The William and Mary Psychology Department would like to welcome back Professor Peter Vishton. Professor Vishton has spent the past three years working as program director at the National Science Foundation in Washington, DC. We recently spoke with Professor Vishton to find out what he is working on now that he has returned to W&M:
What are your main areas of research?
My research focuses on visually-controlled actions such as reaching and driving. My collaborators and I have uncovered evidence that when we engage in these action behaviors, the information processing characteristics of our visual system change, often in fundamental ways, often on a moment-by-moment basis. In addition to studying these effects in adults, I am interested in using reaching to assess what young infants know (and don't know) about the world around them.
Lately, I have been focusing on studying driving behaviors in young, pre-locomotor infants. I have designed and built a robot that enables children as young as three months of age to move around the room independently. I am gearing up to run studies on how this early access to self-produced locomotion affects how they reason about the world around them.
How are William and Mary students involved in your research?
I've been away from William and Mary, working for the National Science Foundation, for three years. As such, I am still getting my lab up and running again. Part of that process is getting students involved. Studying infants is a labor-intensive type of research. We spend a lot of time recruiting parents to bring in their children to participate in studies. Students also help with running studies themselves, analyzing the data, interpreting the results, and then designing future experiments. I have always found students to be great research collaborators. Undergraduates, in particular, tend to bring "fresh eyes" to the situation, and thus to ask many of the most insightful questions.
What courses are you teaching at W&M?
Right now, I am teaching Psych 453: Infancy and Psych 632: Research Methods, but I have taught many things here in the past: Intro to Psych as a Natural Science, Sensation and Perception, Statistics, Developmental Psych, Advanced Research in Developmental Psych, etc.
We are excited to have him return and be part of our academic family. For more information on Professor Vishton please visit his W&M Website.