Jeff Moher is an Associate Professor of Psychology. His research uses behavioral and neurophysiological methods to understand why distractions occur, when they are likely to arise, and what mechanisms humans can harness to avoid them. You can learn more at the CAMELab website here: https://sites.google.com/conncoll.edu/camelab. He teaches courses on Psychological Statistics, Cognitive Neuroscience, Attention and Distraction, Free Will and the Human Brain, and Brain Meets the World.
Every day, humans must interact with a complex external world in order to extract detailed information, make decisions, and carry out appropriate actions. For example, cooking a meal or driving to the airport requires the precise execution of a series of decisions and associated actions. The problem is that despite our best intentions, we often find ourselves at the mercy of irrelevant distractions – our attention wanders. Seemingly minor distractions add up over time to induce serious costs in performance, which can have severe consequences. According to the Center for Disease Control, for example, over 3,000 people are killed each year in the United States from distracted driving. Moher's research uses behavioral and neurophysiological methods to understand why distractions occur, when they are likely to arise, and what mechanisms humans can harness to avoid them.
The bulk of research on human attention has traditionally emphasized how we attend to relevant information, but his research explores how and when humans are able to ignore irrelevant distractions to accomplish behavioral goals. He has found that humans employ a variety of cognitive mechanisms to minimize distractions based on explicit knowledge, task goals, object properties, and recent experience. However, he has also discovered surprising limitations, wherein failures of attentional selection – that is, distractions – occur despite (or even because of) the observer’s intentions. These discoveries provide new insight into how humans avoid distractions in order to accomplish a wide range of behavioral goals. Moher’s research is currently funded by grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.
Currently in Moher's lab, multiple methodologies are being used, including eye-tracking, electroencephalography, three-dimensional reach-tracking, and psychophysics to approach these questions. Current projects cover a number of topic areas, including:
- Why do salient distractors – objects that grab your attention because of their physical properties, like a flashing billboard – cause people to give up quickly when they are searching for a target?
- What are the brain mechanisms involved in learning to ignore distractions?
- How do internal distractions (such as when your mind wanders) impact our physical interactions with the world?
- How can we look at the path of a hand movement to learn more about how people can ignore distractions and when they are more or less likely to be distracted?
Steinkrauss, A. C., Shaikh, A. F. , O’Brien Powers, E., & Moher, J. (2023). Performance-linked visual feedback slows response times during a sustained attention task. Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications, 8(1), 32.
Nakayama, K., Moher, J., & Song, J. H. (2023). Rethinking vision and action. Annual Review of Psychology, 74, 59-86.
Erb, C. D., Moher, J., & Marcovitch, S. (2022). Attentional capture in goal-directed action during childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 214, 105273.
Erb, C. D. , Smith, K. A., & Moher, J. (2021). Tracking continuities in the flanker task: From continuous flow to movement trajectories. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 83(2), 731-747.
Dai, J., Cone, J., & Moher, J. (2020). Perceptual salience influences food choices independently of health and taste preferences. Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications, 5(1), 1-13.
Moher, J. (2020). Distracting Objects Induce Early Quitting in Visual Search. Psychological Science, 31(1), 31-42.
Moher, J., & Song, J. H. (2019). A comparison of simple movement behaviors across three different devices. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 81(7), 2558-2569.
Box # PSYCHOLOGY/Bill Hall
270 Mohegan Ave.
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Bill Hall 213