Daniel Casasanto

Daniel Casasanto

Daniel Casasanto is an Associate Professor of Human Development and Psychology at Cornell University and director of the Experience and Cognition Laboratory <casasanto.com>.

 The title of Daniel's RaAM 2020 keynote address is Mental Metaphors.


Thinking metaphorically means using one domain of knowledge as a scaffold for thinking about another (e.g., using space to think about time). For decades, research on metaphorical thinking has been rooted in language. Yet, metaphorical language and metaphorical thinking dissociate in multiple systematic ways. As a result, at any moment people may be talking one way (e.g., saying that the future is ahead of them) but thinking in a different way (e.g., thinking that the future is behind them, or to the right of them). In this talk I will sketch a theory of mental metaphors that can help predict and explain: (a.) when metaphorical thinking and metaphorical language converge or diverge, (b.) how metaphorical thinking can vary across groups of people with different languages, cultures, or bodies even when it is grounded in experiential universals, and (c.) how metaphorical thinking can change from one moment to the next, even though it is fundamental to our understanding of many basic human concepts.

About Daniel: 

He studies how the diversity of human experience is reflected in our brains and minds: how people with different physical and social experiences come to think, feel, and act differently, in fundamental ways. To study cognitive diversity across cultures, his lab conducts research on five continents, using methods that range from watching children at play to brain imaging and neuro-stimulation.


A former opera singer, Casasanto received a graduate diploma in Voice from the Peabody Conservatory before earning a doctorate from the department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT in 2005. Casasanto’s awards include a National Research Service Award from the National Institutes of Health, the James S. McDonnell Foundation’s Scholar Award, the Association for Psychological Science’s Award for Transformative Early Career Contributions, the American Psychological Association’s Fantz Memorial Award for Young Psychologists, and the Psychonomic Society’s Early Career Award for Exceptional Research Contributions to Scientific Psychology.


Casasanto has authored over 100 scientific publications, which are featured routinely in the national and international media. These include over 60 papers and chapters on metaphor in language, mind, and brain. He serves on the editorial board of seven journals and was a founding editor of Cambridge University Press’s interdisciplinary journal Language and Cognition.