The members of the perception, memory, and cognition group at the University of Toronto are recognized world-wide for their contributions to the understanding of human information processing. The group is quite large, spanning areas of interest from the fundamentals of perception to large-scale models of memory and cognition. Yet, despite the size and diversity of the group, there is considerable interaction among group members and their graduate students. There are many opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration, and more informal interaction occurs at the weekly meetings of the Research Group in Perception and the Ebbinghaus Empire, a tradition for over 25 years.
Sensation and perception are basic concerns of area members. Researchers study visual and auditory and tactile perception, seeking to understand how the nervous system gathers and interprets information from the vast array of sensory stimulation that reaches us. Questions being addressed include the following. How do perceptual systems develop in early infancy (Patrick Bennett; Glenn Schellenberg; Mark Schmuckler; Bruce Schneider; Sandra Trehub)? What are the behavioural and physiological effects of aging on vision and audition (Claude Alain; Bennett; Randy McIntosh; Giampaolo Moraglia; Jay Pratt; Schneider; Allison Sekuler)? How do we efficiently measure sensory experience (Bennett; C. Douglas Creelman; Schneider; Sekuler)? What mechanisms underlie sound localization and speech processing (Schneider; Trehub)? How do attentive, experiential, and cognitive factors contribute to perception (Alain; John Kennedy; Moraglia; Schellenberg; Sekuler)? What are the special mechanisms for processing faces and objects (Morris Moscovitch; Sekuler)? What mechanisms underlie spatial vision (Bennett) and the visual perception of form and motion (Sekuler)? What can we learn about normal vision from how the congenitally blind interpret the world (Kennedy)? What is the nature of cognitive maps (Joan Foley)? What are the brain systems that mediate the interactions among sensory modalities (McIntosh)?
Memory has been a focal area of research at the University of Toronto for decades, and many fundamental ideas about memory are based on work that was initially done here. For example, the notion that we remember better that which we process more deeply grew out of work on "levels of processing" done at the University of Toronto (Fergus Craik; Robert Lockhart). The idea that retrieval of information from memory is highly dependent on the manner in which that information was originally encoded - the "encoding specificity principle" (Endel Tulving) - was also developed here. Currently, memory researchers are asking the following questions. How does already learned information affect the processing of new, incoming information (Steve Joordens; Colin MacLeod; Marilyn Smith)? What role does working memory play in complex information processing (Meredyth Daneman)? What can memory modelling tell us about how the human memory system works (Joordens; Bennet Murdock)? To what extent is there a general neural system supporting episodic memory functions and is its operation dependent on the specific task (McIntosh; Tulving; Craik)? Are there multiple memory systems, differing in the extent to which we are aware of their operation (Joordens; Lynn Hasher; Eyal Reingold; Moscovitch)? How does memory change with age (Craik; Cheryl Grady; Hasher; Moscovitch; Philip Zelazo)? What happens in the brain's functional organization that results in these age-related memory changes (Craik; McIntosh)? and What can we learn about memory from the losses suffered in amnesia (Moscovitch)? How does memory affect processes of attention (Joordens)? How does attention regulate memory (Hasher)?
Other aspects of cognition studied in the department include attention, reading, language, and problem solving. Here again are some representative questions. What is the structure of consciously controlled behaviour (Joordens; Zelazo)? How does automaticity develop and what role do automatic processes play in attentionial processing (Joordens; MacLeod)? What do studies of neglect in patients with brain damage tell us about attention in normal people (Moscovitch)? Is consciousness a physiological process in the brain (Kukla)? How do we selectively attend to specific locations and/or objects in the visual field (Bennett, Pratt, Sekuler)? What can monitoring eye-movements tell us about perception, attention and memory (Moscovitch; Pratt; Reingold)? What accounts for individual differences in reading ability and verbal intelligence (Hasher; Daneman)? What are the basic processes involved in the perception and cognition of music (Creelman; Schellenberg; Schmuckler; Trehub)? What is the import on cognitive psychology of research in artificial intelligence (Kukla)? What is insight and what role does it play in problem solving (Lockhart)? What can we learn about deliberate reasoning and intentional action by studying their development in children (Zelazo)? What processes are involved in interpreting graphically presented information (Ian Spence)? Are the laws of cognitive psychology universally valid, or do they hold true only in particular cultures and historical eras (Kukla)? What are some principles underlying human-computer interaction, and how can we improve it (Paul Muter)? Can we capture important aspects of cognition using powerful computer models like parallel distributed processing (Joordens)? What is the nature and status of theoretical analysis in psychology (Andre Kukla)?
Members of the Perception/Cognition group also carry out collaborative work with other groups in the department and in other departments as well. There are firm connections to the developmental, animal behaviour, and brain and behaviour groups, and the connections to social psychology are evolving. Links to computer science are continually growing with the increasing role of simulation in theorizing.
A large group of researchers study the effects of aging across the lifespan on perception, memory and cognition. There is also an active human factors group concerned with issues such as the cognitive limitations to complex real-world tasks, and a strong group in cognitive science. As well, neuropsychologists from around the city collaborate with group members to determine the implications of specific brain damage for normal perception, memory and cognition.
Applicants interested in research in Perception and Cognition may also be interested in
the Program in Neuroscience at the university. Enquiries may be directed to: Program in
Neuroscience, Tanz Building, 6 Queen's Park Cres. W., University of Toronto, Toronto,
Ontario M5S 1A8 or telephone 416/978-4894.
Claude Alain (University of Quebec at
Montreal) BAY, auditory perception, selective attention
Cheryl L. Grady (Boston University), BAY, aging, memory, brain imaging
A. Randal McIntosh (UTEXAS - Austin), BAY, learning & memory, brain imaging