The Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
College of Applied Health Sciences
Kinesiology and Community Health
Melissa Littlefield is interested in the ways in which scientific knowledge is produced, and in how literature influences the production of scientific knowledge. Since completed her doctoral work in English and Women's Studies at The Pennsylvania State University, she has been developing sociocultural historical perspectives on the body, adding to the literature in the psychophysiology branch of kinesiology.
Dr. Littlefield is currently investigating the history and cultural construction of the neurosciences; her first book historically contextualized one particular technology that has been taken up by the neurosciences: lie detection. In this monograph, she examines the evolution of lie detection from the early 20th century to the current use of fMRI, which measures changes in blood flow related to neural activity. "I'm interested in early 20th century assumptions and ideologies that have carried over to fMRI," she said, "that you can go to the body to understand the mind, and that the body is self-reporting." Her work in this area includes an experimental study of the neural correlates of deception.
Dr. Littlefield is also working on a book about metadisciplinarity and the forensic sciences. She coined the term to describe the way that particular multi-discipline fields, such as the forensic sciences and kinesiology, are constructed. "These fields are pulling from a lot of different disciplines and reconstructing them," she said. "Metadisciplinarity is a way to talk about how and why these conglomerations take shape, and why it’s an interesting way for a field to develop."