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The following sections give information on the general research areas represented in the Department, with a list of staff most involved in each area. The final pages of this document contain an alphabetical list of all staff, with a description of their specific research interests and representative publications. The Department is proud of its cohesion as a single unit, and research areas are described separately only as a convenient way of organizing information about ongoing research activities. In particular, note that a student in any area can be supervised by any member of the Department. Thus, a clinical student can be supervised by an experimental staff member and an experimental student by a clinical staff member.


Cognition, Language, and Perception

Research in cognitive science is concerned with many of the traditional topics in experimental psychology, including perception, thinking, reasoning, learning, memory, and language. Research in this field has been influenced heavily by developments in related disciplines such as computer science, linguistics, and philosophy. Recently the term "cognitive science" has come to be applied to studies of intelligent behavior from this broad range of perspectives. Research in the cognitive area is closely related to other areas in psychology - such as social, developmental, and comparative psychology, personality, and neuropsychology - and to work in neuroscience (the study of the biological bases of behavior).

Current cognitive research in the Department focuses on topics such as first- and second-language acquisition, language development and comprehension, reading, moral and scientific reasoning, decision-making, auditory and visual perception, memory, attention, and motor performance. Graduate students can obtain broad training in the field, in experimental and computational research methods, and in related disciplines such as linguistics and artificial intelligence. The goal of the program is to enable students to gain the skills needed to make original contributions to the understanding of cognitive capacities in humans and other animals.

The Department has state-of-the-art facilities for research in the cognitive area, including a network of SUN laboratory workstations, an audition laboratory equipped for sophisticated auditory signal processing, a laboratory for the real-time analysis of motor performance, a laboratory studying causality and covariance judgments, and a psycholinguistics laboratory for the study of speech and reading. Every laboratory is equipped with numerous microcomputers and relevant peripherals. Researchers also have access to subject populations for studies of normal and atypical development and for neuropsychological studies of impaired performance.

Research in cognition at McGill extends beyond our Department to departments such as computer science, education, electrical engineering, human communication disorders, linguistics, and philosophy. In recognition of the cross-disciplinary nature of cognitive studies, the University has created the Cognitive Science Centre, which sponsors many university-wide activities and facilitates communication among researchers with interests in cognition.

Cognitive research is also represented at several institutions affiliated with the University, including the Montreal Neurological Institute, the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders, the MacKay Centre for Deaf and Crippled Children, and l'Institut des Sourds de Montreal. Some members of the Department have appointments or laboratories at these institutions and others collaborate with researchers there.

PhD students who intend to conduct research on language acquisition for their dissertation are eligible to apply for the Language Acquisition Program. This is an interdisciplinary option that exposes students to different theoretical and empirical perspectives in the area of language acquisition. Students take an interdisciplinary seminar that covers approaches related to psychology, linguistics, education, and communication sciences and disorders. Additional information about this option is available at Language Acquisition Program or from Fred Genesee, Director of the Program, at (514) 398-6022, or genesee at

The following faculty conduct research in cognition, language, and perception:

Rhonda N. Amsel Brenda Milner
Andrew G. Baker Kathy T. Mullen
Curtis L. Baker Kristine H. Onishi
Albert S. Bregman Yuriko Oshima-Takane
Virginia I. Douglas Caroline Palmer
Lesley Fellows Michael Petrides
Fred H. Genesee Amir Raz
Robert F. Hess Jelena Ristic
Marilyn Jones-Gotman Thomas R. Shultz
Fred A.A. Kingdom Yoshio Takane
Daniel J. Levitin Debra Titone
James C. MacDougall Shahin Zangenehpour
Stephen E. McAdams Robert J. Zatorre
Ronald Melzack  
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Behavioural Neuroscience

Behavioural Neuroscience, traditionally called physiological psychology, has long been a strength of the McGill Psychology Department, and remains well represented today at McGill and other institutions in Montreal. The Department benefits from associations and collaborations with laboratories and colleagues in Pharmacology, Physiology, and Psychiatry, as well as the Montreal Neurological Institute, the Montreal General Hospital, the Royal Victoria Hospital (McGill Vision Centre) and the Douglas Hospital Research Institute. Within the Department, research on the neural basis of behavior and cognition focuses on several areas, including visual psychophysics and physiology, learning and memory, reward and reinforcement, and mechanisms of pain. Ongoing vision research, aimed at understanding how we know by seeing, uses psychophysical experiments to determine how the visual system parses light patterns into pattern vision. Molecular genetic techniques are used to determine how different processing streams in the visual system are constructed. Ongoing research into the neural basis of learning and memory uses behavioural and neuropsychological studies to determine the kinds of information people and animals use to remember, and pharmacological and physiological methods to analyze how different brain structures contribute to different types of learning and memory on systems and cellular levels. Research on the neural mechanisms of reward and reinforcement uses neurochemical and neuroanatomical techniques to understand why people and animals approach and avoid cues. Closely related to this, studies on mechanisms of pain are the main focus of investigation in several laboratories in the department.

