photo credit: Heikki Rasilo

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I'm a postdoc in the Computational Cognitive Science Lab at the University of California, Berkeley and Princeton University working with Tom Griffiths. You can reach me at or

My work revolves around the hypothesis that human intelligence is underpinned by a capacity to pool computation over generations, in ways that resemble inference and optimisation algorithms. I study the languages we speak and their cognitive underpinnings as paradigm examples of the capacity to discover efficient representations of our environment via cultural transmission and social interaction.

I am broadly interested in understanding the role of long-term computational phenomena in the construction of natural and artificial intelligent systems. My main research focus is on integrating computational approaches to cognition with evolutionary aproaches to cumulative culture, focusing on language and technology. My research combines methods from experimental psychology, machine learning, evolutionary theory, and computational linguistics. I am currently focusing on algorithmic experimentation and crosslinguistic computational semantics.

Previously, I was a Levinson scholar at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics and a postdoc in the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the University of Brussels. I did my PhD work (summarised in this paper) with Simon Kirby and Kenny Smith at The University of Edinburgh.


    • Using Universal Dependencies in cross-linguistic complexity research
      by Berdicevskis, Aleksandrs and Çöltekin, Ça\backslashugr\backslashi and Ehret, Katharina and von Prince, Kilu and Ross, Daniel and Thompson, Bill and Yan, Chunxiao and Demberg, Vera and Lupyan, Gary and Rama, Taraka and Bentz, Christian (2018)
      Proceedings of the Second Workshop on Universal Dependencies (UDW 2018),

    • Interpreting Silent Gesture
      by Thompson, Bill and Schouwstra, Marieke and de Swart, Henri\backslash"ette (2016)
      The Evolution of Language: Proceedings of the 11th International Conference (EVOLANGX11),

    • Universality in Cultural Transmission
      by Thompson, Bill (2015)
      Proceedings of the 18th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences Satelite Event: The Evolution of Phonetic Capacities,