Cognition and action

Skilled cognitive actions, such as reading words, identifying objects, or using a tool, are underpinned by multiple mental representations that often are in conflict with one another.

For example, a coffee mug affords a number of different, mutually exclusive grasps (e.g., a closed grasp on the handle, an open grasp around the barrel of the mug, or even a pinch grasp on the rim) and interaction with the mug requires that one grasp be selected over the others for execution.  

How does this selection occur and what are the consequences for the candidates that are not selected?

This research contributes important information about how conceptual knowledge and action representations support skilled performance and will contribute to a deeper understanding of selective impairments in reading and object identification that often accompany specific forms of neurological injury.

Further information is available at Dr. Masson's website.

The objective of the Cognition and Action research program is to reveal the knowledge- and memory-based influences that evoke candidate actions and determine the outcome of the selection process.

The program's approach is guided by two working hypotheses. First, memory for relevant prior experience, including general knowledge, is unconsciously recruited during task execution, forming the basis for skilled performance. Second, task context influences the recruitment and selection of this knowledge.

Across a range of task domains, such as language comprehension, object identification, or viewing natural scenes, research in my laboratory makes use of methods such as measuring speeded responses to stimuli, assessing the kinematics of the hand during reach and grasp responses, and tracking eye movements.