Laura A. Carlson
Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
- Associate Editor, Memory & Cognition
- Associate Editor, Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory & Cognition
- Secretary-Treasurer, Psychonomic Society
Dr. Carlson’s primary research interest is in spatial language and spatial cognition, using empirical, computational, and psychophysiological measures to investigate the way in which the objects and their spatial relations are encoded, represented and described. The particular focus is on spatial language, as exemplified by giving someone directions to a destination or telling someone where to find something. These types of utterances are interesting because often there are many different ways of providing the same information. For example, one can give directions using cardinal terms such as North ("go North for 5 blocks"), or using terms that are based on the person's whereabouts (go straight 1 block then turn right). Research in the lab explores the processes that underlie a speaker's decision about which type of direction to use and which types of landmarks to include, and in the consequences of that decision for the listener's comprehension.
A related line of research is in the area of visual cognition, examining the encoding of objects and their relations during perception. The particular focus is on how we construct a stable and seemingly continuous representation of the world despite the fact that the input from the world is discontinuous, due to breaks in perception due to blinks or moving one's eyes. Our inability to detect large changes that occur during such discontinuities disconfirm the strong intuition that we encode rich highly detailed information, and suggest instead that we remember only general information about the objects surrounding us, often discarding details such as color or size. The goal is to examine exactly what information is preserved across these discontinuities, and to determine how this information is represented.
Recent publications (*designates graduate student/postdoc; † designates undergraduate)