Intoduction to my research

 

I am a Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Leicester, UK. Previously I have been a post-doctoral researcher at the Center for Mind and Brain, University of California, Davis working under Dr. Steven Luck, and completed my dissertation under the supervision of Dr. Geoffrey Woodman at Vanderbilt University.


Attention is the main focus of my research. In daily life, it is critical that we are able to direct our attention to relevant visual information and ignore irrelevant visual information. Often the most visually interesting aspects of a visual scene are not the most relevant, like the distracting continuous stream of individuals passing by a sidewalk café when you are trying to focus on your computer.

My research focuses on the top-down control of our visual attention, used to avoid us being driven solely by bottom-up information coming into the visual system. When we know what we are looking for, we create a search template, as James (1890) states “an imaginary duplicate of the object in mind.” By knowing what we are looking for, we can bias our visual system to select information in the environment that matches this template. In my work, I use behavioral, eyetracking, computational modeling, and electrophysiological techniques in order to address questions about attentional control. My research addresses two fundamental questions about top-down control:

  • First, I examine how top-down attentional control is related to the cognitive processes of memory. To explore these specific processes, I have utilized the technique of Event-Related Potentials (ERPs), as well as computational methods.
  • Second, I examine the flexibility of top-down control. We can establish search templates to direct our attention to relevant information, but can we also determine how strong of an influence these templates have? Can we determine the strength of the bias? For this work, I have utilized behavioral techniques including reaction time analysis and eyetracking.