Kevin Niall Dunbar is Professor of Human Development and Quantitative Methodology at the University of Maryland College Park. He received his Bachelor's and Master's degrees from the National University of Ireland (Dublin) and his PhD from the University of Toronto. Professor Dunbar conducts research on the ways that children, students, artists and scientists think, reason, create and understand the world.  He has investigated, children’s learning, undergraduate student learning, and scientists creating new ideas –he has even investigated politicians! He focuses on reasoning strategies involved in analogy, causality, creativity, concept discovery and  how these strategies are used by children, students, and scientists. He uses three converging methodologies to explore scientific, artistic,  and critical thinking.  First, he conducts naturalistic observations of scientists in their labs, students in undergraduate laboratory classes, and visitors to museums (usually families). Second, he conducts experiments with students generating theories, creating new concepts, conducting experiments, and interpreting new information. Third, he conducts neuroimaging research on students as they learn about Physics, Chemistry and Biology, as well as creating new ideas using analogy and causal thinking. Here, the goal is to discover optimal ways of presenting new concepts so that students can overcome blocks to learning.

Specific topics of his research have been the roles of unexpected results in fostering discovery and invention, Gender in the scientific laboratory, and the roles of analogy and causal thinking in discovery and  invention.  Professor Dunbar has published in the fields of Education, Experimental Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, and Educational Neuroscience. In addition to publications in academic forums, his work has been featured in the New Yorker, WIRED magazine, Time ideas, Slate, and the Washington Post. He regularly speaks in North America, Asia, and Europe on the topics of Creativity, Analogy, and the effects of learning on the brain, and how to improve critical, creative, and scientific thinking across the lifespan.



  • PhD
    University of Toronto

Current Students

Former Students

  • Student Name
    Nicole Catanzarite
Dr. Kevin Dunbar
3304U Benjamin Building
Neuroscience and Cognitive Science
kndunbar [at]