is a gigantic project yet to be done that will have the effect
of rooting psychology in natural science. Once this is accomplished,
you'll be able to go from phenomenology. . . to information
processing. . . to the brain. . . down through the workings
of the neurons, including the biochemistry, all the way to
the biophysics and the way that genes are up-regulated and
This is going to happen; I have no doubt at all. When it does
were going to have a much better understanding of human
nature than is otherwise going to be possible.
SHAPE ARE A GERMAN SHEPHERD'S EARS?: A TALK WITH STEPHEN M.
Stephen Kosslyn received tenure at Harvard, none of his colleagues
in the Psychology Department had scholarly interests that overlapped
with his, since most people were doing mathematical psychology.
Prior to Harvard, during his time at Johns Hopkins, Kosslyn
had become very interested in the brain and computation, which
was the beginning of cognitive neuroscience. There weren't too
many people thinking about such matters at that point.
Over time, many of his senior colleagues in the Psychology Department
at Harvard retired or left, so he found myself in the position
of being chair of several search committees, where he could
nudge the program in a direction that, he believes, turned out
to be a very good idea. Kosslyn chaired the committee that hired
Dan Schachter, Patrick Cavanaugh, Ken Nakayama, and Alfonso
Caramazza. "I tried to get Pinker, but failed on that one
for now," he says. "Most recently I chaired the committee
that brought in Susan Carey and Liz Spelke. The department's
gotten strong now. It's got a cohesive, underlying theme, which
means that there is the potential for interaction."
The Department is currently oriented towards cognitive neuroscience.
"Right now," according to Kosslyn, "its
not very computational, which is a weakness. Computation is
the language of information processing, not English, French,
or any other natural language because theres no reason
to expect the kinds of concepts and distinctions captured in
natural language to be appropriate for characterizing what's
going on in the brain. It's different than the objects we encounter
in our daily lives. Although we don't have the right version
of a computational language yetone thats tailored
for this particular machine rather than a Von Neumann machinecomputation
is clearly going to be the language."
M. KOSSLYN, a Professor of Psychology at Harvard University,
has published over 200 papers on the nature of visual mental
imagery. He has received numerous honors, including the National
Academy of Sciences Initiatives in Research Award and the
Prix Jean-Louis Signoret, and was elected to the American
Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Society of Experimental
Psychologists. His books include Image and Mind; Ghosts
in the Mind's Machine; Elements of Graph Design; Wet Mind:
The New Cognitive Neuroscience; Image and Brain: The Resolution
of the Imagery Debate; and Psychology: The Brain, the
Person, the World.
Kosslyn is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association,
the American Psychological Society, and the American Association
for the Advancement of Science, and has served on several
National Research Council committees to advise the government
on new technologies. He is also co-founder of the Journal
of Cognitive Neuroscience.
M. Kosslyn's Edge Bio Page
Beyond Edge: Kosslyn
Laboratory - Stephen M. Kosslyn's home page
REALITY CLUB: Zenon Pylyshyn responds.