Learning and performance in an immersive motion simulator: We are studying perception and integration of self-motion with other sensory information. Self-motion perception involves a complex array of vestibular and proprioceptive cues integrated with visual and auditory information.  We are interested in the brain mechanisms involved when people learn to operate large moving vehicles, like cars and planes. We look for neural correlates of multisensory integration using electrophysiological methods, and by observing behavioural responses and tracking eye movements. We are studying the importance of self-motion for transfer of training. We are studying attentional and social influences on training, navigation, and cognitive control in simulated environments.

Impact of Landmarks on Wayfinding: We are investigating the preferred navigational strategy of young adults and the impact of the presence/absence of different types of landmarks on driving performance while wayfinding. The wayfinding task is set in a virtual town using a driving simulator. It is informative to know how navigational strategies and landmarks affect performance during a cognitively demanding task like driving. Several studies have examined participants’ spatial behaviour in the presence and absence of proximal and distal landmarks. This study uses a new paradigm to examine the impact of presence/absence of different kinds of landmarks on wayfinding ability and preferred navigational strategy of individuals while driving.

Multisensory Integration: We are investigating the impact of multisensory integration on driving performance in a driving simulator. Many of the studies that explore integration of audio, visual, or vestibular cues, are derived from stimulus detection and stimulus discrimination tasks that are simple and controlled. Therefore, it is not clear how multisensory integration occurs in more dynamic and realistic tasks. While visual inputs are the most important cues for drivers, it has been shown that auditory and vestibular cues have an important role in self-motion perception–they are highly capable of augmenting the experience of vection. Our study attempts to fill this knowledge gap by measuring contribution of different combinations of sensory cues on driving performance.

Scalp Electrophysiology: We study neural events by measuring scalp potentials from a high density array of electrodes which detect millisecond resolution voltage changes generated by neurons. The high temporal resolution of event-related potentials (ERP) allows us to ask specific questions about neural changes related to practice and learning. The ability to tap into function non-invasively allows us to ask how behaviour relates to neural processes.

Aging and Driving: For older drivers, continued safe driving is important in maintaining independence. One of the necessities for safe driving is to have an accurate perception of self-motion based on information from all sensory systems. Research shows that multisensory integration may change with age.

Performance and error monitoring: How do we learn from our mistakes? How does practice improve performance? How do we become experts? How is performance monitored during practice, how are errors detected, and how is behaviour altered in response to errors? We study attention and cognitive control, experience dependent changes to cognitive, attentional, and memory processes, and brain processes underlying the changes that occur as a novice becomes an expert.

Conflict Adaptation: Cognitive control helps us pay attention to task relevant features of the stimulus and ignore the features that are irrelevant to the current task. In a typical Stroop task, participants respond faster to congruent trials than they respond to incongruent trials. In particular, participants respond faster to congruent trials preceded by congruent trials (c→C) than to congruent trials preceded by incongruent trials (c→I). Such sequential congruency effects demonstrate the use of cognitive control when a conflict (task-irrelevant information) is detected. The hypothesis proposes a conflict-control loop that first detects conflict and then triggers feedback mechanisms to resolve the conflict. If the current trial has conflict, more cognitive control is employed to deal with future instances of conflict. Most studies suggest that specific conditions may be necessary for the conflict control mechanism to generalize from one task to another in a task-switching paradigm. Our study focuses on the specific conditions necessary for the conflict control to generalize across two tasks.

Mindfulness, attentional training and cognitive control: We study experience-dependent changes in attention and memory via mindfulness meditation training. To investigate the cognitive benefits of meditation on attention and performance we measure ongoing neural processes using ERP, with a particular interest in how mindfulness meditation training affects cognitive control. Many aspects of all our projects are relevant to understanding selective attention, and visual and spatial memory.

The bivalency effect:  Imagine driving through the city and a red light flashes in your periphery while going through a green-light intersection. Even though the red flash is irrelevant for the task at hand (i.e. drive through the intersection), the red appearance of this flash cues a “stop” signal because of all your previous encounters with red stoplights. In response to these “bivalent” (i.e. cueing two tasks) stimuli, people slow down their responses to all other tasks for a significant period of time. In the present analogy, response times to changing lanes and staying vigilant to pedestrian encounters would also be slowed down. We seek to understand the cognitive control that leads to this response slowing and how our brains learn to anticipate future cognitive load.

Web-based communication and collaboration:  Online conversations are fundamentally different from face to face interactions. In a video call, social perceptions are affected by more than just body language—factors that don’t exist in face-to-face conversations, such as internet connectivity and video quality, can influence how others perceive you. A contributing factor may be misattribution of the source of perceptual fluency. We’re working with the DeGroote School of Business to investigate how variables such as camera placement, eye gaze, and audiovisual asynchrony can affect video-based interview judgments and decision-making. To investigate these questions, we’ve created a large set of video stimuli. These videos are brief (<30s) answers to typical job interview questions, recorded from 4 different cameras: three in an arc in front of the actress, and one positioned to the side. Each interview question was performed three times: one take in which actress was looking at the top, middle, or bottom camera. These videos allow us to independently manipulate eye gaze and camera angle, while also addressing questions related to audio/video quality.

Self and social cognition: We study self-concept from a social-cognitive perspective, using implicit measures (e.g. Implicit Association Test) to determine the cognitive organization of self-concept. We have examined how new person representations are related to self concept during social interactions and how this cognitive organization may bias further perception. We are also interested in the processes involved in developing psychological feelings of ownership, and in the link between long-term and recently acquired owned objects and the self.

Self-esteem:  High self-esteem has been linked to a number of positive outcomes, including subjective well-being, increased academic performance, and healthy social relationships. Conversely, low self-esteem has been linked to socially destructive outcomes including relationship dysfunction, hostility, and drug abuse. In light of this, we seek to understand the underlying neural processes that lead to these behavioural differences. We use a combination of behavioural and electrophysiological methods to understand the cognitive control mechanisms involved in high vs. low self-esteem individuals.