Harvard professor takes up S T Lee Fellowship at School of Advanced Study

Monday 8 May 2017

Developmental psychologist and award winning author Professor Paul L Harris (left) joins the Institute of Philosophy this month as the 2017 School of Advanced Study's ST Lee Visiting Professorial Fellow.

Currently Victor S. Thomas Professor of Education at Harvard University, Professor Harris is interested in the early development of cognition, emotion and imagination. His many publications include Imagining the Impossible: Magical, Scientific, and Religious Thinking in Children, The Work of the Imagination, and Children and Emotion, as well as articles in magazines such as the Journal of Cognition and Culture and Psychological Science.

His most recent book, ‘Trusting what you're told: how children learn from others’, received an award from the Cognitive Development Society and the Eleanor Maccoby award from the American Psychological Association. It describes his research on how young children learn about history, science and religion, and discusses how far they rely on their own experience or trust what other people tell them, particularly when dealing with knowledge they cannot observe first-hand. For example, many aspects of history, science, and religion concern events that children cannot easily observe for themselves.

Professor Harris is no stranger to the UK, nor in fact Europe. After studying psychology at the Universities of Sussex and Oxford, he taught at the University of Lancaster, the Free University of Amsterdam and the London School of Economics. In 1980, he moved to Oxford where he became professor of developmental psychology and fellow of St John's College, before migrating to Harvard in 2001. He is recipient of the 2006–2007 Guggenheim award.

As part of the invitation-only fellowship, Professor Harris will share his expertise and research at public events in the UK and Switzerland. The series begins on 5 May at the University of Lincoln and ends with a workshop on 23 May at Senate House. Hosted by the Institute of Philosophy, it is entitled, The role of ignorance: using metacognitive attributions in epistemology and psychology.

ST Lee Visiting Professorial Fellow programme of public lectures, May 2017:

5 May, 1pm
Why do children doubt magic but believe in miracles?
Psychology Department, Lincoln University.

12 May, 2pm
Why do children doubt magic but believe in miracles?
Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology, University of Oxford.

15 May, 11am
Young children’s developing conception of knowledge and ignorance: Work in progress
Philosophy Faculty, University of Cambridge.

18 May, 3pm
Missing persons
Swiss Center for Affective Sciences, Campus Biotech, Geneva, Switzerland.

23 May
‘I don’t know’: ignorance and question-asking as engines for cognitive development
Institute of Philosophy, School of Advanced Study, University of London

See here for information about past ST Lee visiting professors.