and Brain Sciences
Our TraditionSince its inception in 1888, our department has made countless impactful research contributions to our understanding of the psychological and brain sciences. Our rich tradition was documented by Eliot Hearst and alumnus James Capshew for the department's centennial celebration in 1988, and can be accessed here. Listed below are some of the most seminal research publications that originated in our department, and a brief description of the work's impact.
Short-term retention of individual verbal items
Widely cited in textbooks for decades, Lloyd and Margaret Peterson's investigation of forgetting remains one of the most compelling demonstrations of how information in short-term memory decays over time if rehearsal is prevented. Students were asked to remember short lists of three letters (such as CLX) while counting backwards, out loud, by threes (942... 939... 936..). The counting task prevented students from silently repeating the letters to themselves, and the Petersons were able to measure the time course of forgetting in the absence of rehearsal. After 10-15 seconds of counting backward, students were reduced to guessing the letters they'd been trying to remember.
A dynamic systems approach to the development of cognition and action
As its reviewers noted, "It would not be an exaggeration to say that this volume offers a revolutionary perspective on the development of cognition and action." With its publication, Esther Thelen and Linda Smith terminated the classic (Piagetian) view of teleological cognitive development, and dismantled the [then popular] idea that we develop in step-wise progress toward discrete milestones (learning to walk, learning to talk, etc.). In its place, they established a dynamic systems approach to development, wherein cognitive, neural, and muscular systems interact dynamically and self-organize to effectuate the cognitive phenomena that become evident throughout development.
Controlled and automatic human information processing: II. Perceptual learning, automatic attending and a general theory
Richard Shiffrin's two-process theory of human attention (with Walter Schneider) has been cited in many thousands of articles and remains a dominant model for our current understanding of the psychology of attention. The authors proposed a theoretical framework for the difference between controlled attention (when you're trying to focus on a task) and automaticity (when a task is performed without the need for focused attention), and presented a series of experiments in support of this functional dissociation. These experiments have become the basis for most current operationalizations of automaticity: When performing one task fails to interfere with performance on another task, then we'd say the the first task is automatic.
Attention, Similarity, and the Identification-Categorization Relationship
In this article, Professor Rob Nosofsky first proposed his "generalized context model" (GCM) of categorization, which has since become one of the most influential formal models in all of cognitive psychology. The model formalizes the idea that people represent categories by storing vast collections of individual exemplars of the categories in memory. Building upon classic theories in the areas of choice and similarity, the model explains relations between categorization and other fundamental cognitive processes, including object identification, old-new recognition memory, and the development of automaticity in tasks of skilled performance.
ALCOVE: An exemplar-based connectionist model of category learning
Imagine being shown apples of various colors and sizes and being told "this one's a Fuji," "this one's a McIntosh," and so on. You would soon learn that the color of an apple is important for correct categorization, but its size is not as important. People naturally learn to allocate attention to relevant features, even though there is no direct instruction about what features are relevant. Professor John Kruschke invented a mathematical model of how people learn to allocate attention. The model synthesized a line of neurally-inspired learning models with a line of behaviorally-inspired categorization models (created by another I.U. Professor, Rob Nosofsky; see above). The article has been cited more than a thousand times by researchers in diverse fields from artifical intelligence to neuroscience to social psychology.
Typologies of male batterers: Three subtypes and the differences among them
Intimate partner violence is a major health problem in the United States. Early studies compared violent to nonviolent men on a variety of variables, (e.g., psychological problems, lack of social skills, attitudes toward violence and women), trying to understand why some men use violence against their partners. But as the field progressed, it became clear that not all violent men are alike. In theory, considering differences and identifying subtypes of violent men could improve our understanding of violence (e.g., there may be different causes of different types of violence) and our intervention options (e.g., offering different programs targeted to each type of man). Professor Holtzworth-Munroe's paper (with Gregory Stuart) reviewed the existing batterer typologies, integrating that information to propose a new typology and a model for the development of each subtype of violent man. It changed the research field as it made evident the fact that we cannot consider all violent men to be the same.