Meet the Research and Experimental Psychology MA Faculty

Dr. Mildred Alvarez

Associate Professor, Developmental Psychology

Phone: (408) 924-5640
Email:  mildred.alvarez@sjsu.edu

Dr. Mildred M. Alvarez earned her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from Boston University. She did post-doctoral research at the University of Kansas in the areas of children's gender role development, the effects of television on youth, and children's play interactions. She continued her work in these areas as a Visiting Fellow at Cornell University before joining the faculty at San Jose State University.

Dr. Alvarez' research interests focus on the role of ethnicity and gender in the socialization of emotion. She is also interested in the role of ethnic identity on the educational attitudes of emerging adults.

Dr. Alvarez teaches courses in Child and Adolescent Psychology at the graduate and undergraduate levels. She has served as Associate Chair of the department and as a departmental advisor for undergraduate psychology majors.

Dr. Arlene Asuncion

Professor, Social Psychology

Phone: (408) 924-5609
Email:  arlene.asuncion@sjsu.edu

Dr. Arlene Asuncion earned her Ph.D. in Social Psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1993. Dr. Asuncion was a faculty member at the University of Texas at Arlington before joining the faculty at San Jose State University in 1995.

Dr. Asuncion's current research focuses on the influence of affective states on social information processing. This work primarily examines how perceivers' mood states impact their processing of persuasive messages and information about other individuals. In addition to this research, Dr. Asuncion is also interested in peoples' stereotypes about and attitudes towards different social groups, including ethnic minorities and other stigmatized groups. She is particularly interested in how minority groups view themselves as well as each other.

Dr. Asuncion is a Professor of Psychology and teaches courses in Social Psychology at both the graduate and undergraduate levels as well as an undergraduate course on the Psychology of Prejudice.

Dr. Valerie Carr

Assistant Professor, Neuroscience

Phone: (408) 924-5629
Email:  valerie.carr@sjsu.edu

Dr Valerie Carr earned her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from UCLA in 2008 where she examined strategic factors influencing memory in both younger and older adults. Afterwards she pursued an NIH-funded postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University where she investigated neural mechanisms of memory and how these mechanisms change with age. She is currently an Associate Professor in the Psychology department where she leverages her knowledge of cognitive neuroscience to understand factors that influence the content, quality, and durability of memories across the lifespan. 

Students in her lab conduct research investigating whether and how factors such as aerobic fitness, mobile device use, and wakeful rest affect long-term memory and executive function. Additionally, Dr. Carr maintains strong collaborative relationships with researchers at Stanford University and members of the Hippocampal Subfields Group regarding the structure and function of medial temporal lobe subfields. Finally, given Dr. Carr’s passion for teaching social science students how to program (see: Applied Computing for Behavioral and Social Sciences), she is involved in pedagogical research regarding interdisciplinary computing.

Dr. Cheryl Chancellor-Freeland

Professor, Biological Psychology

Phone: (408) 924-5645
Email:  cheryl.chancellor-freeland@sjsu.edu

Dr. Chancellor-Freeland received her doctorate degree from UC Santa Barbara in Biopsychology in 1992. Her field of interest was thermoregulation. She completed 4.5 years of postdoctoral work at Boston University Medical School, first as a training fellow, and then as an associate in the departments of microbiology and neurobiology, respectively. This was followed by a one-year appointment as interim Writing Director at CSU Monterey Bay.

Dr. Chancellor-Freeland's research interests include the topics of stress, immunology, neurodegeneration, and cognitive performance. Publications can be found in the area of neuroscience, psychosomatic medicine, and immunology.

Dr. Shinchieh (CJ) Duh

Associate Professor, Developmental Psychology

Phone: (408) 924-6039
Email:  CJ.Duh@sjsu.edu

Dr. Shinchieh (C.J.) Duh earned her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from the University of California Santa Cruz in 2014. Dr. Duh was an adjunct faculty at San Francisco State University (2011-2013) before joining the SJSU Psychology Department. Her research focuses on young children’s reasoning, the processes of teaching and learning (in family or school), and cross-cultural comparisons (in the U.S., Taiwan, Korea, and China thus far). Her scholarly work can be seen in several referred journals including Cognitive Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Children and Youth Services Review, Journal of Research in Childhood Education, and Journal of Education and Learning.

