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Convergence research hub focusing on “Visual Perception” and “Ex...
  • Writer : KU TODAY
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  • Date : 2019-08-16

Convergence research hub focusing on “Visual Perception” and “Experience” - Behavioral cognition and neuroscience professor Chai-Youn Kim from the department of psychology


Combining many fields of sciences, psychology is closely related to many disciplines. This explains why as a scholar of aesthetics, behavioral cognition, and neuroscience Professor Chai-Youn Kim has reached beyond the realm to brain science research. As a result, her convergence lab, which carries out research connecting human senses and experience, always tells many interesting and colorful stories. At the heart of the research is sincerity for people.


"‘Convergence research’ is not new in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Psychology is by nature a science of fusion. It has inseparable relationships with the humanities, sociology, natural sciences, and business administration. In psychology research at the end of the 1990s, there was a worldwide move to study the human ‘mind’ with interdisciplinary convergence spanning philosophy, psychology, artificial intelligence, biology, and genetics rather than studying it separately in each of the disciplines. As such, psychology has pursued convergence research for more than two decades. Last year, Korea University separated the Department of Psychology from the College of Liberal Arts in an effort to establish the department as the hub of convergence research, making the study psychology based."

As Professor Kim says, the university established the Division of Psychology at the undergraduate level in 2018 for the first time in Korea. Its five majors will be streamlined to increase connectivity with related disciplines and include courses addressing social issues. The most special characteristic of KU’s Division of Psychology is that it is based on research in physiology and the natural sciences. People usually think of counseling in relation to psychology, but the department has a tendency to pursue scientific research traditionally from the fact that each major has a lab that uses animal models. Specifically, Professor Kim's research is closely linked to the life sciences. She is working on a research project that dives in the most basic senses of cognitive activities via human experience.

"The visual perception research I am conducting now uses a research methodology that is interested in human experiences, not just physiological mechanisms. As most disciplines have a connection to visual perception, I have been collaborating with various fields including engineering, the natural sciences, medicine, fashion, and the arts. It has a fairly broad spectrum of research."

The interdisciplinary study of the “mind” leads naturally to a brain science approach

It is very interesting to know what made Professor Kim dedicated to visual perception research. She entered an aesthetics department since she was passionate about art. However, upon realizing her lack of talent as an artist, she changed her direction and dreamed of becoming a researcher who approaches art philosophically. But soon she felt the limitations of aesthetic research, which approaches art only from a philosophical perspective without combining experiments or experiences.

Then, she naturally selected a cognitive science collaboration program and started to study psychology that conducts research on the human “mind”, which understands and feels art from a brain science perspective. She has been involved in research about people's “minds” through interdisciplinary convergence while maintaining her interest in art. "When I first came to Korea University in 2008 as a professor, the 3D TV commercialization issue was emerging. Since then, there have been ceaseless attempts to introduce visual perception research across industries. There have been constant needs for psychological studies from empirical research relating to computer design and image perception to VR technology. In recent years, the desire to use psychology and brain science research achievements as a motive even in the field of arts and creative works is sharply on the rise. I think it is the strong impact of interactive art*, which seeks to encode the experiences of people responding differently over time and produce new outcomes. Because of this, many media artists are offering collaborations. As a representative example, I participated in the opening exhibition of the D Museum in Hannam-dong. I will never forget the pleasure I felt while participating in the exhibition planning, studying the experience of the action of light."

Professor Kim is interested in diverse research topics. She also conducted emotion and visual perception studies of schizophrenia patients with her students. Considering that there has been extensive study on the emotional and social aspects of the patients, but studies on their perceptual experiences such as their senses are extremely rare, resulting in a poor understanding of the disease. Therefore, she is making continued efforts to understand the symptoms of the patients and gain knowledge that can be used in clinical practice by understanding the perception of senses as the most basic process of cognition.

"I am also involved in various research projects. In particular, I am leading interdisciplinary efforts to provide accurate information to the public, taking part in a forum related to the Fourth Industrial Revolution. I said earlier that I would like to lead a variety of convergence studies centered on the Department of Psychology, but this does not mean only research in the ivory tower. Firstly, I would like to narrow the gap between society and academics regarding the issues emerging in our fast-changing society such as AI, big data, aging, and user experience, and ultimately present solutions to these issues.”

Professor Kim added she would continue to do research helpful to our future society by conducting interdisciplinary convergence research of various kinds. Still “people” are at the center of the future of psychology that seeks to understand and help people.

* Interactive art is a branch of media art. It achieves interactive communication between the work and the audience using a two-way interface.


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