How do our non-conscious learning experiences shape our more explicit knowledge and beliefs? What are the neurocognitive bases of creativity, and can we augment then to make people more creative? What is the nature of aesthetic experience? Which season of Mad Men is the most excellent of them all?
These are the kinds of questions that keep me up late in thought and greet me in the morning. All but one of them (for now) are the subject of my research.
My research uses methods from psychology & cognitive neuroscience and a variety of statistical approaches such network science, mixed effects modeling, and machine learning. My general philosophy is to start with a question of interest – e.g., How does formal training in an artistic domain change how we experience art? – and incorporate the appropriate techniques to answer it.
Most recently, I have applied many of these questions outside of academia in the field of user experience research! By exploring people’s beliefs, experiences (conscious and otherwise), and aesthetic preferences, I hope to be able to improve design and interactions with digital products.
Areas of Study
Learning is a fundamental process. It is the basis of our thinking, behavior, beliefs, and decision-making. In many cases, this learning occurs non-consciously. One line of my research investigates how implicit learning influences the formation of explicit knowledge and beliefs, particularly via the formation of intuitions. My research into human learning also considers underlying neural mechanisms. For instance, can the functional organization of the brain be used to predict and/or assess learning capacity?
Creativity & Aesthetics
Creative innovation is among the most distinguishing and valuable attributes of the U.S. workforce, and the ability to maximize creative potential is likely to become even more essential as creativity emerges as the human ability least achievable by artificial intelligence. My work has focused on the neurocognitive processes by which people come up with creative ideas, and how we can intervene in such processes via behavioral and neural interventions (e.g., tDCS) to boost creativity.
In a similar vein, I have also investigated aesthetic experience – an output of creative expression. More specifically, my work aims to understand the underlying psychological responses to the built and natural environment.
Religious beliefs are widely shared and deeply personal, but where do they come from? My work – along with a rich literature in the cognitive science of religion – has begun to demonstrate that religious beliefs are not “special.” Like other beliefs we hold, religious beliefs are byproducts of intuitions developed from natural cognitive and biological mechanisms. My research has highlighted the role of bottom-up processing on belief formation and has begun to consider underlying neural mechanisms to examine the different ways in which God is represented in the human brain.