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Department of Psychology 
125 Moore Building 
The Pennsylvania State University 
University Park, PA 16802-3106

 
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Faculty

Faculty

Frederick Brown

Associate Professor of Psychology

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For many years I have investigated the rhythms that underlie human behavior, including daily (circadian and sleep/wake cycles), monthly (lunar cycle and reproduction), and seasonal rhythms (births and sudden infant-death syndrome). I co-edited the book, Rhythmic Aspects of Behavior, with R. C. Graeber, COL (NASA Ret.) for the fledgling field of chronobehavior. My major concentration is on the genetically determined morningness/ eveningness predispositions for daily activity cycles. I have published a Basic Language Morningness (BALM) Scale which is used world-wide to self-rate these morningness/eveningness preferences, and also have developed a Spanish language version. My students and I measure the effect of these preferences on daily alertness and cognition, as well as on the internal sense of time. They relate directly to changes across the day in activities such as driving and athletic performance. A second area of my research focuses on sleep changes with maturity. A currently supported collaborative project with colleagues from the School of Engineering and Hershey Medical Center investigates sleep-disruption effects on the wellbeing of older adults. This project in particular relates to my applied teaching emphasis on wellness psychology and the textbook that I am co-authoring on this topic.

vita | website | publications

Richard Carlson

Associate Head of the Department of Psychology

Professor of Psychology

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My research focus is on the conscious control of skilled mental activity, and how control and experience change with increasing skill. This research is guided by a theory of consciousness described in my book Experienced Cognition (1997). My students and I study the fine-grained structure of deliberate control in complex tasks such as symbolic and spatial problem solving and reasoning. We are currently developing a model of the time course of deliberate control, tracing the evolution of goal representations in stages: plan, intention, procedure, outcome representation. These stages occur at each step of complex mental activity, on a time scale of a second or so. The model emphasizes the importance of processes for coordination, placekeeping, and monitoring.

Recent empirical work emphasizes the roles of temporal synchronization and externalizing strategies (such as pointing while counting) in achieving deliberate control of fluent mental activities. Our college-student participants find tasks such as counting on-screen events and performing running arithmetic quite challenging, despite the highly-skilled nature of the component skills for these tasks. Such tasks therefore provide rich paradigms for understanding control, and for developing a theory of deliberate control.

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Nancy Dennis

Associate Professor of Psychology

My research focuses on elucidating the cognitive and neural mechanisms that support learning and memory in young and older adults. I employ both behavioral and neuroimaging methods, including diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and functional MRI (fMRI) to explore the interaction of cognitive and neural processes involved in episodic memory. My research investigates the neural correlates of episodic memory during both encoding and retrieval, focusing on the neural processes associated with relational memory and false memory. Other areas of research in my lab focus on implicit learning and cognitive control of memories. With respect to cognitive aging, my research concentrates on the examination of age-related neural markers of cognitive decline, as well as mechanisms for neural compensation.

vita | website | publications

Michele Diaz

Director of Human Imaging, SLEIC 

Associate Professor of Psychology and Linguistics

Language is a ubiquitous aspect of human life. Yet we are just beginning to understand the neural infrastructure that supports this complex social and cognitive function. Broadly, my research focuses on the relations between the brain and behavior. My lab has examined semantic and phonological aspects of language comprehension and production. Most recently I have been examining age-related differences in language. Specifically, this research project looks at neural factors that contribute to age-related retention (semantics) and decline (phonology) that have been observed in language production. We investigate the relations between structural factors (i.e., white matter integrity), functional activations, and behavior.

vita | website | publications 

Rick Gilmore

Associate Professor of Psychology

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My research takes a cognitive neuroscience approach to the development of perception, action, learning, and memory in infancy and early childhood. There are several broad themes to my current research. One focuses on the development of spatial perception - specifically the perception of self-and object motion from optic flow - and the relationship of optic flow perception to locomotion. Another focuses on the processing of symmetry. I am also interested in quantitative techniques for studying individual differences in habituation, a form of simple learning.

vita | personal website | lab website | publications 

Ping Li

Professor of Psychology and Linguistics

My research examines the computational and neural processes that underlie the acquisition and representation of monolingual (native) and bilingual (native and non-native) languages. It focuses on the dynamic changes that occur in the language learner and the dynamic interactions that occur in the competing language systems over the course of learning. In particular, our research attempts to identify the computational mechanisms and the neural structures that characterize the interactive dynamics underlying the learning of one or multiple lexical systems (e.g., words acquired early by children and by Chinese-English bilinguals). Researchers in my lab use self-organizing neural networks to simulate lexical development, and use ERP and fMRI methods to investigate the neural mechanisms that subserve lexical organization and competition in the monolingual and the bilingual brain.

vita | personal website | lab website | publications

Suzy Scherf

Associate Professor of Psychology

My core interests lie in understanding how children form representations of the visual world and how emerging functional specificity of the developing brain supports this process. Specifically, I am interested in the developmental trajectory of face representations because the discrimination and recognition of faces is one of the most taxing perceptual challenges confronted by people in their day-to-day life. Also, faces are the pre-eminent social signal, therefore, studying developmental changes in the behavioral and brain basis of face processing in typically developing individuals and in those affected by social-emotional disorders may index a core set of developmental changes within the broader social information processing system.

