Why do we tend to move our lips or even talk out loud when we are trying to think under very distracting circumstances? Why does it sometimes seem as though we can't control our thoughts as much as we'd like, and we can never seem to stop thinking completely? There is a good deal of experimental evidence that suggests we may use our bodies as part of the thinking process -- in particular, our motor systems. In fact, it is reasonable to suppose that thinking evolved from explicit behavior that, as adults, we learn to hide from others -- activating certain muscles so slightly that the changes in muscle tension can only be detected with sensitive electronic amplifiers. In the past, I have studied eye movements, as well as muscle tension changes, as markers of specific cognitive activity. I am also interested in the general effects of mental effort, meditation, and relaxation on various physiological systems, and in theories of emotion. Recently, I have been using fMRI to look at changes in brain activity related to the use of inner speech.
PhD, New York University, 1983 (experimental psychology)
FellowshipsNational Institute of Mental Health Pre-doctoral Fellowship, 1977-79
National Institute of Mental Health Post-doctoral Fellowship, 1983-85
Books and Chapters:
Cohen, B.H. (2013). Explaining Psychological Statistics (4th ed.). New York: John Wiley & Sons.
Cohen, B.H. (1986). The Motor Theory of Voluntary Thinking. In R.J. Davidson, G.E. Schwartz, and D. Shapiro (Eds.), Consciousness and self-regulation (Vol. 4, pp. 19-54). New York: Plenum Press. [pdf]
Articles and Presentations:
Cohen, B.H. (in press). Why the resistance to statistical innovations? A comment on Sharpe (2013). Psychological Methods. [doc]
Cohen, B.H. (2009, August). When the use of p values actually makes some sense. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, Toronto, Canada. [pdf]
Cohen, B.H. (2002). Calculating a factorial ANOVA from means and standard deviations. Understanding Statistics, 1, 191-203. [pdf]
Demarais, A. & Cohen, B.H. (1998). Evidence for image-scanning eye movements during transitive inference. Biological Psychology, 49, 229-247.
Cohen, B.H., et al. (1992). Muscle tension patterns during auditory attention. Biological Psychology, 33, 133-156.
Cohen, B.H., & Saslona, M. (1990). The advantage of being an habitual visualizer. Journal of Mental Imagery, 14, 101-112.
Barry H. Cohen
Adjunct Associate Professor
Department of Psychology
New York University
New York, NY 10003
(212) 995-4018 fax