January 30, 2014
UNION — USC Union Assistant Professor of Psychology Dr. Randy Lowell acquired his Bachelors from the University of South Carolina, then followed with a Masters in Experimental Psychology and Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology. Lowell began looking for jobs after graduating with his attention to smaller schools and started at USC Union in Fall 2012 to primarily focus on teaching, while still having access to the research opportunities and resources associated with the USC system.
Lowell’s primary research focus is on how and when we incidentally acquire new vocabulary words while we read. He has recently published his first paper titled “Word length effects on novel words: Evidence from eye movements,” which examined the impact of word length on initial processing of new words within sentences. Another paper, examining how the sound codes of new words affect these processes, is currently under review. Other work in this area includes a recent Magellan Scholar project examining what information is acquired about a new word after encountering it one or two times, within informative context that points toward similar or quite different intended meanings. In addition, he is currently working with another undergraduate student as part of an Independent Study to look at the extent to which extrinsic motivation influences these processes.
Another mission he has is to extend his vocabulary acquisition work to include how it works in second language reading. In 2009, he received an Oral Presentation Award at USC’s Graduate Student Day with some of this research. Lowell is currently collaborating with faculty at the English Programs for Internationals at USC to obtain funding for this work. In addition to informing their understanding of basic cognitive processes involved in learning new words while reading in a second language, they hope this work can benefit pedagogical issues in English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction.
A new area of research that Lowell is embarking on is a Psychology-Sociology collaboration with Dr. Hauptman at USC-Upstate. They will investigate the extent to which demographic information impacts the way that readers perceive characters during reading and how it impacts the way they retain or modify that information in memory over time. Lowell is also in the early stages of developing a project with an undergraduate at USC-Union, which will examine similar variables, but will focus more specifically on how they operate while reading about characters who are in a professional setting.
This story was provided by USC Union.