My approach allows me to address some of the most pressing questions about how developmental changes in brain function and structure support changes in behavior. I employ converging methodologies, including functional and structural magnetic resonance, and diffusion tensor imaging along with detailed behavioral paradigms in both typically developing populations and those with developmental disorders, with particular emphasis on autism, to examine development across multiple time points from early childhood to adulthood. My goals are to 1) understand the mechanisms by which these representations change developmentally, particularly during adolescence when pubertal maturation has a profound influence of the re-organization of neural circuits and the processing of social information, 2) understand how cortex develops the capacity to represent and compute face representations that support multiple aspects of face processing, including face identification, categorization, and, in the future, the process of garnering social attributions from faces, 3) elucidate the consequences when psychological or neural processes deviate from the normal trajectory, and 4) develop intervention paradigms that may alter abnormal developmental trajectories in both the behavioral and neural aspects of face processing.

vita | website | publications

Janet van Hell

Professor of Psychology and Linguistics

The Bilingualism and Language Development (BiLD) Lab studies the cognitive and neurocognitive processes related to language development, second language learning, and bilinguals’ use of two languages. We combine behavioral, neuropsychological (mostly ERPs), and linguistic techniques to study patterns of cross-language interaction and transfer in child and adult second language learners at different levels of proficiency. We also study the neural and cognitive mechanisms involved in code-switching and in the comprehension of foreign accented speech. A second research theme in the BiLD Lab focuses on language development in school-aged children with typical or atypical development, including children with specific language impairment and children who are deaf.

Part of our neurocognitive research takes place in an RV mobile lab parked at schools, the 'brain bus'. We also use the 'brain bus' for outreach activities, e.g., science fairs or research demonstrations. For more information on our research projects, the people in the BiLD lab, how to get involved, and our recent publications, see the BiLD lab website, http://bild.la.psu.edu/

vita | website | publications 

Daniel Weiss

Professor of Psychology

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Daniel Weiss is a comparative psychologist, investigating the cognitive abilities of infant and adult humans, as well as non-human primates. One of his primary lines of research explores the cognitive mechanisms underlying language acquisition. This work focuses on statistical learning mechanisms that have been implicated in the learning of phonetic categories, word segmentation and other aspects of language. Some of his recent work has focused on how learners are able to cope with multiple input streams and what triggers learners to combine across streams. Another line of research focuses on animal cognition. This work has recently focused on topics such as motor planning and in-group/out-group formation. A planned line of research with children and nonhuman primates will focus on the cognitive abilities underlying hiding.

vita | website | publications

Brad Wyble

Associate Professor of Psychology

Brad Wyble studies visual cognition with an emphasis on exploring how a visual stimulus becomes a consciously accessible representation. His work incorporates theories of temporal attention and consolidation of memory representations as well as the capture of attention by task relevant stimuli.  His goal is to understand how the neural mechanisms underlying attention and memory interact to allow us to make sense of the world around us. His  research uses a combination of behavioral and electrophysiological data collection to provide constraints on neurocomputational models of the visual system.

vita | website | publications

Faculty Associates

Larry Jacoby

Professor of Psychology at Washington University in St. Louis


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My research has focused on questions related to cognitive control and to subjective experience. The distinction between consciously-controlled and automatic processes is of particular interest. I have pursued these interests to investigate age-related differences in memory and perception as well as issues related to education. Other research extends the consciously-controlled/automatic distinction to the domain of social psychology. Interest in subjective experience has led to investigations of memory illusions (e.g., memory for a prior encounter with a message making a room seem less noisy during a later encounter with the same message) as well as false memory

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Giuli Dussias

Associate Professor of Spanish

Affiliate Professor in Psychology

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My research program takes a cross-disciplinary approach to bilingual language processing using converging methodological tools from linguistics, experimental psycholinguistics, and second language acquisition. The primary focus of my research concerns bilingual sentence processing. The students in my lab and I examine whether language-specific information is largely kept independent when bilinguals compute or parse an initial syntactic structure for the sentences they read, or whether information from one language influences parsing decisions in the other language. 

In addition, because of our interest in cognitive aspects of bilingualism and in language contact phenomena, we have conducted a series of studies on code-switching. Proficient bilinguals often code-switch in the midst of speaking with other bilinguals and the linguistic principles that govern the observed switches have been a focus of debate. Although code switching performance has been analyzed primarily from the perspective of bilingual speakers, there are critical consequences for comprehension because unlike production, which is under the control of the speaker, comprehension is unpredictable. To investigate the relationship that exists between the frequency of occurrence of code-switches in naturalistic data (i.e., production data) and the ease with which the comprehension mechanism processes these code-switches, we use eye-tracking methods to examine the reading of code-switched sentences as well as the comprehension of spoken code-switches.

 vita | website | publications

Frank Ritter

Professor of Information Sciences and Technology, Psychology, and Computer Science and Engineering

I am interested in using cognitive modeling within a unified theory of cognition such as Soar or ACT-R to implement and test theories of learning and to improve human-computer interaction. I have built and use several tools to make model building, protocol analysis, and statistical analysis easier. I am also interested in developing stochastic learning and optimization algorithms to model behavior and to improve other analyses.

vita | website | publications

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