Western Kentucky University

Department of Psychology


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Faculty - Center for the Study of Lifespan Development

Dr. W. Pitt Derryberry, Department of Psychology REST Laboratory. Dr. Derryberry’s research interests are in socio-cognitive development in adolescence and adulthood with particular emphases on moral judgment development and development of self-understanding.

Dr. Elizabeth Lemerise, Department of Psychology Social Development Laboratory. The primary focus of Dr. Lemerise’s research is an examination of the contribution of emotion processes to children’s thinking about problematic social situations. A variety of emotion processes are being studied. For example, recently she found that children’s moods (from mood induction procedures) influence their goals for problematic situations and that children who are rejected and aggressive appear to be more affected by these moods. She has also found that experimentally manipulated emotion cues influence the social cognitive judgments made (attribution of intent, social problem solving responses) about problematic situations. Research planned for the next few years will examine: a) contextual effects on children’s understanding of the emotional consequences of victimization for victims and victimizers; b) the effect of provocateurs’ emotion cues on children’s social goals for ambiguous provocation situations; and c) the effects of mood on children’s social information processing (cue detection, attribution of intent, social problem solving responses) of ambiguous provocation situations.

Dr. Kelly Madole, Department of Psychology Infant Cognition Lab. Dr. Madole is interested in the development of categorization and how this ability allows children to make inferences about unfamiliar objects or people. Dr. Madole is conducting research in two major areas. First, she has been exploring developmental changes in the way infants and young children categorize artifacts and natural objects. The focus of this work has been to describe the development of attention to the functions of objects and to the relationship between an object's function and its form. Her work has shown that infants attend to functional characteristics (how an object behaves, or what can be done with an object) by early in the second year of life, and that attention to functional properties changes the way infants categorize objects. Second, she has been exploring the early development of social categorization, with a focus on when young children attend to and make use of social categories, such as gender and race. The goal of this research is to understand how the particular social categories that are important to adults develop in infancy, early childhood, and beyond.

Dr. Sharon Mutter, Department of Psychology Cognition Laboratory. Prior studies of older adults' contingency learning and judgment conducted in Dr. Mutter’s laboratory have yielded several interesting findings. For example, older adults acquire less accurate information about the frequency or probability of co-occurrence of two events and they adopt simpler rules for integrating this information during contingency judgment; older adults' memory for event co-occurrence is more disrupted by competing demands for attentional resources during acquisition of contingency information; and pre-existing expectancies of event co-occurrence lead to more persistent biases in older adults' memory and judgment. Dr. Mutter’s current research program seeks to more fully characterize the extent of these changes in older adults' contingency learning and judgment within the context of current theories of cognitive aging. For example, one theory of cognitive aging suggests that declines in working memory resources should limit older adults ability to acquire and retrieve new contingency information; another theory suggests that older adults may suffer losses primarily in the ability to voluntarily or deliberately recollect new contingency information, and a third theory suggests that older adults should be less able to inhibit the intrusion of well-learned, but irrelevant information into their memory for contingency information.

Dr. Farley Norman, Department of Psychology Gustav Fechner Perception Laboratory.  Dr. Norman’s research focuses on how human observers (young or old) perceive the 3-dimensional shape of environmental objects from various types of optical information, including shading, texture, binocular disparity, and motion. Psychophysical methodologies are used in an effort to determine the qualitative and quantitative nature of observers perceptual representations of 3-D shape. This research also attempts to identify the specific aspects of optical patterns that are used by the human visual system in its calculation of shape. The experiments conducted in Dr. Norman’s laboratory utilize 3-dimensional surfaces and objects that are generated using sophisticated computer graphics techniques.

 Last Modified 7/23/13