Professor of Psychology
BA, University of Oregon; MA, PhD, University of California-Davis
College of Arts & Sciences
Center for Comm.&Engineer
A very simple idea is at the heart of my teaching: curiosity. It is what keeps me teaching and is what I hope to awaken when I teach.
The concept of curiosity is based on the assumption that the organism – human, crow, or cat – can’t help but notice problems or puzzles. Curiosity is a natural drive to find solutions, to solve riddles. As a consequence, the organism acquires new knowledge and develops new skills.
I was drawn to cognitive psychology because it is all about puzzles of human perception, thought, and memory. Teaching provides many opportunities to apply what I have learned about cognition. Research in cognitive psychology has shown repeatedly that when attention is engaged and when prior knowledge is activated, learning happens almost automatically.
With each new class, my first challenge is to spark students’ curiosity. To do this, I might do something unexpected in class and later use it to examine errors in eyewitness memory. I might ask students to imagine they are famous research psychologists and to develop "academic family trees" by researching the real history of psychology.
I especially enjoy taking students abroad for courses such as History of Psychology and History of Madness. We have traveled to England, Ireland, and Germany. Students work in world-class libraries and archives, see famous places, such as Bethlem Hospital in London or Wilhelm Wundt's lab in Leipzig, and meet experts on, for example, the history of British psychology or of Irish asylums.
The drive to satisfy my own curiosity is why I never teach the same course the same way twice. I am drawn to new concepts, teaching strategies, and course designs. The students are new every time, too, and that keeps me interested.
In the end, I guess I am saying that teaching is a selfish activity for me. It is fun. It is always new. It keeps me challenged.
I have two strands of research. First, I focus on everyday problems of human memory, mostly studying prospective memory (the way memory is used to plan and carry out future actions), idiosyncratic memory strategies, and the effectiveness of mnemonics. Second, I study the history of moral treatment in asylums. Embedded in the values of the Society of Friends, it transformed treatment in the late 1700s. By the mid-1800s, a transformed version of moral treatment became the standard in secular asylums. It goes without saying that I advocate the use of a variety of research methods, including observation, questionnaires, archival research, and experimentation.
Like all of us in the Psychology Department, I am dedicated to good teaching. I emphasize the development of expository writing as a learning tool. I also work to encourage the development of information literacy. Scholars do much of their research and writing electronically and, therefore, students need to learn to tell the difference between an authoritative online source and one that is designed to look authoritative. I have taught a variety of content courses such as Cognitive Psychology, Mind and Culture, Applied Cognition, Psychology of Writing, and Child and Adolescent Developmental Psychology. I have also taught many of the courses that form our methods sequence for psychology majors: Introduction to Psychology; Introduction to Statistics in Psychology; Methods I: Experimental Methods; Methods II: Non-experimental Methods (team taught); History and Systems in Psychology; Senior Seminar.
Summer 14 History of Psych in London