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Frédéric Vallée-Tourangeau

Professor of Psychology, Kingston University

The Systemic Cognition Lab (SCL) at the Department of Psychology, Kingston University, is dedicated to the systemic study of higher cognition, including problem-solving, reasoning, judgement and decision-making.

Traditional accounts of human thinking, reasoning, and decision-making have situated knowledge and understanding—cognition—within individuals’ mind or “inside the skull” as it were. In our lab, by contrast, we adopt a systemic view of cognition based on investigating how action shapes the experience of thinking. This entails a reconceptualization of cognition as achieved through the close coupling of internal or mental representations and possible operations together with external or material presentations and possible physical actions people can carry out. Operating within such an extended cognitive system enables people to exceed the capacities of their mental resources since the coupling of physical activity with mental processing augments both the quality and efficiency of thinking. This suggests that levels of performance observed in environments that offer reduced opportunities for coupling thinking with physical actions may be unrepresentative of individuals’ true abilities. In other words, the systemic perspective calls for a careful examination, not only of reasoners’ mental resources and processing abilities, but also of their immediate material environment and the opportunities (or lack thereof) it offers to support and transform their cognitive efforts.

Research areas:

Psychology: Problem solving, creativity, distributed cognition

Member of: the Experimental Psychology Society, Cognitive Science Society, European Society for Cognitive Psychology


  • –present
    Professor Of Psychology, Kingston University