James T. Townsend Lab
Department of Psychology
Professor James T. Townsend has worked for many years within the broad information processing approach. He has been particularly involved in the development of theory-driven methodologies which are capable of solving deep issues of elementary cognition, perception and action, by testing very large classes of models against one another in a non-parametric and distribution free manner.
One train of that research is known as Systems Factorial Technology and another is General Recognition Theory. Both of these will appear again below.
Within the domain of Systems Factorial Technology, he has carried out theoretical and experimental research on the parallel vs serial processing issue and on letter, elementary pattern perception, face processing, decision making, and more recently problems involving speech and hearing.
The pattern recognition work established a firm empirical foundation for certain models that now form a basis for work in identification and categorization. It also has aided understanding of how feature perception occurs. Later investigations include development of the General Recognition Theory in collaboration with Dr. F. Gregory Ashby. Recent efforts have centered on developing a rigorous framework for the investigation of perceptual dependencies in multi-dimensional stimuli such as letters, words, and faces.
His earlier work on parallel and serial processing indicated broad areas where model mimicking occurred. Later efforts have discovered a number of powerful experimental strategies, backed up by mathematical results that can be used to experimentally distinguish the two modes of processing. Similar projects have involved related topics such as identifying decisional stopping rules, measuring workload capacity in attentional and other cognitive settings, and assessing dependencies among psychological subsystems.
This branch of work led into collaborative efforts with Dr. Richard Schweickert of Purdue University on his theory of more complex mental networks as well as providing axioms for the use of the principle of selective influence. Another important collaborator has been Dr. Hans Colonius on topics such as theory and methodology of redundant signals experiments and variance of parallel processing systems as workload is varied.
Another line of research has involved collaboration with Dr. Jerome Busemeyer on a theory of dynamic decision making known as decision field theory. This theory attempts to provide a quantitative setting for explanation and prediction that, in contrast to traditional approaches based on utility theory, is inherently psychological and motivational, dynamic, and stochastic.
There have also been valuable interactions with clinical scientists such as Dr. Richard McFall on philosophy of science issues in clinical science. He values a long and highly fruitful collaboration with clinical and mathematical psychologist Dr. Richard W. J. Neufeld.
Professor Townsend has also published a number of papers on general theoretical methodologies, measurement, history of mathematical psychology and on dynamics and chaos theory. In addition, he has authored a number of papers on adapting Riemannian manifolds in the study of human pattern recognition including an infinite dimensional manifold for face perception.
His most recent interests center on configural and holistic perception in ways which are informed by the aforementioned manifold theory as well as the more traditional information processing approach. One fruitful association in this domain has been with Dr. Daniel Algom with emphasis on the study of dimensional and featural separability and independence, these two principles being generally thought of as opposed to perceptual configurality
Along with Dr. Stephen W. Link, Professor Townsend is co-editor of the Scientific Psychology Series of books, published by the Taylor & Francis Group. The current list of twenty-two titles features monographs and anthologies by some of the top psychological scientists, past and present.
Dr. Townsend is especially proud of the brilliant and hardworking students and postdoctoral fellows he has had the honor of mentoring over the past half century. They number too many to list here but their many coauthored papers can be found in the accompanying bibliography and some under the heading Current Collaborations. Many can be found in three soon to be published volumes, all of them in the Scientific Psychology Series of Psychology Press (Taylor and Francis). The first is an ‘in press’ two-book series, Mathematical Models of Perception and Cognition: A Festschrift for James T. Townsend. Joseph M. Houpt and Leslie M. Blaha, Editors, New York: Psychology Press. The second will be Systems Factorial Technology: A Theory Driven Methodology for the Identification of Perceptual and Cognitive Mechanisms. Mario Fific, Nicholas Altieri, Cheng-Ta Yang, Daniel R. Little, Editors.
He is a Distinguished Professor, and Rudy Professor of the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences.
James T. Townsend Mathematical Psychology Lab
Department of Psychology
Indiana University Bloomington