Wertheimer Kolloquium

Reasoning to learn, and learning to reason

Prof. Silvia A. Bunge, University of California at Berkeley
Department of Psychology & Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute; Building Blocks of Cognition Laboratory

Termin: 2.11.2016 Zeit: 16.15 Uhr c.t. Ort: Campus Westend, SH 2.106

Reasoning, the ability to think logically and solve novel problems, is a prerequisite for scholastic achievement and success in cognitively demanding careers. Despite – or rather because of – its central role in theories of human intelligence, reasoning has in recent years fallen out of research favor. Given the importance of reasoning for the advancement of science and technology, it is time to revisit reasoning research with a fresh perspective. First I will briefly review evidence that various forms of deductive reasoning recruit overlapping regions within the lateral frontoparietal network (LFPN). Specifically, the inferior parietal lobule and rostrolateral prefrontal cortex play key roles in relational reasoning; I will suggest that their contributions may be domain-general. I will then report on longitudinal brain imaging in children ages 6-20, identifying structural and functional changes within the LFPN that best predict the growth of reasoning ability over childhood and adolescence. Next, I will show that 3 months of intensive practice of reasoning skills leads to structural and functional changes in the LFPN in young adults. Finally, I will describe how we are using eyetracking methodology and lateralized stimulus presentation techniques to gain novel insights into how people reason. These studies point to the need for further exploration of: (1) domain-general and domain-specific brain mechanisms that support reasoning, (2) changes in brain structure and function that support optimal reasoning development over childhood and adolescence, (3) the extent to which reasoning skills can be improved via experience-dependent brain plasticity, and (4) approaches for monitoring and predicting the growth of reasoning.