Welcome to VisWeek 2011!

Visual Thinking in Discovery and Invention: From Physics to Cognitive Social Science

Professor Paul Thagard

This talk will discuss the role of visual thinking in scientific discovery and technological invention. Visual thinking uses picture-like representations as internal mental models or as external depictions such as diagrams. The first part of the talk will analyze the role of visual thinking in 100 great discoveries and 100 great inventions. The second part will discuss the contribution of visual thinking to developing new theories in the social sciences based on advances in cognitive science. Cognitive-affective mapping is a new technique for visualizing the role of emotion in social cognition. EMPATHICA is a new graphical system for resolving conflicts by increasing empathy using cognitive-affective maps.


Paul Thagard is Professor of Philosophy, with cross appointment to Psychology and Computer Science, Director of the Cognitive Science Program, and University Research Chair at the University of Waterloo. He is a graduate of the Universities of Saskatchewan, Cambridge, Toronto (Ph. D. in philosophy) and Michigan (M.S. in computer science). He is the author of Hot Thought: Mechanisms and Applications of Emotional Cognition (MIT Press, 2006)Coherence in Thought and Action (MIT Press, 2000), How Scientists Explain Disease (Princeton University Press, 1999), Mind: Introduction to Cognitive Science (MIT Press, 1996; second edition, 2005), Conceptual Revolutions (Princeton University Press, 1992), and Computational Philosophy of Science (MIT Press, 1988); and co-author of Mental Leaps: Analogy in Creative Thought (MIT Press, 1995) and Induction: Processes of Inference, Learning, and Discovery (MIT Press, 1986). He is also editor of Philosophy of Psychology and Cognitive Science (Elsevier, 2007). The 2010 book, The Brain and the Meaning of Lifeis available from Princeton University PressAmazon.comAmazon.ca, etc. A new book, The Cognitive Science of Science: Explanation, Discovery, and Conceptual Change, will be published by MIT Press in 2012. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the Cognitive Science Society, and the Association for Psychological Science, and received a Canada Council for the Arts Molson Prize.