Meet Professor Nathaniel Barr (Creativity and Creative Thinking)


Photo: Nathaniel Barr

Photo: Nathaniel Barr

Nathaniel Barr is a Professor of Creativity and Creative Thinking specializing in cognitive psychology who is excited at the prospect of understanding and enhancing creativity at Sheridan and beyond through cross-disciplinary collaboration. Prior to joining Sheridan, he earned his B.A., M.A. and Ph.D, and held a postdoctoral fellowship, at the University of Waterloo (UW).

Nathaniel teaches courses on creativity, psychology, cognition, memory, and neuroscience and won faculty and institutional teaching awards at UW for his ability to connect psychological theory to life. Outside of the classroom he gives talks and workshops for diverse audiences on the nature of our minds and how to make the most of them.

An accomplished researcher, Nathaniel has published articles on the psychology of creativity, morality, belief, and the intersection of thinking and technology. His research on the relation between thinking styles and search engine use appeared in over 700 media outlets around the world, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, CBC, and NPR. During his post-doc he conducted applied research for the Bank of Canada aimed at understanding the perceptual and decision processes involved in authentication of currency. He also has researched whether applying cognitive psychological principles in online courses can enhance learning. Other interests include collecting old books, animal cognition, trees, how we find meaning in our lives, and most things in the universe.

Nathaniel is a happily married father of two (with one more on the way), who considers family the most important part of his life. He was born and raised near London, ON, so is grateful to be able to stay close to home and to spend his days sharing what he learns about creativity, thinking, and culture.

Nathaniel Barr answers Alchemy’s Proust Questionnaire:

Favourite virtues: Kindness, and the willingness to change one’s opinion in the face of new evidence.

Most important lesson I’ve learned this year: That sometimes things work out despite difficulties and doubts. Not always, but just enough to convince me to always keep trying.

My favourite qualities in a student: An ability to appreciate the intricacy and depth of any area of knowledge and the intellectual curiosity to attempt to acquire knowledge about that area.

My idea of perfect happiness: Being able to support my family while still having intellectual freedom and the ability to read widely. Drinking beer is also pretty great.

In my opinion the secret to success is: Viktor Frankl, in his book Man’s Search for Meaning, had it figured out: “success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself.”

My favourite word: Meliorism. (The belief that the world can be made better by human effort.)

My favourite quotation, motto, or phrase: “Nothing gives life more purpose than the realization that every moment of consciousness is a precious and fragile gift.” – Steven Pinker; “So it goes.” – Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

On my bucket list: To make the most of the many gifts I have been given in life by in turn helping whomever I can, however I can.

My favourite historical character: Pete Seeger.

My favourite paintings/artists: Albert Bierstadt’s “Among the Sierra Nevada Mountains, California” (1868); René Magritte’s “The Treachery of Images” (1928)

My favourite singer/musician and song: The Flaming Lips’ “Do You Realize??”; Howlin’ Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightning”; Richard and Mimi Farina’s “Bold Marauder”; The Band’s “It Makes No Difference.”