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Academics - Psychology Faculty & Staff

Academics - Psychology Faculty & Staff

Karen Gunther

Professor of Psychology, Dept Chair
Picture of Gunther, Karen


Baxter Hall 322

Curriculum vitae

A near-native of California, but one who keeps returning to the Midwest, Professor Gunther has taught at Wabash College since 2007. Her primary research focuses on color vision – although we have known for over 200 years that color vision begins with three different cone types in the retina, we still don’t know exactly how the retina and brain process the neural signals from the cones. The type of research she conducts, called psychophysics, is at the intersection of psychology, biology, and neuroscience - human behavioral responses to visual stimuli are used to elucidate the underlying neural mechanisms. She has taken students to conferences to present their research, both regional undergraduate conferences and national professional conferences.

Another line of research is a Study of Teaching and Learning, examining the use of non-fiction novels as the textbooks for teaching Sensation & Perception, to give the students more of a story line on which to hang the facts presented in class lectures. 

In her free time, Professor Gunther quilts, cooks, reads, and plays with her cat Sushi.


Post-Doctoral Fellowship, Medical College of Wisconsin, 
     Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 2002-2006
     Topic:  molecular genetics of color vision
PhD, Cognitive Science Interdisciplinary Program
     primary field: Psychology
     secondary field: Neuroscience
     UC San Diego, 2002  
     Dissertation topic: color vision
MA, Psychology
     UC San Diego, 1996  
     Thesis topic: music perception
BA, Biopsychology
     Oberlin College
     Oberlin, OH, 1992


Specialty courses:
            PSY232 – Sensation & Perception & PSY/NSC332 – Research in
                 Sensation & Perception
            PSY235 – Cognitive Neuropsychology
            PSY/NSC310 – Sensory Transduction
            PSY/NSC204 – Principles of Neuroscience
            PSY107 – Health Psychology
Psychology core courses:
            PSY101 – Introductory Psychology
            PSY201/202 – Research Methods and Statistics
            PSY301 – Literature Review
            PSY495/496 – Senior Capstone Research Experience
All-college courses:
            Freshman Tutorials (Interdisciplinary Color and Science and

            Enduring Questions


Grant from the National Science Foundation, Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (2018-2023), RUI:  Stimulus Characteristics Influencing Non-Cardinal Color Mechanisms


Can failed Hebbian wiring explain the difficulty in finding sepearate non-cardinal mechanisms in the S vs L+M color plane?
     - International Colour Vision Society, Heraklion, Greece, July 2022
     - Vision Sciences Society, St. Pete Beach, FL, May 2022

Cortically-stimulating gratings reveal non-cardinal colors better than do LGN-stimulating spots
     - International Colour Vision Society, Riga, Latvia, July 2019
     - Optical Society of America Fall Vision Meeting, Univ. of Nevada,
          Reno, Sept. 2018
     - work with Jorge Rodriguez W'18, Colby Dunigan W'18 & Carson
          Powell W'16

Non-cardinal color mechanisms:  Stimulus size matters.  
     - International Colour Vision Society, Sendai, Japan, July 2015
     - work with Colin Downey W'15

Non-cardinal mechanism visual search performance parallels cardinal mechanism performance across the retina, but may be weaker in the non-isoluminant planes of color space.
     - International Colour Vision Society, Winchester, England, July 2013
     - Vision Sciences Society, Naples, FL, May 2013

What Where's Waldo can tell us about visual anatomy
     - Division III Colloquium Series, Wabash College, September 2012
     - Psychology Department, University of Nevada, Reno, May 2012
     - Psychology Department, DePauw University, October 2011
     - work with Rob Dalhaus W'11

Red/green color naming declines in the periphery.  "Blue"/"yellow" does not.  What happens in visual search?
     - International Colour Vision Society, Kongsberg, Norway, July 2011
     (Rob Dalhaus W'11's capstone project)


Tompkins, N., & Gunther, K.L.  (2022).  Color vision deficiency and teaching electromagnetism.  The Physics Teacher, 60, 317-319.

Gunther, K.L.  (2022).  Non-cardinal color mechanism elicitation by stimulus shape:  Bringing the S versus L+M color plane to the table.  Journal of Vision, 22(5), Article 5, 1-15.  (open access:

Gunther, K.L. & McKinney, M.R. (W'17)  (2020).  Poor peripheral binding depends in part on stimulus color.  Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 82(7), 3606-3617.

Watson, Q.J. (W'16) & Gunther, K.L.  (2017).  Trombones elicit bitter more strongly than do clarinets:  A partial replication of three studies of Crisinel and Spence.  Multisensory Research, 30, 321-335.

Gunther, K.L. & Downey, C.O. (W'15)  (2016).  Influence of stimulus size on revealing non-cardinal color mechanisms.  Vision Research, 127, 57-66.

Gunther, K.L. (2014).  Non-cardinal color perception across the retina:  Easy for orange, hard for burgundy and sky blue.  Journal of the Optical Society of America A, 31(4), A274-A282.

Gunther, K.L.  (2014).  Non-cardinal color mechanism strength differs across color planes but not across subjects.  Journal of the Optical Society of America A, 31(4), A293-A302.

Dalhaus, R.N., III (W’11) & Gunther, K.L. (2012).  A tritan Waldo would be easier to detect in the periphery than a red/green one: Evidence from visual search.  The Journal of Optical Society of America A, 29(2), A298-A305.

Gunther, K.L. (2011). The use of “non-fiction novels” in a sensation and perception course. The Journal of Undergraduate Neuroscience Education,10(1), A14-A23.