Dr. Greg Feist

Professor, Personality

Phone: (408) 924-5617
Email:   greg.feist@sjsu.edu

Gregory J. Feist currently is Professor of Psychology in Personality at San Jose State University. He has also taught at the College of William & Mary and the University of California at Davis. He received his PhD in 1991 from the University of California at Berkeley and his undergraduate degree in 1985 from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. He is widely published in the psychology of creativity, the psychology of science, and the development of scientific talent. One major focus of his is establishing the psychology of science as an independent study of science, along the lines of the history, philosophy, and sociology of science. His major efforts toward this end are: Psychology of Science and the Origins of the Scientific Mind (2006, Yale University Press), which was awarded the 2007 William James Book Prize by the Division of General Psychology, American Psychological Association (APA);  and was founding president of the “International Society for the Psychology of Science and Technology”. Some recent research projects have included the topics:

  • creativity and mental health
  • motivated reasoning and scientific thinking
  • creativity, language, and meaning

His research in creativity and personality has been recognized with the Berlyne Award from the Division for Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts (Division 10) of American Psychological Association (APA). Feist is former President of APA’s Division 10, and is or has been on the Editorial Boards of Review of General Psychology, Social Epistemology, Journal of Research in Personality, and Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts.  His teaching efforts have been recognized by outstanding teaching awards at both UC Berkeley and UC Davis. Feist is also co-author of Psychology: Perspectives and Connections, Fundamental of Psychology: Perspectives and Connections, and Theories of Personality, as well as co-editor of the Handbook of the Psychology of Science, and Cambridge Handbook of Creativity and Personality.

Dr. Cary Feria

Associate Professor, Perception

Phone: (408) 924-5620
Email:  cary.feria@sjsu.edu

Dr. Cary Feria earned her Ph.D. in Psychology from UC Irvine in 2004. She was a faculty member at Morehead State University in Kentucky before joining San Jose State University in 2008. Dr. Feria also is an adjunct faculty member in the SJSU M.S. Program in Human Factors & Ergonomics. Dr. Feria teaches courses related to Perception and Research Methods.

Dr. Feria's area of research is visual perception. Her research interests include visual attention, multiple object tracking, visual search, and depth perception. Dr. Feria also has research interests in the field of human factors.

Dr. Sean Laraway

Professor, Learning & Memory

Phone: (408) 924-5679
Email:  sean.laraway@sjsu.edu

Dr. Sean Laraway earned his Ph.D. in the Experimental Analysis of Behavior from Western Michigan University in 2003. He also earned a graduate certificate in human performance technology (organizational behavior) from WMU. Upon graduation, he served as a postdoctoral fellow in behavioral pharmacology at WMU, where he worked on research funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Dr. Laraway has taught at San José State University since 2004 and serves as adjunct faculty in the SJSU MS Program in Human Factors & Ergonomics. His research interests include learning, motivation, behavior analysis, drug use and abuse, behavioral pharmacology, consumer behavior, and human factors/ergonomics.

Dr. Christine Ma-Kellams

Assistant Professor, Social Psychology

Phone: (408) 924-5562
Email:  Christine.Ma-Kellams@sjsu.edu

Dr. Christine Ma-Kellams received her Ph.D. in Social Psychology from UC Santa Barbara in 2011 and completed her postdoctoral training at Harvard University. Prior to SJSU, she was an assistant professor at the University of La Verne. She joined the department of Psychology at San Jose State University in Fall 2019.

Her research interests focus on cross-cultural differences, close relationships, emotion, and decision-making. She is interested in culture, broadly defined, including not just race/ethnicity, but also class/socioeconomic status, gender, political orientation, and religion. Her recent work has included the use of Big Data in the form of internet searches to explore group differences in a variety of applied outcomes, including public health and politics.

Dr. Clifton Oyamot

Professor, Personality/Social Psychology

Phone: (408) 924-5650
Email:   clifton.oyamot@sjsu.edu

NOTE: Dr. Oyamot is currently serving as Department Chair and is not accepting students at this time.

