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ELECTION SERIES #1
There is now more information circulating than at any other time in history. Every day mind-boggling amounts of data are produced, reaching over 2.5 quintillion bytes. With the European elections just around the corner, we take a look at an ERC funded project on how politicians stay knowledgeable amidst this information overload. The research by grantee Prof. Stefaan Walgrave from the University of Antwerp compares how different politicians process information and then act on it in three western, post-industrialist parliamentary democracies - Israel, Belgium and Canada. An original study, which unveils some optimistic findings just as voters prepare to head to the polls.
Teaching is certainly one of the most important professions in our society, yet its status and attractiveness have been systematically diminishing in the last decades. At the Université catholique de Louvain, Prof. Xavier Dumay is using his ERC Starting Grant to investigate the cultural and institutional transformations that have led to this "teaching profession crisis".
Almost 30 million children across the world are currently forcibly displaced and many of them, the unaccompanied refugee minors, are travelling without the protection and support of parents or caregivers. What do we know about the impact of their often harsh experiences on their psychological wellbeing? Dr llse Derluyn aims to gather evidence that will support the development of policies and clinical and social interventions for these unaccompanied children who face multiple traumas, also in a view to facilitate their integration in the host countries.
Some school systems in Europe are highly segregated, the Belgian one especially. Poorer standards of education are seen in schools where pupils are predominantly of immigrant background. Researchers are compiling new datasets and information about school composition and teaching cohesion to ensure segregation does not have to mean a difference in education standards.
While on court, beach volleyball players need to act as a whole in order to prevent the ball from touching the sand: in a fraction of a second - just before the opponent's hand spikes the ball - the passer has to predict and adjust to the attacker's action as well as to their teammate's block position. Thanks to her Consolidator Grant, cognitive science professor Natalie Sebanz is studying the cognitive and psychological mechanisms underlying joint action expertise – in other words, how individuals learn skilled actions, such as those performed by professional athletes, together.
While computers can calculate or recognise faces, they are not aware of themselves (yet?). Consciousness is in the essence of human beings; its nature, however, appears to lack a reliable explanation. Prof. Axel Cleeremans is developing a new theory, the Radical Plasticity Thesis, maintaining that consciousness is a long-lasting property of our brain rather than just a static feature. In order to test it, he is taking a multidisciplinary approach including psychological studies and advanced brain imaging.
The Theory of Mind - the ability to understand that others may have thoughts, beliefs, desires, and intentions different from ours - develops in early childhood and is considered as a key process to explain our social interactions. How do children acquire this ability? What are the cognitive and brain mechanisms that allow human beings to learn from others, to predict their behaviour and to communicate with them? These are some of the questions Dr Agnes Melinda Kovacs addresses, thanks to an ERC grant, in her laboratory in Budapest.
Since its establishment in 1959, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has delivered more than 10,000 judgments. Verdicts are rendered on State parties that, having ratified the European Convention of Human Rights, have nonetheless violated the civil and political rights set in this international Treaty and its protocols. Through her ERC research, Prof. Eva Brems questioned the accountability and reliability of this supranational court. Is it fit for purpose?