Germany-hong Kong joint workshop

Biological Basis of Individual Differences in

Human Social Communi­cative Abilities

Quantitative Experiments, Computational Methods and Modeling


The workshop will be held at the Centre for Nonlinear Studies, Institute of Computational and Theoretical Studies, Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) from October 2 to 5, 2012. 


Prof. Werner Sommer 
Dept. of Psychology, Humboldt-University at Berlin, Germany 

Dr. Changsong Zhou,
Dept. of Physics & Centre for Nonlinear Studies, Hong Kong Baptist University 

Aims of the workshop: The workshop aims to bring together active researchers from overseas, Mainland China and local Hong Kong interested in the questions of individual differences in social communicative abilities and their neuronal and genetic underpinnings in order to explore ways to advance progress in the field by exchanging ideas and developing research strategies and collaborations. 

Background: The human mind excels not only in its intellectual capacities, as captured in the concept of intelligence. Humans are also wonderful communicators of thoughts, intentions, and feeling states. In fact, it has been suggested that the need for social interaction was a driving force in the development of the human brain. And yet, despite the popular idea that alongside traditional intellectual functions (intelligence) there might be a separate cluster of measurable abilities for social or emotional interaction, the study of this field is still in its infancy. Not only do we lack psychometric instruments to measure these functions in an objective and valid way, we also know very little about the neuronal and genetic foundations of these abilities and their variation across individuals. Research in this important but challenging field requires large quantitative studies at several levels (a) psychometric, defining the concepts in question and distinguishing them from traditional intellectual functions, (b) neuronal, assessing the implementation of social communicative abilities in the brain, and (c) genetic, gauging the global and specific phylogenetic sources of these abilities. Progress in this field requires the close collaboration between psychologists, neuroscientists, and biologists. Of utmost importance, because of the highly complex and interactive nature of the processes in question, is the cooperation with scientists working on complex nonlinear systems, statistical physics and computational methods and modeling. 

Participants: The speakers are experts and active younger researchers from Europe, Mainland and local Hong Kong. More young researchers and students from Hong Kong are expected to join the workshop, with totally about 25 participants. The area of expertise of the speakers will be in nonlinear dynamics, modeling of neural networks, structural equation modeling, psychometrics of individual differences in intelligence and social/emotional intelligence, language perception and production, emotion processing in language and faces, genetics of human cognitive abilities, brain connectivity, neuroimaging techniques. 

The follow experts and active young researchers have agreed to give a talk at the workshop: 

- Cherny, Stacey (State Key Lab of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Hong Kong University)

   - He, Yong (State Key Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience and Learning, Beijing Normal University)

   - Hildebrandt, Andrea (Dept. of Psychology, Humboldt University at Berlin)

   - Jiang, Tianzi (National Laboratory of Pattern Recognition, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing)

   - Martin-Loeches, Manuel (Center for Human Evolution, Universidad Complutense Madrid)

   - Olderbak, Sally (Dept. of Psychology, Univ. of Ulm, Germany)

   - Roberts, Richard (Educational Testing Service, Princeton University)

   - Schinkel, Stefan (Dept. of Physics and Dept. of Psychology, Humboldt University, Berlin)

   - Sommer, Werner (Dept. of Psychology, Humboldt University, Germany

   - Wilhelm, Oliver (Dept. of Psychology, University of Ulm)

   - Zhou, Changsong (Dept. of Physics, Hong Kong Baptist University)

   - Zhu, Lixing (Statistician, Dept. of Mathematics, Hong Kong Baptist University)


   Young Researchers:

   - Kaltwasser, Laura (Dept. of Psychology, Humboldt University at Berlin)

   - Kiy, Astrid (Dept. of Psychology, Humboldt University at Berlin)

   - Kuenecke, Janina (Dept. of Psychology, Humboldt University at Berlin)

   - Ouyang, Guang (Department of Physics, Hong Kong Baptist University)

   - Recio, Guillermo (Dept. of Psychology, Humboldt University at Berlin)