Michael Brown, PhD, focuses his research on understanding basic cognitive processes by studying the behavior of nonhuman animals. Most recently, this research has centered on spatial cognition, social cognition and decision processes in rats, bees and fish. Dr. Brown and two master’s alumnae have a paper that will soon appear in the journal Learning and Behavior. The paper is entitled “Specificity and flexibility of social influence on spatial choice” and was coauthored by Marie Saxon ’15 MS—a research coordinator at Northwestern University—and Kelsey Heslin ’15 MS—a student in the PhD program in Neuroscience at the University of Iowa.
Meet Our Faculty & Staff
Full Time Faculty of the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences
The Villanova University Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences has 20 full-time faculty members whose specialties include most of the major subareas of the discipline. Our faculty members are widely recognized for excellence in both teaching and research. Members of the department have a history of securing research grants from major funding agencies (e.g., NIH, NSF, NASA) and are well represented on the editorial boards of major research journals.
Rebecca Brand, PhD, studies infants’ understanding of the behaviors and mental states of other people. Recent investigations have examined the role of infant-directed teaching behaviors, as well as infants’ own experiences, in the development of this understanding. Dr. Brand recently coauthored a paper on using playdates to connect to families in the community. The paper appeared in the journal Infancy and was coauthored by three Villanova students: Natalie Libster ’18 MS and Megan Himes ’18 MS and Rachel Gans ’18 CLAS.
Gerard Brandon, PhD, holds both a MS and a PhD in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, and a BA in Psychology. Dr. Brandon is currently the director of the Graduate Programs in Human Resource Development at Villanova University, and is an associate professor in the program. He has more than 17 years of experience as an HR manager while working for the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), as well as prior experience teaching at Gettysburg College.
Meghan Caulfield earned her PhD in Behavioral Neuroscience at Rutgers University, NJ. She has an MS in Experimental Psychology and a BA in Psychology. Dr. Caulfield is a Mendel Science Fellow in the Cognitive Neuroscience of Memory Lab and uses human neuroscience methods (including computerized tasks, neuroimaging, functional near infrared spectroscopy, and electroencephalography) to study the brain regions and cognitive processes underlying differences in risk for anxiety.
Heather Cluley, PhD, earned her PhD in Organizational Behavior at John Molson School of Business, Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec. She has an MS in Industrial/Organizational Psychology and a BS in Public Health Education and Psychology. Dr. Cluely has worked in various project management roles in health promotion and health care communications in public and private health care settings. Dr. Cluely has been visiting assistant professor in the program for Human Resource Development and, starting fall 2019, will serve as the associate director of the program.
Anna Drummey, PhD, is interested in the neural substrates of human memory. Working with Irene Kan, PhD, in the Cognitive Neuroscience Memory lab, they investigate episodic and semantic memory using a variety of techniques. Dr. Drummey also serves as a faculty advisor for incoming students interested in majoring in science. Recently, Dr. Drummey was reelected the Executive Officer of the Cognitive Science Society.
Diego Fernandez-Duque, MD, PhD, earned his MD in 1993 in Buenos Aries, Argentina and went on to earn his PhD from the University of Oregon in 1999. Dr. Fernandez-Duque studies social cognition in healthy and clinical populations. His other research interests include why superfluous neuroscience information tends to make scientific explanations more appealing. He recently presented two scientific papers with undergraduate student Tyler Gray ’20 CLAS.
Charles (Chip) Folk, PhD, 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. Folk is also the Director of the Cognitive Science Program. With the support of a Villanova Faculty Development Grant, Dr. Folk organized the inaugural Mid-Atlantic Meeting on Attention (MAMA) which was held in July 2019 at the Inn at Villanova University.
Janette Herbers, PhD, studies risk and resilience in child development—seeking to understand how children adapt to adverse circumstances such as trauma, poverty and homelessness, and how self-regulation skills and positive parenting can support healthy development in contexts of risk. Dr. Herbers recently was awarded a prestigious five-year CAREER grant from the National Science Foundation. Two of Dr. Herbers’ five publications this year were coauthored by former master’s students Alexandra Tabachnick ’16 MS, Tiffany Kichline ’16 MS, Emily Jacobs ’17 MS and Sarah Vrabic ’17 MS.
Irene Kan, PhD, 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 each other, as well as the evaluation of the role of the frontal executive system in memory retrieval. In the 2016-2017 school year, Dr. Kan was selected for two Fulbright awards—spending the fall 2016 semester At the University of Toronto, Ontario, and the spring 2017 semester at the University of Lethbridge, Alberta.
Deborah Kendzierski, PhD, focuses her social psychology research program on the links between intentions and behavior in the context of health-related behavior, such as exercising and nutritious eating. She also seeks to understand the process underlying self-definition.
Steven Krauss, PhD, studies moral judgement, values and personality from a cross-cultural perspective. He also examines how people conceptualize social relationships across cultures. In addition, he maintains an interest in psychopathology.
John Kurtz, PhD, studies issues and techniques related to psychological assessment and the diagnosis of mental disorders. His research is concerned with factors related to change versus stability in personality traits during adulthood and the use of informants in personality assessment. Dr. Kurtz published an article in a recent issue of Psychiatry Research with master’s alumna Morgan McCredie ’17 MS, based on her thesis. McCredie is currently enrolled in the PhD program in clinical psychology at Texas A&M University. Dr. Kurtz published another article in the Journal of Personality Assessment, based, in part, on the master’s thesis of Liana Galtieri ’15 MS and coauthored by master’s alumni Haley Cobb ’16 MS and Emily O’Gorman ’17 MS. Liana is pursuing a PhD in clinical psychology at the University of Washington, and Emily is pursuing a PhD in clinical psychology at the University of Toledo.
