College of Humanities and Social Sciences Presents 'Contexts,' the Sixth Annual Multidisciplinary Conference, on October 18

This year's conference, titled “BYO Truth: Language Matters and (Mis)information in the Public Sphere,” features cognitive scientist Steven Sloman

What is truth and how do we know it? A day-long multidisciplinary conference at William Paterson University in Wayne will delve into those topics on Wednesday, October 18, 2017, from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the University Commons Ballroom on campus. It is free and open to the public.

“This sixth annual multidisciplinary conference and the Contexts series seeks to look beyond the headlines and engage students, faculty and the community in timely and important dialogue about the issues of our day,” says Kara M. Rabbitt, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Contexts is part of a continuing discussion series hosted by the University’s College of the Humanities and Social Sciences.

The event is divided into three sessions in which multiple speakers will address issues of language and truth by examining both the stories we tell and the ways in which we circulate them. The conference will also explore how discussions of truth are expressions of – and attempts to normalize – differences in political, economic, and social outlooks.

The keynote session, from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., will feature Steven Sloman, who will discuss “Ignorance and the Community of Knowledge.” Sloman is a professor in the Department of Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences at Brown University. He is a computationally oriented cognitive scientist who studies how people think. Much of his work in recent years has focused on how people reason causally about the world, reflected in his book, Causal Models: How We Think About the World and Its Alternatives (OUP, 2005). His current focus concerns ignorance and the community of knowledge. He is editor-in-chief of the journal Cognition.

The morning session, from 9:30 to 10:45 a.m., is titled “Language, Truth, and Storytelling.” This session will feature Ana Celia Zentella, professor emerita, ethic studies, at the University of California, and Sara Gorman, public health and behavioral science expert, as speakers. The final conference session, from 2 to 3:15 p.m., is titled “Circulating Truth and (Mis)Information.” Speaking during the final conference session will be Jennifer Forestal, assistant professor, Department of Political Science at Stockton University. For more information, contact Fanny Lauby at or Jason Ambroise at