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Mary Kate Moore…Than Meets the Eye

Mary Kate Moore (r) and her mentor, Dr. Joshua Williams

Soon-to-graduate Honors student Mary Kate Moore (experimental psychology ’19) will be able to add one more entry to her curriculum vita this June: a publication as lead author of the article, “George Berkeley Through History: Multimodal Perception from the 1700s to Present.” The article is coming out in the North American Journal of Psychology.

What began as a two-page topical paper for her History and Systems of Psychology class in 2017 turned into a 17-page publication on multimodal perception, or the idea that all our senses – visual, auditory, sensory and more – work together to create one’s perception of reality. The original assignment was to select a figure in history – in Moore’s case, George Berkeley – and connect their ideas to modern research.

In respect to multimodal perception, Berkeley championed the idea that there is a correlation between sight, touch, and previous experiences, and humans interpret the world through the integration of these inputs.  Moore focused her paper on the points in history where Berkeley’s idea was used – knowingly or not – and showcased how his idea has persisted through time and has even been supported using today’s available technology.

The journey from two-page paper to full-blown publication was, naturally, a laborious one. “Difficult would probably be the best word I could use to describe it,” Moore said.

After writing the paper for her class, Moore was fascinated by “the fact that [one] could see [Berkeley’s ideas] in all these different perspectives” and wanted to explore it further. Her professor for the class, Dr. Joshua Williams, had included a clause in his syllabus that indicated he would support students looking to publish papers written in class. Moore reports that it was a “mutual idea to go to publication” and that “discussion about her interest [in writing the article] made [Dr. Williams] excited.”

Once Moore began writing the article, she ran into quite a few obstacles, including writer’s block and how to best organize the article.

“I first attempted to look at theoretical perspectives in chronological order instead of organizing the article by person,” she shared. “That didn’t work, so I tried looking at it topically, as in a section on audio, then visual, then touch, etc. What ended up working was looking at the historical figures that relate to Berkeley’s ideas. Whole textbooks have been written on multimodal perception alone, so this article is just a highly representative distillation of all that it could have been, emphasizing connections back to Berkeley’s ideas.”

Dr. Williams and fellow psychology professor Dr. Nancy McCarley mentored Moore throughout the writing process. Williams helped Moore by focusing the content of the article and providing feedback, while McCarley aided Moore in ensuring the writing flowed and, according to Moore, helped her to write in a way that was “accessible to any person who decided they wanted to read it.”

“She really didn’t need us that much,” Dr. Williams shared. “Mary Kate is extremely driven, and she’s very dedicated to projects she gets involved in.” Williams described Moore as diligent and said she is “one of the most reliable undergraduate research students I’ve ever worked with, paired with a good attitude.”

In addition to Moore’s work ethic, Williams also attributed some of her success to her involvement with the Student Scholars Symposium. “She’s an accomplished speaker,” he shared. “Higher-up presentations at field-specific conferences are now old hat.” Moore has presented her work on this subject at a previous Student Scholars Symposium and the Southeastern Psychological Association conference last year in fulfillment of her Honors project graduation requirement.

While being the lead author on a publication while an undergraduate student certainly sets Moore apart from her peers, the process of researching and writing the article had a big impact on Moore. “The most challenging part was reading philosophical texts such as the Critique of Pure Reason by Kant. I have lots of respect for philosophers after that.”

Williams expanded on the article’s impact: “For Mary Kate, the article allowed her to explore her interest in neuroscience as it relates to development, and knowing the history and ideas behind development is going to play a big part for her as she goes to graduate school. For the discipline, the article is significant as many people are still exploring old ideas, and it’s amazing to think that many past figures in history hit the nail on the head before having any of the fancy technologies of today.”

In the future, Moore would like to focus on research into multimodal perception with an applied perspective as opposed to theoretical. “Multimodal perception is my baby,” she explained. “I think it’s fascinating.” She already has ideas in mind for possible experiments but confided that she may have to wait until she’s earned her Ph.D. before delving even further into the subject.


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