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Cognition, Perception, and Neuroscience Concentration

Master of Science and Ph.D. in Cognition, Perception, and Neuroscience

The Master of Science with a concentration in cognition perception and neuroscience is a two-year terminal degree program in experimental methodology. The Ph.D. is a four-year program provided to prepare the candidate for an academic career in cognitive, perceptual or neurological psychology. This focus of these fields is to gain a clearer and more comprehensive understanding of human and non-human cognitive and physiological processes by exploring research questions as they pertain to creativity, memory, vision, categorization, and physiological and behavioral effects of drug use.

The concentration is aimed at developing the research skills necessary to pursue (MS) or complete (Ph.D.) doctoral training in areas of psychology, such as cognitive, perceptual and neurological processes. Faculty in the cognition perception and neuroscience concentration have varied, active research programs currently investigating several facets of psychological experience, including human and animal cognition and physiology, memory, theory of mind, religiosity, categorization, creativity, face and emotion processing, and drug interactions.

Faculty in the Cognition, Perception, and Neuroscience Concentration

Dr. Dean Purcell: Primary research interests are in the area of visual perception with specific interest in the impact of emotional content on faces on speed of responding. I also study the impact of stimulus organization on detection thresholds and am interested in the theory of evolution as it applies to perceptual systems.

Dr. Cynthia Sifonis: I am interested in the relationship between category representation and category use; specifically, the manner in which the use of category knowledge affects the representation of that knowledge and how the category representation affects category use. In terms of creativity, I am interested in how concepts and categories are used when creating novel products and how examples constrain creativity when viewed immediately before generating new ideas. With regard to analogy, I am interested in how a person's understanding and representation of a problem interact with the characteristics of the prior knowledge during analogical problem solving.

Dr. Jennifer Vonk: I am a comparative/cognitive psychologist with primary research interests in two overlapping areas: (1) animal cognition, and (2) cognitive development. The underlying goal of my work is to examine cognitive continuities and discontinuities between humans and both closely and distantly related species. Thus, my work focuses on examining both phylogenetic and ontogenetic origins of cognitive processes that may or may not be shared with humans. Current work centers on social cognition, such as theory of mind, co-operation, prosociality, and reasoning about emotions, as well as physical cognition, such as causal reasoning, analogical reasoning, numerosity, and natural concept formation. Recent work with humans is focused on examining the effects of religiosity, attachment, and perspective-taking on human decision-making processes.

Dr. Lisa Welling: My research mainly focuses on hormonal and psychological sources of individual differences in human preferences, perception, and behavior.  For example, my work has investigated how menstrual cycle effects, hormonal contraceptive use, and other sources of hormonal variation affect mate choice and person perception in men and women. Other research interests into individual differences in adaptive preferences have investigated penchants for sexually dimorphic cues, cues to kinship/relatedness, dominance, health, condition-dependent preferences, and salience of emotional expressions.  Finally, given the incredible importance of mate choice and interpersonal relationships on reproduction and overall fitness, I am interested in human sexual behavior and adaptive preferences for underlying markers of mate quality.

Dr. Keith Williams: Alcoholism and drug addiction continue to plague society despite recent progress in the treatment of these problems and the understanding of the underlying biological mechanisms. Research has shown that behavioral and biological factors influence drug consumption. My focus is on bridging the gap between the behavioral and biological components that modulate drug-taking behavior and addiction. My interests include the pharmacological and behavioral mechanisms of drug reinforcement and craving, drug discriminative stimulus properties, hormonal influences on drug self-administration, and contribution of food intake mechanisms on drug consumption.