Matthew Doyle Olson

By Reilly Pruitt

Since his sophomore year, Matthew Doyle Olson has been a part of the “RALLI Lab,” Macalester’s preeminent cognitive psychology lab. But solving the mysteries of the mind and language are only the beginning of Doyle’s genius. In 20 years he will change the way people in all fields conduct research and set new standards for the quality of footwear.

Can I start with a shout out to my research crew, RALLI Lab? I’d like to start off with C-Dazzle, C-Dazzle and I go back to the beginning of time.

Who is C-Dazzle?

Courtney Rivers. Then we have Robe Guy and The Hit and they bring fresh faces to the game. Next we have the boss, enough said, she runs it.

The boss shall not be named?

Emily Goodman. Then there’s Table Guy and you can always count on Table Guy to be there for support. Then we have Cosmo who brings things to the next level. Finally, special shout out to Golden Bear who brought us all together – he keeps us on task and keeps us in line. And one plug for the next RALLI lab release summer 2008 brought to you by psychological science and it’s called Sweet, Silent, Alliteration, and that’s by golden bear.

This seems to be a pretty close-knit group.

Oh yeah, well Golden Bear, Brooke [psychology professor, Brooke Lea], brought us together. He’s big on introductions and especially nicknames. Meetings are usually comedy shows between Golden Bear and me.

How long has RALLI Lab been together?

This has been going on since before I was first here – since Golden Bear was in grad school. I got my first research grant the summer after my sophomore year, so I?guess I’ve been with the team for two years.

What kinds of topics have you been researching with RALLI?Lab?

When I joined I was looking for work, so money and housing were the specific topics of interest. I ended up being put into a lab with Jennifer Wenner that was studying how kids learn the nuances of reading. After that I stuck around for directed research and have had about three classes and four independent projects with Golden Bear.

On a more personal note, we hear you have an interesting relationship with soup. What’s your favorite kind?

I don’t like soup. It’s too watery. But I am anti-soup, that’s not a rumor.

Then back to your real interests. Would you say that behavioral neuroscience is your specific area of interest? I?know you have a website devoted to the topic – have you always been interested in this area?

That’s a little bit out of my area of expertise. The purpose of that website is to count up some counterpoints to what’s going on in class to offer intelligent and researched alternatives to the ideas presented in class.

What is your area of expertise?

Right now I’m really into philosophy and the separation of disciplines or lack thereof. Right now I’m not too interested in the process of research but the questions being asked during research in general, mostly scientific research.

Can you tell me about some of the projects you’re currently working on?

We have some really interesting ones going on. I hesitate to tell the details because potential participants might read this. But the one mentioned in my plug is interesting. It’s about the role alliteration plays in reading and comprehending poetry. One idea that was interesting but never really panned out was how people represent secrets in their mind. How when you read a story where two people are sharing a secret and keeping it from a third, how you represent that model in your minds. At some level the model needs to be integrated because all three are in the story, but at another level the models need to be disintegrated because one person doesn’t know the secret. Also, what happens when the third person finds out. That project ran out because it was with an old RALLI lab member who moved on to private sector.

What do you think your future holds? Any plans to continue with your research?

Definitely. I’m working on an honors project now that I likely won’t finnish this year and will have some room for growth. I’m going to go for a Ph.D. in some form of cognitive science but I need to take a little time off first.

What topic are you most interested in?

Right now I’m really interested in dynamic systems – I just started reading about it so it’s way over my head. But it describes the interacting agents around us, everything counts. Not just the brain, or the mind, it’s the organic and non-organic environments interacting. Because one of the questions is if they are working together or just interacting.

What would be the “icing on the cake” in terms of your career?

If the cake is the basic goal – and pretending being an established professor is part of that – for me the icing would be establishing a line of research that expands across disciplines and eventually eliminates disciplines. By the effect of communication between all types of researchers. People who have all different kinds of ideas and interests sharing their research.

Would you include the members of the RALLI Lab?

Oh of course, they’ll be the first ones invited – the door’s always open if I have a door. Maybe I’ll just have a cubical.

We also heard that you have a pretty good shoe collection. Would you consider incorporating shoes into your future?

My shoe collection is still expanding but I take any opportunity I get to expand it even more. I would love to get some Bape or Greedy Genius – maybe that would be the candles on the cake. Tearing down disciplines would be the icing and nice shoes would be the candles.

What would you like your Macalester legacy to hold?

Easily it would be the corner cottage. You’re going to find out in a couple weeks when the house is spotlighted.

Can you give us a little teaser?

Come to 53 Mac on Friday night and you can get a little teaser. And one more shout out to CC2.0 – that’s my corner crew.