Mary C. Potter
Professor of Psychology, Emerita

Dept. of Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

43 Vassar St., 46-4125
Cambridge, MA 02139

(617) 253-5526

Cognitive Processes: Attention, Perception, Comprehension and Memory

The overall goal of research in the Potter lab is to understand the very rapid processes involved in perceiving, comprehending, and remembering meaningful material such as words, sentences, or pictures. We've discovered that the meaning of a pictured scene or written word is understood in a fraction of a second, much faster than the time required for stabilizing even a brief memory of that stimulus -- unless the stimulus fits into the viewer's current mental context, like a word that is part of a sentence.

To study these processes we use rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP) of words or pictures to mimic continuous reading or viewing. Our research subjects either look for particular targets in these sequences or are tested afterward to assess memory.

Short term picture comprehension and memory

Detecting words in two streams at high rates

Attention in search tasks: The Attentional Blink

Comprehension of and object and its background