Stephen Kosslyn Video Page

Stephen Kosslyn

Respected scientist Stephen Kosslyn goes in depth about his findings about how the brain simulates visual imagery and how visual constructions in one's head is guided by what that person believes. This points to the importance of critical thinking going hand-in-hand with a developed sense of visual literacy; on a first glance of an image, you may not be aware of your bias until you examine it.

Stephen Michael Kosslyn is an American psychologist who specializes in the fields of cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience. He was the John Lindsley Professor of Psychology until the end of 2010 and Dean of Social Science at Harvard University. He is a founding dean of the Minerva Schools, established in 2012 to provide an extraordinary liberal arts and sciences education to the brightest, most motivated students in the world. He currently leads the School of Arts and Sciences and has defined Minerva’s pedagogic philosophy. Kosslyn came to Minerva from Stanford University, where he served as Director of the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences, the world’s preeminent institution in the field.

Kosslyn has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has received three honorary doctorates, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the National Academy of Sciences Initiatives in Research Award. He has published more than 300 scientific papers and 14 books. His most recent Top Brain/Bottom Brain(with G.W. Miller), posits a new theory of cognitive modes–different thinking styles­­–that affect how we each approach the world and our interactions with others.

His research is wide ranging and has concentrated on how images are captured, stored in memory, interpreted and transformed within the brain. Throughout his academic career he has published widely on these issues with over 300 papers and numerous books on how the results can be used in real-world settings to improve how visual information is presented – these studies includes the presentation of graphs, display signs and Powerpoint presentations. It is the linkage between academic world and practical guidelines that makes his work accessible and applicable.

He has received numerous honors for his research including the National Academy of Sciences Initiatives in Research Award, the Prix Jean-Louis Signoret, and two honorary doctorates (from the University of Caen, France, and the University of Paris-Descartes). The last two from French universities are particularly interesting as he lists one of his hobbies as struggling with the French language.

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Additional videos:

The Brain's Processes 

Are you left-brained, or are you right-brained? How does the brain even work? In this video, cognitive scientist Stephen Kosslyn complicates those questions and then reframes the discussion.


Stephen talks about an experiment he conducted regarding the brain. His team measured how problem-solving teamwork is affected by pairing people with different types of abilities together. Drawing from the results, he discusses some conclusions about assembling effective teams and how similar tests could benefit the world.

The Importance of "Multiple Perceptions"

Stephen wants you to know that perception is not a singular thing. In fact, many different systems in the brain control perception, and a huge amount of perceptual information in the brain is actually influenced by beliefs and expectations of the observer.

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Video: Memories vs. Photographs