Liane (Lee) Gabora


Office: FIP 235
Phone: 250.807.9849

Graduate student supervisor. Will consider Psychology graduate students for September 2024 intake.

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Research Summary

Creativity; concepts, especially how they combine and adapt to new contexts; origins of modern cognition; cultural evolution; computer models of the above. I'm not currently accepting graduate students; however, please don't hesitate to contact me if you are exceptionally knowledgeable about and interested in my group's research program.

Courses & Teaching

Psychology of creativity and humour; evolution of human cognition.


Liane Gabora is an interdisciplinary psychology professor at the University of British Columbia. Her research focuses on how culture evolves, how the creative process works (with an emphasis on concept combination and cross-domain thinking), and how it fuels the evolution of culture, as well as more generally, the different ways in which evolutionary processes could–and do–work. Her Ph.D. thesis was the first publication to introduce a quantum formalism for modeling the contextual nature of concept interactions, and she is the first author (with her Ph.D. supervisor, Diederik Aerts) of the first paper on this topic. She was the first to develop a computational model of cumulative cultural evolution, to develop an autocatalytic framework to explain the integrated nature of human cognition, and to explain creative insight at the level of neural cell assemblies. Over the last two decades, further developments of these ideas, both theoretical and empirical, has led to the Self-Other Reorganization (SOR) theory of cultural evolution, and a theory of creativity–honing theory–that synthesizes research on complex systems, associative memory, and formal models of concept combination. As a side-project with colleagues, she explores the metaphor between physical light and cognitive processes (creative sparkreflect on an idea, focus attention…) using multidisciplinary methods that include fiction and interactive technologies. She has almost 200 scholarly publications in diverse journals that span psychology (e.g., Psychonomic Bulletin & Review), cognitive science (e.g., Topics in Cognitive Science), biology (e.g., Journal of Theoretical Biology), computer science (e.g., Journal of Experimental and Theoretical Artificial Intelligence), physics (e.g., Foundations of Physics), mathematics (e.g., Journal of Mathematical Psychology), anthropology (e.g., Current Anthropology), archaeology (e.g., World Archaeology), and interdisciplinary studies (e.g., Interdisciplinary Science Reviews), as well as literary journals (e.g., Fiction). She has given lectures worldwide. She is a published fiction writer and composes music. Ongoing (currently backburner) projects include a nonfiction book titled Dawn of the Creative Mind and a novel titled Quilandria.


Liane Gabora’s Research Website

Google Scholar

Mindbloggling Blog | Psychology Today

Liane Gabora’s Soundcloud Profile


BSc University of Western Ontario

PhD Free University of Brussels

Postdoctoral Fellow at Centre Leo Apostel for Interdisciplinary Studies, Free University of Brussels, 2001-2002

Postdoctoral Fellow at Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley, 2002-2005

Research Interests & Projects

The overarching goal of my research has been to develop a coherent theory of the process by which culture evolves. I aim to bring forward a theoretical framework for cultural evolution that is as sound as our theoretical framework for biological evolution, and apply it to the tasks of reconstructing our past, exploring possible futures, and furthering human wellbeing. A major component of this interdisciplinary enterprise involves explicating the mechanisms underlying creativity and how the complexity and creativity of the human mind came about. The methods used by my students and I to gain insight into cultural evolution and the creative process include mathematical and computational modelling, as well as human experiments.

Selected Grants & Awards

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)


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