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Kevin Ryan

McClung Tower
Knoxville, TN 37996-0480


  • PhD, University of Memphis (2019)
  • MSc, University of Edinburgh (2013)
  • BA, Villanova University (2012)

My primary research interests focus at the intersection of philosophy of mind, philosophy of cognitive science, philosophy of performance, and aesthetics. An important bridge between them concerns how to best conceptualize and model the cognitive processes underlying artistic practices. Consider the case of jazz improvisation, for example. How do jazz musicians create novel performances “on the fly” that obey the various musical conventions of jazz? How do groups of jazz musicians spontaneously coordinate their actions to produce new and cohesive performances, sometimes without appealing to any existent tune or standard? When doing so, does the group intentionally act as a set of individuals or perhaps as a single agent?  Understanding improvisation, moreover, is not only important for better understanding the cognitive processes of jazz musicians. Improvising is an essential part of everything from mundane and everyday decisions through highly-skilled and specialized activities. Having a better sense of what it entails, as well as what sorts of cognitive explanations are best able to capture fundamental features of improvisation, will therefore have ramifications for a variety of areas. In addition, I have research interests in topics such as joint action, social cognition, collective authorship, and artificial general intelligence, especially the Learning Intelligent Decision Agent (LIDA) cognitive model.

Selected Publications:

  • Ryan, K.J. Jr. & Gallagher, S. (2020) Between Ecological Psychology and Enactivism: Is There Resonance? Frontiers in Psychology. 11:1147. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01147.
  • Ryan, K., Agrawal, P. & Franklin, S. (2020). The Pattern Theory of Self in Artificial General Intelligence: A Theoretical Framework for Modeling Self in Biologically Inspired Cognitive Architecture. Cognitive Systems Research,
  • Ryan, K. & Schiavio, A. (2019). Extended Musicking, Extended Mind, Extended Agency. Notes on the Third Wave. New Ideas in Psychology, Vol. 55: 8-17.
  • Tollefsen, D. & Ryan, K. (2019). Group Cognition. In Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Psychology. 2nd Ed. (eds.) S.K. Robins, J. Symons, and P. Calvo, pg. 766-782, New York, NY: Routledge. (Invited Submission).

Recent representative presentations:

  • Songs, Solos, and Standards: The Role of Shared Intentions in Collective Music-Making, University of Nebraska at Omaha, November 2019 (Invited)
  • Nested Niches, Artistic Affordances, and Ecological Psychology. Midsouth Philosophy Conference, Rhodes College, March 2019.
  • Musicians in the Moment: Improvisation and Intentions-In-Action. Cognitive Futures in the Arts and Humanities, University of Kent, July 2018.
  • Pattern Theory of Self in the LIDA Cognitive Model. International Association for Computing and Philosophy (IACAP) Annual Meeting, Warsaw, PL, June 2018 (Paper co-written with P. Agrawal & S. Franklin).
  • Playing in the Pocket: Joint Action and Musical Improvisation. IMPROV Workshop, Lund University, June 2018 (Invited).
  • Musicians-in-Action: Jazz Improvisation, Cultural Affordances, and Embodied Music Cognition. Culture and Mental Health Research Unit Meeting, McGill University, May 2018 (Invited).
  • Musical Improvisation and Embodied Music Cognition: An Overview. Center for Embodied Cognition, Creativity, and Performance, Stony Brook University, February 2018 (Invited).
  • Take it from the Top: Jazz Improvisation, Ways of Knowing, and Embodied Cognition. Cognition and Culture Group, University of Exeter, November 2017 (Invited).
  • Special Issue Journal Editor: Embodied Music Cognition, Empirical Musicology Review, Vol. 3-4, 2014

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