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Washington State University
College of Arts and Sciences Department of Psychology

Cognitive Psychology


The study of mental processes and how they relate to brain function are a major focus of human research in the department. Areas of faculty expertise include attention, perception, action representation, memory, executive functioning, affect, decision-making, and general information processing at both the micro and macro levels.

Associated Faculty: Cuttler, Fournier, Hinson, Honn, Meidenbauer, Whitney

Research interests within this area:

Attention, perception and action planning (Fournier)

Sleep and cognition (Honn, Hinson, Whitney)

Memory and attention (Cuttler, Hinson, Whitney)

Executive control, affect, and decision-making (Cuttler, Hinson, Meidenbauer, Whitney)


The Health & Cognition (THC) Lab

Carrie Cuttler
Dr. Carrie Cutler's research in The Health & Cognition (THC) lab at WSU focuses on elucidating the potentially beneficial and detrimental effects of chronic cannabis use and acute cannabis intoxication. Our current and recent work focuses on examining links between cannabis use and mental health (e.g., depression, anxiety, OCD), physical health (e.g., pain, sleep), stress, and cognition (e.g., memory, decision-making, executive functioning, creativity, attention). Further, we are interested in examining effects of cannabis with different concentrations of THC and CBD as well as effects of cannabis concentrates to better understand their influence on mental health, physical health, and cognition.

Attention, Perception & Performance Lab

Lisa R. Fournier
Our laboratory is currently investigating how selective attention operates and how attention modulates visual perception and motor performance as well as how prioritization of actions and demands on working memory affect perception and our ability to quickly and accurately execute motor actions.

Affective and Cognitive Influences of Decisions (ACID) Lab

John Hinson and Paul Whitney
The primary objective of our research is to better understand how cold cognition (rational or deliberative processes) and hot cognition (affective or emotional processes) contribute to decision making. People often make decisions under suboptimal conditions, including conditions of distraction, information overload, or cognitive fatigue, leading to less than ideal decision outcomes. In laboratory studies we use cognitive or affective challenges, such as memory loads and divided attention tasks, to examine how these challenges constrain good decision making. These experimental manipulations are intended to capture important elements of real world challenges to decision making and allow us to better explain problems in decision making underlying difficulties in self-regulation.
kimberly_honn-ThumbKimberly Honn
In the sleep laboratory environment, we use specially designed cognitive tasks in a carefully controlled setting to measure distinct effects of sleep deprivation. I use a combination of computer-based tests in an effort to identify particular cognitive functions that are most vulnerable or most resilient to the effects of sleep deprivation. Learning how sleep loss affects the brain can reveal how to best protect against sleep loss-related errors.

My laboratory research is translated into a real-world setting with my current field research project, which is focused on sleep and performance in long-haul commercial truck drivers. In this project, we are studying whether increased regulatory flexibility can improve driver rest and alertness. An allowance for drivers to split their required rest time into two shorter breaks, maintaining the total break time, may encourage drivers to nap as needed during a duty period. We will compare driver sleep, alertness, safety, and performance when drivers are operating under the flexible (study-specific) regulations with duty periods in which drivers are operating under the current (standard) regulations.
Kim Meidenbauer
Research in Dr. Meidenbauer’s Social, Cognitive, & Environmental Neuroscience (SCENe) Lab examines how features of the physical and social environment affect individuals’ brains and their behavior. Currently, the lab’s work focuses on how heat exposure can lead to deleterious psychological outcomes and antisocial behaviors, and how greenspace interventions can be used to buffer against the effects of heat stress. Our research employs an environmental justice lens, working with community organizations to examine how place-based interventions may address the compounding effects of economic marginalization and environmental racism. The SCENe lab is also interested in the creation and validation of research methods that allow us to “take the lab outside”, via browser-based tasks, mobile neuroimaging (fNIRS), and experience sampling techniques. We advocate for and prioritize the use of open science practices, including the ethical sharing of data and study materials, providing open and reproducible code, and pre-registering data collection and analysis plans.

Affective and Cognitive Influences of Decisions (ACID) Lab

Paul Whitney and John Hinson
I am engaged in collaborative research in cognition and cognitive neuroscience that focuses on the role of working memory and affective processing in executive function and decision making. Our investigations have included studies of how risky decision making is affected by situational factors, particularly sleep deprivation, that can temporarily alter the integration of hit emotional and cold cognitive information