The NEURO Club

The Neuroscience Education, University Research, and Outreach Club at The University of Chicago



The NEURO Club proudly presents the third talk of its 2014-2015 Neuroscience Speaker Series

Free dinner will be served.

Speaker: Jonathan Flombaum, Ph.D.
-- Professor of Psychological/Brain Sciences and Cognitive Science at Johns Hopkins University


Title: Why is thinking hard? Insights from visual thinking


Jonathan Flombaum is an assistant professor in the department of psychological and brain sciences and the department of cognitive science at Johns Hopkins University. He is director of the Visual Thinking Lab, and he teaches Introduction to Cognitive Psychology. Jon got his PhD in 2008 from Yale University. 


The event will be held in the Donnelly Biological Sciences Learning Center, Room 115 on Thursday, 2/19
6:30-7:00 Doors open, FREE dinner is served
7:00-7:45 Talk by Dr. Flombaum
7:45-8:00 Q&A

RSVP via our Facebook Event

Lecture Summary:
Why is thinking hard? This is the question that motivates research in my lab. It has a few dimensions. Why does thinking feel hard? It can be aversive, rewarding, exhausting, and motivating (among many other things). Whatever its specific valence and magnitude, though, there is a feeling of what it is like to be thinking. Why? Unfortunately, I can’t exactly answer that question just yet. (I might speculate though). I will however address what is perhaps a more basic sense in which thinking is hard: it takes time and it is error-prone, it can meander and it does not always get us to the right place. Why? In my lab, we work on addressing this question in the cases of visual thinking (a fancy term for visual cognition), with the hope that there will be generalizations to make with respect to other kinds of thinking. 

For an answer, there is a prevailing view among psychologists and neuroscientists —that something or things in our brains underwrite thinking, and we just don’t have as much of them as we might like. Thinking amounts to the consumption of (renewable) commodities. 

In my talk, I will discuss recent research from my lab that begins to build a case against this view. I’ll look at a number of common visual thinking tasks —including comparative judgments relying on visual working memory and visual tracking of moving objects— tasks that are often cited as evidence of limited mental or neural resources needed to support processing. I will present results from behavioral and eye tracking experiments, and I will use computational modeling to demonstrate how human capabilities and limitations fall out naturally when a computational system depends on retinal inputs and implements probabilistic algorithms. In other words, even with infinitely large brains, but given the same retinal inputs, we couldn’t do much better.


More about our speaker:


Organized and brought to you by The NEURO (Neuroscience Education, University Research and Outreach) Club.

Poster Design: Stephanie Bi

A dinner and refreshments will be served. This event was made by possible by funding from SGFC.


If you have any questions regarding the lecture, feel free to contact us at