Projects

What we do

Multisensory Associations
 
How do perceptions in one sense map onto those in another sense? We are interested in discovering novel associations across the senses and understanding what factors mediate such associations. With her students, Levitan has mapped relationships between color and olfaction and flavor [e.g., Levitan et al., 2014; Sherman & Levitan, 2014] and is currently studying the associations between sound and olfaction and flavor to look at the mediating role of emotions. Sherman recently discovered that when people view a visual scene such as a forest or beach, they spontaneously associate a specific auditory rhythm with the scene based on its visual spatial frequency content [Sherman et al., 2013].

 

The Neuroscience of Social Interaction
 
 When two people are engaged in a conversation and feel they understand each other’s perspectives, they often describe their experience as “in phase," “in synch," or “on the same wavelength." Sherman and her students are interested in understanding the extent to which inter-individual neural synchrony can be manipulated using sound and whether such synchrony may causally influence motor coordination and cooperation. Further, we investigate how increased synchrony mediates social affiliation across individuals. The labs recently acquired two high-density BioSemi EEGs in order to accurately measure interpersonal neural synchrony.   
 
Art Perception
 
Art – be it visual, music, dance, or literature – is an extraordinarily powerful experience driving much of our behaviors. We are interested in understanding what factors shape our aesthetic preferences. Specifically, we ask, how are our emotions and preferences for art connected to our emotions and preferences for the items depicted in the art? Does appreciation depend on a match between the beholder’s cognitive goals and the content of the artwork? In one set of experiments, we recently demonstrated that individual's visual working memory influences the degree to which they appreciate visually complex works of art [Sherman et al., 2015]. We are also interested in whether and how art engagement promotes self-awareness and increased cultural competency. In collaboration with Dr. Nancy Mithlo, of Occidental College's Art History and Visual Arts Department, and the Autry National Center, Dr. Sherman is investigating how engagement with American Indian art objects in the lab and museum contexts influences cultural sensitivity (work funded by NEA: Research Works).
 
Time Perception

How does the brain analyze events that unfold over time? We are interested in how information from one sense can influence another [Levitan et al, 2015], how the brain processes different temporal properties such as rate and duration [Brighouse et al, 2014] and how emotions can mediate time perception.

 

State of Science

The lab has participated in several replication projects, including the Reproducibility Project and the original Many Labs project. We continue to take part in other replication projects. Students in our classes and our lab have found the debates about these projects to be highly engaging, and they provide an excellent opportunity for students to reflect on the process of doing "good" science.