Elizabeth Johnston

MA, St. Andrew’s University, Scotland. DPhil, Oxford University. Special interests in human perception of three-dimensional shape, binocular vision, and the perception of depth from motion; author of articles and book chapters on shape perception from stereopsis, sensorimotor integration, and combining depth information from different sources. SLC, 1992–

Undergraduate Courses 2017-2018

Psychology

Advanced Research Seminar

Intermediate , 3-credit seminar—Year

Permission of the instructor is required.

In this seminar, students will gain valuable research experience through a weekly meeting focused on research methods, research ethics, and contemporary research questions and approaches; a weekly lab meeting with one of the faculty members leading the research seminar; and individual and group conference meetings with faculty supervisors on a regular, as-needed basis. The seminar component will include readings on, and discussions of, research methods and ethics, both broad and specific to the research in which students are involved, as well as the discussion of contemporary research articles that are relevant to student and faculty research projects. All faculty and students involved in the research experience will take turns leading the discussion of current research, with faculty taking the lead at the beginning of the semester and students taking the lead as their expertise develops. Weekly lab meetings will also involve reading and discussing research articles and research methods in papers specific to the topics of research being undertaken by each student and faculty member. Students will be expected to learn the current research approaches being employed by their supervising faculty member, contribute toward ongoing research in the form of a research practicum, and develop and implement their own independent research projects within the labs in which they are working. Faculty supervising each lab will also be available to meet with students individually and in small groups on an ongoing basis, as needed, and at least every other week in addition to the regular weekly, hour-long lab meeting. Students participating in the Advanced Research Seminar will be expected to attend and actively participate in weekly full-group seminars, weekly lab meetings, and regular (typically, at least biweekly) individual and group conference meetings; keep an ongoing journal and/or scientific lab notebook; select and facilitate group and lab discussions of relevant contemporary research articles (at least once for each meeting type); work at least five hours within a lab and/or community setting, as appropriate for their projects; contribute toward ongoing research and practice within their lab or community setting; develop, implement, and report on (in the form of a short paper prepared for possible publication and a poster at the Natural Sciences and Mathematics Poster Session) an independent research project; and provide their colleagues with ongoing verbal and written feedback on their projects.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Art and Visual Perception

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak. —John Berger

Psychologists and neuroscientists have long been interested in measuring and explaining the phenomena of visual perception. In this course, we will study how the visual brain encodes basic aspects of perception—such as color, form, depth, motion, shape, and space—and how they are organized into coherent percepts or gestalts. Our main goal will be to explore how visual neuroscience and art-making can inform each other. One of our guides in these explorations will be the groundbreaking gestalt psychologist Rudolf Arnheim, who was a pioneer in the psychology of art. The more recent and equally innovative text by the neuroscientist Eric Kandel, Reductionism in Art and Brain Science, will provide our entry into the subject of neuroaesthetics. Throughout our visual journey, we will seek connections between perceptual phenomena and what is known about brain processing of visual information. This is a course for people who enjoy reflecting on why we see things as we do. It should hold particular interest for students of the visual arts who are curious about scientific explanations of the phenomena that they explore in their art, as well as students of the brain who want to study an application of visual neuroscience.

Faculty
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Graduate Courses

Child Development 2017-2018

Art and Visual Perception

Seminar—Spring

Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak. —John Berger

Psychologists and neuroscientists have long been interested in measuring and explaining the phenomena of visual perception. In this course, we will study how the visual brain encodes basic aspects of perception—such as color, form, depth, motion, shape, and space—and how they are organized into coherent percepts or gestalts. Our main goal will be to explore how visual neuroscience and art-making can inform each other. One of our guides in these explorations will be the groundbreaking gestalt psychologist Rudolf Arnheim, who was a pioneer in the psychology of art. The more recent and equally innovative text by the neuroscientist Eric Kandel, Reductionism in Art and Brain Science, will provide our entry into the subject of neuroaesthetics. Throughout our visual journey, we will seek connections between perceptual phenomena and what is known about brain processing of visual information. This is a course for people who enjoy reflecting on why we see things as we do. It should hold particular interest for students of the visual arts who are curious about scientific explanations of the phenomena that they explore in their art, as well as students of the brain who want to study an application of visual neuroscience.

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Previous Courses

Mindfulness: Neuroscientific and Psychological Perspectives

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

Mindfulness can be described as nonjudgmental attention to experiences in the present moment. For thousands of years, mindfulness has been cultivated through the practice of meditation. More recently, developments in neuroimaging technologies have allowed scientists to explore the brain changes that result from the pursuit of this ancient practice, laying the foundations of the new field of contemplative neuroscience. Study of the neurology of mindfulness meditation provides a useful lens for study of the brain in general, because so many aspects of psychological functioning are affected by the practice. Some of the topics that we will address are attention, perception, emotion and its regulation, mental imaging, habit, and consciousness. This is a good course for those interested in scientific study of the mind.

