I am Sylvain Sirois, professor within the Psychology Department of UQTR, and chairholder of the Canada Research Chair in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience. My research interests focus on the relationship between learning and developmental mechanisms behind cognitive change. I work primarily with babies. Not as colleagues, but research participants. I have a very nice lab where we can do eye tracking and high-density EEG recordings. Pics of the lab will be up soon. With these tools, we can obtain very fine-grained behavioural and neurological data, which is helpful when trying to make sense of development in a way that is consistent with what the brain does. Ultimately, the brain IS behaviour, so keeping the brain in the loop helps us to make sense of said behaviour.
To reach me by post, use the following address:
Département de Psychologie
Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières
C.P. 500, Trois-Rivières (QC)
By phone: (1) 819 376 5011 poste 3526
By email: firstname.lastname@example.org
My page is under construction at the moment and will be updated soon. For the time being, here is some information on my current research projects.
Canada Research Chair in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience
You will find an overall introduction to the Chair here.
The role of learning in infant social cognition
Here is a summary of the project, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council:
This project is concerned with infant social cognition in the first year of life. Research in the last decade has suggested that human infants have precocious social cognitive skills, including goal attribution (understanding others’ behaviour as goal-driven; Woodward, 1998), joint attention (interpreting aspects of the environment in a shared manner with someone else; Poulin-Dubois & Chow, in press) and more recently theory of mind (attributing to someone else beliefs that may be different from one’s own; Song & Baillargeon, 2008). The results have challenged core assumptions in developmental psychology. For example, many believed that Theory of Mind is an ability that only properly emerges around age 4 (Ruffman & Perner, 2005). A fundamental question social development is to determine if complex abilities are present in infants, abilities otherwise masked by traditional tasks, or whether recent studies in fact show more primitive abilities, linked to the more complex ones observed in children. A more radical proposal is that infants are social imposters, and that their social behaviour is not, in fact, social (Povinelli, Prince, & Preuss, 2005). Most studies on infant social cognition use methods based on habituation (decreased responding over repeated stimulation), a form of learning considered «simple» (Sirois & Mareschal, 2002). A problem is that the role of learning is typically eschewed from interpretations of infant behaviour on such tasks (Colombo & Mitchell, 2009). And many have questioned the very suggestion of complex cognitive skills in infants (Cohen, 2004; Kagan, 2008; Jackson & Sirois, 2009), including social cognition (Sirois & Jackson, 2007). This project proposes 5 series of experiments that examine different aspects of social cognition in infants aged 9 and 12 months. The project combines a re-examination of seminal studies (series 1, 2, and 5) and new studies (series 3 and 4). All share strict methodological controls (Sirois & Jackson, 2007) that are cruelly lacking in a majority of recent studies, as well as a focus on learning (Colombo & Mitchell, 2009) in studies of infant social cognition. Each study, and the whole project globally, will help our understanding of the nature and changes associated with social cognition in the first year of life.