In the Perception, Cognition, and Neuroscience Lab at Parkside, we investigate the psychological and neural mechanisms by which human listeners process auditory and visual information, including its perception, recognition, and encoding into memory. To this end, we combine methods from neuroscience and cognitive psychology to explore how the human brain processes information. We have many ongoing research investigations, such as an examination of the capacity and fidelity of visual and auditory memory, the plasticity of sensory and memory systems, the time-course of information extraction from auditory and visual objects, neural processing involved in actual and illusory perception, the perceptual consequences of covert attention, and the psychological consequences of exposure to a virtual reality environment.

Perceptual Errors in Natural Scene Perception

One ongoing research effort examines the perception of natural sounds, such as speech, music, clocks ticking, dogs barking, and even chickens squawking. Within this domain, our lab has examined perceptual errors by measuring change deafness, the remarkable inability of listeners to detect changes to auditory scenes. We have identified some of the critical causes of change deafness, including low-level sensory factors, higher-level cognitive factors, and the role of auditory memory.

Auditory Figure and Ground

One other ongoing line of research investigates the perceptual organization of auditory figure and ground. At any moment, the auditory environment will present many features — various frequency components, at various intensities, in various phase relations.  Sets of these features must be appropriately combined to achieve successful auditory object identification. The perceptual system seems to use a very clever mechanism to avoid the need to fully assign every feature to a sound source at every moment. It often selects a subset of the input for such detailed processing, with this selected portion constituting the perceptual “figure.” The remainder of the input is relegated to the perceptual “ground.”  Our lab explores both how listeners establish perceptual coherence in auditory figure, and what the fate is for auditory information that remains in ground.

Memory for Sounds

Our lab examines short- and long-term auditory memory for environmental sounds. Our research on memory for sounds has shown that the capacity of auditory memory depends on the nature of an individual’s experience.  We are currently exploring how plastic auditory memory is as a function of varying types of environmental experience.