiges, working with Daniel Bub on letter-by-letter reading (1993-1994). Following this I moved to Rice University as an assistant professor (1994-1998), and then took a position of a lecturer at the University of Bristol, where I am now a professor.
My research addresses a range of issues in language and memory. In one line of work I have attempted to gain insight into how word knowledge is coded in the brain. On one general view, word knowledge (and indeed all forms of knowledge) is coded in a distributed (and non-symbolic) manner, such that a word is coded as a pattern of activation across a set of units (neurons), with no one unit devoted to a single letter or word (typically associated with the PDP approach). On another view, word knowledge is coded in a localist (and symbolic) manner, with each letter and word uniquely coded by an individual unit. I’ve carried out a series of behavioral experiments that provide evidence that letters and words are coded in a localist and symbolic manner (e.g., Davis & Bowers, 2005, 2006), as well as some computer simulations that support this conclusion (Bowers, Damian, & Davis, in press, Psychological Review, Bowers & Davis, 2009). I’ve also argued that localist models are more biological plausible than the distributed representations learned in PDP networks (Bowers, 2009).
Another line of research attempts to further our understanding of the learning mechanisms that support written and spoken word perception. In one study we have provided evidence that the age at which a word is learned is as important as the frequency with a word is practiced (Stadthagen-Gonzalez et al., 2004). At the same time, we have provided evidence that early learning leaves an indelible imprint on our ability to perceive the sounds of a language (Bowers, Mattys, and Gage, 2009). In this project, we found that persons who were exposed to Zulu and Hindi early in life could relearn phoneme contrasts in these languages following years of isolation from Zulu or Hindi. By contrasts, adults who were never exposed to these languages as children could not learn the contrasts. That is, early exposure to the phonemes in a language is special. In another recent project, we have provided evidence that word learning involves a consolidation process, in which learning improves over time (perhaps during sleep) in the absence of further training (Clay et al., 2007).
Currently, I co-ordinate and teach a Level 3 undergraduate option called "Language, Thought, and Modularity of Mind" and co-ordinate and co-teach a Level 1 unit in cognitive psychology. I also co-teach a Level 2 course called "Perception and Memory", and an MSc unit entitled Language, Memory, and Development".
I am the 3rd year coodinator.
I am the Director of Undergraduate Studies.
PHD students supervised
Jen Todd Jones
- Davis, C, Bowers, J & Memon, A 2012, Social Influence in Televised Election Debates: A Potental Distorion of Democarcy. PLOS ONE, vol 6., pp. e1815 - e1815
- Bowers, J & Pleydell-Pearce, C 2012, Swearing, Euphemisms, and Linguistic Relativity. PLoS ONE, vol 6., pp. e22341 - e22341
- Bowers, J & Davis, C 2012, Bayesian just-so stories in psychology and neuroscience. Psychological Bulletin.
- Bowers, J, Mattys, S & Gage, S 2011, Preserved implicit knowledge of a forgotten childhood language. Psychological Science, vol 20., pp. 1064 - 1069
- Damian, M, Bowers, J, Stadthagen-Gonzalez, H & Spalek, K 2010, Does word length affect speech onset latencies in single word production?. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory & Cognition, vol 36., pp. 892 - 905
- Bowers, J 2009, On the biological plausibility of grandmother cells: Implications for neural network theories in psychology and neuroscience. Psychological Review, vol 116., pp. 220 - 251
- Bowers, J, Damian, M & Davis, C 2009, A fundamental limitation of the conjunctive codes learned in PDP models of cognition: Comments on Botvinick and Plaut (2006). Psychological Review, vol 116., pp. 986 - 997
- Bowers, JS, Damian, MF & Davis, CJ 2009, Postscript: More Problems With Botvinick and Plaut's (2006) PDP Model of Short-Term Memory. Psychological Review, vol 116., pp. 995-997
- Bowers, J, Davis, C, Mattys, S, Damian, M & Hanley, D 2009, The activation of embedded words in spoken word identification is robust but constrained: Evidence from the picture-word interference paradigm. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance, vol 35., pp. 1585 - 1597
- Stadthagen-Gonzalez, H, Damian, MF, Perez, MA, Bowers, JS & Marin, J 2009, Name-picture verification as a control measure for object naming: A task analysis and norms for a large set of pictures. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology: Section A, vol 62., pp. 1581-1597
Full publications list in the University of Bristol publications system