Research in my lab investigates causal inference, spatial cognition, and the role of spatial information and action in high-level thinking, sometimes referred to as embodiment.

Causal Inference

Why is the sky blue? What chemical additives will clean up a fetid lake? Why is my child crying? What medication will successfully relieve my allergies? From grand questions about the way the world works, to smaller questions about our daily experience, humans constantly seek causal explanations for events occurring in the world around them. Research in my lab investigates factors affecting how people make causal inferences from data. Some of the questions we ask are:

  • How do prior beliefs affect the choice and use of data?
    Goedert, K.M., Ellefson, M.R. & Rehder, B. (2014). Differences in the weighting and choice of evidence for plausible versus implausible causes. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, 40, 683-702. doi:10.1037/a0035547
  • How does primed cultural mindset affect the use of information about background causes?
    Goedert, K.M., Grimm, L.R., Markman, A.B., & Spellman, B.A. (2014). Self-construal affects the processing of context information in causal inference – but not how you might think. Acta Psychologica, 15, 41-50. doi:10.1016/j.actpsy.2013.11.006
  • How do people reason about multiple possible causes of a common event?
    Laux, J.P., Goedert, K.M., & Markman, A.B. (2010). Causal discounting in the presence of a stronger cue is due to bias. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 17, 213 – 218. doi: 10.3758/PBR.17.2.213
    Goedert, K.M., Harsch, J., & Spellman, B.A. (2005). Discounting and conditionalization: Dissociable cognitive processes in human causal inference. Psychological Science, 16, 590 – 595. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2005.01580.x

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Embodied Thinking

Historically, cognitive psychologists have assumed that higher-level cognitive function relies on disembodied symbolic representation. However, work in the last 10 to 15 years demonstrates that seemingly irrelevant perceptual and motor demands of a task affect higher-level cognitive functions such as memory retrieval, problem solving, and mathematical reasoning (e.g., Casasanto & Dijkstra, 2010; Landy & Goldstone, 2007; Thomas, 2013). These effects of embodiment may result from higher-level cognitive functions sharing neural terrain with perceptual, motor, and spatial function. Phylogenetically earlier brain regions dedicated to perception and action are likely to have been redeployed later in our phylogenetic evolution to support higher-level cognition (Anderson, Richardson, & Chemero, 2012; Chafee & Crowe, 2013).

In my laboratory we investigate potential embodiment effects in causal learning and causal inference. For example, we identified a benefit to causal learning when stimulus and response locations were spatially consistent with positive conceptual information (e.g., stimulus spatially aligned with response button indicating “yes”; Goedert & Guo, 2013). Furthermore, using eye-tracking technology, we observed that people spend more time looking at the spatial location of the perception, action, and conceptual (PAC) overlap. These preliminary results suggest that the benefit of the PAC overlap on learning may result from increased attention. We are currently investigating several questions related to this and other potential effects of embodiment on causal learning in my laboratory:

  • What are the mechanisms by which perceptual and motor demands of the task affect causal judgment?
    Goedert, K.M., Guo, M. (2013). Perception and action effects on causal judgment. In M. Knauff, M. Pauen, N. Sebanz, & I. Wachsmuth (Eds.), Proceedings of the 35th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (p. 3948). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.
    Dudley, C. C., Guo, M., Cerrati, A., Vlajnic, V., Del Cid, M., & Goedert, K.M. (2014). The body’s influence on the mind: Motor response characteristics alter causal judgments. Poster to be presented at the 55th Annual Meeting of the Psychonomic Society, Long Beach, CA.
  • Do the effects of embodiment on causal learning depend on conceptual representations?
  • What are the boundary conditions for effects of embodiment on causal learning?

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Spatial Cognition and Spatial Biases

We take in information from the world around us via our sensory systems (e.g., vision, touch, hearing). From that we derive spatial information regarding where our bodies are in relation to nearby objects. This competency is critical for being able to interact with and use objects and for being able to move around in the world. Under normal circumstances, even an act as simple as walking across a room requires a translation of spatial information from the visual system to a form usable by the action system. Research in my lab investigates biases in the distribution of spatial attention for perception and action. I pursue this work in healthy individuals and in individuals with spatial neglect, a post-stroke disorder that produces severe disruptions to spatial attention. The work on spatial neglect is pursued in collaboration with Drs. A.M. Barrett and P. Chen of the Kessler Foundation’s Stroke Laboratory. Representative publications:

  • Goedert, K.M., Chen, P., Boston, R.C., & Barrett, A.M. (2014). Presence of motor-intentional deficits predicts functional improvement of spatial neglect with prism adaptation. Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair, 28, 483-492. doi: 10.1177/1545968313516872.
  • Goedert, K.M., Boston, R.C., & Barrett, A.M. (2013). Advancing the science of neglect rehabilitation via improved statistical methods: mixed linear modeling versus repeated-measures ANOVA. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 7, 211. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00211.
  • Chen, P., & Goedert, K.M. (2012). Clock drawing in spatial neglect: A comprehensive analysis of clock perimeter, placement, and accuracy. Journal of Neuropsychology, 6, 270-289.
  • Chen, P., Goedert, K.M., Murray, E., Kelly, K., Ahmeti, S., & Barrett, A.M. (2011). Line bisection and right hemisphere function: sex-specific changes with aging. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 17, 455-462. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-6653.2012.02028.x.
  • Fortis, P., Goedert, K.M., & Barrett, A.M. (2011). Prism adaptation differently affects motor-intentional and perceptual-attentional biases in healthy individuals. Neuropsychologia, 49, 2718– 2727. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2011.05.020

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