Steven J Harrison

Assistant Professor


University Titles:

Assistant Professor, Doctor of Physical Therapy Program, Department of Kinesiology

Associate Director, Center for the Ecological Study of Perception and Action

Assistant Professor, Department of Psychological Sciences

Academic Degrees:

Ph.D. University of Connecticut, 2007

Areas of Expertise:

Experimental Psychology

Ecological Psychology

Dynamical Systems Theory

Complexity Science

Human Action (motor control)

  • Balance
  • Gait
  • Coordinated movement
  • Tool use
  • Navigation
  • Interpersonal action coordination

Human Perception

  • Haptic perception (dynamic touch)
  • Visual perception

Teaching Responsibilities
PT 5430 Functional neuro-biomechanical relationships
PT 5432 Motor control and clinical applications
PT 5440 Evidence-Based Practice in Physical Therapy


Steven J. Harrison, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Doctoral Physical Therapy (DPT) Program at the
University of Connecticut, Storrs campus, and is the Coordinator of the DPT Student Capstone Research.
He is the Associate Director of the Center for the Ecological Study of Perception and Action (CESPA) and
holds a joint appointment in the Department of Psychological Sciences. Prior to joining UConn, Dr.
Harrison was previously a Research Fellow at the Center for Research in Human Movement Variability at
the University of Nebraska-Omaha, and the Center for Cognition, Action & Perception (CAP) at the
University of Cincinnati.

Research Summary
Steven Harrison conducts basic and applied science related to human perception, action, and cognition.

Basic Science Research: Dr. Harrison conducts experimental studies that explore the role of perception,
action, and cognition in supporting our ability to effectively perform actions such as balance,
coordinated movement, interpersonal coordination and communication, gait, navigation, and tool use.
Much of this work explores the role of the haptic perceptual system in the control of action, and
perception of action-relevant information. His basic science research is influenced by Ecological
Psychology of James Gibson, and the writings of Nicholai Bernstein. Many of Dr. Harrison’s studies use
modelling approaches and analyses drawn from the fields of Complexity Science and Dynamical Systems
Theory. Most of this research is conducted in the Perception-Action Research Laboratory (PARL) located
in the Center for Ecological Study of Perception and Action.

Applied Science Research: Dr. Harrison conducts applied research aimed at developing and
experimentally testing prototype technologies related to improving the effectiveness of human
perception and action capabilities. The design of these prototypes, and experimental methods used to
evaluate them, are directly inspired by theories, concepts, and methods revealed in the contemporary
basic science of human perception and action. Dr. Harrison is currently investigating prototype
technologies designed to improve the ability of Firefighters to navigate smoke filled buildings. He is also
investigating prototype technologies designed to improve standing and walking balance. Most of this
research is conducted in the Perception-Action Research Laboratory–Applied (PARL-A) located in the
Horsebarn Hill Sciences Complex.

Selected Publications (link to full listing of publications)
Harrison, S. J., Reynolds, N., Bishoff, B., Stergiou, N., & White, E. (2022). Homing tasks and distance
matching tasks reveal different types of perceptual variables associated with perceiving self-motion
during over-ground locomotion. Experimental Brain Research. 240(4), 1257-1266.

Harrison, S. J., Reynolds, N., Bishoff, B., & Stergiou, N. (2021). Assessing the relative contribution of
vision to odometry via manipulations of gait in an over-ground homing task. Experimental Brain

Pouw, W., Harrison, S. J., De Jonge-Hoekstra, L., Dixon, J. A. (2020). Gesture-speech physics in fluent
speech and rhythmic upper limb movements. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 89-155.

Pouw, W., Paxton, A., Harrison, S. J., & Dixon, J. A. (2020). Multimodal origins of the human voice:
Acoustic information about upper limb movement in voicing. Proceedings of the National Academy of
Sciences. 117(21), 11364-11367.

Harrison, S. J., Bonnette, S., & Malone, M. (2020). For humans navigating without vision, navigation
depends upon the layout of mechanically contacted ground surfaces. Experimental Brain Research, 238,

Harrison, S. J., Kinsella-Shaw, J. M., & Dotov, D. (2020). Effects of footedness and stance asymmetry
confirm an inter-leg metastable coordination dynamics of standing posture. Journal of Motor Behavior,
53, 135-156.

Harrison, S. J. (2020). Perception of distance traversed via a two-legged hopping gait is inconsistent with
a gait symmetry theory of human haptic odometry. Ecological Psychology. 32, 58-78.

Pouw, W., Harrison, S. J., & Dixon, J. (2020). Gesture-Speech Physics: The Biomechanical Basis for the
Emergence of Gesture-Speech Synchrony. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. 149, 391-404

Harrison, S. J., & Turvey, M. T. (2019) Odometry. In: Vonk J., Shackelford T. (eds) Encyclopedia of Animal
Cognition and Behavior. Springer, Cham.

Lamb, M., Nalepka, P., Kallen, R., Lorenz, T., Harrison, S. J., Minai, A. A., & Richardson, M. J. (2019). A
Hierarchical Task Dynamic Approach for Naturally Adaptive Human-Agent Pick-and-Place Interactions.
Complexity, 5964632.

Harrison, S. J., Hough, M., Schmid, K., Groff, B. R., Stergiou, N. (2018). When Coordinating Finger
Tapping to a Variable Beat the Variability Scaling Structure of the Movement and the Cortical BOLD
Signal are Both Entrained to the Auditory Stimuli. Neuroscience. 392, 203-218.

Lamb, M., Kallen, R.W., Harrison, S. J., di Bernardo, M., Minai, A., & Richardson, M.J. (2017). To Pass or
Not to Pass: Modeling the movement and affordance dynamics of a pick and place task. Frontiers.
8(1061), 1-23.

Richardson, M. J., Washburn, A., Kallen, R. W., & Harrison, S. J. (2016). Symmetry and the Behavioral
Dynamics of Social Coordination. In P. Passos and K. Davis (Eds.). Interpersonal Coordination and
Performance in Social Systems (pp. 65-82). Routledge.

McCamley, J. & Harrison, S. J., (2016). Introduction. In N. Stergiou (Ed.). Non-Linear analyses for human
movement variability. New York, Taylor & Francis.

Harrison, S. J. & Stergiou, N. (2015). Complex adaptive behavior and dexterous action. Nonlinear
Dynamics, Psychology, and Life Sciences. 19, 345-394.

Richardson, M. J., Harrison, S. J., Kallen, R. W., Walton, A., Eiler, B. A., Saltzman, E., & Schmidt, R. C.
(2015). Self-Organized Complementary Joint Action: Behavioral dynamics of an interpersonal collision-
avoidance task. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance. 41, 665-679.

Kinsella-Shaw, J., Harrison, S. J., Carello, C., & Turvey, M. T. (2013). The laterality of quiet standing in old
and young. Experimental Brain Research. 231, 383-396.

Eiler, B. A., Kallen, R. W., Harrison, S. J., & Richardson, M. J. (2013). Origins of order in joint activity and
social behavior. Ecological Psychology. 25, 316-326.

Harrison, S. J., Kuznetsov, N. & Breheim, S. (2013). Flexible kinesthetic distance perception: When do
your arms tell you how far you have walked? Journal of Motor Behavior. 45, 239-247.

Turvey, M. T., Harrison, S. J., Frank, T., Pinto, M. & Carello, C. (2012). Human odometry verifies the
symmetry perspective on human gaits. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and
Performance. 38, 1014-1025.

Kinsella-Shaw, J., Harrison, S. J., & Turvey, M. T. (2011). Inter-leg coordination in quiet standing:
Influence of Age and Visual Environment on Noise and Stability. Journal of Motor Behavior. 43, 285-294.

Harrison, S. J., Hajnal, A., Lopresti-Goodman, S., Isenhower, R. W. & Kinsella-Shaw, J. M. (2011).
Perceiving the action-relevant properties of tools through dynamic touch: Effects of mass distribution,
exploration style and intention. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and
Performance. 37, 193-206.

Harrison, S. J. & Turvey, M. T. (2010). Place learning by mechanical contact. Journal of Experimental
Biology. 213, 1436-1442.

Bonnet, C., Kinsella-Shaw, J., Frank, T., Bubela, D., Harrison, S. J., & Turvey, M. T. (2010). Deterministic
and stochastic postural processes: Effects of task, environment, and age. Journal of Motor Behavior, 42,

Hajnal, A., Richardson, M. J., Harrison, S. J., & Schmidt, R. C. (2009). Location but not amount of stimulus
occlusion influences the stability of visuo-motor coordination. Experimental Brain Research, 199, 89-93.

Turvey, M. T., Romaniak-Gross, C. A., Isenhower, R. W., Arzamarski, R., Harrison, S. J., & Carello, C.
(2009). Human odometer is gait-symmetry specific. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 276, 4309-4314.

Silva, P., Harrison, S. J., Kinsella-Shaw, J., Carello, C., & Turvey, M. T. (2009). Lessons for dynamic touch
from a case of stroke-induced motor impairment. Ecological Psychology, 41, 291-307.

Harrison, S. J. & Richardson, M.J. (2009). Horsing around: Spontaneous four-legged coordination.
Journal of Motor Behavior, 41, 519-524.

Bohannon, R.W., Harrison, S. J., & Kinsella-Shaw, J. M. (2009). Reliability and validity of pendulum test
measures of spasticity obtained with the polhemus tracking system from patients with chronic stroke.
Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation, 6, 1-7.

Harrison, S. J. & Turvey, M. T. (2009). Carried load affects human odometry for travelled distance but
not straight-line distance. Neuroscience Letters, 469, 140-143.

Arzamarski, R., Harrison, S. J., Hajnal, A. & Michaels, C. F. (2007). Lateral ball interception: Hand
movements during linear ball trajectories. Experimental Brain Research, 177, 312-323.

Michaels, C. F., Weier, Z. & Harrison, S. J. (2007). Using vision and dynamic touch to perceive the
affordances of tools. Perception, 36, 750-772.

Hajnal, A., Fonseca, S., Harrison, S. J., Kinsella-Shaw, J. & Carello, C. (2007). A comparison of dynamic
(effortful) touch by hand and foot. Journal of Motor Behavior, 39, 82-88.

Kinsella-Shaw, J. M., Harrison, S. J., Colon-Semenza, C. & Turvey, M. T. (2006). Effects of the visual
environment on quiet standing by young and old adults. Journal of Motor Behavior, 38, 251-264.

Selected Grants
2019 – Team Member, Dell Systems. Funds to support the development of a novel biofeedback device
for firefighters.
2019 – Principal Investigator, OVPR Research Excellence Program. A grant to develop advanced
positional technologies for understanding and improving real world functional mobility and navigation
2019 – Co-Director, Revision Military. Research partnership supporting the development of augmented
reality system for improving battlefield situational awareness.
2013-2018 – Investigator, National Institutes of Health. Multiyear collaborative R01 grant studying and
modelling how two or more people coordinate their actions.
2019 – Co-Principal Investigator, Connecticut Institute for the Brain and Cognitive Sciences. Studying
coordinated human behavior in simulated firefighter search-and-rescue tasks.
2019 – Co-Principal Investigator, OVPR START Preliminary Proof-Of-Concept Fund. A study of
coordinated team behavior in simulated firefighter search-and-rescue tasks.
2019 – Co-Principal Investigator, BIRC. A study of the neuromuscular characteristics and coordination
dynamics of upper extremity ligament (UCL) injury.

Current Graduate Students
Spencer Ferris, PhD Candidate, Ecological Psychology.
Steven Masi, PhD Candidate, Ecological Psychology.
Andrew Slater, PhD Candidate, Biomedical Engineering.

Contact Information
Mailing Address3107 Horsebarn Hill Rd U-4137 Storrs, CT 06269
Office LocationRm 021 Bio Building 4