Speaker’s Bureau
Featured Speaker

Stephen M. Kosslyn, Ph.D.
Founding Dean and Chief
Academic Officer

Founding Dean and Chief Academic Officer Stephen M. Kosslyn leads the Minerva Schools at KGI and has defined Minerva’s pedagogic philosophy. Kosslyn came to Minerva from Stanford University, where he served as Director of the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences, the world’s preeminent institution in the field. Prior to Stanford, Kosslyn spent 30 years at Harvard University in a variety of positions, including Dean of Social Sciences.

Kosslyn has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has received three honorary doctorates, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the National Academy of Sciences Initiatives in Research Award. He has published more than 300 scientific papers and 14 books.

Stephen Kosslyn Faculty Photo
Biographical Highlights /
  • Founding Dean and Chief Academic Officer at Minerva Schools at KGI
  • Former Director of the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University
  • Former Dean of Social Sciences at Harvard University

Photo: Peter Prato

Topic One

The Science of Learning

The “science of learning” comprises findings in a wide range of areas, including the study of memory, perception, comprehension, learning, and reasoning. We’ve learned a tremendous amount about how humans process and store information, and that knowledge can be used systematically in education to help students master the material they are taught.

Oddly, although the science of learning matured decades ago, it is rarely used to facilitate teaching. Instead, most classes are taught using methods that were developed over a thousand years ago. Walk into any university and you are more likely than not to see a “sage on the stage”: a faculty member at the front of the class, and rows of students dutifully putting in their time by sitting in class (some listening, some taking notes – but many doing email, monitoring Twitter, or surfing the web).

Lectures are a very common way of teaching, but we need to distinguish between teaching and learning. Teaching focuses on information transmission; learning is about information acquisition. On the face of things, the two activities should be completely aligned. But, typically, they are not. Teaching is often done in a way that is convenient and efficient for the professor, with little thought to how best to facilitate student learning. Lectures are a superb way to teach: A single instructor can lecture to 10,000 people as easily as 10. But study after study has documented that lectures are terrible way to learn.

So why are lectures still the dominant mode of teaching in most universities? Part of the problem may be that faculty don’t understand enough about the science of learning in order to take advantage of it. In this keynote, Dr. Stephen M. Kosslyn will provide an overview of the key principles that he has pulled out of the empirical literature and how Minerva incorporates them into its own curriculum.

Topic Two

Top Brain, Bottom Brain

For the past fifty years, popular culture has led us to believe in the left brain vs. right brain theory of personality types. Right-brain people, we’ve been told, are artistic, intuitive, and thoughtful, whereas left-brain people tend to be more analytical, logical, and objective. It would be an illuminating theory if it did not have one major drawback: It is simply not supported by science.

With co-writer G. Wayne Miller, celebrated psychologist Dr. Stephen M. Kosslyn, a leader in the field of cognitive neuroscience, explains an alternative new theory of the brain for the first time in their exciting book Top Brain, Bottom Brain: Surprising Insights Into How You Think. It is based on solid research that has stayed within the confines of labs all over the world. Summarizing extensive research in an inviting and accessible way, Kosslyn and Miller describe how the top and bottom parts of the brain work together, producing four modes of thought: Mover, Adaptor, Stimulator, and Perceiver. These ways of thinking and behaving shape our personality and can lead to limitless practical applications. In this transformative keynote, Dr. Stephen M. Kosslyn will talk about how we use our “top brain” and “bottom brain” in our everyday lives and what that means for how we communicate and view the world around us.

Topic Three

The Science Behind Effective Presentations

As a renowned authority on mental imagery and perception, Dr. Stephen M. Kosslyn has extensively studied how psychological principles of perception, memory and comprehension can be applied to produce more effective graphs and PowerPoint presentations. Drawing upon key findings in his books Elements of Graph Design and Clear and to the Point: 8 Psychological Principles for Compelling PowerPoint Presentations, Dr. Kosslyn will share principles rooted in scientific literature and in general theories about how our eyes and brains process visual information. His speech will provide practical advice for anyone who develops presentations, who relies on interpreting graphs and presentations from others, and who wants to better understand visual displays used by businesses, magazines, politicians, and advertisers.

Academic Achievements
  • Cognitive neuroscientist, author, and educator
  • Former Director of the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University
  • Former Dean of Social Sciences at Harvard University
  • Former John Lindsley Professor of Psychology in Memory of William James at Harvard University
  • Former Chair, Department of Psychology, Harvard University
  • Author of more than 300 scientific papers and 14 books
  • Former member of the Department of Neurology at the Mass. General Hospital
  • Former Co-Director of the Mind of the Market Lab at Harvard Business School
  • Ph.D. in Psychology from Stanford University and B.A. in Psychology from UCLA; three honorary doctorates

Contact Minerva if you are interested in booking Stephen M. Kosslyn for an upcoming speaking engagement.