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Traditional approaches to studying the mind tend to adopt a computer metaphor and treat cognition as processing mediator between perceptual input and behavioral output.​

Recently, many researchers have questioned the idea of referring to the mind as a computer, and are beginning to think of the mind more as a living system that has to function in the real world, within the confines of real time. As a consequence of this approach, researchers devise experiments that are meant to examine how perception, cognition, and action shape one another in real time as one attempts to complete a task.​

In my lab, students and I conduct experiments designed to investigate the dynamic relationship between perception, action and cognition.

One line of research addresses the relationship between real-time action control and real-time changes in spatial perception. Research in this area indicates that the perceived vanishing point of a moving stimulus depends in a very systematic way upon the actions one is planning in relation to the stimulus as it disappears. Research also indicates this relationship is influenced by whether or not one has control over the moving stimulus, and whether or not one is controlling the stimulus alone or in cooperation with another. We are currently utilizing group control over the stimulus as a means of investigating the cognitive pre-requisites of cooperative action.

A second line of research investigates the dynamic dependence between action control and cognition, and how the dependence changes in real-time. To research this issue, we ask subjects to participate in tasks in which they must make true-false, yes-no decisions about stimuli presented on a computer monitor. We measure how long subjects take to make such decisions, and then look at how the decision time (i.e., reaction time–RT) changes from trial to trial. The motivation for this work stems from thinking of the mind as a living system, as opposed to a computer. According to the living system view, the task during an RT is one of bio-cognitive coordination, not computation. Thus, more difficult tasks (e.g., answering questions about consonant strings versus words) require a more complex bio-cognitive coordination. Generating these more complex coordinations from trial-to-trial is taxing to the system and, over a series of trials, leads to difficulties in coordination that show-up in the data as unusually long RTs. The presence of these long RTs ends up reducing the complexity of the overall pattern in the RTs. Research thus far indicates such reductions can be produced either by more difficult tasks or by subjects expending more cognitive effort to be accurate. In the future, we plan to investigate pattern complexity in both developmental and special populations.

Students who assist me in my research are exposed to a variety of data analysis techniques. These include the descriptive and inferential statistics of hypothesis testing, as well as more recent descriptive techniques coming out of dynamical systems theory. Students are also actively involved in the interpretation of data and the planning of further experiments. If you think you might like to collaborate with me in my research, contact me at

I look forward to hearing from you.​

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