Likan Zhan

About me

My undergraduate major is Teaching Chinese as a Second Language. But I turned out to be more interested in the underling processes of language comprehension and language learning, rather than in the language teaching practices. Henceforth, I changed my postgraduate major to cognitive psychology. During my postgraduate study, I had training linguistics (theoretical linguistics especially generative linguistics, psycholinguistics, and neurolinguistics) and psychology (general psychology, experimental psychology, and cognitive neuroscience), as well as some experimental techniques, such as E-prime, and eye tracking techniques (Eyelink II/1000). My master’s thesis was on the interpretation of logical connectives in human language, and to investigate the topic, I also read extensively on analytic philosophy, logic, reasoning, and rationality. As an extension of my Master project, my PhD project explored the meaning of conditional connective in human language, and used it as a pivot to find the uniqueness of human language and human itself. Because of the multidisciplinary property of the project, my PhD major is cognitive science. The institution I pursued my PhD degree is the Center for Cognition and its Disorders, Macquarie University, Australia, which hosts three MEG systems. During that period, I started to use the R programming language to analyze my data and to receive systematic training on MEG such as equipment maintenance, experiment design, as well as data acquisition and analyses etc. Since 2018, I start to use Julia as a potential alternative to R to do my data analyses.

After graduation, I joined Beijing Language and Culture University in 2014 as a tenured faculty member of Faculty of Language Sciences. Since 2014 up to now, I have being teaching undergraduate courses like Science and Scientific Research, Statistics for Behavioral Science, General Psychology, Experimental Psychology, and postgraduate courses like R for statistics and data visualization, Introduction to Cognitive Neuroscience, and Introduction to Neurolinguistics. I was also a core member of the application and establishment of two new undergraduate majors in the Beijing Language and Culture University: Speech and language science (Approved by Ministry of Education PRC in 2015) and Linguistics (The first linguistic major at the undergraduate level in China, approved by Ministry of Education PRC in 2018). In 2015, I was in charge of building an MEG machine there, the first child MEG machine in China. As a principle investigator, I have received one external funding from the National Social Science Fund of China (The national top-level project in philosophy and social science field in China), seven internal fundings from the Beijing Language and Culture University or Macquarie University. As a co-investigator, I have received one major project from the National Social Science Found of China, one major project from the Beijing Language and Culture University. As a co-investigator, I am also attending two university sponsored projects intending to enhance the academic level of the university. From 2014 up to now, I have published 12 peer reviewed journal articles in SSCI and/or SCIE indexed journals. I was or continues to be a peer-reviewer of *Scientific Reports*,Journal of Visualized Experiments, SAGE Open, and Language Teaching and Linguistic Studies (In Chinese). As a member of the academic advisory committee, I jointly organized the 24th annual conference of the International Association of Chinese Linguistics.

One important aspect that outperforms humankind from other animals is that human language can represent information that is not here and now, i.e., displacement. Displacements are representations referring to the past, to the future, to the events that do not exist in reality, or to a person’s belief and aim, etc. My current research pursues are in these directions. First, predictive processing. One important reason that human can efficiently comprehend the fast ongoing auditory language input is that they can preprocess the information that has not yet been but is logically possible to be encountered, i.e., predictive processing. Second, irrealis. Irrealis is a marked way that human language uses to express displacement. Disjunctives, conditionals, and epistemic modals are among those linguistic markers that signify irrealis. Third, theory of mind. Other person’s or even oneself’s internal states, such as beliefs, intents, desires, emotions, knowledge, etc., i.e., theory of mind, are also the information that cannot be directly sensed. Effectively taking other’s belief into consideration is important both for social interaction and for language comprehension.

My way to pursue these topics can be described from different perspectives. From the perspective of theoretical issues, I will stress their status in and their relation to logic, analytic philosophy, reasoning, and rationality. From the perspective of research participants, I will continue with typical developed adults, and gradually extend to typical and atypical developing children. If conditions permit, I will also compare human and animals to find the uniqueness of humankind. From the perspective of research methods, I’ll continue to use the behavioral and eye-tracking techniques that I’m familiar with. I am also planning to introduce new techniques that are appropriate to the research topics, such as computational modeling, machine learning, neurophysiological (e.g., EEG/MEG), or neuroimaging (e.g., fMRI) techniques etc.