With support from the Major Research Instrumentation Program, Dr. Bruce C Hansen and his collaborators will purchase a state-of-the-art electroencephalography (EEG) system from Electrical Geodesics Incorporated (GES 300 system) for shared use by faculty and undergraduate students in Colgate University's Department of Psychology and Neuroscience Program. The EEG technique itself involves placing surface electrodes on the scalp of a human participant and recording electrical signals generated by the brain in real-time, thereby allowing for a wide variety of analyses focused on the temporal localization of different brain signals. The system will enable this group to adopt an integrated model for understanding human behavior by blending traditional psychological methodology with functional neuroelectric activity in humans.
The scientists involved in this proposal are all active researchers from a broad range of disciplines including cognitive, perceptual, and social psychology. Five research projects (each consisting of several studies) are proposed. Project 1 uses machine learning for the classification of visual evoked potentials (VEPs) to investigate the time course of the brain's recognition and categorization of complex visual scenes in order to understand how such representations guide actions in different environments. Project 2 examines how biases in perception of novel social categories (e.g., multiracial groups), as well as individual differences in opposition to equality, contribute to the perpetuation of group-based social inequality (e.g., racial inequality). It will use event related potentials (ERPs) to explore how social motivations (e.g., anti-egalitarianism) and social contexts (e.g., economic progress for ethnic minorities) influence the way people react to multiracial individuals. Project 3 proposes to combine EEG frequency band power analyses with behavioral paradigms in order to establish a more direct and conclusive indicator of whether encoding or retrieval based memory processes determine the impact of changing task demands on development of expertise. Project 4 investigates how social power evokes self-deception and, as a consequence, enhances persuasive abilities. Specifically, the project combines traditional behavioral measures with ERP analysis to trace the timing of brain signals that selectively unleash changes in awareness. In essence, it aims to elucidate how lying to others may begin with lying to the self. Project 5 will utilize ERPs to explore whether embodied language instruction (i.e., speech, gesture, facial expression, eye gaze, etc.) is effective for inducing neural changes in second-language (L2) learning in two different contexts: face-to-face versus online instruction. The project will focus on components that reflect early perceptual and late semantic processes in the learning of novel speech sounds and new words.
A shared EEG system at Colgate will allow this group to directly engage their students in laboratory techniques that unite psychology and neuroscience into one cohesive field of study, thereby fostering non-traditional research connections that should spur fresh insights and creative new areas of study. Such an approach will no doubt yield students who are better prepared for graduate research labs at an early stage (most undergraduates at other schools will not have this sort of highly technical experience), thereby guaranteeing the rapid advancement of the broader field of science. Lastly, the majority of psychology and neuroscience concentrators at Colgate are female, and the enhanced training made possible by a shared EEG system will therefore increase the competitive representation of women pursuing advanced degrees in a STEM field.