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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

Roger Beaty

Assistant Professor of Psychology

My research seeks to understand how people think creatively. In our lab, we use brain imaging and behavioral experiments to examine neural and cognitive systems that support creative thinking. One line of research uses fMRI to characterize brain network dynamics during creative task performance. A goal of this work is to link brain activity during creative performance to specific cognitive processes (such as memory, attention, and cognitive control), using network analysis and multivariate modeling of fMRI data. We also combine brain imaging with neuromodulation (e.g., tES-fNIRS) to test causal questions regarding neurocognitive mechanisms of creativity, with the longer-term goal of understanding whether and how creativity can be enhanced. We study creativity in a variety of contexts and domains, including musical improvisation and scientific problem solving. We also develop open access resources to measure creativity for educators and researchers, using natural language processing and other computational tools.   

vitawebsite | publications

Richard Carlson

Professor of Psychology

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My research has focused on the conscious control of skilled mental activity and how control and experience change with increasing skill.  This research has been guided by a theory of consciousness described in my book Experienced Cognition (1997).  Recent research has focused on the sense of agency in skilled mental and perceptual-motor tasks, and on metacognition in using spatial knowledge.  Other projects include studies on the use of externalizing strategies (such as pointing while counting) and on how the structure of intentions influences the acquisition of information from the environment.

 

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Nancy Dennis

Professor of Psychology

My research examines the effects of aging on episodic memory using both behavioral and neuroimaging (fMRI) methods. Regarding neuroimaging, we specifically utilize univariate, multivariate (pattern classification, representational similarity analyses), functional connectivity, and structural analytical approaches in our investigation of encoding and retrieval processes underlying memory performance. An emphasis is placed on understanding the cognitive and neural processes underlying false memories and associative memories. With respect to cognitive aging, our research examines neural markers of age-related cognitive decline, as well as mechanisms supporting neural compensation. Other lines of research pursued within the lab include cognitive training, cognitive control, and statistical learning. 

vita | website | publications

Michele Diaz

Director of Human Imaging, SLEIC

Professor of Psychology, Linguistics, & Neuroscience

 

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 age-related differences in language. My lab has examined semantic and phonological aspects of language comprehension and production. Most recently we have been examining neural factors that contribute to age-related decline 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

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 

Elisabeth Karuza

Assistant Professor

Humans are the ultimate pattern learners. We absorb a constant stream of complicated, noisy data and somehow emerge with a deep understanding of structures like language, categories, even what kinds of events are likely to follow one another in time. That “somehow” is the focus of my lab. Given known constraints on the human brain, how do learners extract the information they need from the environment, often without realizing they are doing it? To answer this question my lab takes a multi-pronged approach. We use a variety of behavioral methods to examine learners’ sensitivity to both the simple associations and network-level structures around them, with a particular focus on which patterns best facilitate learning.  We also study the neural mechanisms underlying pattern learning through brain imaging techniques such as fMRI. Finally, we investigate the conditions under which learning can be boosted or impeded, including asking whether brain stimulation might be a useful tool in this endeavor.

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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My research focuses on the cognitive mechanisms underlying language acquisition, specifically investigating domain general abilities that are thought to be pivotal during development. My research is comparative, and my subjects range from human infants to adults to nonhuman primates. Much of my research relates to the process of statistical learning which is how learners track distributional properties of the input.  Within statistical learning, I have focused on how bilinguals contend with multiple sets of inputs and the implications for successful acquisition.  My recent interests have expanded to investigate domain general biases of sequence planning, particularly as they pertain to motor and language production. I hope to show these biases may play a role in the evolution of syntax.

vita | website | publications

Faculty Associates

 

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 ACT-R or Soar to implement and test theories of learning and to improve human-computer interaction. We have recently used it to create a book (Skill to obstruct pandemics) and a free online tutor (http://StopTheSpread.health) that is the first public health book to slow down the spread of respiratory diseases like COVID-19.  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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