William & Mary Psychology Department Faculty Spotlight: Professor Jennifer Stevens
1. What are your main areas of research?
My research focuses on the representation of action in the mind and brain. I am particularly interested in examining cognitive and neural processes under unique or challenging movement situations such as cases of injury, presence of barriers, or increased mental load. Several lines of research are currently underway. (1)The effect of motor imagery on signal modulation at the cognitive, muscular, and neural level of processing. Several studies have demonstrated beneficial effects of mental imagery on physical performance. We are seeking to address the precise origin of this benefit by examining signal changes that occur as a result of mental practice at multiple levels of processing. (2)The effect of spatial constraint on cognitive processing. The mind-body dichotomy presents the mind as an entity separate and removed from the physical body. Studies in our lab, and those linked to the view of embodied cognition, have demonstrated a very direct relation between the mind and the processes that occur within it and the current posture or configuration of the body. We are specifically examining the link between posture and cognition through a series of behavioral and neural studies. (3)The effect of spinal cord injury on neural processing. We are currently studying the effect of spinal cord injury on the perception of motor action, the indentification of physical body parts, and the perception of pain. (4). Perception of art. We have begun studying the perception of abstract and realistic art images in order to investigate links between perception and representation of space and the quality of the aesthetic experience.(5). In addition, there are several lines of research stemming from the WISE grant including (a) implicit and explicit bias again women in STEm disciplines, (b) productivity, success, support across genders within the academy, and (c) the investigation of gender differences in sci-fi and fantasy.
2. How are William & Mary students involved in your research?
We have an active lab, with several projects ongoing at any given time. I've been lucky to have students in my lab for years at a time. They become quite adept at all aspects of the research process including stimulus creation and programming, data collection, analysis, and reporting. The independence that research affords a student provides not only hands-on training and experience but also an opportunity for the student to take ownership of the work. The return on their investment of time and skill becomes very personal.
3. What courses are you teaching at William & Mary?
I teach a range of courses, but you will typically find me teaching Cognitive Psychology, Advanced Research Methods in Cognition, and the Plastic Brain.
4. What are your interests outside of the college (just a little something personal - hobby, favorite sport, etc)
Well, over the past year, I've really gotten into hot yoga. There's something about stretching in 105 degrees that agrees with me. I also love to play tennis, to mess around in the garden, and to hit the movie theater with my family.