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Judith Fan | Cognitive Tools for Uncovering Useful Abstractions

Event Details

Wednesday, February 7, 2024
12:00 p.m. - 1:15 p.m. PST

Event Type




Madeleine Wright
HAI Seminar with Judith Fan

Cognitive Tools for Uncovering Useful Abstractions


In the 17th century, the Cartesian coordinate system exposed the unity between algebra and geometry, accelerating the development of the math that took humans to the moon. It was not just another concept, but a cognitive tool that people could wield to express abstract ideas in visual form. Judith Fan’s lab aims to uncover the psychological mechanisms that explain how people have come to deploy these technologies to learn, share knowledge, and innovate. The first part of this talk will focus on the lab’s recent work investigating drawing, which not only sheds light on how humans perceive and understand the visual world, but also accelerates their ability to communicate useful abstractions. The second part will describe emerging research into how humans discover new abstractions when building physical structures, and externalize these abstractions to support planning and collaboration. This talk will close by noting the implications of embracing such behaviors for advancing theories of human cognition and enhancing real-world impact, including in AI and education.


Judy Fan

Judith Fan

Assistant Professor of Psychology, Stanford University


The official Twitter account of the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered AI, advancing AI research,
education, policy, and practice to improve the human condition.

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If you need a disability-related accommodation, please contact: Madeleine Wright, Communications and Events Coordinator. Requests should be made at least a week before the event. 

View the Campus Access Guide for the Gates Computer Science Building