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Faculty Research Interests

Faculty Research Interests

The study of animal behavior at UNCW combines the traditional approaches of ethology and comparative psychology.

A group of active researchers pursue questions of development, physiology, function, and evolution to better understand the behaviors of non-human animals. Areas of recent faculty research include mate choice, sex differences in spatial behaviors, the comparative psychology of learning, behavioral and neural mechanisms of drug action, and field studies of social structure.

In their search to discover general principles of animal behavior, UNCW faculty have studied several species of fish, two genera of rodents, several bird species, and coyotes. The diversity of research questions and research subjects accurately reflects the diversity of faculty interests in this broad discipline.

The following faculty members research this area of psychology:

The Psychology Department offers opportunities for students interested in the field of Learning and Behavior Analysis. Research and course work in Learning and Behavior Analysis includes study of both animal and human behavior. This field emphasizes empirical methods involving intensive study of individuals in characterizing relations between environment and behavior, and stresses a cooperative relationship between basic research and application.

Research at UNCW includes laboratory exploration of basic behavioral processes such as positive and negative reinforcement, stimulus control, and schedule control of behavior. A general methodological and conceptual framework is emphasized, from which a broad variety of behavioral phenomena can be viewed, ranging from acquisition of simple learned behaviors to complex forms of human behavior.

Training in this field provides important skills relevant to a variety of careers, including those in

  • academic settings (university teaching and/or research)
  • applied psychology (e.g., developmental disabilities, substance abuse)
  • education
  • business
  • other fields primarily concerned with changing the behavior of individuals

The following faculty members research this area of psychology:

Behavioral pharmacologists are interested in investigating the behavioral effects of psychoactive compounds. In some cases, research is directed towards the use of drugs to increase our understanding of behavior.

Examples of this type of research at UNCW include evaluating the effects of different compounds on learning and memory processes. Other areas of active investigation include determining behavioral factors involved in the development of tolerance and sensitization to specific drugs and investigation of the behavioral and neurochemical differences associated with self-administered versus experimenter delivered drugs of abuse.

Other studies use behavioral procedures to increase our knowledge of drug action. These studies include evaluating the effects of potential pharmacotherapeutic compounds on responding maintained by different drugs of abuse and evaluating changes in extracellular concentrations of neurotransmitters using in vivo microdialysis procedures during drug administration.

The Behavioral Pharmacology research laboratories at UNCW provide exposure to and training in sophisticated operant conditioning techniques meshed with "state of the art" methods in neurochemistry and electrophysiology providing an integrated approach toward the identification and elucidation of behavioral, pharmacologic and neurobiologic basis of drug action.

The application of these research endeavors encompass the evaluation and treatment of drug abuse and psycho-pathologies including anxiety, depression, and aggression. Both graduate and undergraduate students have provided invaluable contributions to this area of research within the Psychology Department at UNCW.

The following faculty members research this area of psychology:

Research in clinical psychology focuses on exploring aberrations in behavior, affect, and cognition. This can include an examination of the incidence of disorders, their development, how they are maintained, and efficacy of treatment. Also of interest are issues relating to comorbidity (i.e., the co-occurrence of two or more clinical disorders) and individual differences in susceptibility.

The following faculty members research this area of psychology:

Urlic Neisser (1966) defined the cognitive approach as the study of "... all the processes by which the sensory input is transformed, reduced, elaborated, stored, recovered, and used. It is concerned with these processes even when they operate in the absence of relevant stimulation, as in images and hallucinations. Such terms as sensation, perception, imagery, retention, recall, problem-solving, and thinking, among many others, refer to hypothetical stages or aspects of cognition."

In short, Cognitive Psychology is the study of how the mind processes, stores, and uses information. Some questions studied here at UNCW are early visual processing, art, memory, imagery, auditory and visual perception, complex learning and reasoning, among many others.

The study of cognition at UNCW stresses both empirical methods and modeling. Both graduate and undergraduate students are intricately involved with this research.

The following faculty members research this area of psychology:

Cross-cultural psychology is the study of human behavior in its cultural context. Cross-cultural psychologists study both the diversity of human behavior in different cultural settings and how cultural factors influence perception, cognition, personality, attitudes, group behavior, psychopathology, development, and child-rearing.

Developmental psychology is the study of human and nonhuman development across the life span from conception to death. It is concerned with the development of individual, culturally-specific, and universal normal development with deviation from normal development that result in developmental exceptionalities and psychopathologies. Its goals include the description of development as a function of age and the explanation of changes with age, since age is itself a marker and not a causal variable.

Since developmental psychology deals with changes across the age span, it studies the increasing competence that occurs initially with age and the declines in function that may occur with later age. The changes observed include those in physical, motor, language, cognitive, and social behavior. It looks also at differences in development as a function of variables such as gender, socio-economic status, and cultural and subcultural groups. It looks for explanations for observed changes at all levels from biological to cultural.

Virtually from its inception, developmental psychology has combined scientific and applied perspectives that ultimately, its goals are not only to describe and explain development, but to determine and, where appropriate, implement changes in the environment that will optimize that development.

The following faculty members research this area of psychology:

Broadly defined, both legal and forensic psychology are terms used to describe areas where law and psychology intersect. Therefore, there is a wide variety of interest areas within this field.

For example, forensic psychologists might testify in court in competency hearings or insanity defense cases, study factors that lead to eyewitness identification errors, conduct child custody evaluations, treat mentally ill offenders in prisons, or study jury decision making.

The following faculty members research this area of psychology. 

Industrial Organizational or IO Psychology concerns the study of human behavior in work settings. Within IO psychology, individuals may work within the industrial (or personnel) side or they may work within the organizational side of the discipline. An IO psychologist might be an expert in selecting and training employees, measuring performance effectiveness, motivating employees, ensuring workplace safety, and overseeing organizational development to name just a few specialties.

The following faculty members research this area of psychology:

Neuroscience and Behavior Psychologists study the biological nature of behavior and the covert processes such as memory and motivation that mediate behaviors. Although this field of study is relatively new, a rich variety of research approaches now exist that are used to explore diverse questions of interest. 

Neuroscience and Behavior Psychologists may study the biochemical mechanisms of memory formation or may study the effects of childhood experiences on brain structure. In our psychology department, several faculty members engage in this type of research. 

The interests of these faculty range from studies of the effects of sex hormones on learning to studies of the effects of drugs on behavior and to neural basis of drug use and drug-dependence.

There are numerous perspectives that can be adopted in personality research (e.g., behavioral, physiological, cognitive, and psychodynamic), and each is concerned with stable individual differences that are reflected in the way people act, think, and feel. Personality research is especially important when it is used to predict life outcomes such as well-being, life satisfaction, and the propensity for acquiring various psychiatric conditions like depression and anxiety.

The following faculty member researches this area of psychology. Please follow the links to their homepages.

Social Psychology focuses on individual human behavior as a function of the influence of other persons. This area of research focuses on various issues involving social behavior. Some of these issues include prejudice, conformity, attitude change, love, and attraction. The emphasis is on the theoretical relevance and the real world application of these areas of interest.

The following faculty members research this area of psychology.

This area of research involves examining the effects of drug and alcohol use and abuse on behavior. Specifically, the effects of drugs and alcohol on biological, psychological, and social processes are considered.

Areas of interest include description of major psychoactive drugs or drug classes, the effects of drugs on the nervous system, patterns of drug use, personality and social factors involved in drug use, and the prevention and treatment of substance use disorders. Different models of prevention and treatment for different populations are considered and the effectiveness of the different approaches is investigated.

The following faculty members research this area of psychology: