Cognitive Science - UNC Charlotte

Research Laboratories

 

 

Research Opportunities in Cognitive Science

 

Research opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students are available in the following cognitive science laboratories. Interested students can take advantage of research-based experiences by talking with the faculty members associated with the lab. 

Undergraduate credit can be earned by enrolling in independent research in any one of the disciplines that participates in cognitive science (PSYC 3806, PHIL 3859, ITCS/ITIS 4230, or ENGL 3852).

 Graduate credit can be earned by enrolling in Readings & Research, (PSYC 6899/8899), Individual study, (ITCS 8880, 8990), thesis or dissertation research.

 

 

Faculty directed labs in Cognitive Science

 
Paula's lab


 Paula Goolkasian - Perception and Human Performance

 

The Perception lab is a 3-room suite that is designed for research in perception and human performance.  The lab houses a variety of reseach projects in visual attention and perception.
Recent projects are described below.

 

Effects of Presentation Format on Working Memory
We compare participants recall of material presented as pictures, spoken words and printed words.   These findings contribute to our understanding of working memory by identifying the influence of format, modality, and length of to-be-remembered material on processing and storage components of a dual task. The results have implications for both Web-based and classroom instruction.

 

Conceptual Priming with Ambiguous Figures
Primes are presented in varied formats and we investigate their impact on recognition of ambiguous figures. This project investigates the degree to which semantically related primes can influence object perception.

 

Pain Reactions of Chronic Pain patients
A number of projects with chronic pain patients have also been conducted in the lab.  We have worked with patients suffering from fybromyalgia and pain associated with the upper spine.  We developed and validated a Neck Pain Scale and have run several studies evaluating the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy and Botox injections on chronic pain.

 

Conceptual representation of Urban areas
This is a joint project with researchers in architecture and computer science. The goal is to study how people conceptualize a city and to use that knowledge to develop smart maps.

 

 Copies of recent publications describing research work in the lab are available from my Web site.

 [More Information]


      
         Heather Lipford--Human Computer Interaction Lab
 

The Human Computer Interaction is a research lab investigating novel ways for people to interact with computers, and through computers with their environments.
The lab is located in the Software and Information Systems department in 330A Woodward Hall.

 
Current Research Title: Privacy and Sharing in Online Social Communities
Online social communities such as Facebook, MySpace, and Flickr are experiencing tremendous user growth, with at least 84% of Internet user involvement. Users of these communities share large amounts of personal information to build stronger social relationships, yet put their privacy and identity at risk by their disclosures. We are investigating how people are sharing and protecting their information in online social communities in order to improve the privacy mechanisms and reduce the risks of participating while still maintaining the benefits of these communities.




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Celine Latulipe--Human Computer Interaction Lab

Current Research Title : Visual Feedback as Spatial Memory Cues in Digital Photo Manipulation

Description:
The symTone application allows people to edit digital photos using two hands (controlling two computer mice). The users control the position and size of a rectangle (the ToneZone) that is super-imposed over the photo. By adjusting the rectangle, the image is modified. I hypothesize that the rectangle acts in two ways: to facilitate motor coordination between the two hands and as a spatial memory cue during image exploration. The latter idea is that the rectangle acts as a memory cue so that while exploring possible image modifications the user can quickly return the rectangle to a configuration where the image looked good.

This project involves designing and running user studies to test this hypothesis by isolating the two effects of the ToneZone rectangle (the motor manipulation and the spatial memory cue effects).

  [More Information]
 


         Mark Faust - Cognitive Neuroscience & Control Processes
Mark's lab
 
The focus of the lab is the cognitive neuroscience and cognitive psychology of cognitive control processes that modulate the more specific processes employed in performing cognitive tasks.  For example, cognitive control processes might work to make the perceptual and linguistic processes involved in reading a word more efficient, or they might work to perform a mental reconfiguration of goals and strategies during a switch from one mental task to another.  The lab has a 40 channel EEG system for recording ERPs (event-related potentials that reflect the average brain electrical activity, as measured from outside the head, following presentation of a stimulus event), and 2 cognitive testing stations for measuring response times during performance of cognitive tasks.

One line of research in the lab involves examining the cognitive control processes that operate during a switch from one cognitive task to another.  The question of interest is the extent to which cognitive control processes can completely inhibit the processes associated with performance of the prior switched-from task.  We have developed a behavioral measure that assesses the extent to which aspects of the switched-from task have been inhibited and have conducted a series of experiments that measure response time and percent correct to examine this prior-task inhibition. We are looking forward to a new series of experiments that will assess ERPs during task switching.

Other recent lines of research in the lab have looked at cognitive control processes during the Stroop color naming task (assesses the ability to deal with conflicting information), meditation and cognitive control, and the role of cognitive control processes during preferential choice tasks (e.g., Do you prefer car A or car B?).The focus of the lab is the cognitive neuroscience and cognitive psychology of cognitive control processes that modulate the more specific processes employed in performing cognitive tasks.  For example, cognitive control processes might work to make the perceptual and linguistic processes involved in reading a word more efficient, or they might work to perform a mental reconfiguration of goals and strategies during a switch from one mental task to another.  The lab has a 40 channel EEG system for recording ERPs (event-related potentials that reflect the average brain electrical activity, as measured from outside the head, following presentation of a stimulus event), and 2 cognitive testing stations for measuring response times during performance of cognitive tasks.

