Faculty Profiles

faculty photo imageMichael Pitts

Professor of Psychology
Psychology Department
Division of Philosophy, Religion, Psychology, and Linguistics

I joined the Reed faculty in 2011, after earning a Ph.D. in Psychology from Colorado State University in 2007, followed by four years of post-doctoral research in Neuroscience at UCSD. My primary research interests center around the search for the neural substrates of consciousness. In psychology and cognitive neuroscience, it is generally accepted that most of what the brain does, it does so automatically, unconsciously. Because we have conscious experiences, however, some aspects of what the brain does must result in our subjective awareness of the world and of our own thoughts and feelings. A key unanswered question that my research seeks to resolve is: How does brain activity differ during conscious versus unconscious processing of objects and events in our world? To address this question, the primary strategy I use is to compare brain activity elicited by the same physical stimulus (typically visual or auditory) when it is perceived versus not-perceived, or perceived as X versus Y. In my lab we measure electrical brain activity non-invasively with EEG and use psychophysics, behavioral tasks, and eye tracking to manipulate attention and awareness in human subjects. My teaching relates to my research by providing students with a background in cognitive neuroscience methods, sensation and perception research, and specialized investigations into the neuroscience of consciousness and attention and consciousness research. I currently share research space with my colleague, Enriqueta Canseco-Gonzalez who studies neural mechanisms of language processing, and our lab is collectively known as the "SCALP Lab," an acronym for "Sensation, Cognition, Attention, Language, and Perception Lab."

SCALP lab website
Psychology Department webpage

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