image: Psychology Logo
image: Psychology Logo
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image: Psychology Logo

image: Vanessa Simmering

Phone: (608) 890-2598
Office: 522 Psychology

Vanessa R. Simmering

Assistant Professor
Ph.D. 2008, University of Iowa

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My research investigates the development of perception, action, and cognition, with an emphasis on visuo-spatial cognition. In particular, I study how young children (ages 2-6 years) learn and remember objects’ properties and locations in space. My research also utilizes dynamic neural field models to understand how brain development might relate to the behavioral development I study in the lab.


Currently, I have two primary lines of research. First, I am investigating how children learn to maintain spatial orientation, that is, how they coordinate their body with the locations of objects as they move through space; this work, builds on my previous research on how children perceive and remember locations within object-centered frames of reference. Second, I am studying how memory for object features is changing during early development, specifically whether there are changes in the number of items that children can remember, and the precision of their memory representations. I am particularly interested in whether developmental changes in visual cognition parallel change in spatial cognition during early childhood, and the implications of these developmental patterns for our understanding of the role of experience in cognitive development.

Representative Publications
Simmering, V.R., Schutte, A.R., & Spencer, J.P. (2008). Generalizing the dynamic field theory of spatial cognition across real and developmental time scales. In S. Becker (Ed.) Computational Cognitive Neuroscience [special issue]. Brain Research, 1202, 68-86.

Simmering, V.R. & Spencer, J.P. (2008). Generality with specificity: The dynamic field theory generalizes across tasks and time scales. Developmental Science, 11, 541-555.

Simmering, V.R. & Spencer, J.P. (2007). Carving up space at imaginary joints: Can people mentally impose spatial category boundaries? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 33, 871-894.

Simmering, V.R., Spencer, J.P., & Schöner, G. (2006). Reference-related inhibition produces enhanced position discrimination and fast repulsion near axes of symmetry. Perception and Psychophysics, 68, 1027-1046.

Spencer, J.P., Simmering, V.R., & Schutte, A.R. (2006). Toward a formal theory of flexible spatial behavior: Geometric category biases generalize across pointing and verbal response types. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 32, 473-490.
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