Professor Kevin N. Dunbar, Ph.D
The goal of my research is to understand the way that people think, reason, and solve problems in a variety of contexts ranging from scientists reasoning in their labs, children and adults learning new scientific concepts, and politicians engaged in debate.
We analyze reasoning in naturalistic contexts, as well as conducting controlled experiments in the cognitive laboratory in which we investigate analogy, causal reasoning, and deductive reasoning. We are also investigating the ways that the brain is involved in thinking and reasoning using fMRI and fNIRS. By investigating thinking and reasoning in these different contexts we are able to provide new insights into the cognitive and brain-based mechanisms underlying human thinking.
In particular, our investigations of scientists reasoning in their labs has enabled us to go beyond the myths of chance discovery, flash of insight, and the lone scientist toiling against the grain. Instead, we find scientists use well defined strategies for analogical reasoning and causal reasoning as well as group reasoning strategies. This research has implications for the way scientists are educated, science is taught, and theories of how scientists think, reason and make discoveries. The findings from this research can also be incorporated into computer programs that can be used to make scientific discoveries.
Finally, this research is providing new insights and models of basic cognitive processes involved in analogy, causal reasoning, induction, problem solving, group reasoning, diagrammatic reasoning and deduction.
I am currently working on my Ph.D. with Dr. Kevin Dunbar. I am focusing on research involving Cognitive Neurogenetics - examining the executive control processes involved in automaticity, attention and working memory using brain imaging and genetic analysis. I am examining brain networks with the use of the Near Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS) system while further analyzing genetic variations amongst individuals through DNA genotyping and protein analysis. This research will not only further our knowledge on the brain networks and genetic underpinnings involved in executive control processes but help with understanding psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and ADHD, that have been linked to deficits in these cognitive processes.
My primary interests are in complex cognitive processes such as analogical reasoning and hypothesis formation, as well as artificial intelligence and the nature of animal, human and machine consciousness. My current research focuses on the interactions between the frontal and temporal lobes in analogical reasoning, using a combination of functional Near-InfraRed Spectroscopy (fNIRS) and magnetoencephalography (MEG). Analogical reasoning touches nearly every aspect of our daily lives, from planning and decision-making to learning and making hypotheses about our world. Understanding it will allow us to develop better teaching strategies and scientific methodologies, as well as to provide assistive technologies to those with cognitive deficits.
I am also developing web-based software for running psychology experiments over the web. I am very interested in how online experimentation will change the way research is done in the future, and I hope to contribute to it by making this software freely available as soon as possible. If you are interested in running an online experiment in the future, please feel free to contact me!
I recently graduated with a major in Psychology and a double Minor in English and Biology. I have returned as a Non-Degree student, and am currently working under the supervision of Professor Kevin Dunbar on a research project. I am mainly interested in learning, and my project will be focussing on the (possible) effect of category-based inductions on studentsí understandings of evolutionary trees.
I am a BSc (Hon) student, majoring in integrative biology and psychology. For my current project, kindly supervised by Dr. Kevin Dunbar, I will be investigating the possible effects of reactive cortisol levels on cognitive functions such as memory retrieval. This research attempts to combine three different fields of psychology, i.e. cognitive and social psychology and psychobiology, in order to examine some of the physiological mechanisms related to social stress that could be interfering with cognitive functions. Moreover, I am hoping that this research would trigger further collaborations, bringing together the diverse areas of psychology.
Ashwini Persaud is a 5th year undergraduate student at U of T Scarborough in the Co-operative Psychology and its Applications program. She is in the stream 'Behavioural Disorders' in the Co-op program, which is primarily focused on the study of brain-behaviour relationships. Ashwini's thesis will address the broad areas of creativity and problem solving. Specifically, she will be investigating strategy use in the Uses of Objects task.
Linda Truong is an undergraduate student in the Psychology Co-operative program (specializing in Cognition and Behaviour). Her research interests are in the field of cognition and aging; specifically, cognitive interventions for improving the abilities of older adults. Dr. Dunbar is co-supervising her thesis on memory and aging, which involves piloting a new behavioural paradigm that is fMRI-compatible. The goal of this research is to expand our knowledge on the role of the brain in cognition and aging. This research will be conducted at Baycrest, under the supervision of Dr. Nicole Anderson.
I have recently graduated with a BSc (Honours): Psychology Specialist. My interests lie within social and cognitive cross-cultural psychology. I am currently a Non-Degree student working under the supervision of Professor Dunbar on a research project focusing on the impact of culture on individual differences in their attributions of physical causality.
I am a research assistant for Professor Kevin Dunbar in the Psychology department at the University of Toronto Scarborough. I am currently assisting in several studies ranging from uses of objects to stereotype threat, evolution trees, analogies and automaticity (with the use of fNIRS). I am a recent graduate (Nov 08) from the University of Toronto Scarborough with a BSc Specializing in Psychology-Cognition and Behavior. I have been accepted at several universities to begin a graduate program in Speech Language Pathology and will be attending the University of Toronto in September 2009. I have been accepted at the University of Toronto, McGill University, Buffalo SUNY, Massachusetts General Hospital Institute, Boston University, Northwestern University and Pennsylvania State University. I will be working in the Lab for Complex Thinking and Reasoning: Genes, Brains, Cognition, until the end of this summer.
I am a research assistant for Professor Kevin Dunbar at the University of Toronto Scarborough. I have recently graduated from the University of Toronto (St. George) with a double major in Psychology and Human Biology. I will be involved in a study that investigates learning in undergraduate science laboratories by observing and analyzing the interactions between undergraduate students in laboratories. I will also be assisting in several studies with the use of Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS).
Former Graduate Students and Post-Docs
|Leslie Atkins, Ph.D.||Professor at California State University at Chico|
|Lisa Baker, Ph.D.||Professor at SUNY Purchase|
|Isabelle Blanchette, Ph.D.||Professor at University of Quebec at Trois Rivieres|
|Mike Dama, Ph.D.||Statistical Consultant at Wayne State University|
|Jonathan Fugelsang, Ph.D.||Professor at University of Waterloo|
|Adam E. Green, Ph.D.||Post-Doctoral Fellow at Yale University|
|James K. Nelson, Ph.D.||Visiting Professor at Dartmouth College|
|Tanja Rapus, Ph.D.||Health Care Consultant|
Former Undergraduate Students
|Tina Caruana||Pharmaceutical Researcher|
|Victor Ferriera||Professor at University of California at San Diego|
|Raphael Lizcano||Student at Dartmouth Medical School|
|Lynn McGrath||Conducting research on avian flu|
|Lyndsey Moran||Conducting fMRI research at Harvard University|
|Dominic Packer||Post-Doctoral Fellow at Ohio State University|
|Christian Schunn||Professor at University of Pittsburgh|
|Noah Shomosh||Graduate Student at Yale University|
|Kevin Smith||Financial Consultant|
|Debra Sussman||Medical Doctor|
|Colleen K. Wearn||Assistant Director of Admissions at Dartmouth College|