Students Staff

Groups

Cognitive and Developmental Psychology Group

Cognitive psychology investigates psychological processes involved in knowledge acquisition and thinking. It does this by measuring performance on carefully designed experimental tasks. The way performance varies with task conditions provides valuable insights into the representations and processes that support cognition. Experimental studies conducted on normal adults build up a picture of how psychological processes (perception, memory, language, reasoning) operate, with important applications outside the laboratory. In cognitive neuropsychology, the focus is on the breakdown of cognitive processes that occurs as a result of localised brain injury, disease or developmental abnormality. Developmental psychology explores how psychological processes develop and mature during childhood. As well as behavioural experiments, cognitive and developmental psychology at Essex utilises neuroscience and brain stimulation methods available in the Centre for Brain Sciences.

We actively pursue many key areas of cognitive and developmental psychology, including how we perceive and attend to the visual environment; the psychological processes involved in making judgments; memory; facial recognition; reading, spelling and language; and the influence of language on perceptual judgments.

Group members

  • Staff


    • Chris Barry's research currently focuses on three main topics: lexical selection in naming (by the study of semantic similarity effects in the picture-word interference task); spelling production (by recording latencies and durations of written responses); and age-of-acquisition effects in lexical processing.
    • Geoff Cole studies mechanisms concerned with visual cognition and attention.
    • Kevin Dent focuses on understanding basic mechanisms of visuospatial attention. He is also interested in visuospatial short-term memory, and the effects of experience on object and word processing.
    • Tom Foulsham studies visual cognition, with particular interests in eye movements and attention during the perception of scenes and movies.
    • Rick Hanley studies the cognitive processes involved in reading, memory and speech production, in children, adults and patients with brain injury.
    • Dominique Knutsen studies the language and memory processes involved in face-to-face dialogue..
    • Vanessa Loaiza 's research concerns working memory and its relationship with long-term memory, especially episodic memory. She is interested in factors that support conscious recollection, and how these factors and memory systems change across the lifespan..
    • Silvia Rigato investigates the development of perceptual and cognitive abilities in infancy, using EEG, eye tracker and behavioural methods.
    • Debi Roberson's current work focuses on the interaction of language and perceptual categorization in children and adults. Recent cross-cultural research projects have highlighted behavioural differences on a range of cognitive and perceptual tasks between speakers of a variety of languages (Portuguese, Korean, Mayan, Italian, Japanese, Turkish, Farsi, Syrian, Himba and Berinmo).
    • Tracy Robinson's research is in the area of emotion, particularly the role of emotional perception and anxiety in attentional biases and the perception of emotion through nonverbal channels especially body posture.
    • Riccardo Russo's work focuses on investigating the processes supporting recognition memory. He is also interested in the short and long term effects on cognitive functions and health parameters of exposure to electromagnetic fields generated by mobile phones.
    • Andrew Simpson is currently researching executive function in children and the development of artefact knowledge (objects made by people) and the learning processes that lead to this development.
    • Geoff Ward's work is interested in the structures and processes involved in human memory, specialising in serial position effects and output orders in immediate and long-term memory. He is also interested in examining how technology can help us understand and enhance human memory.
    • Arnold Wilkins works on visual stress - what causes it and how it can be reduced. This work touches on image structure, text and font design, reading and reading disorders, migraine, autism and photosensitive epilepsy.

  • PhD students



Cognitive and Sensory Neuroscience Group

We investigate the mechanisms underlying perception, action control and cognition in healthy, developmental and abnormal populations with an emphasis on delineating the relationship between brain and behaviour. Our work aims to understand how mental events and behavioural performance are implemented by the neurophysiological processes that take place in our bodies and brains. We use and develop neurophysiological concepts and methodologies to inform and refine perceptual and cognitive theories, as well as to guide clinical applications and treatments.