One line of research in the lab involves examining the cognitive control processes that operate during a switch from one cognitive task to another.  The question of interest is the extent to which cognitive control processes can completely inhibit the processes associated with performance of the prior switched-from task.  We have developed a behavioral measure that assesses the extent to which aspects of the switched-from task have been inhibited and have conducted a series of experiments that measure response time and percent correct to examine this prior-task inhibition. We are looking forward to a new series of experiments that will assess ERPs during task switching.
Other recent lines of research in the lab have looked at cognitive control processes during the Stroop color naming task (assesses the ability to deal with conflicting information), meditation and cognitive control, and the role of cognitive control processes during preferential choice tasks (e.g., Do you prefer car A or car B?).   [More Information]

 

Mary Michael -Language Lab
Mary's Lab

My field is the psychology of language and my current research focuses on the relationship of individual differences in cognition with language processes, specifically in reading.
 
Ongoing project: Individual differences and reading comprehension.
The goal of this project is to understand the degree to which performance on different cognitive tasks including working memory is related to reading comprehension of more or less complex sentences.  Working memory and reading experience have both been suggested as possible sources of difference in reading ability. 

Upcoming project: Eye movements and reading complex sentences with and without context.
This project seeks to extend existing work on eye movements required for reading by relating the difficulties registered by eye-movements with other measures of cognition.
 

         Marvin Croy - Human Reasoning, Problem Solving, and Intelligent Tutoring
LogicLab
This project explores human reasoning and logical problem solving.  We investigate how people reason and we design experiments to test theories of rational thought.  We also ask how best to distinguish rational from irrational thinking, and about the relation to creative insight.  Some of the discoveries in this area are applied to the development of instructional computer programs for teaching Deductive Logic.  A number of component projects are involved, such as Interface Design, Error Identification, Student Modeling, Human Rationality, Automated Problem Solving, and Intelligent Tutoring.  Student efforts in learning logic within PHIL 2105 produce a continuous source of data and opportunities for developing and testing cognitive theories of reasoning.
          John Gero - Design Cognition Lab

gero

Design cognition is the study of the cognitive behavior of designers. Designers are people who carry out tasks to change the existing world by creating new products or processes. Designers include engineers, architects, industrial designers, software designers, hardware designers, game designers, interface designers and business process re-engineers. We study their design cognition primarily using protocol analysis and related experimental techniques. There is interest in linking physiological responses to design behavior.

Current research is funded by the National Science Foundation and includes projects that study the design cognition of: • High school students • Undergraduate engineering students • Professional engineers • Designers using digital tools • Software designers. Longitudinal studies compare the design cognition of high school students, undergraduate students at different stages in their education and professional designers. Computational models are used to study design processes based on empirical results from studying design cognition. Large-scale social behavior is studied using computational models founded on situated social cognitive agents. This research is funded by NASA and NSF and includes projects on: • Effect of social behavior of consumers on the design or products • Emergent blindspots in coverage as a consequence of teams with different cultures interacting.

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         Jane F. Gaultney - Sleep and School Performance
An emerging literature suggests that poor sleep in children has important consequences in terms of behavior and cognition.  The problem
goes beyond being sleepy; lack of sleep or poor quality of sleep may impact the development and functioning of the frontal cortex, thereby
impairing functions such as attention, impulsivity, planning, and learning.  Lost learning in children may impair not only their current
academic performance but continue to do so into the school years.  This project proposes to study sleep in children and its effect on their
physical, emotional/social, and cognitive readiness or performance.  We will assess sleep quality in children using a validated sleep
questionnaire filled out by a parent.  Physical development will be operationalized as body mass index (poor sleep is often associated with
under development or obesity).  Parents and teachers will complete checklists to assess the child's emotional, social, or cognitive
development.  The student may also collect individual data on the children.

Potential long-term effects of untreated sleep disorders are not trivial.  Some cognitive/behavioral/affective effects may not be
completely reversible.  Sleep-related deficits in learning may keep children from reaching their potential, may produce a mind set in
children similar to learned helplessness, and may lower the expectations of significant others in the child's life.  Sleep loss may produce
changes in experience-dependent cortical plasticity, concluding that sleep in a young organism may have an important impact on brain
development.  All of these possibilities argue for the diagnosis of sleep disorders as early in life as is possible, preferably before
beginning formal schooling.  

         

Dr. Levens and members of her lab examine emotion and executive control interactions that promote either adaptive or maladaptive behavior to give rise to resilience or pathology respectively. Research in the Levens Affective Cognitive Neuroscience Lab incorporates a combination of behavioral, lesion, neuroimaging, and behavioral-genetics methodologies to examine the biological and cognitive underpinnings of emotion processing and executive control. The lab utilizes working memory, attention and emotion processing tasks to assess cognitive processes and executive control.Common constructs assessed include mental health history, stress, depression and anxiety symptomatology, rumination, optimism, inhibitory control, emotion regulation, learning and emotional reactivity.

Dr. Levens is currently working with Dr. Weller in the Department of Bioinformatics to build a UNCC behavioral genetics database that examines the role of the serotonin and dopamine systems in development of adaptive and maladaptive behavior while adjusting to and attending college. As part of the project new UNCC freshman that sign up to participate will be assessed throughout their 4 years at UNCC. The goal of the project is to more fully understand the role of genes in behavior.