Institut Jean Nicod

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CASATI Roberto - Directeur de l’Institut Jean-Nicod

Directeur de Recherche, CNRS

Directeur d’études, EHESS


CONTACT ǀ Tel : 01 44 32 26 95






(Directeur du groupe NAVIGATIONS)




Roberto Casati works on theoretical problems related to cognitive artifacts and external representations, publishing on maps, pictograms, drawings, perspectival models, queues, music notation, and educational (in particular digital) tools, in the framework of an extension and generalization of the "two modes” account of reasoning, that is meant to be an alternative to "extended mind" theories. The main aim is to investigate the cognitive mechanics underlying the use of artifacts (shifting, bridging, recycling, contracting...) in a unitary framework centered on the tradeoffs between representational advantages. Pointing out a third mode (instrument assisted cognition) and a fourth mode (instrument delegated cognition), he has mainly pursued the study of instrumental navigation without delegation (pre-GPS wayfinding). A number of training- and field- projects have been realized.

In the last decade, Roberto Casati has completed a large study of visual perception and the computational properties of shadow representations (mostly in collaboration with visual neuroscientist Patrick Cavanagh). Shadows are ubiquitous and rich informational ecological items, clearly targeted by the evolution of visual systems. The project has unearthed new informational properties of shadows and proposed a five-stage decomposition of shadow vision. The work draws from an extremely large and variate corpus of stimuli that include artworks - reframing some of the key issues of the cognitive study of art. On top of a number of peer-reviewed articles, the main publication is their 2019 book The visual World of Shadows (MIT Press).


His current research has two major, interrelated strands :

  1. Wayfinding and navigation, with a focus on maps, disorientation, disorientation remediation in many different types of environment ; he runs the Disorientation team at IJN.
  2. Representations of the ocean, around the understanding of cognitive biases and changes in representations/concepts/behaviors, with a specific focus on the environmental crisis.

A dedicated skipper, he has completed two Atlantic crossings as crew (in the ARC 2019, 2nd in class B, 11th overall out of 200 competitors).



  • The Cognitive Life of Maps (MIT Press, 2022, on the cognitive foundations of mapping)
  • Ocean : A Philosopher’s Journey (in press)
  • ed. The Sailing Mind (in preparation)



  • Climate Change Changing Behaviors (with Jean-Pierre Nadal, CAMS)
  • The Philosophy of the Ocean



Subjects for theoretical, bibliographic or experimental internships will offered about the following themes : cognition of the sea, representations of the sea, navigation, ontology of water, disorientation remediation, situated cognition, disorientation in the wild, cognition through maps. Please contact me for more information.