Conférences - 3 & 4 mai 20116


Nicola S. Clayton and Clive Wilkins
Department of Psychology, University of Cambridge





3 mai 2016, 15h, amphithéâtre Jaurès

The Creative Navigator’s Compass
Memory and Perception~ and how we know where we are.


If we could tell you where you were going and how you could get there, would you want to know?

Imagine a crystal ball that could anticipate the future: would you want to gaze into it, and if you did, what do you think you would see? Would you see yourself looking into it to know your personal future, the futures of your loved ones, or the society of which you are a part, or would you be looking for an overview of the great schema of things? Is it the case that any of these are fundamentally different in the way that they affect our perception of the world? In making an assessment of any future we may perceive, it’s all too easy to make the assumption that what we imagine and remember are accurate reflections of reality. Many of our greatest deceptions evolve out of such a faulty supposition.

In essence, the chances are that if we were able to look into the crystal ball we would be unlikely to make any sense of it anyway because our experiences are subjective. This has two consequences. The first is that they can shimmer and change, and be altered by our current point of view. The second is that these alternative realities are constrained by the fact that we don’t see all that can be seen, our memories are not an accurate repository of what happened in the past, and our thoughts of the future are often equally inaccurate and ill conceived because of these constraints on perception and memory.

Nicky and Clive, a scientist and artist respectively, explore the complex relationships between memory, perception and human experience. Join them for a fascinating interactive presentation that incorporates science, literature, and the performing arts.



4 mai 2016, 15h, salle langevin

Mental Time Travel and The Moustachio Quartet


Mental time travel allows us to re-visit our memories and imagine future scenarios, and this is why memories are not only about the past—they are also prospective. These episodic memories are not a fixed store of what happened, however; they are reassessed each time they are revisited and depend on the sequence in which events unfold. In this lecture we shall explore the complex relationships between memory and human experience, including through a series of novels ‘The Moustachio Quartet’ that can be read in any order. To do so we shall integrate evidences from science and the arts to explore the subjective nature of mental time travel, arguing that these capacities evolved primarily for prospection as opposed to retrospection. Furthermore, we shall question the notion that mental time travel is a uniquely human construct, and argue that some of the best evidence for the independent evolution of mental time travel comes from our distantly related avian cousins, the corvids, that cache food for the future and rely on long-lasting and highly accurate memories of what, where and when they stored their stashes of food.