Michael Kubovy



MICHAEL KUBOVY is a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia with broad interests in auditory, visual, and cross-modal perception, psychology of art, and philosophy of mind. He is one of the key proponents of neo-Gestalt psychology. Michael uses tools of cognitive science and mathematical analysis of patterns to solve some of the enduring puzzles of visual perception and to develop visual representations of information which is not sensible directly, such as the temporally extended multi-threaded structure of our lives.

Phenomenological ontology of lives

Michael described his studies of how we experience the structure of our lives. Against previous efforts to view the structure as a series of events occurring at clock-time moments, he has developed an approach informed by a Gestalt perspective. Instead of a sequence of independent elements of experience, he proposes two key concepts: strands and episodes. Strands are temporally extended, coexisting asynchronous structures, which are relatively insulated from each other. They capture the different roles we play at different times, and the different scripts and routines in which we engage. Within these strands challenges emerge, triggering episodes often accompanied by the generation of narratives. Michael used a graphical device called the “life map” that allows one to visualize the structure of individual lives, thus making visible what Jerome Bruner called the “world making” function of the mind.