Research

The Department of Psychology is composed of 16 full-time faculty members, most of whom maintain active research laboratories in their specialties. Strong research specializations within the department are provided in animal learning & cognition, clinical, developmental, human cognition, human factors, organizational, perception, personality, physiological, and social psychology.

In the area of cognitive neuroscience, Dr. Diego Fernandez-Duque is interested in cognitive and social neuroscience. Within cognitive neuroscience, he studies how different aspects of attention change due to aging, dementia, and stroke. Within social neuroscience, he studies empathy, theory of mind, and metacognition in brain-injured and aging populations, as well as in healthy young adults.  Dr. Irene Kan uses behavioral, neuropsychological and electrophysiological approaches to examine the cognitive architecture and neural bases of human memory.  Research in her lab investigates how different memory systems complement and support each other.  Work in her lab also evaluates the role of the frontal executive system in memory retrieval. 
Faculty Members Listed Elsewhere on This Page with Interests in this Area:  Brown, Folk, Long, Toppino

In the general area of cognitive psychology and human factors, Dr. Charles Folk has been studying the nature of visual distractibility. What kinds of events "capture" attention and to what degree is such "capture" under voluntary control? The outcome of his work has important implications for applied settings such as aircraft cockpits as well as for theoretical models of selective attention. Dr. Thomas Toppino investigates human cognitive processes and the development of these processes in children. Most recently, he has studied fundamental factors underlying the effects of repetition and order of presentation in learning and memory. He also investigates the relationship between sensory and higher cognitive processes in visual perception, focusing especially on factors affecting the perception of ambiguous patterns.
Facultly Members Listed Elsewhere on This Page with Interests in this Area:  Blewitt, Brand, Brown, Kendzierski, Long, Fernandez-Duque, Kan

In the areas of comparative cognition and behavioral neuroscience, Dr. Michael Brown's laboratory has been concerned with understanding basic cognitive processes by studying the behavior of non-human animals. Most recently, this research has centered on spatial abilities and decision processes in rats and spatial memory in honey bees. Dr. Matthew Matell is interested in the cognitive and neural mechanisms underlying the perception of time and sequence. Primary techniques include ensemble electrophysiological recordings, pharmacology, and lesion techniques in rats, with a current focus on the role of cortical-striatal-thalamic interactions. Computational models of timing are also being developed.

In related work in developmental psychology, Dr. Pamela Blewitt's program weaves together several research strands concerned with children's learning of words and their knowledge of hierarchical relationships among words. Some of her studies of language acquisition explore the ability to define words by placing them into superordinate categories and the ability to draw inferences from categorical hierarchies. Dr. Rebecca Brand is interested in infants' knowledge acquisition across several domains. In the language domain, she has recently been investigating the development of inhibitory control and its role in early vocabulary development. In the action domain, she has been investigating the specialized action adults present toward infants ("motionese") and its role in infants' understanding of new action sequences.
Faculty Members Listed Elsewhere on This Page with Interests in this Area:  Bush

Dr. David Bush works in the area of organizational psychology.  He investigates gender differences in work-related issues such as gender steriotyping of jobs, performance appraisal, compensation, and negotiating strategies.  He also conducts research on organizational changes related to down-sizing and reorganization and their consequences for the organizational culture.

In the areas of social and personality psychology, Dr. Deborah Kendzierski's social psychology research program focuses on the links between intentions and behavior in the context of adherence to health-behavior regimens. She is interested in the role of self-concept in linking intentions and such health behaviors as exercising and dieting.  Dr. Erica Slotter's research interests lie at the intersection of the self and social relationships.  Broadly speaking, she is interested in how we think about who we are as individuals in the context of close interpersonal bonds.  Specifically, how do our self-views change-or stay the same-as a function of the experiences we have and motivations we possess in our close relationships?  She is also interested in this question from the reverse perspective:  how do our self-views influence how we think, feel, and behave in our relationships?  Dr. Patrick Markey’s research program is focused on two broad issues: How people differ and if these differences are related to how they actually behave. Much of this research has related personality attributes to behaviors in diverse contexts, including Internet chat rooms, marital interactions, face-to-face communications among college students, and interactions between preadolescent children and their mothers. Dr. Steven Krauss examines normal and disordered mood expression and personality across cultures. He also investigates the relationships between values, moral reasoning, relationship models, and individualism/collectivism from a cross-cultural perspective. Dr. John Kurtz studies issues and techniques related to psychological assessment and the diagnosis of mental disorders. His recent research is concerned with factors related to change versus stability in personality traits during adulthood and the use of informants in personality assessment.

Dr. Gerald Long works in the area of visual perception.  He has focused on the validity and reliability of various visual assessment tasks that are often used to screen our visual abilities, including color vision, contrast sensitivity, and dynamic visual acuity. Another productive line of research has involved examination of the processes underlying certain classes of visual illusions. These illusions have proven to be useful research tools in identifying sensory and cognitive effects in perception.
Faculty Members Listed Elsewhere on This Page with Interests in this Area:  Folk

 

Our Research Faculty

The psychology faculty has maintained a consistently strong record for productivity and scholarly research. During a recent three-year period, 77 journal articles, 14 book chapters, 3 books, and 58 convention presentations emerged from the psychology department. Very importantly, graduate students frequently co-author the research published by their mentors, thereby enhancing their graduate education and preparation for a top-quality doctoral program. In a study published in Professional Psychology Research and Practice (Vol. 21, pp. 33-36) Villanova's Master's program in psychology was ranked among the top 10 M.S.-only granting departments (95th percentile) in the USA and Canada with regard to research productivity. Several of our faculty hold or have obtained research grants from various government agencies (e.g., National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health, and NASA).