William F. Brewer  [WFB Picture]

Office Address:
Department of Psychology
University of Illinois
603 East Daniel St.
Champaign, IL 61820
U. S. A.

e-mail: wbrewer@uiuc.edu

Phone: (217) 333-1548
(has answering machine)

Fax: (217) 244-5876

Office: 629 Psychology Bld

Full Vita

Selected Publications by Topic

Personal Page

Office picture from Brewer & Treyens (1981)

Child models of the shape of the earth from Vosniadou & Brewer (1992)

WFB's Academic Family Tree

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Department of Psychology

Research Professor
Institute of Communications Research
WFB ICR Faculty Profile

Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology
Cognitive Science Group
WFB BI Faculty Profile


I am currently carrying out research in five broad areas:

Brief descriptions of my programs of research in these areas along with a few selected publications are given below.

A more complete set of references organized by topic may be found in Selected Publications by Topic and a complete chronological list of publications can be found in Full Vita

I. Knowledge Representation

My work in the area of knowledge representation has focused on the study of complex forms of representation. I have, over the years, carried out a broad program of theoretical and empirical work on the nature of these complex forms of representation and the differences between generic knowledge structures such as schemas and knowledge structures that are not precompiled such as mental models.

Brewer, W. F., & Treyens, J. C. (1981). Role of schemata in memory for places. Cognitive Psychology, 13, 207-230. [picture]

Brewer, W. F., & Nakamura, G. V. (1984). The nature and functions of schemas. In R. S. Wyer & T. K. Srull (Eds.), Handbook of social cognition (Vol. 1, pp. 119-160). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Brewer, W. F. (1987). Schemas versus mental models in human memory. In P. Morris (Ed.), Modelling cognition (pp. 187-197). Chichester: Wiley.

II. Structure of Discourse

One of the major trends of research on language in the last decade has been an extension of the initial work on words and syntax to include the complex issues of discourse and language use. My work in this area has been directed at these higher-order discourse phenomena and, in particular, on the nature of stories. Much of this research was carried out with Ed Lichtenstein. This program of research has involved theory development, empirical studies of adults and children, and cross-cultural work.

Brewer, W. F. (1980). Literary theory, rhetoric, stylistics: Implications for psychology. In R. J. Spiro, B. C. Bruce, & W. F. Brewer (Eds.), Theoretical issues in reading comprehension (pp. 221-239). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Brewer, W. F., & Lichtenstein, E. H. (1982). Stories are to entertain: A structural-affect theory of stories. Journal of Pragmatics, 6, 473-486.

Brewer, W. F. (1996). The nature of narrative suspense and the problem of rereading. In P. Vorderer, H. J. Wulff, & M. Friedrichsen (Eds.), Suspense: Conceptualizations, theoretical analyses, and empirical explorations (pp. 107- 127). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

III. Memory

Two of the major trends in memory research over the last decade have been the investigation of the impact of knowledge on the memory process and the widening of the forms of memory that are studied. In this area I have carried out work on: (a) the interactions of memory and knowledge, (b) research on autobiographical memory, and (c) research on the phenomenal experiences that are involved in carrying out various forms of memory tasks.

Brewer, W. F. (1986). What is autobiographical memory? In D. Rubin (Ed.), Autobiographical memory (pp. 25-49). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Brewer, W. F. (1988). Memory for randomly sampled autobiographical events. In U. Neisser & E. Winograd (Ed.), Remembering reconsidered: Ecological and traditional approaches to the study of memory (pp. 21-90). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Brewer, W. F. (1996). What is recollective memory? In D. C. Rubin (Ed.), Remembering our past: Studies in autobiographical memory (pp. 19-66). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

IV. Knowledge Acquisition

The initial focus of research in cognitive psychology and cognitive science was on the issue of knowledge representation with little concern about how the knowledge was acquired. In the last few years I have spent a considerable part of my time and energy in attempting to rethink the traditional issues of learning in terms of the general issue of how new knowledge is acquired. This line of research can be thought of as the cognitive embodiment of traditional learning theory. In particular my work has focused on the issue of large scale conceptual change in children's acquisition of knowledge in the area of observational astronomy (much of this work was carried out with Stella Vosniadou).

