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Cognitive Psychology

Cognitive Psychology is the scientific study of mental processes such as perception, attention, memory, inhibition, perception, language use behavioral flexibility, and problem solving.

Cognitive Psychology research in the Department of Psychology includes a diversity of interdisciplinary approaches to the study of cognition, including information processing, perception, attention, cognitive development, decision making, memory, working memory, and cognitive control.  We have extensive expertise in the fields of Cognitive Neuroscience, Neuropsychological and Psycho-educational Assessment, Social Cognition, Judgement and Decision-Making, Development, and Aging.


Drew Abney

  • Drew Abney focuses on how behaviors and social interactions early in development impact developmental trajectories throughout infancy and into toddlerhood. Studies conducted in the lab use various techniques: from conducting controlled laboratory experiments to free-flowing toy play sessions to collecting daylong multimodal (e.g., vocalizations, body movements, etc.) behavioral data. In the lab, we are motivated to apply existing techniques from applied computational social science and dynamical systems theory and also develop new computational and analytic methods to understand the dynamics of development during infancy and early childhood.    

James M. Brown

  • James M. Brown studies visual perception, perceptual organization, and attention. Research in the Visual Perception Laboratory is aimed at trying to understand how we organize, perceive, and attend to our visual world. Our general research approach could be described as a combination of cognitive psychophysics and visual neuroscience. We use psychophysical methods to explore the relationship between the physical stimulus and what is perceived (i.e., cognitive psychophysics) while at the same time seeking to understand these perceptual experiences based on current knowledge about the neural machinery of the visual brain (i.e., visual neuroscience). An example of this approach includes recent studies of figure-ground perception from the perspective of activity within and between the dorsal and ventral visual streams. Other examples of topics of study include illusions, objects, and scenes. Recent collaborative research has expanded this approach to eye movement behavior. 

Brett Clementz

  • Brett Clementz has two general goals. The first is to understand how accurate sensory processing is maintained within the context of changing environmental circumstances. The second is to understand neurobiological distinctions between different subgroups of brain diseases called the psychoses (defined clinically by the presence of hallucinations, delusions, and cognitive disturbance), which have demonstrated, for the majority of cases to have a substantial genetic diathesis. For Dr. Clementz, the first goal, which often involves the study of the healthy brain, informs the second goal of understanding deviations in brain functions associated with manifestation of psychosis in order to facilitate improved diagnosis and treatment of severe psychiatric disorders. The methodological core of Dr. Clementz’ research involves use of simple and complex behavioral paradigms combined with use of neuroimaging technologies including electroencephalography (EEG), magnetoencephalography (MEG), and structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). He uses sophisticated approaches to analyzing data collected with these technologies and is known for developing innovative analysis techniques. He and Dr. McDowell co-direct the Clinical and Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory.

Janet Frick

  • Janet Frick studies individual and developmental differences in infant visual attention, with a primary focus on the cognitive and social influences of early attention, learning, and memory. She utilizes both laboratory and community-based observational studies of infant and toddler behavior. Some of her recent collaborative work has included examination of nutritional influences on the early development and function of the visual system, with a focus on how such individual differences impact early learning and memory.

Adam Goodie

  • Adam Goodie focuses on higher-order psychological processes of judgment and decision making, within three main domains. One focuses on the impact on decision making when individuals make risky choices based on their own abilities. A second line focuses on decision making, cognitive and personality contributors to disordered financial risk taking in the diagnostic category of gambling disorder. The third line focuses on the Bayesian integration of information under direct experience, including investigation of base-rate neglect. This program of research has been externally funded by several agencies.

Allison Howard

  • Allison Howard studies interactions between the environment and behavior in humans and nonhuman animals. Mental processes are impacted by and create impacts upon the environment in which an individual is situated, with implications for individual wellbeing, the global climate crisis, and student learning. Dr. Howard uses virtual and augmented reality applications to simulate psychological phenomena and to teach concepts related to the undergraduate psychology curriculum. Her interdisciplinary work extends across the disciplines of psychology, animal cognition, sustainability, geography, and VR/AR development. 
    • Program affiliation: Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Jennifer McDowell

  • Jennifer McDowell studies the nature of cognitive control. Effective cognitive control mediates important decisions on a daily basis. Healthy people have wide variations in their ability to invoke cognitive control, but specific subgroups have far greater problems with this behavioral regulation mechanism. Cognitive control deficits occur in many clinical groups, ranging from children who are obese to adults with psychiatric disorders, and especially those with psychotic disorders. Dr. McDowell integrates behavioral and multi-modal brain imaging methods (f/MRI, DTI, EEG, MEG) to provide a comprehensive understanding of cognitive problems. An important goal is to determine the extent to which cognitive control is plastic, and particularly how it may be enhanced. This is highly relevant for populations at risk, and also relevant for people who do not have clinical diagnoses, but may be at risk by virtue of being genetically related to someone with a psychiatric disorder, being obese, or having other characteristics that may predispose one to improperly modulated cognitive control. She and Dr. Clementz co-direct the Clinical and Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory. 

Dean Sabatinelli

  • Dean Sabatinelli is interested in defining the brain mechanisms involved in the discrimination of emotional stimuli, and specifically how the recruited cortical and subcortical structures are orchestrated in real time. In addition to basic science, a major goal is to understand how these dynamic mechanisms contribute to disorders of emotion.

Lawrence Sweet

  • Lawrence Sweet integrates multimodal neuroimaging and neuropsychological assessments to examine brain-behavior relationships in clinical and at-risk populations (e.g., addictions, cardiovascular disease, early life adversity, aging). The Clinical Neuroscience Laboratory (CNS Lab) specializes in experimental design, and data acquisition, analyses, and interpretation for studies that employ functional magnetic resonance imaging, structural morphometry, and white matter lesion quantification. The CNS Lab is responsible for data analyses and consultation for several local and multi-site NIH-funded research studies. 
    • Program affiliation: Clinical Psychology, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Neuroscience
    • Laboratory: Clinical Neuroscience Laboratory

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