Office for the Promotion of Women in Science, Engineering, and Mathematics
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Shiffrar, Maggie
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Maggie's Story
Shiffrar, Maggie
Professor

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Phone: 973-353-5440, ext. 3948

Ph.D., Stanford University

Professional Summary/CV [.PDF]

Department of Psychology, Arts and Sciences, Newark; Rutgers
Areas of Interest
Visual motion perception, visual object recognition, perception-action coupling, autism, pedestrian visibility, visual detection of intention.
Teaching Areas
Cognitive Psychology, Cognitive Processes, Undergraduate Social Perception, Visual Perception & Physiology, Object Recognition, Cognitive Neuroscience,Principles of Psychology.
Memberships and Professional Service
Current Member of American Psychological Association, American Psychological Society, Psychonomics Society, Sigma Xi, Society for Cognitive Neuroscience, Vision Sciences Society; Chair, Department of Psychology, Rutgers University-Newark, 2005-2007; Chair and Organizer, Association for Psychological Science: "Getting in touch with the body, research session," 2006.
Grants, Honors, and Awards
Co-Principal Investigator, NSF: "Perceptual and social psychologial constraints on threat detections," 2007-2010; Principal Investigator, NAAR: "Do visual motion deficits underlie social deficits in autism?" 2006-2008; Co-Principal Investigator, NSFIGERT: "Interdisciplinary training in perceptual science," 2006-2011; Elected Fellow, American Psychological Society, 2005.
Academic Interests and Plans
My collaborators, students, and I conduct behavioral and brain imaging studies to understand how the human visual system analyses moving objects and people. In our past research, we have shown that the human visual system analyzes the movements of people differently from the movements of objects. Subsequently, we identified three reasons why. The first of these is visual experience. Human observers have extensive experience seeing and paying attention to the actions of other people. That visual experience selectively increases visual sensitivity to human movement. The second reason is motor experience. During the visual perception of human movement, the observerís own motor system works in concert with that observerís visual system. As a result, observers demonstrate greater visual sensitivity to actions that fall within their own motor repertoire. Finally, neurophysiologists have shown that the neural processes involved in the analysis of social and emotional information are tightly interconnected with the neural processes involved in the perception of human movement. We have shown that these social and emotional mechanisms shape the visual sensitivity to human movement.

In our current and future studies, we are applying the basic research findings outlined above to the study of autism, pedestrian visibility, and threat detection. For example, in our studies with observers having autism spectrum disorder, we are examining potential perceptual deficits that might ultimately account for the social difficulties classically associated with this disorder.