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Michael I. Posner (born September 12, 1936) is the editor of numerous cognitive and neuroscience compilations and is an eminent researcher in the field of attention. He is currently an emeritus professor of neuroscience at the University of Oregon (Department of Psychology, Institute of Cognitive and Decision Sciences).

Posner's studied the role of attention in high-level human tasks such as visual search, reading, and number processing. More recently he investigated the development of attentional networks in infants and young children.

In Chronometric Explorations of Mind, published in 1978, Posner applied the subtractive method proposed 110 years earlier by Franciscus Donders to the study of several cognitive functions such as attention and memory. The subtractive method is based on the assumption that mental operations can be measured by decomposing complex cognitive tasks in sequences of simpler tasks. The method assumes that the effect of each mental operation is additive and that it is possible to isolate the effect of a single mental operations by comparing two tasks that differ only by the presence or assence of that mental operations (see Mental chronometryfor additiona information on Donders' experiment).

Posner applied the same subtractive principle to the study of attentional networks using PET (Positron Emission Tomography), a neuroimaging technique that produces three-dimensional functional maps of the brain. In Images of Mind, published with Mark Raichle in 1994, Posner investigated brain localization of cognitive functions by looking at the patterns of brain activation in progressively more complex cognitive tasks.


  • Posner, MI (1978). Chronometric Explorations of Mind, Hillsdale, N.J: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  • Posner, MI; Raichle, ME (1994). Images of Mind, Scientific American Books.

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