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Leboe-McGowan, Launa C.

Associate Professor, Psychology

Associate Department Head, Psychology



Keyword Discipline


Behavioral/Social Sciences

Research Description

Cognitive illusions have provided an essential basis for understanding cognitive processes across a range of contexts. The sources of error in cognitive performance have been fundamental in instructing researchers about mechanisms underlying low-level perceptual experience (Bedell, Patel, Chung, & Ogmen, 2006; Coello, Danckert, Blangero, Rossetti, 2007; Lackner, 1972; ten Hoopen, 1996; Milner & Dyde, 2003; Warren, 1951), remembering (Bartlett, 1932; Jacoby, Kelley, & Dywan, 1989; Johnson, Hashtroudi, & Lindsay, 1993; Roediger & McDermott, 1995), and judgment and decision-making (Kahneman & Tversky, 1973, 1979). Essential for illuminating inefficiencies in human cognitive abilities, such research has also provided clues about basic cognitive mechanisms. Specifically, one important outcome of adopting a research focus that emphasizes cognitive illusions is that human cognitive processing does not directly and veridically make contact with either the sensory environment or representations of prior experience (see Koriat, Goldsmith, & Pansky, 2000, and Warren, 1981, for reviews). Instead, at least in part, all aspects of cognitive processing reflect an imperfect construction of reality. The proposed research will investigate top-down sources of error in the cross-modal perception of spatial location, temporal duration, and intensity of both auditory and visual events.

I propose it as useful to consider these diverse variants of cognitive illusion as possessing a common origin. In each case, these illusions involve the biasing influence of dimensions of processing that are distinctly different from the attribute that is central to the task that must be performed. I assume that developing an understanding of the indirect sources of information that people rely on to perform cognitive tasks is essential to understanding human cognitive processing. My expectation is that people rely on these indirect sources of information because they have no other choice; they often do not have selective and direct access to the information that is most relevant to the current task. The cognitive system must then strike a compromise, accepting some amount of interference and error through inferential processing in exchange for the capacity to succeed in making accurate remembering and perceptual judgments most of the time. Consistent with this view, there is growing appreciation for the advantages of relying on fast, error-prone, indirect inferences in the performance of cognitive tasks over deliberate, conscious processes that take only the most relevant factors into account (Gigerenzer & Todd, 1999). A primary goal of my research program is to reveal the sources of illusory cognitive processing in the perception of auditory and visual events that have been so critical in understanding higher-order cognitive processes, such as remembering and judgment and decision-making, as well as in understanding lower-level phenomena of visual perception. This research will provide an important, novel contribution to the literature, given that relatively little is known about cross-modal sources of illusory perception in the auditory and visual domains.

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