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University of Iowa News Release

Feb. 11, 2004

Visiting Professor To Speak On Human Conceptual System Feb. 19

One of the nation's leading cognitive psychologists will visit the University of Iowa Feb. 19-21 as an Ida Beam Distinguished Visiting Professor. Lawrence W. Barsalou, professor of psychology at Emory University, will deliver a free, public lecture, "The Human Conceptual System," at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 19 in room 101 Biology Building East.

In his public lecture and in other seminars with faculty and students, Barsalou will discuss the importance of knowledge, what distinguishes knowledge from mere recording, and his theory of how the brain organizes knowledge into a coherent system -- the conceptual system -- whose function is to interpret an organism's world, both inside and outside its body.

Baraslou uses the term "conceptual system" to describe more accurately the ways in which humans acquire and store knowledge. "People categorize the meaningful elements of scenes, they draw inferences about scene elements and they recombine them," he says. "The possession of these abilities indicates the presence of a conceptual system."

Two basic components of a conceptual system are the ability to categorize and the ability to perform conceptual functions such as interpretation and inference. Barsalou has been one of the most important figures in the study of categorization and conceptual representation for more than 20 years.

His current work is truly interdisciplinary as he attempts to integrate what we know about how the brain represents information with how we think about mental processes such as concept formation. This work has moved Barsalou to the forefront of a new movement in psychology called "embodied cognition," which suggests that cognition is intricately linked with perceptual and motor processes, rather than being confined to the abstract world of "mind."

Barsalou holds a doctorate in psychology from Stanford University. He is the author of numerous scholarly articles and books. His work in human perception and cognition has received consistent funding from the National Science Foundation, and he was named a Guggenheim Fellow in 2002.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact department of psychology in advance at 319-335-2406.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Mary Geraghty Kenyon, 319-384-0011,