Dr. Starr is currently involved in two lines of research, one in the area of voice identification and the other in educational psychology.
My first and main area of interest is in voice identification. This interest arises for a couple of reasons. First, a vast amount of research has been directed at eyewitness testimony and this research has raised some tremendously important questions. Second, a recent direction of this type of research has been to investigate earwitness testimony, or namely, the ability of individuals to make identifications based only on hearing, rather than seeing, an individual. Both lines of research have proved to be quite informative and also have raised a number of interesting questions in the areas of memory, speech perception and acoustics. My research is directed at addressing a question related to voice identification, that being, can we identify not only an individual, but also details of that person such as their race or region of origin based solely on hearing their voice. And more interestingly, when we can identify qualities such as the race of an individual from their voice, what aspects of the acoustic pattern contributed to this ability.
A second line of research I am involved in is related to the teaching and evaluation of research methods courses in college. In the psychology curriculum it is common knowledge that teaching research methods can be quite a challenge. However, most teachers of this topic know that this is not due to the material being terribly difficult but more from the bipolar distribution of understanding within the student population, students either get it or don't. This raises the obvious question of why? What is it that makes this material challenging and in some cases almost impossible for a student to grasp when the material is not all that difficult? My research is investigating the contributions of logic skills on the ability of a student to learn and understand this material. To me it seems apparent that understanding research methods requires a student to think logically, an area where many students struggle. In a research methods class a student may encounter, for the first time, having to critically evaluate material and material that is in no way absolute, but speculative, hypothetical and theoretical. Thus, I am looking into how the comprehension of logic relates to the comprehension of research methods. I feel that if we can find a relationship between logic skills and performance in a research methods class we may be able to better serve students by providing remediation in this area to students in need.