Zenon Pylyshyn

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Zenon Pylyshyn
Born 1937
Nationality Canadian
Era 20th-century philosophy
Region Western philosophy
School Analytic philosophy, rationalism, cognitivism, functionalism
Main interests
Vision, cognitive science, information theory
Notable ideas
Visual indexing theory

Zenon Walter Pylyshyn[1] (born 1937) is a Canadian cognitive scientist and philosopher.

He holds degrees in engineering-physics (B.Eng. 1959) from McGill University and in control systems (M.Sc. 1960) and experimental psychology (Ph.D. 1963), both from the Regina Campus, University of Saskatchewan. His dissertation was on the application of information theory to studies of human short-term memory. He was a Canada Council Senior fellow from 1963–1964.

Academic career

Pylyshyn was professor of psychology and computer science at the University of Western Ontario in London from 1964 until 1994, where he also held honorary positions in philosophy and electrical engineering and was director of the UWO Center for Cognitive Science. In 1994 he accepted positions as the Board of Governors Professor of Cognitive Science and as the director of the new Rutgers University Center for Cognitive Science in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Current research

Pylyshyn's most recent research involves the theoretical analysis of the nature of the human cognitive systems behind perception, imagination, and reasoning. He has also continued to develop his visual indexing theory (sometimes called the FINST theory) which hypothesizes a preconceptual mechanism responsible for individuating, tracking, and directly (or demonstratively) referring to the visual properties encoded by cognitive processes.

Awards and honors

In 1990, the Canadian Psychological Association awarded him the Donald O. Hebb Award for "distinguished contributions to psychology as a science." He holds fellowships in the American Association for Artificial Intelligence, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, the MIT Center for Cognitive Science, the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, the Canadian Psychological Association, and was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1998. He was invited to give the Jean Nicod lectures in Paris in 2004. He has presided over both the Society for Philosophy and Psychology, and the Cognitive Science Society. From 1985–1994 he directed the Program in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics at the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.

Selected publications

  • "What the Mind's Eye Tells the Mind's Brain", Psychological Bulletin, 1973
  • Computation and Cognition: Toward a Foundation for Cognitive Science (MIT Press, 1984)
  • Meaning and Cognitive Structure: Issues in the Computational Theory of Mind (1986)
  • The Robot's Dilemma: The Frame Problem in Artificial Intelligence (1987), Ablex Publishing, ISBN 0-893-9137-15
  • Perspectives on the Computer Revolution (1988)
  • Computational Processes in Human Vision: An Interdisciplinary Perspective (1988)
  • The Robot's Dilemma Revisited (1996)
  • Seeing and Visualizing: It's Not What You Think (MIT Press, 2004)
  • Things and Places: How the Mind Connects with the World (MIT Press, 2007) (Jean Nicod Lecture Series)

External links


  1. Sheehy, N., Chapman, A.J., & Conroy, W. (eds.) (1997) Schachter, Seymour [sic.] Biographical Dictionary of Psychology. London, England: Routledge.