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Rita Anderson

B.A. Wisconsin, Ph.D. California, San Diego

Associate Professor

Office: SN3080
Phone: (709) 864-8771
Affiliations: Cognitive and Behavioural Ecology/Cognition

Research Interests

Rita Anderson



I am a cognitive psychologist who studies cognition in both human and nonhuman animals. With respect to human cognition, I have been intrigued by our ability to use mental imagery. My imagery research focuses on how people can use mental imagery to make discoveries and solve problems in the visual-spatial domain. For example, I and my students have investigated how the availability of perceptual support and being able to draw, working memory load, and the balance between the strategic and automatic processes involved in visual imagery influences how well people can use visual imagery to combine simple shapes to create novel, yet recognizable figures. We have also examined the influence of individual differences in visual imagery and cognitive development on performance in this mental synthesis task and other mental discovery tasks.

I also study cognitive aspects of communication and social behaviour in nonhuman animals, especially wolves (Canis lupus and C. rufus) and domestic dogs (C. familiaris). I and various students developed a motivationally-neutral coding system for use in the frame-by-frame coding of video tapes of social interactions between wolves. This system has been used to examine the visual and postural cues diagnostic of adult wolf play and aggression. Other students have focused on the close-range squeaking vocalization of wolves. Because the wolf pack at the Canadian Centre for Wolf Research retired a number of years ago, my wolf research is now limited to analyses of archived videotape. Most recently, Carolyn Walsh and I and our students have initiated a research program investigating the social behaviors of domestic dogs.

Selected Publications and Presentations

Schneider, J. N., Weir, J. N., & Anderson, R. E. (2008, Aug). Life inside the wolf pack: Squeaking in red and gray wolves. Poster presented at the Second International Conference on Acoustic Communication by Animals, Corvallis, OR .

Howse, M. S., Walsh, C. J., & Anderson, R. E. (2008, Aug). Exploring the normal behavior of domestic dogs (Canis familiaris). Poster presented at the 45th Annual Meeting of the Animal Behavior Society, Snowbird, UT.

Anderson, R. E., Groves , M. F., Weir, J. N., Ryon, J., & Fentress, J. (2007, Aug). Close-range communication in wolves: Squeaking. Poster presented at the International Ethological Congress, Halifax, NS .

Schneider, J. N., Anderson, R. E., & Miller, E. H. (2006, May) Characteristics of nonlinear phenomena in the tonal vocalizations of a North Americal canid, Canis rufus. Paper presented at the 151st meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, Providence, RI .

Anderson, R. E., Healy, M. K., Arlett, C., & O’Keefe, C. (2003, Nov). Occurrence and consequences of AHA events in mental synthesis. Paper presented at the 44th Annual Meeting of the Psychonomic Society, Vancouver, BC .

Anderson, R. E. et al (2002). HYPERWOLF v. 2.0. This is a web-based motivationally-neutral, annotated coding system designed for the frame-by-frame video analysis of wolf social interactions, suitable for use by specialists in canid behaviour and others, such as veterinarians.

Anderson, R. E. & Paterson, H. (2000, Nov.). Young children can use mental imagery productively. Paper: 41st Annual Meeting of the Psychonomic Society, New Orleans, LA. [

Weir, J. N. & Anderson, R. E. (1999, June). Individual and contextual variation in the squeaking vocalizations of wolves (Canis lupus). Poster: 37th Annual meeting of the Animal Behavior Society, Lewisburg, PA.

Anderson , R. E. (1999, July) Image reconstrual and mental synthesis: What is the difference? Paper: 7th European Workshop on Imagery and Cognition, Windsor Great Park, . [

Schenkel, R (1947/1999). A study on expression in wolves: Observations in captivity. Behaviour, 1, 81 - 129. [I commissioned and coordinated this new translation by U. Zuschlag & F. Morgenstern]

Anderson, R. E. (1999). Some thoughts on psychologic. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 40, 19 - 22.

Anderson, R. E. (1998). Imagery and spatial representation. In W. Bechtel & G. Graham (Eds.), Companion to Cognitive Science (pp. 204 - 211). Oxford : Basil Blackwell.

Helstrup, T. & Anderson, R. E. (1996). On the generality of mental construction in imagery: When bananas become smiles. European Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 8, 275 – 293.

Anderson, R. E. & Helstrup, T. (1993). Visual discovery in mind and on paper. Memory & Cognition, 21, 283 – 293.

B. Roskos-Ewoldsen, M. J. Intons-Peterson, & Anderson, R. E. (1993). Imagery, creativity and discovery: A cognitive perspective. Amsterdam : Elsevier.