Dr. Eva Wiese, one of Mason Psychology’s tenure track faculty members, brings a unique perspective to the department through her cultural background and work in social robotics and design thinking. As the child of two scientists, Dr. Wiese knew she wanted to get into a research field. After dabbling in physics and clinical psychology, she found her love for human factors psychology, working to understand and improve how humans interact with the world around them.
Dr. Wiese’s research focuses on social robotics and design thinking. Her team’s research on how humans interact with robots allows her to combine theories of cognitive and behavioral neuroscience with designing questions. A driving question of the social robotics field is: “What are the observable correlates of having a mind?” In other words, under what conditions does one attribute “mind” to the behavior of a robot? What are the design features that will make it more likely for you to attribute “mind?”
An example of this theory at work is with humans observing gaze direction. When following someone else’s gaze, you shift your attention to the object of the other person’s attention. You combine information about facial expressions and body posture to establish meaning and infer what’s on the other person’s mind. Robots are now looking more and more like humans and can show increasingly complex behavior, by incorporating facial features and body language such as eye and mouth movements. The question becomes, how are humans interpreting their behavior? Dr. Wiese’s research hinges on this point by applying well-known theories and testing them with real life application.
Some of the work in this field could have clinical applications. For example, children with autism spectrum disorder can sometimes struggle with following gaze, as the process can be too complex for them to fully comprehend. These children can work with robots that possess simple facial features that can train the children to follow gaze and strengthen their social interaction cues. Social robotics and design thinking is a growing field, especially when considering the fast changing technological landscape..
Before joining the Mason community, Dr. Wiese grew up in and attended the Otto-Friedrich University of Bamberg, Germany. Dr. Wiese has greatly enjoyed the challenges her students bring her, as she aspires to be the best teacher she can be for them. Additionally, her relationships and colleagues in Germany, primarily to automakers like BMW, have helped Mason students secure internships and study abroad. In this capacity Dr. Wiese is not only able to share her knowledge of the field, but also her culture.
Dr. Wiese hopes that she can guide her students to success. She encourages them to get involved with as many internships as possible. “In my opinion,” she notes, trial and error “is the only way you can find what you want to do with your life.” She hopes students will be able to find their passion and grow as scholars while here at Mason. Before they leave, Dr. Wiese wants to instill in her students a firm grasp of the concepts of psychology and a level of confidence in using academic methods and presenting data. A psychology degree from Mason is that it opens doors and can take you anywhere. Dr. Wiese wants her students to be prepared for the variety of places they can go.
Social Robot Head by Meka Robotics helps Dr.Wiese and her students better understand the importance of gaze direction.