Professor Receives Esteemed Research Award for Interdisciplinary Work


Michael SpiveyUC Merced cognitive science Professor Michael Spivey has been awarded the 2010 William Procter Prize for Scientific Achievement, joining the ranks of many other researchers who have received the prestigious national award.

Past winners include mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot, paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould, economist Herbert Simon, primatologist Jane Goodall, anthropologist Margaret Mead and engineer Vannevar Bush. The award is given by Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society, to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to scientific research and has successfully communicated its value and significance to scholars in various disciplines.

“I am simultaneously humbled and honored to be on the same list as these luminaries,” Spivey said. “These are people who have made really awe-inspiring contributions to their sciences.”

Using innovative eye-tracking and reach-tracking equipment, Spivey studies how humans perceive and respond to what they hear and see. The equipment records people’s actual responses, but also reveals what options they considered in making their decision. This research has revolutionized the way people think about how the brain works. Older models approached the brain as a computer that would move through modular processes, one by one. Spivey’s research shows that different brain regions simultaneously communicate with each other in what’s called a continuous loop.

Spivey’s award is representative of UC Merced’s mission to encourage innovative research that goes beyond traditional disciplinary boundaries. His work incorporates neuroscience, philosophy, computer science, linguistics, and psychology.