The Psychology Department concentrates in five areas of academic specialization.

Behavioral Neuroscience

Cognitive Neuroscience

Developmental Psychology

Quantitative Psychology

Social Psychology

Area Contact: Gorica Petrovich—Neurobiology of motivation and feeding behavior; functional organization of the brain systems mediating environmental control of food intake, specifically interactions between the amygdala, prefrontal cortex, and hypothalamus; modulation of hunger and satiety mechanisms by learning and stress.

John Christianson—The focus of John Christianson's research is to determine how stress interacts with the neural systems that permit individuals to adapt to potentially dangerous and changing environments. The current emphasis is on the neural mechanisms that underly safety learning. The laboratory employs a multidisciplinary approach to study brain circuits and behavior including sophisticated behavioral paradigms, electrophysiology and optogenetics. The overall goal is to provide new insight into the organization of the brain and behavior and improve treatment for psychological illness.

Michael McDannald—Neural circuits in associative learning; neural basis for predicting the presence and absence of aversive events and how adverse experience early in life alter these predictive abilities in adulthood, focusing on interactions between monoaminergic systems, the amygdala and ventral striatum; common neural encoding of the presence of rewards and the absence of aversive events.


For information on the Neuroscience Ph.D. track, see this description in the Graduate Program Handbook.

Area Contact: Scott Slotnick—Cognitive Neuroscience: Neural mechanisms of visual memory; control regions and sensory effects associated with retrieval of visual memories; subjective experience during memory retrieval; cortical substrates associated with visual feature-based perception/attention.

Hiram Brownell—Cognitive neuropsychology: how injury to various parts of the brain can selectively impair linguistic and cognitive ability; language: theory of mind, discourse, narrative, and lexical semantics; methodology.

Elizabeth Kensinger—Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience: The effect of emotional content on memory; specifically, the cognitive and neural mechanisms through which emotion influences the vividness and accuracy of memory, and how these influences change across the adult lifespan; research questions are investigated through behavioral testing of young and older adults and functional neuroimaging (fMRI).

Sean MacEvoy—Human visual neuroscience, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and psychophysics; neural mechanisms of form perception and object recognition; perceptual learning; functional organization of the human visual cortex. History of neuroscience.

Maureen Ritchey—Neuroscience of human memory: functional organization of the medial temporal lobes; effects of emotional arousal and other modulatory states on memory processes; memory consolidation; context representation and its influence on memory-guided behavior. Neuroimaging methods including fMRI and EEG: multi-voxel pattern analysis; functional connectivity; time-frequency analyses.

Joseph Tecce—Psychophysiology of health, including body languages as indicators of emotions and stress and cognitive-behavioral methods to control stress.


For information on the Neuroscience Ph.D. track, see this description in the Graduate Program Handbook.

Area Contact: Karen Rosen—Social and emotional development during infancy and early childhood; parent-child attachment relationships; sibling relationships.

Sara Cordes—Infant, child, and adult cognition. Preverbal and verbal representations of number, space, and time. Children's early counting acquisition and understanding of mathematical concepts. Music cognition and perception. Psychophysics of quantity perception. Learning throughout the lifespan. Influences of language and context on learning, discrimination, and decision-making.

Joshua Hartshorne—Language can be used to move thoughts between minds, even those separated by considerable distance or time. The speaker takes a thought, packages it up into a series of sounds (or gestures), from which the listener must recover the original thought. This alone would be an impressive feat difficult for science to explain. My interest is in explaining how children learn these procedures. To do this, I combine laboratory studies, Internet-enabled "big data" research, and computational modeling.

Katherine McAuliffe—The development and evolution of cooperation. Katherine's primary research investigates how children develop an understanding of the norms governing cooperation and a willingness to enforce them. Her work on children is situated within a broader cross-cultural and comparative context that seeks to understand how and why the cognition supporting cooperation evolved.

Michael Moore—Children's participation in organized sport: parent-child interactions, emotional development; Cognitive development: memory organization, children's understanding of the "rules of the game," automatic processing.

Ellen Winner—Developmental psychology of the arts in typical and gifted children; cognition and learning in the arts; transfer of learning from arts to non-arts learning.

Area Contact: Ehri Ryu—Quantitative Psychology: multilevel modeling; model fit assessment in multilevel structural equation modeling; two approaches to analyzing multivariate multilevel data; longitudinal data analysis.

Hao Wu—Quantitative Psychology: Hao Wu's research interest lies in the evaluation of statistical models in psychology. Relying on tools such as classical asymptotic theories, Bayesian statistics and information theoretic methodologies, he is particularly interested in issues such as how to compare multiple statistical models, how to account for the fact that models are not exactly true in reality, and how to handle nonlinear relations or non-normal distributions.

The Quantitative area provides statistical consultation to members of the department through the Statistical consulting committee. The Statistical consulting committee provides faculty and graduate students in the department with consultation on statistical issues in data analysis and research design. Currently, the committee consists of Ehri Ryu (Chair), Hiram Brownell, Sean MacEvoy, and Scott Slotnick. Click here for more information.

Area Contact: James Russell—Emotion. The expression and recognition of emotion through faces. Children's understanding of emotion and the development of emotional experience. Cultural influences on emotion. The distinction between mood and emotion and scientific taxonomies of each.

Donnah Canavan—Effects of shared enthusiasm; the development of individual differences: fear of success, healthy, and conventional orientations to success; psychological separateness and narcissism; psychology of self-esteem and of adult children of alcoholics.

Liane Young—Moral Psychology and Neuroscience. The role of theory of mind in moral judgment. Moral emotions. Cultural and individual differences in moral cognition. Moral judgment versus moral behavior. Motivated moral reasoning. Conceptions of the self and free will. The research employs methods of social psychology and cognitive neuroscience: functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), studying patient populations with selective cognitive deficits, and modulating activity in specific brain regions using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).