How does the human mind innovate and create using past and present knowledge?  What enhances—or impairs—our ability to optimally take advantage of our acquired experience and learning?  How can we best promote mental agility to creatively and adaptively meet challenges, and to make the most of opportunities across the lifespan?  What cognitive, behavioral, and brain mechanisms are central to an agile mind?  My lab, using the diverse and convergent methodologies of cognitive neuroscience, explores these questions focusing particularly on the role of different levels of specificity of representation in the content of our thoughts (what we might call “detail stepping”) and varying degrees of cognitive control in the processes of our thinking (“control dialing”).

Wilma Koutstaal
Wilma Koutstaal—Photo by Jonathan Binks

Why minds, brains, and environments? Consider this from my latest book, Innovating Minds: Rethinking Creativity to Inspire Change:

“Thinking emerges not just from our brains, our minds, or our environments in isolation but from an ongoing dynamic interaction of brain, mind, and environment. By gaining a better understanding of our thinking (our own and that of others across time) we can optimize our “innovating minds” — minds that continually creatively adapt themselves, flexibly building on what they have learned, helping others to do so, and shaping environments that sustain and spur futher innovation.”

(Oxford University Press, 2015)
(Oxford University Press, 2015)

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