Mark Sprevak

I am Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences (PPLS) at the University of Edinburgh.

My primary research interests are in philosophy of mind and philosophy of science, with particular focus on the cognitive sciences.

I am interested in building bridges between current philosophical work on cognition and the wider humanities.

I did my Ph.D. in 2006 under the supervision of Professor Peter Lipton at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge. After finishing my Ph.D., I was a Junior Research Fellow and then a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at King’s College, Cambridge. I have been an academic visitor in Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, and Florence. I have been at the University of Edinburgh since 2011.

I am currently Director of Knowledge Exchange and Impact for PPLS as well as Deputy Director for Research. I was Undergraduate Teaching Director in Philosophy, 2012–15 and Deputy Head of Subject Area, 2013–15.

I am CoI on the AHRC grant, ‘A History of Distributed Cognition’ (2014–18). I am running knowledge exchange events on mind perception and the Turing Test. I am one of the organisers of the Mind Network. I teach on the University of Edinburgh’s MOOC, Philosophy and the Sciences.

My wife, Michela Massimi, is also a philosopher of science at the University of Edinburgh. Our son, Edward, was born in 2010.

Research topics

  • Computational theories of mind

  • Embodied, extended, and distributed cognition

  • Realism/anti-realism about the mind

  • Artificial intelligence and Bayesian inference

Projects

Seeing Minds Online

Mind perception online

We invert the Turing Test to study the psychology of the human participants. we want to know what prompts a human to be deceived about who they are talking to in online chat.

  • How do humans make judgements about the identity of an unknown entity?
  • Which psychological biases affect the judgements?
  • How might their judgements be manipulated?
  • How do judgements vary by demographic group?
  • How should we educate children so that they have safe interactions with unknown agents online?

We have run public events and develop classroom resources to educate children about online deception and the risks posed by chat-bots. If you are interested in hosting such an event, send me an email.

Collaborators: Dr. Steve Loughnan, Kate Farrell

History of Distributed Cognition

Thinking with things

Distributed cognition is the idea that objects outside our brain are somehow part of our mental life. Many cases of distributed cognition come from modern technology (iPhones, computers, warships). But the idea that the external objects can do mental work is an old one.

  • How was human cognition distributed in different historical times?
  • How did people in those times think about cognition and the boundaries of the mind?
  • How can distributed cognition inform the way in which we approach intellectual history and material culture?
  • Can existing stalemates and disputes in philosophy regarding distributed cognition be unlocked using insights from the past?

The project is funded by the AHRC and runs 2014–2018.

Collaborators: Douglas Cairns (PI), Miranda Anderson (RA) and Mike Wheeler (CoI).

Mind Network

A network for philosophy and mind and cognitive science

There is vibrant community in philosophy of mind and cognitive science in the UK. We have opportunities to meet up at larger conferences, but there is currently no dedicated conference for these researchers. The Mind Network aims to plug this gap.

We have informal workshops twice a year at which three researchers present papers. The goal is to allow members of the community to get to know each other and discuss their work in progress. Graduate students and new arrivals to the UK community are particularly welcome.

I am one of the organisers and I run the website.