Faculty
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The Senses: Neuroscientific and Psychological Perspectives

Open , Seminar—Fall

The perceiving mind is an incarnated mind. —Maurice Merleau-Ponty, 1964

A great deal of brain activity is devoted to the processing of sensory information from both the outside and the inside of the body. Although, following Aristotle, we traditionally conceive of the senses as five discrete systems, they are more various and interconnected than this view suggests: What we call “taste” is a multisensory construction of “flavor” that relies heavily on “smell.” “Vision” refers to a set of semi-independent streams that specialize in the processing of color, object identity, or spatial layout. “Touch” encompasses a complex system of responses to different types of contact with the largest sensory organ, the skin. And “hearing” includes aspects of perception that are thought to be quintessentially human—music and language. Many other sensations—the sense of balance, the sense of body position (proprioception), feelings of pain arising from within the body, and feelings of heat or cold—are not covered by the standard five. Perceptual psychologists have suggested that the total count is closer to 17 than five. We will investigate all of these senses, their interactions with each other, and their intimate relationships with human emotions. Some of the questions that we will address are: Why are smells such potent memory triggers? What can visual art tell us about how the brain works and vice versa? Why is a caregiver’s touch so vital for psychological development? Why do foods that taste sublime to some people evoke feelings of disgust in others? Do humans have a poor sense of smell? Why does the word “feeling” refer to both bodily sensations and emotions? What makes a song “catchy” or “sticky”? Can humans learn to echolocate like bats? This is a good course for artists who like to think about science and for scientists with a feeling for art. All class members will have the opportunity to participate in sensory research in small group lab sessions.

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Memory Research Seminar

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

Some previous coursework in psychology is required.

The experimental study of remembering has been a vital part of psychology since the beginning of the discipline. The most productive experimental approach to this subject has been a matter of intense debate and controversy. The disputes have centered on the relationship between the forms of memory studied in the laboratory and the uses of memory in everyday life. We will engage this debate through the study of extraordinary memories, autobiographical memories, the role of visual imagery in memory, accuracy of memory, expertise, eyewitness testimony, metaphors of memory, and the anatomy of memory. Frederic Bartlett’s constructive theory of memory will form the theoretical backbone of the course. Most conference work will involve experimental explorations of memory.

Faculty
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Art and Visual Perception

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

“Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak.” —John Berger

Psychologists and neuroscientists have long been interested in measuring and explaining the phenomena of visual perception. In this course, we will study how the visual brain encodes basic aspects of perception—such as color, form, depth, motion, shape, and space—and how they are organized into coherent percepts or gestalts. Our main goal will be to explore how the study of visual neuroscience and art can inform each other. One of our guides in these explorations will be groundbreaking gestalt psychologist Rudolf Arnheim, who was a pioneer in the psychology of art. The more recent and equally innovative text by neuroscientist Eric Kandel, The Age of Insight, will provide our entry into the subject of neuroaesthetics. Throughout our visual journey, we will seek connections between perceptual phenomena and what is known about brain processing of visual information. This is a course for people who enjoy reflecting on why we see things as we do. It should hold particular interest for students of the visual arts who are curious about scientific explanations of the phenomena that they explore in their art, as well as for students of the brain who want to study an application of visual neuroscience.

Faculty

First-Year Studies: Brains, Minds, and Bodies: Neuropsychological Narratives

Open , FYS

Neuropsychology explores notions of self, memory, sensory perception, language, consciousness, and mind-body interactions through study of cases of the breakdown, hyperdevelopment, or recovery of mental function. In this course, we will draw upon a mixture of neuropsychological case studies, scientific research papers, neuroscience texts, novels, and memoirs to investigate current understandings of minds, brains, and bodies, along with the connections between and among them. The case studies address conditions such as agnosia, amnesia, synesthesia, aphasia, autism, and other alterations in consciousness that arise from brain damage or variations in brain development. Narrative refers to the narrative accounts of neurologists but also to the view of the human brain as primarily a storyteller. A third sense of the term narrative will be invoked in our reading of current fiction and memoirs that incorporate neuropsychological material. This course is designed for students interested in the intersections of science and art. Throughout the year, we will also study the concept of mindfulness and the rapidly expanding literature on the way its practice can affect the brain, mind, and body.

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