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Perception & Psychophysiology Lab

Led by Dr. Ian Harrington

In my lab we're interested in exploring the relationship between psychological experience and its underlying biological bases. The guiding principal of the lab is that organisms do things-and humans are no exception-because their brains do things. In true liberal arts fashion, the methods we use in the lab are as diverse as the questions we ask. No topic is off-limits so long as it has the potential to tell us something interesting about human behavior and the brains that make it possible.

Past Projects: When the lab began in 2005 we were using psychophysical techniques to study aspects of auditory perception. In particular, we studied the abilities of human listeners to resolve aspects of the timing of sounds presented to one or both ears. Our rationale was that we could learn something about how the brain makes normal auditory perception possible by studying how it behaves under conditions that it would never experience naturally (e.g., hearing one sound entirely in the left ear followed after a delay by a second sound entirely in the right ear).

Current Projects: More recently we have shifted our attention toward understanding how people respond psychologically and physiologically under a variety of experimental conditions. For example, certain musical distortions (e.g., the tritone or "Devil's interval") have been shown to affect the emotional state of the listener and we have looked for changes in electroencephalographic (EEG) activity that might parallel these emotional changes. Another exploratory project looked at changes in the EEG power distribution in a student who was completing a 10-week-long introduction to Zen meditation. Most recently, we have begun asking questions in the emerging area of neurophilosophy related to empathy and moral reasoning. Specifically, for the study of empathy, we have been recording electrodermal activity (a measure of autonomic arousal used in lie detection) while participants view pictures of others in uncomfortable circumstances (e.g., a foot about to step on broken glass), and will attempt to relate individual differences in physiological arousal to subjective ratings of empathetic pain and standard personality measures. For the study of moral reasoning, we are interested in how people negotiate a variety of dilemmas, and in the effects their reasoning behavior has on their physiological arousal or, perhaps just as likely, what effects their physiological arousal has on their reasoning behavior.

Student Lab Presentations:
Bychowski, M. E., Day, C. G., Thamilavel, S. & Gillespie, Y. L. (2006). Mind the gap: Within- and between-channel gap detection by human listeners. Poster presented at Celebration of Learning, Augustana College.

Clinton, J. A., Murphy, R. C., Bowling, P. J., Albrecht, K. M., Thamilavel, S., Kaseeska, K. R., & Steed, A- .J. (2007). In one ear, then in the other: Effects of stimulus bandwidth on between-channel gap-detection abilities. Poster presented at Celebration of Learning, Augustana College.

Steed, A-. J., Kaseeska, K. R., Thamilavel, S., Albrecht, K. M., Bowling, P. J., Murphy, R. C., & Clinton, J. A. (2007). What's sex got to do with it? Sex differences in between-channel gap-detection abilities. Poster presented at Celebration of Learning, Augustana College.

Clinton, J. A., Bowling, P. J., & Steed, A-.J. (2007). Between-channel gap detection in naïve listeners: Sex differences. Poster presented at Tri-State Undergraduate Psychology Research Conference, Rockford College, Rockford, IL.

Bowling, P. J., Clinton, J. A., & Steed, A.-J. (2008). Between-channel gap detection: Effects of stimulus properties, sex, and listener experience. Poster presented at MidBrains Undergraduate Neuroscience Conference, Macalester College, St. Paul, MN.

Clinton, J.A., Bowling, P.J., Steed, A-J, Wissing, K., Crawford, T., Lenz, K., Russell, C., & White, W. (2008). Perceptions of binaural auditory continuity. Poster presented at MidBrains Undergraduate Neuroscience Conference, Macalester College, St. Paul, MN.

Monson, S. (2008). The benefit of visual cues to speech perception. Communication Sciences and Disorders capstone project presented at Celebration of Learning, Augustana College.

White, W. (2008). High-frequency auditory sensitivity in college students. Poster presented at Celebration of Learning, Augustana College.

Moore, H. A., Bowling, P. J., & Clinton, J. A. (2008). The relationship between dichotic continuity and between-ear gap detection. Poster presented at Tri-State Undergraduate Psychology Research Conference, University of Wisconsin, Platteville, Platteville, WI.

Masters, M. A. (2009). Discriminating the durations of sound intervals presented to one or both ears. Poster presented at Tri-State Undergraduate Psychology Research Conference, Augustana College, Rock Island, IL.

Musolf, A. L. (2010). Central masking of perceptual discontinuities between dichotic sequences of noise bursts. Poster presented at Celebration of Learning, Augustana College.

Musolf, A. L., Masters, M. A., & Devore, J. (2010). Do duration discrimination thresholds reflect the temporal (in)fidelity of dichotic listening mechanisms? Poster presented at Celebration of Learning, Augustana College.

Fisher, C. (2010). Zen meditation training induced changes in electroencephalographic measures of brain activity: A preliminary case report. Poster presented at Celebration of Learning, Augustana College.

Carlson, J., Wilkinson, M., & Wiese, P. J. (2011). Electrophysiological correlates of musical dissonance and harmonic complexity: Preliminary findings. Poster presented at MidBrains Undergraduate Neuroscience Conference, St. Olaf College, Northfield, MN.

Lab Alumni:
Meaghan E. Bychowski ('06), PhD candidate, University of Wisconsin - Madison.
Peter J. Bowling ('09), MA in Science and Technology Studies, University of Chicago.
Jim A. Clinton ('09), MA in Cognitive and Behavioral Sciences, Illinois State University ('11), PhD candidate, Northern Illinois University.