Nathaniel Barr

Dr. Nathaniel Barr


Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences

Nathaniel Barr is a Professor of Creativity and Creative Thinking, specializing in cognitive psychology. Prior to joining Sheridan, he earned his BA, MA, and PhD, and held a postdoctoral fellowship in the Psychology Department at the University of Waterloo.

A recipient of a number of research awards, grants, and scholarships, Nathaniel has published scientific articles, book chapters, technical reports, and popular press articles in diverse areas. Topics include the psychology of creativity, human reason in the Anthropocene, belief, the relation between grit and mind wandering, the intersection of thinking and technology, currency authentication, and how best to align artificial and human intelligence in the workforce. He and his co-authors were awarded the 2016 Ig Nobel Peace Prize for their paper, On the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bullshit. Nathaniel’s work has been covered extensively in the media, including Scientific American, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal, and he frequently acts as an expert commentator for print, radio, and television.

An award winning lecturer, Nathaniel has taught courses on creativity, psychology, cognition, memory, and neuroscience. At Sheridan College, his primary focus is teaching courses within the Board Undergraduate Certificate in Creativity and Creative Problem Solving, which aims to provide “an opportunity for every degree student to gain a deliberate set of 21st century creative thinking skills and creative problem solving competencies”.

In addition to his academic role, Nathaniel is an active consultant and speaker. He often delivers talks and workshops to diverse audiences on the nature of our minds and how to make the most of them. His speaking draws on his research, teaching, and consulting expertise on human cognition and behavioural science, while weaving in personal experiences and storytelling. Recurrent themes include connecting the causes of and potential solutions to global challenges in the Anthropocene to human reason and creativity, and how understanding the way people think can improve your memory, attention, reasoning, and creativity.

Teaching Interests

  • Psychology; Cognition; Creativity; Innovation; Applied Behavioural Science

Research Interests

  • Creativity; Innovation; Reasoning; Decision Making; Mind Wandering; Misinformation; Technology; Belief; Education; Applied Behavioural Science

Book Chapters

  • Barr, N. (2018). Intuition, reason, and creativity: An integrative dual-process perspective.

  • Barr, N., Pennycook, G. (2018). Why reason matters: Connecting research on human reason to the challenges of the Anthropocene. Routledge.

  • Barr, N., Beaty, R., Seli, P. (2020). Autonomy and control across cognition: Insights from creativity, memory, mind wandering, and reasoning research. Academic Press.

  • Barr, N., McNamara, M. (2023). <span style="font-size:11pt;">Creative Cognition: From Ideation to Innovation</span><span style="font-size:medium;"></span>. In International Handbook of Creative Cognition.

Journal Articles

  • Barr, N., Pennycook, G., Cheyne, J., Koehler, D., Fugelsang, J. (2014). Cognitive style and religiosity: The role of conflict detection.Memory & Cognition, 42(1), 1--10.

  • Barr, N., Pennycook, G., Cheyne, J., Koehler, D., Fugelsang, J. (2014). The role of analytic thinking in moral judgements and values.Thinking & Reasoning, 20(2), 188--214.

  • Barr, N., Pennycook, G., Stolz, J., Fugelsang, J. (2015). Reasoned connections: A dual-process perspective on creative thought.Thinking \& Reasoning, 21(1), 61--75.

  • Barr, N., Pennycook, G., Stolz, J., Fugelsang, J. (2015). The brain in your pocket: Evidence that Smartphones are used to supplant thinking.Computers in Human Behavior, 48, 473--480.

  • Barr, N., Pennycook, G., Cheyne, J., Koehler, D., Fugelsang, J. (2015). On the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bullshit.Judgment and Decision making, 10(6), 549--563.

  • Barr, N., Pennycook, G., Cheyne, J., Koehler, D., Fugelsang, J. (2016). It's still bullshit: Reply to Dalton (2016).Judgment and Decision making, 11(1), 123.

  • Barr, N., Ralph, B., Wammes, J., Smilek, D. (2017). Wandering minds and wavering goals: Examining the relation between mind wandering and grit in everyday life and the classroom..Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology/Revue canadienne de psychologie exp\'erimentale, 71(2), 120.

  • Barr, N., Maloney, E., Risko, E., Fugelsang, J. (2019). Verbal working memory load dissociates common indices of the numerical distance effect: Implications for the study of numerical cognition.Journal of Numerical Cognition, 5(3), 337--357.

  • Barr, N., Stanley, M., Peters, K., Seli, P. (2021). Analytic-thinking predicts hoax beliefs and helping behaviors in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.Thinking \& Reasoning, 27(3), 464--477.


  • "Community Ideas Factory: Behavioural Insights Unit". NSERC. CCSIF. $360,000. 2020.
    Nathaniel Barr (Co-Principle Investigator), Michael McNamara (Co-Principle Investigator), Nathaniel Barr (Co-Principle Investigator), Joel Lopata, Tony Tarantini, Marco Cibola.

  • "Optimizing Interventions to Combat COVID-19 Misinformation Online". NSERC. CCSIF- Applied Research Rapid Response to COVID-19 Grants. $75,000. 2020.
    Nathaniel Barr (Principle Investigator), Nathaniel Barr (Principle Investigator); Michael McNamara.

  • "Equipping Citizens to Promote Vaccine Confidence in Canada". NSERC. Promoscience. $50,000. 2021.
    Nathaniel Barr (Principle Investigator), Nathaniel Barr (Principle Investigator), Michael McNamara.

  • "Does Creativity Training Make a Difference". Sheridan College. Growth Grants. $10,000. 2016.
    Nathaniel Barr (Collaborator), Michael McNamara; Patrice Esson; Nathaniel Barr.

  • "Improving Student's Deep Learning through Interpolated Testing and Distributed Practice in Waterloo's Online Learning Environment". University of Waterloo- Centre for Teaching Excellence. LITE Seed Grant. $5,000. 2014.
    Nathaniel Barr (Collaborator), Evan Risko (Principle Investigator), Jonathan Fugelsang, Jennifer Stolz, Nathaniel Barr.

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