Speaker series
Evolution and the Social Mind
Speaker Series
University of California Hitchcock Lectures
Presentations by Roger N. Shepard
Professor of Psychology, Emeritus, Stanford
Winner of the National Medal of Science
Perception, Imagery, and Science
Monday April 12, 1999 at 2:15pm - 3:45pm
Engineering Pavillion II
The Grounds of Science and of Ethics
Wednesday April 14, 1999 at 3:15pm - 4:45pm
Multicultural Theater, UCEN
Sponsored by the Evolutionary Behavioral and Social Sciences (EBSS) program, the
Developmental and Evolutionary Psychology program, the Institute for
Theoretical Physics, the Cognitive and Perceptual Sciences area of the
Psychology Department, and the Cognitive Science program
Local hosts: Leda Cosmides and Mary Hegarty
Roger N. Shepard, an internationally recognized cognitive, mathematical, and evolutionary psychologist, and winner of the National Medal of Science in 1995, will deliver two lectures
at UCSB as holder of the UC Hitchcock Professorship. The Hitchcock Professor delivers lectures at Berkeley, and Roger has in addition chosen to come to UCSB to lecture.
Abstract of first talk   |   Abstract of second talk   |   Speaker   |   Hitchcock Lectures


Lecture 1: Perception, Imagery, and Science.
Monday April 12 at 2:15, Engineering Pavillion II

In this first of two Hitchcock lectures, Professor Shepard will explore the relationship between how the mind represents the world and how these representations both enable and constrain thought experiments in physics. At the core of his argument is the notion that, through natural selection, the mind has come to reflect long-enduring properties of the world. To illustrate, Shepard will start with perception, and argue as follows:

Perception. Contrary to our intuitions, the process of perceiving the world is complex, and involves many inferences that go beyond the "sense data" (the retinal array). To be useful, these inferences must track the way the world really is. Natural selection has shaped the inference processes that guide perception, so that they reflect properties of the physical world, such as that it is locally three-dimensional and that objects move along certain kinds of smooth trajectories. He will illustrate this with demonstrations of apparent motion and perceptual illusions. Imagery. The same inferences govern our imagery system, thereby determining how our "mind's eye" imagines the world. In principle, our imagination could be designed so that it is just as easy to imagine an object moving along a random pathway as a smooth trajectory (for example). But that is not how our "mind's eye" is designed: instead, when we imagine the movements of objects, their movements track the way objects move in the external world - even in the absence of the constraining influence of perceptual stimuli. Shepard will illustrate this with experiments and demonstrations involving mental imagery.

Science. Many revolutions in physics have been driven not by new data, but by new thought experiments. But this raises the question, why do thought experiments help at all? Shepard argues that thought experiments have helped in physics to the extent that our mind's eye has come to internalize implicit physical and mathematical knowledge. He will illustrate this point by showing the connection between his data on how the mind represents the world and thought experiments by Galileo, Newton, and other figures from the history of physics.


Lecture 2: The Grounds of Science and of Ethics
Wednesday April 14 at 3:15pm, Multicultural Theater, UCEN

In his second Hitchcock lecture, Shepard will argue that understanding how the mind represents the world can provide a groundwork both for science and for ethics. Under the heading, "The grounds of science", he will discuss (a) Three realms of reality: My experience, your experience, and the reality behind our experience; (b) The hierarchy of scientific laws (and the quest for the "ultimate laws"); and (c) The empirical versus the mathematical. Under the heading, "The grounds of ethics", he will discuss (a) Parallelisms between science and ethics; (b) The materialist neglect of the experiential and mathematical realities; (c) The grounds of the "Golden rule", Kant's "categorical imperative", and Rawls's "theory of justice"; and (d) Whether there can be an objective notion of "meaning" or "purpose."


Roger N. Shepard has made influential contributions to our understanding of visual and auditory perception, learning, generalization, memory, mental imagery, and the relation between evolutionarily long-standing properties of the world and the ways in which mental representations have come to reflect them. He also developed the first nonmetric method of multidimensional scaling, a technique used in hundreds of studies to derive quantitative models of mental structure from qualitative measures of similarity.

His books include Mental Images and Their Transformation (1982) and Mind Sights (1990).

Shepard is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and a recipient of the New York Academy of Sciences Award in Behavioral Sciences, and of our nation's highest scientific honor: the National Medal of Science.

Shepard graduated from Stanford in 1951, and received his doctorate from Yale. He then held positions at Bell Labs and at Harvard University before going to Stanford, where he has been a member of the faculty for over 30 years.

Currently Shepard is the Ray Lyman Wilbur Professor of Social Science, Emeritus, and Professor of Psychology, Emeritus at Stanford University.


The Hitchcock Lectures

The Hitchcock Lectures, administered by the University of California, are named in honor of Dr. Charles M. and Martha Hitchcock. Hitchcock's 1885 bequest set up a professorship for free lectures on scientific and practical subjects. The Hitchcock Professorship has been in place from 1909. The list individuals who have held it includes Robert Millikan, Niels Bohr, Enrico Fermi, H. A. Bethe, Edwin Hubble, Robert Oppenheimer, Freeman Dyson, Stephen Hawking (physics); Linus Pauling, Ilya Prigogine (chemistry); in evolutionary biology and/or zoology: Thomas Morgan, J.B.S. Haldane, R. A. Fisher (also statsitics), Sewall Wright, G. G. Simpson, E. O. Wilson; Claude Levi-Straus (anthropology); John Tukey, Frederick Mosteller, Benoit Mandelbrot (statistics and/or mathematics); and, in psychology, Wolfgang Kohler, Walter B. Cannon, Torsten Weisel, Eric Kandel, and Herbert Simon.


 Top of page
Speaker series
Evolution and the Social Mind
Speaker Series