Ecological Approaches to Cognition: Essays in Honor of Ulric Neisser

By Eugene Winograd; Robyn Fivush et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 9
The Williams Syndrome Cognitive Profile: Strengths, Weaknesses, and Interrelations Among Auditory Short-Term Memory, Language, and Visuospatial Constructive Cognition

Carolyn B. Mervis University of Louisville

As an undergraduate at Cornell University, I studied linguistics. But I had time for a little bit of psychology, so I enrolled in Dick Neisser's course, Attention and Memory. This was my first systematic exposure to psychological research methods, and I was fascinated. Neisser often asked for volunteers to participate in graduate student research, and I was always willing. The critical experiment for my career involved a study of iconic memory. My data were unusual enough that the graduate student decided Dr. Neisser would want to talk with me himself. And so I went to Dr. Neisser's office, where we had a long discussion about iconic memory and visual perception, as his dog, Max, lounged contentedly nearby. Although my primary interest remained linguistics, I continued to meet with Dick to discuss research methods.

My intent had been to go to graduate school in linguistics and I was on the verge of accepting an offer from the University of Edinburgh when Dick stepped in. He argued that given my interest in language development, I really should become a psychologist, rather than a linguist. He urged me to enter the graduate psychology program at Cornell. And so I did. Throughout the time I was in graduate school, Dick and I continued our research method discussions, although the two of us were never engaged in research on the same topic at the same time. Dick stressed the importance of combining logical reasoning and creative ideas, the necessity of considering all points of view, and being willing to change one's mind. These emphases have remained with me throughout my career.

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