Cognition, Brain, and Behavior

Area Director: Jessica Payne


Faculty and students in the Cognition, Brain, and Behavior area study a broad range of human cognitive abilities and the factors that influence them. Traditional behavioral measures of human performance are coupled with eyetracking, computational modeling, virtual reality, measures of brain activity, pharmacological, and neuropsychological methods. 

These diverse interests and approaches result in natural collaborations with faculty in each of our psychology programs as well other departments including biology, computer science, and engineering.



(Brockmole, Carlson, Crowell, Gibson, Villano). Our research on attention broadly addresses the personal, environmental, and situational factors that influence what we attend to and what we ignore. Specific topics of study include:

  • Stimulus-driven and goal-directed attentional control
  • Object- and space-based allocation of attention
  • Selective, divided, and cross-modal attention
  • Temporal parameters of attention
  • Interface of attention, memory, and reasoning
  • Attention deficits in clinical diagnoses such as ADHD, depression, ASD, and dyslexia 


(Crowell, Eberhard, McNeil). Our research on learning focuses on the factors that affect the acquisition of knowledge and/or skills. Specific topics of study include:

  • Statistical and associative learning
  • First and second language comprehension
  • Development of mathematical concepts and numerical representation  
  • Efficacy of classroom learning methods and procedures


 (Brockmole, Carlson, Gibson, Koen, McNeil, Payne, Radvansky, Rose, Valentino). Our research on memory focuses on the factors that determine how difficult it is to learn about and remember information.  Specific topics of study include:

  • Working memory representation
  • Long-term memory consolidation
  • Memory for objects, scenes, environments, and events
  • Influences of sleep, emotion, and stress on memory  
  • Autobiographical memory in typically and atypically developing children


(Carlson, Eberhard). Our research on language focuses on both the production and comprehension of speech. Specific interests include:

  • Development of grammatical competence in both children and second language learners
  • Coordination of face-to-face and remote conversations
  • Use of language to describe real, virtual, imagined, and remembered environments
  • Communication deficits that characterize neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder.

Visual and Spatial Cognition

(Brockmole, Carlson, Gibson, Payne). Our research on visual and spatial cognition focuses on the way attention and memory are used to construct mental representations of visual displays, including real-world environments. Specific interests include:

  • Factors affecting the deployment of attention through visual displays
  • Acquisition and retention of information about objects and scenes
  • Spatial language, reference frames, reasoning, and navigation
  • Visual representation in normal and abnormal development
  • The effect of emotions in constructing mental representations of visual environments
  • Imitation of perceived behavior in various action contexts
  • Embodied aspects of visual processing

Cognitive Development and Aging

(Brockmole, Carlson, Gibson, Koen, McNeil, Narvaez, Rose, Valentino). Our research on the developmental aspects of cognition covers the lifespan from infancy to old age. Specific topics of study include:

  • Development of language in infants and toddlers
  • Development of numerical competency
  • Changes in memory abilities as a result of normal aging
  • Cognitive weaknesses associated with clinical disorders
  • Influences of maltreatment on memory and executive function in children
  • Development of moral reasoning and moral intelligence

Emotion, Affect, and Cognition 

(Crowell, Narvaez Payne, Valentino, Villano). Our research on affective cognition ranges from the basic mechanisms of emotion to affective disorders. Specific topics of study include:

  • Physiology of emotion and effects of stress hormones on brain function and behavior
  • Relationship between emotion and learning
  • Processing of facial expressions, speech, language, and body movements
  • Development of computer systems that detect, respond to, and synthesize emotions
  • Child maltreatment and cognitive development
  • Parenting and the development of moral and social cognition

Applied Cognition

(Carlson, Crowell, Eberhard, Koen, Rose, Villano). Our research in applied aspects of cognitive research focuses on clinical and engineering applications of basic research.  Specific topics of interest include:

  • Artificial intelligence and intelligent tutoring systems
  • Speech recognition systems
  • Human-computer interaction
  • Human-robot interaction in clinical settings
  • Interactive gaming and robotic devices in stroke and brain trauma rehabilitation