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Alex Carstensen

Contact

Erasmusplein 1
6525 HT Nijmegen
Room: E 4.29
Email

Alex Carstensen studies language and thought with a particular interest in how humans make the conceptual leap from limited and concrete perception to talk and think about abstract ideas. As a window onto this cognitive feat, she investigates how adults parcel meaning into words and categories across cultures, and how children learn these meanings. Her research focuses on the nature of category systems in language: how semantic structures vary, evolve, and influence thought. In a complementary line of work, she explores the role of language and culture in children’s developing conceptualizations of space and relations.

She is a postdoc at the Centre for Language Studies and works on the Evolution of Semantic Systems project, a research initiative of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, studying linguistic structure and semantic change in the domains of space, color, body parts, and artifacts across Indo-European languages from Iceland to India.

Carstensen, A. and Walker, C. (2017). The paradox of relational development is not universal: Abstract reasoning develops differently across cultures. In G. Gunzelmann et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of the 39th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society. Full text (pdf)

Carstensen, A. (2016). Universals and variation in language and thought: Concepts, communication, and semantic structure. (PhD thesis). University of California, Berkeley.

Tseng, C., Carstensen, A., Regier, T., and Xu, Y. (2016). A computational investigation of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis: The case of spatial relations. In D. Grodner et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of the 38th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society. Full text (pdf)

Regier, T., Carstensen, A., and Kemp, C. (2016). Languages support efficient communication about the environment: Words for snow revisited. PLOS ONE 11(4): e0151138. Link to source

Carstensen, A., Xu, J., Smith, C., and Regier, T. (2015). Language evolution in the lab tends toward informative communication. In D. Noelle et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of the 37th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 303-308). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society. Full text (pdf)

Carstensen, A., Kon, E., and Regier, T. (2014). Testing a rational account of pragmatic reasoning: The case of spatial language. In P. Bello et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of the 36th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 2009-2013). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society. Full text (pdf)

Carstensen, A. and Regier, T. (2013). Individuals recapitulate the proposed evolutionary development of spatial lexicons. In M. Knauff et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of the 35th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 293-298). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society. Link to source | Full text (pdf)

Carstensen, A., Pacer, M., and Regier, T. (2012). Grounding spatial language in non-linguistic cognition: Evidence for universal and relative spatial semantics in thought. In N. Miyake, D. Peebles, and R.P. Cooper (Eds.), Proceedings of the 34th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 827-832). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society. Full text (pdf)

Carstensen, A. (2011). Universals and variation in spatial language and cognition. Thesis in linguistics, University of California, Berkeley.

Carstensen, A. (2011). Mind the time: Attention mediates cross-domain mappings in time and space. Thesis in psychology, University of California, Berkeley.

CONFERENCE PRESENTATIONS

Tseng, C., Carstensen, A., Regier, T., & Xu, Y. (2016, August 13). A computational investigation of the Sapir- Whorf hypothesis: The case of spatial relations. Paper presented at the 38th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Carstensen, A. & Walker, C. (2016, August 10). The role of language in relational reasoning: Evidence from Mandarin Chinese. Poster presented at the workshop on Emergent Meaning: Neural, Social, and Computational Perspectives, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Shibata, A., Carstensen, A., & Regier, T. (2016, April 30). Gestured word order is not always universal: Insights from efficient communication. Poster presented at the 8th Annual California Cognitive Science Conference, Berkeley, California.

Regier, T., Carstensen, A., & Kemp, C. (2016, March 22). Languages support efficient communication about the environment: Words for snow revisited. Talk presented at the 11th International Conference on the Evolution of Language, New Orleans, Louisiana.

Carstensen, A., Xu, J., Smith, C., & Regier, T. (2015, July 24). Language evolution in the lab tends toward informative communication. Paper presented at the 37th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, Pasadena, California.

Carstensen, A., Xu, Y., Kemp, C., & Regier, T. (2015, July 24). The space of spatial relations: An extended stimulus set. Poster presented at the 37th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, Pasadena, California.