Patrick Markey, PhD, focuses his research on how behavioral tendencies develop and are expressed within social relationships. These behavioral tendencies range from fairly mundane interpersonal behaviors—such as acting warmly during an interaction—to behaviors of real-life importance—such as unhealthy dieting, personality judgement, sexual behaviors, interpersonal aggression after playing violent video games, and more. Dr. Markey recently coauthored several scholarly papers and a book with Christopher Ferguson, PhD, about whether violent video games pose a risk to users. The book is called Moral Combat: Why the War on Violent Video Games is Wrong.
Matthew Matell, PhD, is interested in the cognitive and neural mechanisms underlying the perception of time. Current approaches utilize pharmacological administration of abused drugs via e-cigarette technology in rats, with a current focus on the role of temporal expectations in drug self-administration, as well as behavioral assays focused on interactions between different duration expectations. His work is supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health. In the last year, he published three scholarly articles that were coauthored by graduate students Benjamin De Corte ’17 MS, Rebecca Della Valle ’16 MS and Zvi Shapiro ’13 MS; and former undergraduate students Loryn Hartshorne ’14 CLAS and Samantha Cerasiello ’13 CLAS.
Elizabeth Pantesco, PhD, is a clinical psychologist with expertise in sleep and its relationship to health. A full-time member of the teaching faculty, Dr. Pantesco teaches courses in statistics, research methods and approaches to psychotherapy. She has four publications in 2018-2019, including one chapter in a scholarly book, and three articles that appeared in Psychoneuroendocrinology, Annals of Behavioral Medicine and Journal of Child and Adolescent Trauma.
Benjamin Sachs, PhD, studies how genetic and environmental factors contribute to behavioral dysfunction using genetically engineered mice. His research combines pharmacological, behavioral and cellular/molecular techniques to examine the mechanisms leading to depression-, anxiety-, and compulsivity-like behaviors and excessive drug and alcohol consumption. Dr. Sachs recently published an article in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology. He also had two recent conference presentations that were coauthored by three master’s students Michelle Karth ’19 CLAS, Melinda Karth ’19 CLAS and Davis van Dyk ’18 MS; and three undergraduate CBN majors Elisabeth Dimitratos ’21 CLAS, James Dzera ’18 CLAS, and Gianna Perez ’19 CLAS.
Erica Slotter, PhD, is interested in research at the intersection of the self and social relationships. She studies how we think about who we are as individuals in the context of close interpersonal bonds. 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? Conversely, how do our self-views influence how we think, feel, and behave in our relationships? Dr. Slotter won the 2018 SAGE Young Scholar Award from the Foundation for Personality and Social Psychology. In the last year, Dr. Slotter published three book chapters, one of which was coauthored by Erin Hughes ’18 MS.
Thomas Toppino, PhD, studies human cognitive processes and their development. His research focuses on basic mechanisms by which repetition and testing affect learning and memory and on metacognitive control of self-regulated learning. His other research concerns the relationship between sensory and cognitive processes in visual perception, with respect to the perception of ambiguous patterns. In the last year, Dr. Toppino published two papers in Memory & Cognition. One was coauthored by alumni Melissa LaVan ’12 MS, now a clinical psychologist in Las Vegas, and Ryan Iaconelli ’17 MS, a doctoral student in Educational Studies at The Ohio State University. The second paper was coauthored by Heather-Anne Phelan ’16 MS and was based on her thesis, which earned her the Ingeborg and Byron Ward Outstanding Thesis Award for 2016.
Joseph Toscano, PhD, studies how human listeners recognize speech and understand spoken language. His lab uses cognitive neuroscience techniques, computational modeling and behavioral methods to address questions about hearing, speech perception, learning and development, and to study these processes unfolding in real time during language comprehension. Dr. Toscano was recently awarded a grant from the Hearing Health Foundation to study EEG measures of how the brain encodes speech. Three of Dr. Toscano’s publications in 2018-2019 were coauthored by student Agnes Gao ’19 MS and/or by Alexandra Tabachnick ’16 MS and Olivia Pereira ’16 MS. He was also quoted in several news outlets to make sense of the Yanny/Laurel viral phenomenon.
Deena Weisberg, PhD, the department’s newest member, investigates children’s and adults’ scientific reasoning abilities. Her work explores how children and adults think about scientific content, why scientific reasoning is sometimes difficult, and how science fiction stories and other imaginative pursuits can bolster the development of these skills. Dr. Weisberg maintains a field site on San Cristobal Island, Galapagos, Ecuador, where she works with the local community on scientific and conservation projects. Her work is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation.
Laboratory Manager – Scientific Thinking and Representation Laboratory
McCall Sarrett, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Researcher – Word Recognition and Auditory Perception Laboratory
M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing
Pamela Blewitt, Ph.D., Professor Emerita
David Bush, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus
Lawrence Cozzens, Ph.D.
Douglas M. Klieger, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus
Gerald M. Long, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus
Byron Ward, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus
Ingeborg Ward, Ph.D., Professor Emerita
Daniel Ziegler, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus