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The University of Southampton
Psychology

Research Group: Centre for Perception and Cognition (CPC)

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The Centre for Perception and Cognition investigates human perceptual processes, such as how we interpret sensory signals from vision, touch and audition, and higher-level cognitive function, including learning, memory, metacognition and reading. 

Our research is organised around three themes:

Within the Centre for Perception and Cognition, we are interested in how people perform a broad range of tasks, from the detection and interpretation of simple stimuli, through to higher level processes such as identifying a suspect in a line-up or learning to navigate through an environment.

Our purpose-built laboratories allow us employ a variety of experimental techniques. These include behavioural studies with visual, touch (force-feedback), auditory or multi-sensory stimuli and immersive virtual reality. We also use eye movement recording (static and perambulatory) and measures of brain activity (EEG, fMRI).  The Mobile Research Unit allows us to work with research participants (e.g. children) away from campus.  We are supported by an excellent technical team who enable efficient hardware solutions and software development for stimulus presentation and data acquisition. Our computational analyses (image and scene analysis, data modelling) are supported by Southampton’s High Performance Computing facility.  

We produce world-leading, high-impact research (REF2014) and attract significant funding from the EU (Horizon 2020), research councils (ESRC, EPSRC, BBSRC) charities (e.g. Leverhulme, Wellcome) and industrial partners (e.g. Ministry of Defence).

Perception

The Perception group studies human processing of visual, haptic (touch), auditory and multisensory stimuli.  Here we highlight just a few of our current research themes:

  • Perception of shape and materials: We ask how humans combine visual and haptic information with prior knowledge to perceive object properties such as 3D shape, gloss, texture, friction and softness, and to guide object interactions such as grasping.
  • Perception of natural scenes. After viewing a complex, natural scene for only a fraction of a second, we understand its gist (e.g. forest), its 3D layout, and recognise constituent objects. Our work on natural scene understanding combines human experiments with analyses of the Southampton-York Natural Scenes dataset (https://syns.soton.ac.uk).
  • Visual Attention: What are the neural mechanisms that allow us to select the most relevant, or important aspects of our environment? For example, when searching for a telephone booth we can focus on red objects and suppress blue objects.
  • Visual Search: We explore how individuals can be trained to find rare objects more efficiently, such as dangerous items in security screenings at airports. We also examine the role of binocular depth cues in search, and overcoming camouflage.
  • Threat, attention and awareness: Can visual information that signals threat, such as fear faces, grab attention, or be processed outside of awareness?  We evaluate the extent to which the affective content of visual stimuli can drive attention, and facilitate access to awareness.
  • Identity recognition: Humans have an astounding ability to identify complex stimuli like faces. We ask how humans combine information across modalities to recognise people from their faces, hands or voices.

To learn more about our research please visit the websites of Prof Wendy Adams, Dr Tobias Feldmann-Wüstefeld, Dr Hayward Godwin, Dr Erich Graf and Prof Sarah Stevenage.

Learning, Memory and Metacognition

The Learning, Memory, and Metacognition group investigate how people acquire information, retain it in memory, and self-assess their own cognition in a variety of laboratory and applied settings. A few of our current research topics are described below:

  • Associative learning: Predicting future events is essential for survival. Associative learning underpins this ability and affects every-day behaviours. Our work has important implications such as minimising relapse in addiction treatment.
  • Learning and navigation: We probe the mechanisms of spatial updating in nested environments, the relationships between spatial and mathematical abilities, and ask how nostalgia can reduce spatial anxiety.
  • Meta-cognition: How well do we understand our own cognitive abilities, such as our ability to learn and retrieve information?  Our work in this area has important educational implications. For example, we test the strategies that student should employ when learning new information or revising, in order to ensure durable learning and maximal retention.
  • Applied memory and metacognition: This research has important implications for forensic psychology. For example, how do we avoid miscarriages of justice caused by suggestibility effects on memory?

To learn more about research within this group please visit the websites of Dr Steve Glautier, Dr Phil HighamDr Ed Redhead and Prof Sarah Stevenage.   

Reading

Reading involves the integration of complex neural, cognitive and behavioural processes. Becoming a skilled reader requires many years of instruction and practice, yet is critical for almost all aspects of modern life. We record and analyse eye movements to examine the visual and cognitive processes that are active during reading.

  • Reading development: We study the eye movements of children to investigate reading development and also of special populations such as individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and exceptionally good readers.
  • Determinants of reading skill: Within adults, we study parafoveal processing, phonological processing, binocular coordination and task effects (e.g., reading for comprehension version skim reading).
  • Language variations: Besides reading in English, we also examine reading processes in Chinese, Dutch, Finnish and Arabic.

To learn more about research within this group please visit the websites of Dr Hazel Blythe and Dr Denis Drieghe.

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