The following faculty conduct research in behavioural neuroscience:

Frances V. Abbott David J. Ostry
Andrew G. Baker Michael Petrides
Curtis L. Baker Maria Pompeiano
Evan Balaban Jens C. Pruessner
Yogita Chudasama Maria Natasha Rajah
Terence J. Coderre Amir Raz
Keith B.J. Franklin Jelena Ristic
Robert F. Hess Edward S. Ruthazer
Marilyn Jones-Gotman Barbara B. Sherwin
Daniel J. Levitin Thomas R. Shultz
Marco Leyton Wayne S. Sossin
Ronald Melzack Michael Sullivan
Brenda Milner Viviane Sziklas
Jeffrey S. Mogil Debra Titone
Karim Nader Norman M. White
Gillian A. O'Driscoll Robert J. Zatorre
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Developmental Science

The goal of developmental science is threefold: (a) to describe the course of psychological development in normal children and in children with various problems, (b) to understand how physical, psychological, and social factors influence this development, and (c) to understand psychological functioning in adults by examining its developmental origins. These three goals are well represented by the child development group in the Department. The Department also has longstanding, close links with a major children's hospital and with a centre for research on learning disabilities. The main areas covered are perceptual, cognitive, language, and social development, with most members of the group involved in more than one area.

The following faculty conduct research in developmental science:

Frances E. Aboud Ronald Melzack
Melanie Dirks Morton J. Mendelson
Virginia I. Douglas Debbie S. Moskowitz
Fred H. Genesee Kristine H. Onishi
Richard Koestner Yuriko Oshima-Takane
Daniel J. Levitin David J. Ostry
James C. MacDougall Thomas R. Shultz  
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Social and Personality Psychology

Social psychology has a long and distinguished history at McGill. Pioneering work here concerned the social and cognitive aspects of bilingualism, including seminal research on bilingual education. The initial interest in language and culture in Quebec led to broader concerns with cultural diversity among different societal groups in North America and abroad - concerns such as multiculturalism, ethnic relations, prejudice, social justice, and responses of disadvantaged groups toward perceived inequality.

Following this tradition, social psychology at McGill is distinctive in its focus on theoretical issues that address important social issues. It uniquely focuses on intergroup relations, interpersonal relations, and the bridges that connect the two. Field research is conducted with visible minority immigrants in Montreal, ethnic groups in Detroit and Miami, native peoples in the High Arctic, young women coping with unplanned pregnancies, and family members caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's. And even when questions are addressed in more controlled laboratory settings, the emphasis is on creating highly effective social situations. For example, we study intergroup and interpersonal relations by creating laboratory situations that challenge and engage powerful intergroup and interpersonal processes. Other research has focused on the interaction between personality and social psychological variables as related to affect, adjustment, health, and motivation in a variety of contexts including organizations and intimate relationships. Of particular interest are measurement issues, situational specificity, gender differences, self-regulatory styles, intrinsic motivation, and responses of individuals to environmental changes and other stressful life events. Finally, developmental research is underway on prejudice, ethnic identity, and social relationships in family and school settings.

The following faculty conduct research in Social and Personality Psychology :

Frances E. Aboud Morton J. Mendelson
Mark W. Baldwin Debbie S. Moskowitz
Melanie Dirks Robert O. Pihl
David Dunkley Jens C. Pruessner
Barbel Knauper Thomas R. Shultz
Richard Koestner Donald M. Taylor
John E. Lydon David C. Zuroff
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Health Psychology

Health psychology is based on the assumption that health and illness can best be understood by examining biological, psychological, and social factors in an integrative fashion. Health psychologists come from a variety of areas of psychology including clinical, developmental, behavioural neuroscience, social-personality, and neuropsychology. Because the boundaries between these areas have historically been loose at McGill, the Department is well positioned to promote the emergent area of health psychology. Current research areas include health promotion with indigent groups, psychosocial effects of chronic illness, cardiovascular psychophysiology, pain, psychoendocrinology, psychopharmacology, alcohol, eating disorders, and coping with stressful life events.

The following faculty conduct research in health psychology:

Frances E. Aboud Ronald Melzack
Irving M. Binik Robert O. Pihl
Melanie Dirks  Amir Raz
Blaine Ditto Zeev Rosberger
Barbel Knauper Barbara B. Sherwin
John E. Lydon Howard Steiger
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Quantitative Psychology and Modeling

Our quantitative research emphasizes the development and testing of mathematical, statistical, and computational models and the development and use of appropriate data-analytic techniques. Profs. Ramsay and Takane explore models involving the mathematical concept of distance, contribute to the literature on multidimensional scaling, and develop a number of publicly available computer programs. Prof. Takane also applies distance-based modeling to several types of discrete data. Prof. Ramsay investigates new procedures for analyzing mental testing data and collaborates with Prof. Ostry and other members of the staff on the analysis of biophysical data arising from the study of motor systems. Prof. Ho investigates new procedures for analysis of neuroimaging data(e.g., fMRI) and neuroscience data (e.g., molecular mapping) so to understand the brain structure and dynamics. He also works on mathematical models for decision making (e.g. approval voting), statistical methods for testing mathematical axioms and analysis of social network data. Prof. Oshima-Takane works on computer models of word learning and has been collaborating with Profs. Takane and Shultz to develop statistical techniques for analyzing network internal structures. Prof. Shultz works on connectionist models of reasoning, memory, cognitive consistency, and cognitive development. Finally, students in quantitative psychology have access to the excellent facilities described in the section titled Cognition, Language, and Perception.

The following faculty conduct research in quantitative psychology and modeling:

Rhonda N. Amsel James O. Ramsay
Fei Gu Thomas R. Shultz
Heungsun Hwang Yoshio Takane
Anthony A.J. Marley Hsiu-Ting Yu
Yuriko Oshima-Takane  
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Last Update: January 2015
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