Department of Computer Science at UH

University of Houston

Department of Computer Science

In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of
Doctor of Philosophy

Malcolm Dcosta

Will defend his dissertation proposal

Sympathetic Loading in Cognitive Tasks


In this dissertation I investigate the role and impact of sympathetic responses on cognitive activities, and its quantification using unobtrusive and wearable methods. Sympathetic arousal occurs during states of mental and/or emotional strain that results from adverse of demanding circumstances. It is a coping mechanism. When the intensity and duration of these arousals are overwhelming, however, then they may block memory and disrupt rational thought..

My investigation is based on data from two studies, `Subject Screening' and `Educational Testing'. In the subject screening studies I investigate the association of sympathetic responses with deceptive behavior. In the educational testing study, I investigate the role of sympathetic responses on exam performance, taking into account a number of covariates. In the experimental design section of this dissertation proposal I describe the high stakes architecture of the deceptive studies and the observational character of the exam study. In the methodological section describe the unobtrusive measurement methods that I used to monitor the subjects’ physiology and outward behaviors. I also describe the computational methods that I used to process and analyze the signs. In the results section I describe the quantitative performance of the methods in one of the deception studies, while I give some qualitative picture of the results in all the other studies. For these latter studies, quantification and nuanced interpretation of the results is pending task that pre-occupy me until the completion of my Ph.D.


Date: Thursday, May 15, 2014
Time: 1:00 PM
Place: HBS 303

Faculty, students, and the general public are invited.
Advisor: Prof. Ioannis Pavlidis