News: Starting Fall, 2014, I will be an assistant professor of Psychology at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA.
Email: finleysr @ plu.edu
I am a psychologist, specializing in cognitive science. I teach classes in research methods, cognitive psychology, developmental psychology and physiological psychology. Teaching a wide range of courses allows me to expose students to the many ways in which we can understand human behavior, and try to solve the puzzle of how the mind works. I am fascinated by the human capacity for thought and language, and our extraordinary ability to learn. I am dedicated to exposing undergraduates to research in psychology while spreading my passion for creativity and discovery in psychological science.
My background is in cognitive science, with a focus on integrating psychology and linguistics (the science of language). My research focuses on how adults and children learn language. Specifically, I am interested in how regularities in language can be extracted from what we hear, even when what we hear may not contain all of the information that might be needed to learn the language. For example, the ending /-s/ in English often denotes plural ('cat' vs. 'cats'), even though many words end in /-s/ that are not plural ('fuss') and many plurals do not end in /-s/ ('oxen'). My experiments explore how language learners sort out these ambiguities by manipulating the abstract structure of miniature, artificial languages. Experimentally controlling elements of language allows us to understand the human capacity for language learning, as well as understanding the similarities between languages that sound very different (e.g., English and Chinese).
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