Carstensen, A., Kon, E., & Regier, T. (2014, July 24). Testing a rational account of pragmatic reasoning: The case of spatial language. Paper presented at the 36th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, Quebec City, Canada.

Carstensen, A., Holmes, K., van der Meer, A., & Regier, T. (2014, July 24). Locomotion language in the wild: Biomechanical constraints and caveats. Poster presented at the 36th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, Quebec City, Canada.

Carstensen, A., Neveu, G., Michael, L., & Regier, T. (2013, August 3). Thinking in ways we don’t speak: Evidence for a universal preference in semantic granularity. Poster presented at the 35th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, Berlin, Germany.

Carstensen, A. & Regier, T. (2013, August 2). Individuals recapitulate the proposed evolutionary development of spatial lexicons. Paper presented at the 35th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, Berlin, Germany.

Carstensen, A., Abbott, J., Ivry, R., & Griffiths, T. (2013, July 7). Using Bayesian models to discriminate theories of magnitude and metaphor. Talk presented at the Embodied and Situated Language Processing Conference, Potsdam, Germany.

Carstensen, A., Pacer, M., & Regier, T. (2012, August 4). Grounding spatial language in non-linguistic

cognition: Evidence for universal and relative spatial semantics in thought. Paper presented at the 34th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, Sapporo, Japan.

Carstensen, A., Khetarpal, N., Majid, A., & Regier, T. (2011, July 22). Universals and variation in spatial language and cognition: Evidence from Chichewa. Poster presented at the 33rd Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, Boston, Massachusetts.

Carstensen, A. & Ivry, R. (2010, September 18). Time in the mind: Is space an obligatory influence on temporal judgments? Poster presented at the joint meeting of the Conceptual Structure, Discourse and Language (CSDL) and Embodied and Situated Language Processing (ESLP) Associations, San Diego, California.

Carstensen, A., Wallace, D., Miyakawa, A., Nomura, E., Vytlacil, J., Fegan, D., and D’Esposito, M. (2010, April 23). Effects of dopamine on cognitive efficiency: A pharmacological fMRI study. Poster presented in the Psi Chi Poster Session at the 90th Annual Western Psychological Association Convention, Cancún, Mexico.

INVITED TALKS

2016 Diversity in Language, Culture, and Cognition Colloquium, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.

2016 NightLife, California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco

2016 Cognition and Neuroscience Seminar (FriSem), Stanford University

2016 Cognition Colloquium, Psychology Department, UC Berkeley

2016 CogSci 98/198 (Berkeley Review of Cognitive Science Articles), UC Berkeley

2015 CogNetwork Forum, Linguistics Department, UC Berkeley

2015 Berkeley-Stanford Talks, Psychology Department, UC Berkeley

2015 Cognitive Science Student Association, Cognitive Science Program, UC Berkeley

2014 CogSci 98/198 (Berkeley Review of Cognitive Science Articles), UC Berkeley

2014 Cognition Coalition Cognitive Science Day, Psychology Department, UC Berkeley

2013 CogNetwork Forum, Linguistics Department, UC Berkeley

2013 Institute of Cognitive and Brain Science Colloquium, UC Berkeley

2013 Cognition, Brain, and Behavior Colloquium, Psychology Department, UC Berkeley

2013 Cognition Coalition Cognitive Science Day, Psychology Department, UC Berkeley

2012 Berkeley-Stanford Talks, Psychology Department, UC Berkeley

2012 Cognition Coalition Cognitive Science Day, Psychology Department, UC Berkeley

2011 Institute of Cognitive and Brain Science Colloquium, UC Berkeley

2011 Cognition, Brain, and Behavior Colloquium, Psychology Department, UC Berkeley

2010 California Cognitive Science Conference, Cognitive Science Program, UC Berkeley

EDUCATION & TRAINING

2016- Postdoctoral Researcher, Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands Meaning, Culture, and Cognition Lab, Advisor: Asifa Majid

