Core Cognitive Science Faculty
Problem solving comes in many forms. When thinking about problem solving, the first thing that comes to mind may be a math problem, such as one might find in an algebra class. Others may think of reasoning problems, where the goal is to figure out patterns and relationships to finish a sequence or solve a puzzle. Still others may think of creative problems – situations or riddles with no obvious solution. Each of these problems seems to draw upon different processes in order to reach a solution, and people vary considerably in their ability to solve each type. The goal of my research is to understand not only the processes underlying successful problem solving, but also to determine why individuals differ in their ability to succeed on problem solving tasks.
The Attention, Reasoning, and Creativity (ARC) Lab explores several types of problem solving, including analytic (as one might see on an intelligence test), creative, and mathematical. Much of this work is conducted through the lens of individual differences, focusing particularly on working memory capacity and attention. In particular, our work has focused on the specific processes and strategies required to solve different kinds of problems, and how working memory capacity and attention both aid and hinder those processes.
Research in our lab focuses on two main areas. The first line of research seeks to understand how people solve complex problems especially when the problem requires the generation of novel or creative solutions. The second line of research in the lab involves examining the neural correlates of employing effective learning and training strategies. For both of these lines of research, we use neuroimaging tools to understand how these cognitive processes work.
What happens in the brain when we see a picture or hear a sound? The truth is that we don’t really know. If we understood these processes, we would be able to build machines that could do the sorts of things that humans are capable of. However, our best computers cannot perform even the simplest tasks that we do effortlessly every day, such as recognizing a face in a crowd, or understanding what a person is saying in a room full of people talking. What we do know is that your eyes are not like a camera and your ears are not like a microphone – Human perception is much more complex and interesting than that.
In the Perceptual and Cognitive Neuroscience Lab (PCN) we study people’s behavior and their brain activity, in an effort to better understand how the human brain is so good at perceiving, remembering, and later recognizing information in the world.
Related Cognitive Science Faculty
Dr. Cindy Bethel: Department of Computer Science & Engineering; Director of the Social, Therapeutic, and Robotic Systems (STaRS) Lab
Dr. John Bickle: Department of Philosophy and Religion
Dr. Daniel Carruth: Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems (CAVS); Human Factors and Ergonomics Research Group
Dr. Teena Garrison: Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems (CAVS)
Dr. Wendy Herd: Department of English
Dr. Ed Swan: Department of Computer Science and Engineering; CAVS
Dr. Robert Thompson: Department of Philosophy and Religion