Meet Prof. Joel Lopata (Psychology and Creativity)

Photo: Joel Lopata

Dr. Joel Lopata is a Professor of Psychology and Creativity at Sheridan.

Joel holds a Ph.D. in Applied Psychology from Western University, as well as a M.Ed., a B.Ed., and a BFA (Film and Video Production). His scholarly work spans the domains of cognitive neuroscience, creativity studies, and learning cognition, where he has focused on creativity topics including creative flow, creative ideation, and functional fixedness. In his research, Joel has used functional brain imaging (i.e., EEG) and other creativity tests to investigate the brain correlates of creativity as mediated by formal training in the context of jazz improvisation. A long-time musician himself, Joel has studied musical improvisation as an example of highly creative art.

Joel’s research on creativity has been published in top-tier international journals (Neuropsychologia, 2017), and has been presented at prestigious international venues including at Harvard Medical School (2017), and at The Art Institute of Chicago (2015). Additionally, his work has been featured in popular science magazines such as New Scientist, and popular websites such as Big Think.

Joel has held teaching positions in Western University’s Faculty of Education and has been Research & Evaluation Director of his own consulting company where he has led research and evaluation projects for government and not-for-profits in the education, training, and child-care sectors.

Joel Lopata answers Alchemy’s Proust Questionnaire:

Favourite Virtue: Authenticity. To quote C.G. Jung, “The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are”.

Most overrated virtue: Assertiveness. I’m not so much against it as I fear that as a society we have become overly preoccupied with the strength of our own handshakes.

Most important lesson I learned in kindergarten: Be kind to ants. Most of them don’t want to hurt you. Some do, but they’re rarer than regular ants.

Most important lesson I’ve learned this year: Solid day-in day-out work is what makes the difference in the end. Figure out the important things and do them daily.

My favourite qualities in a student: Imagination, perseverance, and showing up every class regardless of whether they’ve had a great, so-so, or poor showing in the previous class.

My favourite qualities in a teacher: Acceptance, enthusiasm, compassion, and dedication to the content and to the craft of teaching. Also, openness to ideas.

Moment in my life I’d like to re-live: The first moments I had alone after defending my Ph.D. dissertation.

My idea of perfect happiness: The Beach. Swimming in the ocean on a clear sunny day. Crystalline waters and time to recline in 30-degree weather with something good to read, and something Cuban to drink. A mojito with aged rum would do.

My idea of complete misery: When Daylight Savings Time ends. (Not really, however, true misery is far grimmer than I’d care to explore here).

In my opinion the secret to success is: Showing up, working hard, and playing to your strengths. It also helps to consistently review the things that are going well, and the things that aren’t, and then to consider the next steps to make things better.

My favourite word: Trilobite.

My least favourite word: Klaxon.

My favourite quotation: “Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.” –Babe Ruth

The word/phrase I overuse in the classroom: “Generate ideas.”

A place I’d like to visit: Japan. The national values and interests seem to align with mine, including vintage jazz vinyl, high quality denim, the martial arts, and baseball.

My favourite painter/artist: Henri Matisse.

My favourite singer and song: Stevie Wonder – “Superwoman.” The guitar solo in the second half is the real deal.

The most embarrassing song in my iTunes or music collection: Ace of Base – “The Sign.” I know, but the vocals are just so clear and the chorus is so catchy.

My guilty film pleasure: Top Gun. If anyone of influence is reading, please make a decent sequel. Thanks.