WHAT ARE THE LIMITS OF HUMAN IMAGINATION?
I study high-level, abstract thinking. I ask questions like:
How are we able to make sense of the invisible, untouchable, or impossible –
ideas like the number five, the future, infinity?
Why do we have these particular concepts and not others?
Do people everywhere have the same basic concepts, or is there cultural diversity in the foundations of abstract thinking?
How are abstract conceptual systems perpetuated and spread within communities and around the world?
Take the ability to do mathematics, from low-level number processing to expert mathematical practice.
In a noisy environment, using fleshy bodies, with imperfect collaborators, we somehow generate precise, stable mathematical inferences –
that is, seemingly perfect knowledge.
How do we actually do this? How did we learn?
How does it depend on culture and history?
My research has consequences for what it means to be human, the value of diversity, the impact of technology,
how to improve education.
Big questions require a diversity of tactics.
I use methods ranging from cross-cultural field experiments to computational modeling of massive datasets; from historical case studies to controlled psychophysical experiments; from philosophical analysis to cutting-edge statistical techniques.
Publications are available here.