Professor of Psychology
Department of Psychology
510 642-7099

Research Expertise and Interest

cognition, psychology, concepts, Eastern psychologies, psychologies of religion, cross cultural, causality


I have two main areas of research: 1). Concepts and categories. My basic idea is that concepts form to mirror real world structure rather than adhering to the formal logic of classes (which is the way they have been treated since Aristotle). I have shown that categories as processed by the mind do not have clear cut boundaries, have gradients of class membership, and are generally represented by concrete over-determined images rather than abstract criteria for membership. They form around salient examples, salience which can be perceptual, cognitive, cultural, statistical, etc. Furthermore, the level of abstraction which people judge to be the basic or real name of an object is determined by the practices with which individuals and societies engage with the objects. Presently I am extending this work to show the ways in which categorizations and concepts, rather than referring to objects, actually function as inherent parts of the events in which they are employed. 2). Religious psychologies. I have been endeavoring to demonstrate the implications for modern psychology of practices and concepts from Buddhism and from the contemplative aspects of Western religions. Most psychology of religion deals with surface manifestations of religions such as verbal statements of belief or the cognitive tendency to personification. I believe that meditative and contemplative practices show how the human mind is capable of functioning quite differently from the assumptions of psychology and that this is important for the present state of the world. Representative papers from both of my areas of research can be accessed via my profile on the Psychology Department website.

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