Beau Sievers

Cognitive neuroscience research

Just as a hammer is good for hitting nails and bad for making a sandwich, the shapes of our ideas determine what we can do with them. I use brain imaging, behavioral experiments, and computational models to understand what ideas with different shapes can and cannot do.

My past research has shown why music and movement are deeply connected and how conversation aligns our minds and brains. My current work asks how we grasp the most gnarly and misshapen ideas, whose meanings depend on relations between their parts. What kinds of minds must humans or machines have to understand language, music, mathematics, and reason?

I am a postdoctoral researcher in the Dartmouth Social Systems Lab advised by Professor Thalia Wheatley and a research associate in Psychology at Harvard University advised by Professors Joshua Greene and Leslie Valiant. I completed my PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience at Dartmouth College, advised by Thalia Wheatley.

I am also a composer and performer on percussion and electronics, and was a founding organizer of Indexical.

Contact

Please feel free to email me. I am also on Twitter.

Publications

  • Sievers, B., Parkinson, C., Kohler, P.J., Hughes, J., Fogelson, S.V., & Wheatley, T. (in press). Visual and auditory brain areas share a representational structure that supports emotion perception. Current Biology, forthcoming. Open data. Stimuli. Software. Open access preprint.
  • Sievers, B., DiFilippis, E. (in press). Causal complexity demands community coordination. Comment on Yarkoni (2021), The Generalizability Crisis. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, forthcoming. Open access preprint.
  • Sievers, B., Wheatley, T. (in press). Rapid dissonant grunting, or, But why does music sound the way it does? Comment on Mehr et al. (2021), Origins of music in credible signaling, and Savage et al. (2021), Music as a coevolved system for social bonding. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, forthcoming. Open access preprint.
  • Sievers, B., Welker, C., Hasson, U., Kleinbaum, A. M., Wheatley, T. (2020). How consensus-building conversation changes our minds and aligns our brains. Open access preprint.
  • Sievers, B., Momennejad, I. (2019). SAMPL: The Spreading Activation and Memory PLasticity Model. Open source implementation of SAMPL. Open access preprint.
  • Sievers, B., Lee, C., Haslett, W., & Wheatley, T. (2019). A multi-sensory code for emotional arousal. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 286. Data, code, and materials. Open access preprint.
  • Levari, D. E., Gilbert, D.T., Wilson, T.D., Sievers, B., Amodio, D.M. & Wheatley, T. (2018). Prevalence-induced concept change in human judgment. Science.
  • Sievers, B., Parkinson, C., Walker, T., Haslett, W., & Wheatley, T. (2017). Low-level percepts predict emotion concepts across modalities and cultures. Open access preprint.
  • Wheatley, T. & Sievers, B. (2015). Toward a neuroscience of social resonance. In Greene, Morrison & Seligman (Eds.) Positive Neuroscience. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Sievers, B., Polansky, L., Casey, M., & Wheatley, T. (2013). Music and movement share a dynamic structure that supports universal expressions of emotion. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(1) 70–75. Software. Open access PDF.
  • Parkinson, C., Kohler, P., Sievers, B., & Wheatley, T. (2012). Associations between auditory pitch and visual elevation do not depend on language: Evidence from a remote population. Perception, 41, 854–861. PDF.
  • Sievers, B. (2006). A young person’s guide to the principles of music synthesis.

Teaching

Software

fmri_go

fmri_go is open source software for presenting timelocked stimuli in an fMRI scanner and recording participant responses using PsychoPy. This software is in active development—use at your own risk.

Bouncing Ball

Bouncing Ball is open source software for comparing the dynamics of music and movement as described in Sievers, B., Polansky, L., Casey, M., & Wheatley, T. (2013). Music and movement share a dynamic structure that supports universal expressions of emotion. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(1), 70-75.

Morphological Metrics

Morphological Metrics is a Ruby implementation of metrics described in Larry Polansky's article Morphological Metrics. Larry's work on Morphological Metrics is of interest for anybody who wants to quantitatively compare contours; I came to it as a composer and continue to return regularly as a scientist.

Ruby PCSet

Ruby PCSet is a simple Ruby library for performing musical pitch-class set theory operations. It has a few nice things which similar tools lack, including evaluation of some properties described by Balzano (coherence, uniqueness) and Huron (aggregate dyadic consonance).