Faculty » David A. Rosenbaum

*** Starting at UCR July 2016 ***

Research Statement

Psychology is the science of mental life and behavior, yet remarkably little psychological research has been done on the topic of how we get from mental life to behavior. How do we plan and control our physical actions? How do we form the ideas that let us act, even for simple acts like speaking, reaching for objects, and walking on a university campus?

Answering this question can have important implications for medicine, engineering, and education. With a better understanding of the means by which thoughts are translated into actions, we can help people with movement difficulties, build smarter robots, and design better training methods for enhancing physical skills, such as those used in basic daily-life activities, playing music, playing sports, working, traveling, and so on.

The way we seek to better understand the translation of intentions into actions in our lab is mainly to rely on behavioral techniques. We generally ask people to carry out everyday tasks and we study how they perform the tasks. We assume that the way they do so can reveal what goes on in their minds before they do what they do.

With this simple approach, we have discovered several new phenomena: (1) It is easier to perform actions with repeated elements than with non-repeated elements; (2) repetition effects are so strong that people carry out movements in inefficient ways unless they are given strong incentives to switch; (3) people grab objects in ways that anticipate the body positions they will be in when they need the greatest control; (4) people pick up and carry objects that give them a sense of nearing goal completion even if they have to expend more effort in the process. Some of these discoveries have gotten media attention, including coverage in Scientific American and the New York Times.

Students interested in working in this lab should know that a unique feature of this kind of work is that most of the research is very “low-tech” though the implications are technical and potentially far-reaching. Students new to research can dive right in and be involved immediately in designing and running experiments. Having an immense amount of fun while being engaged in serious work is also a high priority of this laboratory.

Selected Publications

Rosenbaum, D. A. (2015). It’s A Jungle In There: How Competition And Cooperation In The Brain Shape The Mind. New York, New York: Oxford University Press. {Paperback edition of 2014 book}

Rosenbaum, D. A., Vaughan, J., & Wyble, B. (2015). MATLAB For Behavioral Scientists (Second Edition). Routledge/Taylor and Francis Group.

Coelho, C. J., Studenka, B. E., & Rosenbaum, D. A. (2014). End-state comfort trumps handedness in object manipulation. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 40, 718-730.

Rosenbaum, D. A., Gong, L., & Potts, C. A. (2014). Pre-crastination: Hastening subgoal completion at the expense of extra physical effort. Psychological Science, 25, 1487-1496.

Rosenbaum, D. A., Herbort, O., Weiss, D. J., & van der Wel, R. (2014). What’s in a grasp? American Scientist, 102, 366-373.

Coelho, C. J., & Rosenbaum, D. A. (2013). Is handedness just response bias? Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 20, 957-962.

Rosenbaum, D. A. (2013). Planning and performing physical actions. In D. Reisberg (Ed.). Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Psychology (pp. 859-873). New York: Oxford University Press.

Coelho, C., J., Nusbaum, H. C., Rosenbaum, D. A., & Fenn, K. M. (2012). Imagined actions aren’t just weak actions: Task variability promotes skill learning in physical practice but not in mental practice. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 38, 1759-1764.

Rosenbaum, D. A., Chapman, K. M., Weigelt, M., Weiss, D. J., & van der Wel, R. (2012). Cognition, action, and object manipulation. Psychological Bulletin, 138, 924-946.

Rosenbaum, D. A. (2012). The tiger on your tail: Choosing between temporally extended behaviors. Psychological Science, 23, 855-860.

Santamaria, J. P. & Rosenbaum, D. A. (2011). Etiquette and effort: Holding doors for others. Psychological Science, 22, 584-588.

Rosenbaum, D. A. (2010). Human Motor Control (Second Edition). San Diego, CA: Elsevier/Academic Press. Translated into Japanese in 2012 by MIWA-SHOTEN, LTD, Japan.