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The University of Southampton
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Dr Philip Higham BSc, PhD

Reader in Cognitive Psychology

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Dr Philip Higham is Reader in Cognitive Psychology within Psychology at the University of Southampton. His research focuses on long-term human memory and metacognition and identifies methods to ensure that student learning endures over time.

Many students and educators have misconceptions about what is good for long-term learning. I hope to change that with science.

I was educated in Canada, earning my BSc (Hons) from Mount Allison University in New Brunswick and then my PhD from McMaster University in Ontario. I then taught at the University of Northern B.C. in British Columbia for a few years before moving to Southampton as a lecturer.

I am currently a Reader in Cognitive Psychology.

Research interests

My research investigates human cognition (primarily long-term memory) and metacognition (cognition about cognition). I explore these topics in a variety of laboratory and applied contexts. One strand of my research focuses on how people use metacognition to strategically regulate the accuracy of what they report. I have developed a framework using signal detection theory that produces several estimates of strategic accuracy regulation including knowledge, monitoring, and report bias. More recently, the model has been used to explore the relationship between confidence and reporting behaviour and has also been extended to estimate the optimal reporting rate in contexts where there is a payoff matrix involving points (e.g., Arnold, Higham, & Martin-Luengo, 2013). In summary, my colleagues and I have investigated strategic accuracy regulation in a variety of contexts including education (e.g., Higham, 2007, 2013), eyewitness memory (e.g., Higham, Luna & Bloomfield, 2011), cued recall (e.g., Guzel & Higham, 2013), and gambling (e.g., Lueddeke & Higham, 2011).

A second, newer strand of my (and my students’) research investigates ways to improve learning and long-term memory for course material in educational contexts. One focus here is on the role of feedback in learning. Whereas many students revise by studying and restudying course material, research shows that they would be better off being more active by generating answers to potential questions and then receiving corrective feedback. Compared to studying, even completely novel material is learned better if people first randomly guess answers to questions about it and then receive feedback. Another focus is on the mixed blessing of multiple-choice practice tests. Whereas testing is generally better than studying for long-term learning (the testing effect), we’ve found that choosing correct responses on practice tests can cause students to choose those same options again on a later test even though the question has changed and those options are no longer correct. Another educational focus is on identifying activities that students can perform during lectures that enhance long-term retention. For example, extensive note-taking and attempts to generate key points during lecture pauses leads to better learning than passively observing or annotating printed slide handouts.

A third strand of my research has focused on the basic decision processes underlying metacognitive judgments. For example, when a person estimates that she is “80% likely” to remember something in the future (a so-called judgment-of-learning or JOL), how does she do it? What information does she access and how does she decide on a particular scale value (80%)? We have found that very different results are obtained depending on the metacognitive rating task. For example, Hanczakowski, Zawadzka, Pasek & Higham, (2013) found that people asked to make subjective probability assessments on percentage scales exhibit biases that are not found if the person is asked a simple yes/no question about future remembering. Again, these differences are effectively modelled by signal detection theory.

If you are a potential postgraduate student and any of these topics (or my other research topics which can be found in the "Publications" tab) interest you, please feel free to get in touch.

Research group

Centre for Perception and Cognition (CPC)

Research project(s)

Developing computational models of accuracy regulation

Bayesian Agent-Based Population Studies (BAPS): Transforming Simulation Models of Human Migration

Migration is one of the most uncertain population processes, lacking an overarching theoretical and conceptual background. The project will fill important gaps in our knowledge on migration by developing innovative statistical and computational migration models.

I am the mature student tutor for the undergraduate programme in Psychology. I also serve on the External Research Degrees Committee (ERDC), contribute to Open Days at the University, and serve on the Undergraduate Programme Board in Psychology.

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At the undergraduate level, I co-ordinate PSYC1016 (Introduction to Psychology), I am a tutor on PSYC1005 (Thinking Psychologically), and I supervise third-year literature reviews and empirical projects. At the postgraduate level, I co-teach a workshop on signal detection theory and supervise Masters and PhD students.

Dr Philip Higham
Building 44 Highfield Campus University of Southampton SO17 1BJ

Room Number: 44/4125

Facsimile: (023) 8059 4597

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