Dr. Clifton Oyamot earned his Ph.D. in Social Psychology from the University of Minnesota in 2004. He spent a year as a visiting assistant professor at Carleton College prior to joining the faculty at San José State University. Dr. Oyamot’s research integrates personality and social psychological perspectives in three main lines of inquiry.

Self and Identity. Exploring the implicit link between the self-concept and peoples’ personal possessions, and the implications of this link for understanding phenomena such as materialism, clutter, as well the general processes by which characteristics (e.g., roles, identities, possessions) become a part of our sense of self.

Intergroup Relations. Currently testing and extending a model that incorporates personality (Right-Wing Authoritarianism), social norms, and values (egalitarianism) in predicting under what circumstances prejudice towards various groups (e.g., immigrants, gays and lesbians, African Americans) will be exacerbated or attenuated.

Interpersonal Relationships. Investigating how personality characteristics (e.g., self-monitoring, the need for status and influence) impacts closeness, satisfaction and other outcomes in interpersonal relationships.

Dr. Evan Palmer

Associate Professor, Human Factors and Cognitive Science

Program Coordinator, Research & Experimental Psychology MA Program
Phone: (408) 924-5547
Email: evan.palmer@sjsu.edu
Additional Webpage: lavalab.net

Dr. Evan Palmer holds a B.S. in Cognitive Science and a Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology, both from UCLA. Following graduate school, he completed a four year post-doctoral research fellowship at Harvard Medical School. Four nine years, Dr. Palmer was a member of the Human Factors Psychology faculty at Wichita State University before joining the Psychology Department at San José State University in 2016. Dr. Palmer is the graduate coordinator of the M.A. Program in Research and Experimental Psychology in the Psychology Department and an adjunct faculty member of the M.S. Program in Human Factors/Ergonomics in the Industrial and Systems Engineering Department. He is also affiliated with the minors in Applied Computing for the Behavioral and Social Sciences and Human Systems Integration. Currently, Dr. Palmer teaches courses in Cognition, Perception, Human Factors, and Cognitive Science.

Dr. Palmer’s research centers on applying principles from cognition, attention, and perception to solve real-world problems. He specializes in studying visual perception and attention and is head of the Learning, Attention, Vision, and Application (LAVA) Lab at San José State University. Current research topics include motivational design through gamification, computational theories of visual search, human factors in healthcare, data visualization, web page perception, shape perception, visual attention, and visual search. In addition to basic research, LAVA has done contract work including eye tracking analyses of restaurant menus, usability analyses of websites and products, and design of supplementary materials and website activities for a sensation and perception textbook.

Dr. David Schuster

Associate Professor, Human Factors

Phone: (408) 924-5659
Email: david.schuster@sjsu.edu
Additional Webpage: vectrlab.net

David Schuster earned his Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Central Florida in 2013, specializing in applied experimental psychology and human factors. While pursuing his Ph.D., Dr. Schuster was a member of the Team Performance Laboratory at the UCF Institute for Simulation and Training. During that time, Dr. Schuster supervised multiple research projects centered on understanding individual and shared cognition in complex environments. He joined the SJSU Department of Psychology in 2013. 

Dr. Schuster’s research centers on understanding individual and shared cognition in complex environments. He has conducted research in domains such as aviation, transportation security training, and military human-robot interaction. Currently, he is interested in how complex sociotechnical systems support or hinder people, with a particular focus on decision making among cybersecurity professionals. In 2015, he was awarded a five-year NSF CAREER award to study human cognition in cyber defense. Since that time, he has been awarded supplemental scholarships from NSF to fund undergraduate research training and has mentored over 50 students in his Virtual Environments, Cognition and Training Research (VECTR) Lab. He is a co-investigator of an NSF-funded technology pathway program, which led to a minor in computer programming for CoSS majors. In total, he has been PI or Co-PI on over $1M in externally funded research since joining SJSU. In 2017, he received the Early Career Investigator Award from the SJSU Research Foundation.

