[Picture of Northwestern University logo]

Mark Beeman

Professor of Psychology
Cognitive Neuroscience Program

Cognitive Brain Mapping Group

Department of Psychology
Northwestern University
2029 Sheridan Rd
Evanston IL 60208-2710

Phone: (847) 491-4617
Fax: (847) 491-7859
Office: Cresap 104
mjungbee AT northwestern DOT edu  |


In the news...


Insight in the Brain



Volunteer for Research

Dec 7 2010 story in


2008 story in...

see The Eureka Hunt, by Jonah Lehrer

MY RESEARCH: An Overview

I want to know how people think. I am particularly interested in “high-level cognition,” such as how people understand whole stories, and solve complex problems. I particularly want to know how the brain thinks. All research on the brain and on thinking or perceiving, without regard to the brain, is interesting and useful. But I find it particularly satisfying to try to link the brain’s wetware to the mind’s software. Not just for the sake of connecting the mental realm to the physical, but because evidence from each domain helps constrain theories in the other, hopefully providing novel insights into both. Which brings me to my research…

7/21/08: Our research on insight is described in a feature article entitled "The Eureka Hunt: Where in our brains do insights come from?" by Jonah Lehrer in the 7/28/08 issue of The New Yorker magazine. 

Solving problems with insight
[Brain/Lightbulb image] Insight in the Brain - PLoSWhat leads to moments of insight? One area of interest for me is creative cognition, and in particular, those breakthrough moments in problem solving that are often accompanied by an Aha! experience. A series of behavioral and neuroimaging experiments has begun to de-mystify how the brain – and mind – achieves insight in problem-solving. More….

Drawing inferences from stories
[Picture of brain with headphones, active area]How do people “fill in the gaps” when understanding stories and complex discourse? People seem to draw inferences effortlessly. But clearly, some cognitive – and neural – effort is required. I have studied this process with behavioral, neurological, and most recently, neuroimaging methods. More…

Putting it all together
How do people understand complex language? I am interested in how the brain combines the meanings of words so that we can understand the "big picture" of stories and conversations. Some research uses two or three word inputs, or sentences, or whole stories to try to get the big picture here. Again, multiple methods are employed. More…

Two brains are better than one
[Picture of coding - hemisphere relationship]One approach I've taken in most of my research is to examine differences in the way the right and left hemispheres of the brain process information. In particular, I’m interested in how the RIGHT hemisphere (that’s right, the “minor” hemisphere when it comes to language) processes language. Why? Because it’s more subtle, less is known about it, and because it may help reveal why the left hemisphere is good at what it does. More…

Other interests, projects:

* How mood affects cognitive flexibility, particularly the neural bases of mood effects (e.g., positive mood, anxiety) on insight problem solving, discourse comprehension, and creative cognition

* Mood effects in attention and cognition, more generally



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