Creativity, Development of Reasoning, Analogy, Educational neuroscience, Relational reasoning, Science education, Learning, Development of Scientific Thinking, Causal Reasoning, Inductive reasoning, fNIRS, Problem solving, Hypothesis testing strategies, attention, 21st century Learning, In vivo reasoning, Cognitive Neuroscience, Genetics of thought, DNA microarrays, creativity testing, automaticity, higher-level cognition, conceptual thought, emotion and reasoning, conceptual change, Chance discoveries, ERP of causal thinking, split brain patients, experimental design, neuroimaging, Crtical Thinking, attention and inhibition, prospective memory, Stereotypes and creativity, performing arts and the brain, motivated reasoning, abstract thought, gender and science, fMRI and reasoning, Science of Learning, child as scientist

Kevin Niall Dunbar is Professor of Human Development and Quantitative Methodology at the University of Maryland College Park. He received his Bachelor's and Master's degrees from the National University of Ireland (Dublin) and his PhD from the University of Toronto. Professor Dunbar conducts research on the ways that children, students, artists and scientists think, reason, create and understand the world.  He has investigated, children’s learning, undergraduate student learning, and scientists creating new ideas –he has even investigated politicians! He focuses on reasoning strategies involved in analogy, causality, creativity, concept discovery and  how these strategies are used by children, students, and scientists. He uses three converging methodologies to explore scientific, artistic,  and critical thinking.  First, he conducts naturalistic observations of scientists in their labs, students in undergraduate laboratory classes, and visitors to museums (usually families). Second, he conducts experiments with students generating theories, creating new concepts, conducting experiments, and interpreting new information. Third, he conducts neuroimaging research on students as they learn about Physics, Chemistry and Biology, as well as creating new ideas using analogy and causal thinking. Here, the goal is to discover optimal ways of presenting new concepts so that students can overcome blocks to learning.

Specific topics of his research have been the roles of unexpected results in fostering discovery and invention, Gender in the scientific laboratory, and the roles of analogy and causal thinking in discovery and  invention.  Professor Dunbar has published in the fields of Education, Experimental Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, and Educational Neuroscience. In addition to publications in academic forums, his work has been featured in the New Yorker, WIRED magazine, Time ideas, Slate, and the Washington Post. He regularly speaks in North America, Asia, and Europe on the topics of Creativity, Analogy, and the effects of learning on the brain, and how to improve critical, creative, and scientific thinking across the lifespan.

Director: Laboratory for Thinking, Reasoning, Creativity & Educational Neuroscience in the Department of Human Development & Quantitative Methodology
Member of The Program in Neuroscience and Cognitive Science at the University of Maryland
Visiting Research Professor, Faculty of Education, University of Hong Kong

(and Representative Talks)

Dunbar, K. N. (2016). Harnessing Discovery, Conceptual Change & Creativity in the 21st Century.  Public Lecture, University of Hong Kong.

Dunbar, K. N. (2015). From Big Data to Big Theory: The end of the hypothesis as we know it? Keynote address to the “Scientific Discovery in the Social Sciences” conference, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, England, January 30.

Dunbar, K. N. (2015). The Science of Learning and Educational Neuroscience. NICHD working group on Reasoning. Bethesda, Maryland.

Dunbar, K. N. (2013). The interaction of Neural, Behavioral, and Genetic mechanisms underlying Creativity and Discovery. Invited talk American Psychological Society 25th annual Convention, Washington DC.

Dumas, D., & Dunbar, K.N. (2016). The Creative Stereotype Effect. PLOS ONE | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0142567 February 10, 2016

Dumas D., Dunbar K. N. (2014). Understanding fluency and originality: A latent variable perspective. Thinking Skills and Creativity, 14, 56–67

Byrnes, J.P., & Dunbar, K.N. (2014). The nature and development of Critical-Analytic Thinking, Educational Psychology Review. DOI 10.1007/s10648-014-9284-0 

Dunbar, K. N. & Klahr, D.  (2012). Scientific Thinking & Reasoning. K.J. Holyoak, R. Morrison (Eds.) Oxford Handbook of Thinking & Reasoning

Inside 21st Century Creativity (EDHD231)

We are born into a world of limitless creativity: Music, Art, Science and Smartphones, are central to contemporary creativity in domains as diverse as Literature, Science, Dance, Cooking, Education, Fashion, and Space exploration. Furthermore, the human species is capable of causing great destruction in endlessly creative ways. What underlies these vastly different aspects of creative minds and cultures, in our contemporary world?  In a highly interactive, inter-disciplinary and multimedia (video and sound) manner we will examine the nature of creativity and creative contexts from multiple perspectives and in multiple domains. We will consider the psychological, social, sociological, emotional, evolutionary, developmental, cultural, computational, educational, and biological roots of creativity (yes this is a lot!). We will ask what are the factors and mechanisms underlying creativity and whether, and how, 21st century creativity is different from creativity in other eras. We will also explore the roles of social media, copying, and theft in 21st century creativity.

EDHD414-0101: Development of the Scientific Mind Across the Lifespan

Science, permeates all aspects of our lives, yet science and science education continue to be controversial across all levels of our society. Furthermore, the development of the scientific mind and the child's understanding of science are key issues in Contemporary Education, Educational Psychology, Human Development, and Science in general.  Where does are scientific knowledge come from, and now do children and adults understand and learn Science?  How do we understand scientific issues such as Climate change, Disease, Autism, Evolution, A healthy diet, and whether it is safe to drink tap water? Do we really understand these issues?  What happens when our scientific concepts are wrong?  What is the difference in understanding of scientific concepts at different ages; Are children really little scientists? How should science be taught?  We will probe the Educational, Cognitive, Social, Developmental, and Cultural factors that underlie our use of scientific concepts and the ways that we reason about science. Other topics include issues such as whtether there is a scientific method, whether there are optimal ways to learn about science, howscientists make discoveries, gender and science and whether science can be trusted? We will explore these topics by probing these issues contemporary Science, Education, Human Development, and Culture in a lively and up-to-date fashion.