Dr. Schuster has co-authored over 30 papers in journals, edited books, and conference proceedings. His work has appeared in Ergonomics and Human Factors. Dr. Schuster has presented at the IEEE Conference on Cognitive Methods in Situation Awareness and Decision Support and the NATO Information Systems and Technology Panel Symposium on Emerged and Emerging Disruptive Technologies. He is a member of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society.

Dr. Susan Syncerski

Associate Professor, Biological Psychology

Phone: (408) 924-5662
Email: susan.snycerski@sjsu.edu

Dr. Susan Snycerski earned her Ph.D. in the Experimental Analysis of Behavior at Western Michigan University (WMU) in 2002. She completed a two-year postdoctoral fellowship in behavioral pharmacology supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in which she examined the effects of gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB, the “date rape” drug) on learning and memory in rats. She also holds a Graduate Certificate in Clinical Trials Administration from WMU.

Dr. Snycerski was a full-time lecturer in the Department of Psychology at SJSU for 10 years prior to starting her position as an Assistant Professor.  Courses that she regularly teaches include Drugs, Brain, and Behavior; Human Learning; and General Psychology.

Dr. Snycerski’s varied research interests include biological psychology, behavioral pharmacology, drug use and abuse, behavior analysis, motivation, online learning/education, and animal wellness. She has published empirical, theoretical, and methodological articles, as well as book chapters and encyclopedia entries.

Dr. Christina Tzeng

Assistant Professor, Cognitive Psychology

Phone: (408) 924-5706
Email:  christina.tzeng@sjsu.edu

Dr. Christina Tzeng earned her Ph.D. in Psychology from Emory University, where she continued as a postdoctoral scholar prior to joining the Psychology Department at San José State University in 2020.
Dr. Tzeng studies the plasticity of the perceptual system, focusing on the cognitive and social mechanisms that underlie how we understand spoken language. Spoken language is a highly complex signal that conveys information not only about objects and events in the world but also information about who is talking.
Despite the vast amount of variability in the production of words across different voices and communicative contexts, listeners understand spoken utterances. Dr. Tzeng’s research draws from cognitive psychology, social psychology, and linguistics to explore two fundamental questions:
How do we adapt to unfamiliar pronunciations? Dr. Tzeng investigates how memory and attentional mechanisms affect listeners’ ability to overcome variations in pronunciation and how listeners generalize this learning to novel listening situations (e.g., unfamiliar voices, accents).
How does information about who is talking affect what we hear? Dr. Tzeng explores how talker characteristics such as the ethnicity, language background, and age affect listeners’ perception of the talker (e.g., comprehensibility, accentedness) and of what is said (e.g., whine vs. wine, beak vs. peak).

Dr. Mark Van Selst

Professor, Cognitive Psychology

Phone: (408) 924-5674
Email:  mark.vanselst@sjsu.edu  

Dr. Van Selst earned his BA in Psychology from the University of British Columbia (including published work on the role of attention on self-presentation) and his MA [1991] and Ph.D. [1995] in Psychology (Cognition) at the University of Waterloo (Canada).  After moving to the United States, he worked at the NASA-Ames Research Center (Mountain View, California) as a National Research Council Resident Research Associate with the Human Systems Integration Division.  He started at SJSU in 1997, achieving the rank of full professor in 2007.  On the research side, Dr. Van Selst has a background and publication record in processes underlying dual-task interference, visual cognition (mental rotation, image scanning), lexical processing (word frequency effects), statistical outlier elimination procedures (monte carlo simulations), Unconscious processes (measurement issues), and the effects of alcohol on cognitive performance (including go/no-go decisions).  Other domains of interest include crew miscommunication and error recovery (both planes and sailboats), design-facilitated errors, prospective memory failures, Stroop interference, and modality effects.  His most recent research investigates the validity of the Implicit Association Test in examining bias in cross-cultural differences, sexuality, and pet-ownership.  As the lead advisor for our undergraduate programs in the department, and as a statewide academic senator representing SJSU at the CSU system level (since 2002), he has developed expertise in student transfer, the role of general education, and alternatives to remediation.  In any given semester, Dr. Van Selst typically teaches one or more of cognitive psychology, introductory psychology, research methods, and/or the capstone seminar for our undergraduate honors program (other courses on a less frequent basis).