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This workshop focused on an emerging research project in the cognitive neurosciences wherein the traditional scientific approach of using psychological investigations to enhance our understanding of the brain has been flipped, and instead scientists are using neuroscientific investigations to challenge and change the conceptual foundations of psychology. Specifically, it has become possible, using sophisticated machine learning, factor analysis and related techniques to generate empirical constructs based on neuroimaging data that predict brain activity much better than current psychological concepts.

Because our self-understanding is deeply informed by psychological concepts, any challenge to these foundations would appear to promise an impending shift in the way we view ourselves. It is thus important to both understand and to reflect carefully on these developments, from multiple disciplinary perspectives. Many questions remain about these empirical constructs: exactly how robustly predictive are they? Can they be given a plausible psychological, intentional or semantic interpretation? Are they purely neural states, or are they neural states that bear some intimate relationship—such as realization, constitution, or even identification—with representational states? If so, will they eliminate or merely enhance our current psychological vocabulary? These questions and many others will be investigated.

Download a copy of the conference poster.

View a copy of the workshop schedule.

View the workshop poster abstracts.



  • Michael Anderson (Psychology, Franklin & Marshall College, Rotman Institute of Philosophy)
  • Tim Bayne (Philosophy, Western University, Rotman Institute of Philosophy, CIFAR)
  • Jacqueline Sullivan (Philosophy, Western University, Rotman Institute of Philosophy)


Videos from the #RTPWorkshop are published in a playlist on the Rotman Institute of Philosophy YouTube channel.


This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Further support for this workshop provided by a generous grant from the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) Mind & Consciousness Program, and from Research Western.


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