Search Target

Kenneth Kurtz


Associate Professor of Psychology;
Area Coordinator for Cognitive and Brain Sciences

Ph.D., Stanford University
NIH Post-doctoral Fellow, Northwestern University
Area:  Cognitive and Brain Sciences
Phone: 607-777-3679
Office: Old Johnson Hall, Room 209

Learning and Representation in Cognition (LaRC) lab

Professional Activities:

Member of the Cognitive Science Society, American Psychological Society, American Psychological Association.

Center for Cognitive and Psycholinguistic Sciences (CAPS) 

Research Interests:

Concepts and category learning, similarity and analogy, neural network models of cognition, knowledge representation, education and transfer of learning, machine learning

Research Description:

A key purpose of the cognitive activity in the human mind is making sense of the world around us. To scientifically account for this process of ordering our experience, we must address: 1) how knowledge is used as a basis for comprehension and reasoning; and 2) how such knowledge is acquired and organized. Much of the work in my laboratory focuses on two cognitive mechanisms that serve as a bridge between perceptual experience and stored knowledge: categorization is the process of interpreting an example as a member of a known class or concept; and comparison is the process of interpreting an example with respect to (or in light of) another. Categorization and comparison processes not only serve to guide interpretation in terms of prior knowledge, but they can also guide learning or conceptual change by updating the knowledge itself. Our work in the lab consists of behavioral studies of the nature and roles of categorization and comparison along with the design of neural network models used to instantiate theoretical claims and simulate human learning and cognitive performance.

Philosophy of Graduate Training:

As a cognitive science laboratory, we work to understand the processes and representations underlying cognition using two methodological approaches: 1) behavioral studies to test predictions about the nature of human learning and cognition; and 2) the design and testing of computational models. Graduate students are treated as colleagues in pursuit of scientific progress and are provided with a context that naturally promotes learning. The focus for the student is on collaborative research linked to the scientific goals of the laboratory along with the pursuit of original ideas and directions. Members of the lab can expect to sharpen their critical thinking skills while developing specific knowledge of theory, results, and methods in the scientific study of higher-order cognition.

Selected Publications:

Levering, K.R. & Kurtz, K.J. (in press). Observation versus classification in supervised category learning. Memory & Cognition.

Kurtz, K.J., Boukrina, O., & Gentner, D. (2013). Comparison promotes learning and transfer of relational categories. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 39, 1303-1310.

Kurtz, K.J., & Gentner, D. (2013). Detecting anomalous features in complex stimuli: The role of structured comparison. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 19, 219-232.

Kurtz, K.J., Levering, K.R., Stanton, R.D., Romero, J., Morris, S.N. (2013). Human learning of elemental category structures: Revising the classic result of Shepard, Hovland, and Jenkins (1961). Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 39, 552-572. 

Kurtz, K.J. (2007). The divergent autoencoder (DIVA) model of category learning. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 14, 560-576.


Google Scholar Publication Page


Last Updated: 9/28/17