School of Psychology

Attention, Visual Perception & Cognition

Our research focuses on a variety of questions.  How do we focus on signals that are relevant, and ignore the things that aren’t?  How does the brain recognize colours, faces and objects?  And how is vision influenced by our other senses?  How do we integrate vision with action, for instance to predict the location of a moving object?

Unusual and embodied perceptual experiences

  • How do changes in sensory loss or brain plasticity, for instance, in blindness or following limb amputation, effect perceptual experience?
  • How do we respond to the sight of touch, itch or pain in another person?
  • Why do some people experience numbers as colours, or words as tastes (synaesthesia)?  What causes this in the brain and does it lead to any benefits?
People: Jamie Ward

Synaesthesia research website

Sensory Integration and Synaesthesia

  • Why do some people experience numbers as colours, or words as tastes (synaesthesia)? How does it develop and what can we learn from this about everyday perception?
  • How do we integrate information from our five senses, and how does this develop through childhood and old age?
  • How do our five senses interface with language and cognition?
People: Julia Simner, Duncan Carmichael

Synaesthesia research website 

Synaesthesia & Sensory Integration Lab

Face processing

  • What is the nature of the “configural” information that we use in order to recognise faces?
  • Why do “face adaptation effects” occur, and what can they tell us about the mechanisms underlying face recognition?
  • How do we perceive age on the basis of facial cues?

People: Graham Hole

Driving and attention

  • Why don’t car drivers notice cyclists and motorcyclists?
  • How and why does using a mobile phone distract drivers from attending to their surroundings?

People: Graham Hole

Time Perception

  • How does the brain represent the passage of time?
  • How long does it take for a sensory stimulus to reach conscious awareness?
 People: Ryota Kanai

Visual Awareness and Qualia

  • What are the neural bases of subjective sensory experience?
  • How does neural activity correspond to the subjective quality of sensory experience? 

People: Ryota Kanai

Colour Perception and Cognition

  • What are the underlying mechanisms of various aspects of colour perception and cognition, such as colour categories, unique hues, colour preference and colour constancy?
  • Does language affect early visual processing?
  • How are colour categories expressed in the brain? 
People: Anna Franklin Gemma CatchpoleAlice SkeltonChristoph Witzel

Lab: Sussex Colour Group

See also: The Child Development Group

Embodied Cognition

  • How do our bodies shape the way we feel, think and behave?
  • How is body perception influenced by cognitive factors, such as beliefs and expectations?
  • How might tactile attentional processes contribute to psychological disorders?
People: Eleanor Miles

Vision, colour and individual differences

  • What are the genetic causes of individual differences in perceptual traits, and what does that tell us about the neural mechanisms involved?
  • How do genetic polymorphisms in the opsin genes for colour vision cause different individuals to perceive colour differently?
  • What are the cues to illumination that allow us to maintain colour constancy?
  • Does the presence of a fourth cone type in the retinae of heterozygous women confer the ability to perceive an extra dimension of colour?
  • Are the mechanisms of colour perception optimised for extraction of information in natural scenes, and how is that effected?

 People: Jenny Bosten


Distraction and mind-wandering

  • What makes certain people particularly vulnerable to distraction? How can we reduce our vulnerability to distraction?
  • What makes certain stimuli particularly distracting, or particularly powerful to engage our attention?
  • Is distraction from both external and internal (i.e. mind-wandering) sources determined by common mechanisms?
  • How well do established laboratory measures of inattention and distraction address common forms of daily-life attention problems?

People: Sophie Forster

Attention across the senses

  • How do different senses compete and collaborate with one another for attention?
  • What are the conditions that promote the failure or success of cross-modal attention?
  • How does the brain prepare and allocate attention across sound and vision?
  • How do attentional systems change as a function of expertise and maturation?

People: Ben Dyson


Art and Psychology

  • How does the brain resolve ambiguous or indeterminate stimuli and artwork?
  • Why are certain stimulus combinations more aesthetically pleasing than others?
  • What role does the viewer play in the interpretation of artwork?
  • What are the consequences of engaging with art?

People: Ben Dyson

Social Influence on Decisions

  • How do observations of other people’s behavior shape our decision-making?
  • How do other people’s preferences influence the subjective value of an action or object?
  • How do we decide that someone else has good information?
  • What are the neural and pharmacological substrates of these effects?
  People: Daniel Campbell-Meiklejohn



Cognition in Psychiatric Disorders

  • Can we quantify the effect of psychiatric disorders on our ability to socially interact?
  • Can social cognition testing identify subgroups of certain disorders?
  • Can social cognitive abilities predict future episodes of psychological difficulty?
 People: Daniel Campbell-Meiklejohn

*Image courtesy of BBC Horizon