Public Scholarship

I view part of the role of being a creator and steward of knowledge as sharing that knowledge as widely as possible, not solely within a small academic community. I accomplish this is several ways.

First, I keep an active blog to share my professional activities with a broader audience, as well as comment on relevant issues in psychology, higher education and education reform.

Second, I occasionally write more popular essays for other outlets. Thus far my work has been published in Educating Modern LearnersScientific AmericanThe Atlantic, and the Core Knowledge Blog.

Third, I share the wonder of psychology in person, giving presentations to diverse audiences from third grade classrooms to corporate IT departments, to science cafe events in bars.

I gave my "Science of Illusions" talk at a bar as part of SciPubRVA, photo by Kent Durvin
I gave my “Science of Illusions” talk at a bar as part of SciPubRVA, photo by Kent Durvin

Fourth, I am active on twitter, which I see as a medium to engage my colleagues as well as journalists, teachers, and other people outside of the academy on issues that are relevant to psychology.

Finally, I have been quoted in the popular press.

I was quoted in the New York Times on the Dangers of Brain-Speak.

But, he cautioned, such language can cause problems. The “rewiring” trope may be an oversimplification of the brain’s constant process of change: “Your brain is changing right now as you read this sentence, such that if you read this exact sentence again tomorrow, you would recognize exactly when and where you read it, if you read it next week, you would probably remember that you had read it somewhere recently, and if you read this exact sentence again next year, you would probably get a sense of déjà vu. But it would seem silly to claim that I just rewired your brain, even though reading that sentence has absolutely changed the biology of your brain in a durable way.”

I was active in the discussion of the perception of #TheDress, here I am quoted in the Buzzfeed post by Virginia Hughes (now more than 2 million views!)

“We are always making decisions about the quantity of light that comes into our retina,” Riener said.

This light, called luminance, is always a combination of how much light is shining on an object and how much it reflects off of the object’s surface, he added.

“In the case of the dress, some people are deciding that there is a fair amount of illumination on a blue and black (or less reflective) dress. Other people are deciding that it is less illumination on a white/gold dress (it is in shadow, but more reflective).”