What makes some decisions difficult and others so easy? Why does an individual sometimes stumble when reading some words, but not others? How does “practice make perfect”? Our laboratory studies skilled human performance as it is expressed in the context of both elementary and more complex cognitive activities. Examples of elementary cognitive acts include simple decision-making, pattern recognition, and skilled reading performance. Examples of more complex activities include the coordination of ongoing movements, incoming perceptual information, and existing knowledge to achieve goals in work-related contexts.
We rely on concepts, methods, and research tools derived from the science of complex systems. Complexity science refers to a broad collection of practical and theoretical research tools. Included are disciplines such as fractal geometry, the science of self-organizing physical systems, and results based on the the patterns and dynamics of nonlinear physical systems. The most general implication of complexity science for the study of psychology is the recognition that patterns of variability in cognition and action contain important clues to understanding how people coordinate their minds and bodies to achieve goals and interface with their immediate environments.
In addition to conventional training in psychological research, graduate students in our laboratory receive comprehensive training on the concepts, methods, and tools required to research cognition, perception, and action using tools from complexity science. Graduate training is supplied in conjunction with coursework and guidance from Psychology Department’s graduate faculty.
Undergraduate students that volunteer in our laboratory gain experience conducting and managing interactive, computer- and video-based laboratory studies. They learn how to organize and manage the information resulting from the studies. More experienced students receive training in conducting appropriate statistical analyses and understanding relevant background literature. These experiences are expected to enhance graduate school candidacy and much of what is learned is useful in the context of employment that relies on computer skills and critical thinking.
John (Jay) Holden
Department of Psychology
University of Cincinnati
PO Box 210376
Cincinnati, OH 45221-0376