My Research Interests

Whitman College

Psychology Department

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Comparative Psychology
As I see it, Comparative Psychology is really just a fancy term for acknowledging that the relevance of Psychology goes well beyond the species homo sapiens. The key underlying assumption is that brains and minds are subject to the same principles of Darwinian evolution that other organs and physical features are, and undergo the same kinds of gradual adaptations. Most of my research has been on pigeons and how their perceptual and memory abilities compare to those of other animals. This tells me some interesting things about pigeons, but more importantly, it also illuminates some general features of minds and brains outside of any species-specific context.

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Neuroscience
To me, some of the most fascinating questions in Psychology are physiological ones: How can complex actions can arise from the relatively simple functions of individual neurons? What is the relationship between the mental and physical worlds? I find that physiologically-based theories help me generate new ideas for my own comparative research.

Cognitive Psychology
One of my first interests in Psychology was the study of human language and thought. I still spend lots of time thinking about such things, and cognitive psychology has been fertile ground for new ideas in comparative and physiological psychology. I am specifically interested in memory and concept learning, especially where they overlap with my other areas of interest.

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