Jennifer Gross

B.A., Oakland University M.S.
Ph.D., Wayne State University
Office: 2319 AuSable Hall
Phone: (616) 331-3511

Office Hours







Reading Tricky Words in English Study



Lab: GVSU Applied Cognition Lab,



Psycholinguistics/Applied Cognition

Courses Taught

PSY 101 - Introductory Psychology
PSY 101 - Honors Introductory Psychology
PSY 357 - Psychology of Language
PSY 365 - Cognition
HNR 313 - Honors Junior Seminar: Language in Cognitive Science

Current Research

My two primary research areas are: applied cognitive psychology and the psychology of language.

My research in applied cognitive psychology relies heavily on my training in experimental psychology as well as my position as a human factors engineer for General Dynamics Land Systems.  Well-designed objects and devices are seamless, intuitive, and enhance the quality of our lives.  Poorly designed objects and environments are cumbersome, frustrating, or worse, dangerous.  Entry doors, like those at Mackinac Hall, thwart and embarrass their users who pull instead of push, or push on the wrong side of the handle.  Commonplace cell phone interfaces often remain underutilized, because successful navigation requires consulting the accompanying manual.  Applied cognitive psychologists conduct research to support better engineering designs.  My applied research has involved disparate groups of participants (severely impaired dementia sufferers, soldiers, college students) and diverse, applied questions.  For example, in a series of studies, my research team investigated if persons with moderate to severe dementia had the required skills necessary to benefit from prosthetic signage (names and photographic labels) as navigational aids to facilitate wayfinding and locating personal belongings in long term care facilities. 

Applied research has the potential to improve the quality of education for college students.  Just as there is no one ice cream flavor that appeals to all, our previous research established that few teachers appear to be effective for all.  It is not uncommon for students to seek out resources such as when making course selections.  Teaching trailers may offer an alternative.  Our research team investigated if teaching trailers could help GVSU students wisely chose among prospective teachers, similar to how movie trailers allow you to screen films for Friday-night worthiness.  Six-minute teaching trailers were created for 10 guest lecturers.   Like movie trailers, the teaching trailers were brief glimpses of a teacher in action.  In the study, 150 students watched teaching trailers for teachers who delivered live lectures later in the semester.  Students ratings to the teaching trailers powerfully forecasted students’ responses to, and memory for, the live lectures.  Our 6-minute teaching trailers proved to be an effective, empirically-validated means for students to wisely judge teachers.  Perhaps GVSU “should consider setting up a commercial website ‘’ and make a bundle competing with shabbier sites,” suggests Prof. Henderson, Chair of Psychology.

 Another line of research investigates the psychology of language.  Language plays a central role in our lives.  We chat with friends, read novels, enjoy the lyrics of music, convey our feelings, teach our children, and transmit scientific discoveries to future generations via language. Your ability to read these words is just one example of language in action.  Most of us, however, don't stop to ponder our linguistic prowess.  My research explores our linguistic talents by relying on insights derived from cross-disciplinary studies in linguistics and psychology.  Some of my work has studied how people parse the stream of speech into meaningful, discrete units.  Perhaps you have observed that we speak in continuous utterances rarely pausing between words (a phenomenon best observed by listening to someone who speaks a language foreign to the listener).  We amazingly parse this acoustic smear into meaningful segments.  My research team has evaluated the cohesiveness of sounds in the recognition of spoken and written words, finding that some sounds are “sticky” and thus, harder to isolate from one another.  Fascinating!
Insights into speech perception elucidate complementary processes, such as skillful reading.  The science of reading has persuasively shown that a to-be-recognized word in print is influenced by detailed knowledge of phonology.   For example, when you read this word, pseudohomophone, you likely rely on its pronunciation (phonology) to determine meaning.  In contrast, the extent to which silent reading represents prosody, the rhythm and melody of language, remains largely uninvestigated.  The impetus for our investigations into the role of prosody in skilled reading stems from the central role prosody plays in speech.  Prosody is a universal feature of all languages.  Prosodic speech acoustically varies in duration, frequency, amplitude, and tempo.  Prosodic variations reveal features of the speaker (emotional state; intentions) as well the form of the utterance (e.g., statement; request) that may not be captured by word selection, sentence construction, or punctuation.  For example, the expression, “Brian bought a book,” would bare different prosodic qualities to signal a statement, question, exclamation, or sarcasm (Nespor & Vogel, 1986).  Our research suggests that readers also engage prosody when they read.  As predicted, poems with congruous meter and stylistic emphasis (with tangerine trees and marmalade skies) were favored compared to poems with incongruous meter and stylistic emphasis (piping songs of pleasant music).  Our silent readers seemingly had a lively “inner voice.”

Representative Publications

Gross, J., Harmon, M. E., Myers, R. A., Evans, R. L. , Kay, N. R., Rodriguez- Charbonier, S., & Herzog, T. R. (2004). Recognition of self among persons with dementia: Picture vs. names as environmental supports. Environment & Behavior, 36(3), 424-454.

Gross, J., Lakey, B., Edinger, K., Orehek, E., & Heffron, D. (2009). Person perception in the college classroom: Accounting for tastes in students’ evaluations of teaching effectiveness. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 39, 1609-1638.

Gross, J., Millett, A.L., Bartek, B., Bredell, K.H., Winegard, B. (2014). Evidence for prosody in reading. Reading Research Quarterly, 49(2), 189-208. doi:10.1002/rrq.67

Gross, J., Lakey, B., Lucas, J. L., & LaCross, R., Plotkowski, A. R., Winegard, B. (2015). Forecasting the student-professor matches that result in unusually effective teaching. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 85, 19-32. DOI:10.1111/bjep.12049

Gross, J. Winegard, B, & Plotowski, A. (Under revision). I read toMAYto, you read toMAHto, nobody reads TOmaTO: Marking stress explicitly in written English fosters the melody of the reader’s inner voice. In G. Kentner & K. Steinhauer (Eds.), Prosody in written language: Acquisition, processing, emergence of norms (pp. xx-xx), Frontiers in Psychology.

Page last modified August 31, 2017