Vosniadou, S., & Brewer, W. F. (1992). Mental models of the earth: A study of conceptual change in childhood. Cognitive Psychology, 24, 535-585. [figure]

Vosniadou, S., & Brewer, W. F. (1994). Mental models of the day/night cycle. Cognitive Science, 18, 123-183.

Chinn, C. A., & Brewer, W. F. (1993). The role of anomalous data in knowledge acquisition: A theoretical framework and implications for science instruction. Review of Educational Research, 63, 1-49.

V. Psychology of Science

My most recent line of research is the study of the psychology of the scientist. I initiated this new project because I think that the area of cognitive psychology has matured to the point where it is possible to apply theory and data from cognitive psychology to understand various issues in the study of science, e.g., psychological responses to anomalous data (much of this work has been carried out with Clark Chinn), distortions in scientific texts, claims made by philosophers about the theory-laden nature of observation, etc.

Brewer, W. F., & Samarapungavan, A. (1991). Children's theories vs. scientific theories: Differences in reasoning or differences in knowledge?. In R. R. Hoffman & D. S. Palermo (Eds.), Cognition and the symbolic processes: Applied and ecological perspectives (pp. 209-232). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Brewer, W. F., & Lambert, B. L. (1993). The theory ladenness of observation: Evidence from cognitive psychology. Proceedings of the Fifteenth Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 254-259). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Brewer, W. F., & Chinn, C. A. (1994). Scientists' responses to anomalous data: Evidence from psychology, history, and philosophy of science. PSA 1994, (Vol. 1) (pp. 304-313), East Lansing, MI: Philosophy of Science Association.


On a regular basis I teach Psy. 321: Human Memory; Psy. 421: Knowledge Representation; and Psy 493B Proseminar in Cognitive Psychology. A brief description of these courses follows:

Psychology 321: Human Memory
(advanced undergraduate course)
Advanced treatment of human memory. Examines basic theory and methodology; types of memory; semantic, episodic, procedural, memory for language, places, and events; knowledge and memory; autobiographical memory; exceptional memory; mnemonics.

Psychology 421: Knowledge Representation
(graduate survey course)
Surveys theories and data about the representation of knowledge by human beings; examines images, concepts, semantic features, propositions, semantic nets, rules, parallel distributed models, procedural representations, schemas, mental models, and theories.

Psychology 493B: Cognitive Proseminar
(course for first year cognitive graduate students)
This course is designed to acquaint first year students in the Cognitive Division with the faculty and to provide a survey of professional issues. It typically covers issues such as: Univ. & Dept. Requirements; Societies & Journals; Sociology of Academic Life (Grad Student; Academic Ranks, Tenure); Journal Review Process; Journal Reviewing; Professional Writing; Attending Scientific Meetings; Meetings (Presenting Papers; Presenting Posters); Library--Paper & Electronic Tools; Professional Use of the Web; Teaching; Phil. of Sci--Data/Theory; Gender Issues in Academia; Ethics--(Data Selection; Authorship); Vita Writing; Types of Jobs (Post Doc; Research; Teaching; NonAcademic); Job Search; Job Talk; Grantsmanship.

In addition to the courses I teach on a regular basis I frequently teach graduate seminars on topics of current interest. Some recent examples:

Psy. 493: Naive Models of Science (Spring 1993)
(taught jointly with Prof. Jack Easley, Prof. David Brown, and Prof. Karl Rosengren)

Psy. 493: Repressed Memory/False Memory Debate (Fall 1994)
(taught jointly with Prof. Neal Cohen)

Psy. 493: Psychology of Science (Fall 1996)
(taught jointly with Prof. Gary Bradshaw)

Psy. 493: Knowledge Acquisition in Complex, Ill-structured Domains (Spring 1997)
(taught jointly with Prof. Rand Spiro)

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