2016 Ph.D. in Psychology, University of California, Berkeley Language and Cognition Lab, Advisor: Terry Regier

2011 B.A. in Psychology, UC Berkeley, with Highest Honors & Departmental Citation

B.A. in Linguistics, UC Berkeley, with (Highest) Honors & Departmental Citation (Departmental Citation recognizes one student per department for excellence in the field of study.) Advisors: Richard Ivry and Terry Regier

SELECTED AWARDS

National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, 2013-2016

Institute of Cognitive and Brain Sciences Research Grant, UC Berkeley, 2013

Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship in African Studies, US Dept. of Education, 2010

Letters & Science Undergraduate Research Fellowship, UC Berkeley, 2010

National Merit Scholarship, UC Berkeley, 2007-2011

Regents’ and Chancellor’s Scholarship, UC Berkeley, 2007-2011

TEACHING

Lecturer, Language and Thought, University of California, Berkeley: Summer 2016

Graduate Student Instructor, Language and Thought, University of California, Berkeley: Spring 2015

Graduate Student Instructor, Introduction to Cognitive Science, University of California, Berkeley: Fall 2012

Graduate Student Instructor, Psychology of Sleep, University of California, Berkeley: Fall 2011

Course Designer and Facilitator, Psychology Publications DeCal (DeCals are officially registered student-led courses at UC Berkeley), University of California, Berkeley: Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Spring 2011

Volunteer Teacher, Health and Environmental Conservation, World Camp for Kids, Lilongwe, Malawi: Summer 2009

MENTORSHIP

Graduate student mentor, Language and Cognition Lab University of California, Berkeley: 2011-2016

Mentored and supervised over 40 undergraduate and graduate researchers conducting fieldwork and behavioral experiments locally and internationally in more than 10 languages.

Graduate Diversity Program: Getting into Graduate School (GiGS)University of California, Berkeley: 2015-2016

Advised first-generation college students from underrepresented backgrounds on graduate school selection, application development, and the interview and negotiation process.

Native American Student Development: Pathways to Success University of California, Berkeley: 2014-2016

Mentored and supported Native American undergraduates in academic and personal contexts.

PROFESSIONAL SERVICE

Ad Hoc Reviewer: Cognition, Journal of Neurophysiology, Experimental Brain Research, Cognitive Science Conference, Evolution of Language Conference

Conference Organizer, Berkeley-Stanford Talks: 2011-2013

Editor-In-Chief, Undergraduate Journal of Psychology at Berkeley, University of California, Berkeley: 2009-2011

College of Letters and Science Student Representative, Student Advisory Council on Undergraduate Education, University of California, Berkeley: 2009-2011

Founding Director, Psychology Undergraduate Research Conference (now Berkeley Interdisciplinary Research Conference), University of California, Berkeley: 2009

SUMMER SCHOOL

Graduate Summer School: Probabilistic Models of Cognition, Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics, University of California, Los Angeles, 2011

SCHOLARSHIPS & HONORS

Psychology Travel Award, UC Berkeley, 2016

Graduate Division Conference Travel Grant, UC Berkeley, 2015

Graduate Assembly Travel Award, UC Berkeley, 2014

Graduate Division Conference Travel Grant, UC Berkeley, 2014

Psychology Travel Award, UC Berkeley, 2013

Honorable Mention, Ford Foundation Fellowship Program, 2012

Psychology Travel Award, UC Berkeley, 2012

Honorable Mention, National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program, 2011

Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics Travel Scholarship, UCLA, 2011

Western Psychological Foundation Student Scholarship, 2010

Psi Chi Regional Research Award, 2010

Conceptual Structure, Discourse, and Language (and ESLP) Conference Travel Scholarship, 2010

Phi Beta Kappa, 2010

Swan Undergraduate Research Award in Psychology, UC Berkeley Psychology, 2009 & 2010

Mortar Board National College Senior Honor Society, 2009

National Society of Collegiate Scholars, 2009

Psi Chi International Society in Psychology, 2008

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