Mary Hegarty received her BA and MA from University College Dublin, Ireland. She worked as a research assistant for three years at the Irish national educational research centre before attending Carnegie Mellon, where she received her Ph.D. in Psychology in 1988. She has been on the faculty of the Department of Psychological & Brain sciences, UCSB since then. The author of over 100 articles and chapters on spatial cognition, diagrammatic reasoning, and individual differences, and is the Associate Director of the Center for Spatial Studies at UCSB. She is a fellow of the American Psychological Society, a former Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow, and is a former chair of the Cognitive Science Society. She is Associate Editor of Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied and TopiCS in Cognitive Science and is on the editorial board of Spatial Cognition and Computation and Learning and Individual Differences. Her current research is funded by the National Science Foundation.
Mary Hegarty’s research is on spatial thinking in complex activities such as comprehension, reasoning, and problem solving. In research on mechanical reasoning and interpretation of graphics, she uses eye-fixation data to trace the processes involved in understanding visual-spatial displays (diagrams, graphs and maps), and making inferences from these displays. A unique characteristic of her research is that she studies spatial thinking from the perspective of individual differences as well as employing more commonly used experimental methods. In her work on individual differences, she studies large-scale spatial abilities involved in navigation and learning the layout of environments, as well as smaller-scale spatial abilities involved in mental rotation and perspective taking. Her current research projects include understanding the roles of internal and external visualizations in reasoning about physical systems from molecules to meteorological phenomena and the use of visualization versus analytic problem solving strategies in scientific problem solving.