Mary Peterson

Mary Peterson's picture
Real name: 
Professor and Director of the Cognition Science Program
Professor, Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute
Chair of the Cognitive Science Graduate Interdisciplinary Program
Member, Executive Committee, School of Mind, Brain and Behavior
Director, Visual Perception Laboratory

Ph.D., Columbia University, 1984

Research Interests: 
  • Investigating the basic mechanisms producing conscious object perception
  • Investigating how memory and attention affect object perception and detection
  • Investigating how visual perception develops and changes across the lifespan

My research investigates how we perceive the world visually, a topic about which much is known, but a great deal remains to be discovered. Specifically, my students and I use the new techniques of cognitive neuroscience (e.g., fMRI, ERPs, and behavioral methods) to investigate:

  • Inhibitory and facilitatory processes involved in assigning shape to certain portions of the visual field but not to others
  • The relationship between perception and memory
  • The processes used to learn new objects and to recognize familiar objects and how these change over the lifespan
  • How attention affects perception
  • How various parts of an object are bound together by the brain
  • How brain damage affects attention and object perception

We test college students, infants and older adults. We also test brain-damaged individuals and individuals with developmental disabilities.

Selected Publications: 

Sanguinetti, J. L., Trujillo, L. T., Schnyer, D. M., Allen, J. J. B., & Peterson, M. A. (2015). Increased alpha band activity indexes inhibitory competition across a border during figure assignment. Vision Research. Online publication: 28-AUG-2015. DOI: 10.1016/j.visres.2015.06.008

Spanò, G., Peterson, M.A., Nadel, L., & Edgin, J.O. (2015). Seeing can be remembering: Interactions between memory and perception in typical and atypical development. Clinical Psychological Science, 1-18. DOI: 10.1177/2167702615590997.

Cacciamani, L., Scalf, P. E., & Peterson, M. A. (2015). Neural evidence for competition-mediated suppression in the perception of a single object. Cortex.

Sanguinetti, J. L., Allen, J. J. B., & Peterson, M. A. (2014). The ground side of an object: perceived as shapeless yet processed for semantics. Psychological Science, 25(1), 256-264.

Peterson, Mary A. (2013). Low-level and High-level Contributions to Figure-Ground Organization: Evidence and Theoretical Implications. In J. Wagemans (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Perceptual Organization. NY: Oxford University Press

Peterson, M. A., Cacciamani, L., Barense, M. D., & Scalf, P. E. (2012.) The perirhinal cortex modulates V2 activity in response to the agreement between part familiarity and configuration familiarity. Hippocampus, 22, 1965-1977.

Courses Taught: 

COGS 517  Introduction to Cognitive Science
NSCS 315A  Cognitive Science Research Methods
PSY 329  Sensation and Perception
PSY 536  Visual Cognition

Research Program: