top of page
Mary Peterson, PhD



Professor and Director, Cognitive Science Program

Professor, Department of Psychology Cognition and Neural Systems Program

Professor, Evelyn F.McKnight Brain Institute

Chair, Cognitive Science Graduate Interdisciplinary Program

Member, Neuroscience Graduate Interdisciplinary Program

Executive Committee Member, School of Mind, Brain and Behavior

University of Arizona

Dr. Peterson investigates how we perceive the world visually. She uses cognitive neuroscience techniques (e.g., behavioral methods, EEG, and fMRI ) to investigate:

  • the competitive processes producing object perception, and how they are affected by context;

  • the reciprocal relationship between perception and memory;

  • feedforward and feedback mechanisms in perception;

  • how unconsciously activated knowledge affects attention and perception

  • how brain damage and aging affect the perception of, and memory for, objects

The National Science Foundation was a major source of funding throughout her career. Most recently, her  research was funded by the Office of Naval Research through a Multi-University Research Initiative (2014 - 2022).


Professor Peterson is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS); of the American Psychological Association (APA); the Association for Psychological Science (APS), and the Psychonomic Society. She is an elected member of the Society of Experimental Psychologists (SEP) and the International Neuropsychological Symposium (INS). She has served on the Governing Boards of the Vision Sciences Society and the Psychonomic Society and as the Chair of the Governing Board of the Psychonomic Society. She is a founding member of the Configural Processing Consortium, and served as the President (2016 – 200). She served twice as a member of the National Science Foundation, Human Perception and Action panel, as an Associate Editor of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, WIRES: Cognitive Science, and the Journal of Vision, in addition to reviewing articles for many journals and international granting agencies.


Dr. Peterson is one of the founding organizers of "Females of Vision, et al" (FoVea, founded in 2016), whose goal is to enhance the success of women in vision science; she obtained a grant from the National Science Foundation to support FoVea's activities (2016 – 2019). She has been a member of the advisory board of Women in Cognitive Science ( since its inception in 2000. She has attended the WICS workshops held annually in association with the Psychonomic Society, serving as a WICS panel member (twice), a group discussion group leader, and as a speed mentor. In addition Dr. Peterson participates in WICS activities promoting women scientists throughout the year. At the University of Arizona, Dr. Peterson is a member of the Psychology Department Diversity Committee, and has held informal professional issues workshops with Psychology graduate students.

Dr. Peterson's graduate advisor at Columbia University was Julian Hochberg (7/10/1923 - 5/22/2022).

An appreciation of Hochberg can be downloaded at:

Oxford University Press published a festschrift book in Hochberg's honor in 2007: In the Mind's Eye: Julian Hochberg on the Perception of Pictures, Films, and the World (edited by Peterson, M. A., Gillam, B, and Sedgwick, H. A. Twenty of Hochberg's important chapter are reprinted there along with 20 associated chapters by contemporary authors.


Contact Information:

Mailing address:

Department of Psychology

1503 E. University Blvd.

University of Arizona

Tucson, AZ 85721



Office: Psychology 524

Office phone: 520-621-5365

Email: mapeters [at]


bottom of page