Career - Teaching

Teaching interests

Auditory perception
Theoretical issues in psychology
Theories of cognition
Research methods in psychology

Courses taught

Graduate seminars

Graduate seminar in learning theory (Harvard)
Auditory Perception and Speech
Perception and Cognition
Computer-based Laboratory Techniques in Psychology

Undergraduate courses

Theories of Cognition
Laboratory course in experimental psychology (Harvard, with R. Herrnstein)
Computer and Man
Topics in Cognitive Psychology
Contemporary Psychological Theory
Experimental Problems in Psychology
Honours Research Seminar
Auditory Perception
Foundations of Modern Psychology (honours theory seminar)

Article about my teaching

New York Times Magazine
Published: September 19, 2008

Albert Bregman

By Steven Pinker

Albert Bregman, my mentor in cognitive psychology, was hardly my role model as a teacher. I became a modern lecturer-entertainer, with bullet points, borscht belt humor and audiovisual razzle-dazzle. Al, like most of my professors at McGill University in the 1970s, sat at a table and rambled off the top of his head. Yet decades later I can remember Al's musings: circling an idea, linking it with others, trying different vantage points, exploring variations on a theme. It was all a revelation. Psychology at the time, anxious to look like a hard science, was an empiricist dust bowl, where a "theory" was a line drawn through a set of data points. Al was my first professor who probed ideas. How is Chomsky's deep structure related to Piaget's schemas and to the ideas of artificial intelligence? When a man pantomimes walking a dog, where is the "dog" in his behavior? Were neural-network models really cutting-edge science or just the old theory of the association of ideas? I never knew that you could analyze ideas in such depth, and thought Al was the smartest person I ever met. But the most important science education is done at the bench. Wanting as much face time as possible, I did research in Al's lab, which aimed to understand how the brain organizes a jumble of sound into experiences that correspond to the sound makers in the world. Not only was Al studying a tractable instance of the ancient problem of how the mind knows reality, but he also had the coolest toy in the department - a refrigerator-size minicomputer. As we passed the headphones back and forth, tweaking the beeps and boops, I learned how science is really done: create a world that will show that your ideas are right, but only if they are right. And so this philosophe with a minicomputer set me on a career of trying to understand how the mind works.

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