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:

Carlson, L. A., Hölscher, C., Shipley, T. F., & Conroy Dalton, R. (in press). Getting Lost in Buildings.  Current Directions in Psychological Science.

Carlson, L. A., Hoffman, J., & Newcombe, N. (2010).  Introduction to the Special Section on Spatial Reference Frames: Examining what and how information is encoded through the integration of cognitive, behavorial, and neuroscience approaches.  Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory & Cognition, 36, 573-575.

Carlson, L. A. (2010).  Top-down and bottom-up processing. In B. Goldstein (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Perception, Sage.

Carlson, L. A. Parsing space around objects (2010). In V. Evans & P. Chilton (Eds.).  Language, Cognition, and Space: The state of the art and new directions. Advances in Cognitive Linguistics Series, Equinox Publishers.

Carlson, L. A. (2010).  Encoding space in spatial language. Spatial Foundations of Cognition and Language (p. 157-187) (Eds, K. S. Mix,  L. B. Smith & M. Graesser), Language and Space Series (General Editor, E. van der Zee), Oxford University Press.

Carlson, L. A. & *Hill, P. L. (2009). Formulating spatial descriptions across various dialogue contexts (pg. 89-103).  In K. Coventry, T. Tenbrink,  & J. Bateman (Eds.).  Spatial language and Dialogue, Language and Space Series, Oxford University Press.

Carlson, L.A. & Hill, P. L. (2008). Processing the presence, placement and properties of a distractor in spatial language tasks. Memory & Cognition, 36, 240 - 255.

Carlson, L. A. & Van Deman, S. (2008). Inhibition within a reference frame during the interpretation of spatial language. Cognition, 106, 384-407.

Ashley, A. & Carlson, L. (2007). Interpreting proximity terms involves computing distance and direction. Language and Cognitive Processes, 22,1021-1044.
West, R. L., Carlson, L. A., & Cohen, A-L. (2007). What the eyes can tell us about prospective memory. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 64, 269-277.

View Curriculum Vitae (PDF)

Contact Information
Office: 119D Haggar Hall
Notre Dame, Indiana 46556
Phone: (574) 631-6511