Our research expertise ranges from work on vision, hearing, touch and multisensory perception to the neurophysiological mechanisms underlying language, action, attention, emotion and social processes. The majority of our research is conducted at the Centre for Brain Science, which was opened in March 2009 and houses state-of-the-art brain imaging facilities (NIRS, EEG, EMG, TMS and tDCS), eye trackers, GSR and biofeedback equipment, as well as other psychophysiological devices. Our group receives funding from the BBSRC, ESRC, British Academy, Leverhulme Trust and the Wellcome Trust.

Group members

  • Staff

    Academic staff

    • Nicholas Cooper's main research interests are the functional significance of the electroencephalogram (EEG), and individual differences in EEG activity. These are explored in terms of action-observation, attention, stress, ageing and empathy. More applied aspects include: anxiety disorders, neuromodulation of depression and green exercise.
    • Marcello Costantini is currently investigating the contribution of the physical body (e.g. morphological features, postures) and the biological body (i.e. immune system, inflammation) to brain intrinsic activity and multisensory perception. His multidisciplinary approach is contributed to by experimental psychology, cognitive neuroscience and psychoneuroimmunology. .
    • Francesca Ferri is interested in Bodily Self representations and Multisensory Integration. She investigates the neurobiological origins of their inter-individual differences along the continuum from healthy to psychiatric conditions, especially Self disorders..
    • Helge Gillmeister investigates touch and body processing in perception, action and attention, using EEG and behavioural methods. Specific interests include the mirroring of others' tactile sensations, the boundaries between our own bodies and the external world, and the role of one's body image in the visual perception of bodies.
    • Paul Hibbard investigates visual perception. Research projects focus on the perception of 3D shape, and understanding how the visual system is adapted to the information in our natural environment.
    • Gethin Hughes investigates action control and perception, primarily using EEG. This research focuses on how we select and monitor our actions, and how action shapes the way we experience the world around us.
    • Steffan Kennett investigates the interactions between the senses of touch and vision. This work focuses on how one sense can help or hinder the other and on the spatial reference frames used in their interactions.
    • Keith May investigates visual perception. Current research interests include perceptual encoding, edge processing, visual grouping, and the perception of facial attractiveness..
    • Ray Meddis investigates hearing and hearing loss with an emphasis on improving hearing aid design using computer models of how hearing works.
    • Silke Paulmann's research interests primarily lie in the field of cognitive neuroscience of language. Current projects explore the neuro-cognitive architecture underlying emotional and attitudinal language processing in children, healthy young and older adults, as well as in special populations. Her research employs a combination of behavioural methodologies, eye-tracking, and most often event-related brain potentials (ERPs) to understand how emotions and attitudes are communicated.
    • Silvia Rigato investigates the development of perceptual and cognitive abilities in infancy, using EEG, eye tracker and behavioural methods.
    • Jonathan Rolison studies risk taking behaviours across adulthood with an aim at explaining why people become more cautious in older age and whether age changes in risk taking behaviours are beneficial or harmful.
    • Vincenzo Romei investigates the functional role of brain oscillations in sensory and multisensory processing, cognitive and motor control, including brain plasticity. His multidimethod approach combines nurostimulation (TMS and tDCS) and EEG measures.
    • Elia Valentini is interested in studying how negative valence information affects brain activity and behaviour. He is particularly interested in studying the influence of threatening and nociceptive information, the experience of pain, and more generally the cortical representation of salient and behaviourally relevant sensory stimuli. These interests led him to carry out different experimental studies concerning a range of questions spanning from basic processing of sensory stimuli to the complex interaction between cognition emotion and body representation in the brain.
    • Loes van Dam studies multi-sensory perception and action. Current projects focus on how visual and proprioceptive information inform movement perception and how this is used to guide our motor behavior..
    • Arnold Wilkins works on visual stress - what causes it and how it can be reduced. The work touches on image structure, text and font design, reading and reading disorders, migraine, autism and photosensitive epilepsy.

    Research staff

    • Karla Holmboe's work focuses on the development of executive functions in infancy through childhood. In her work she has adopted a longitudinal approach, using behavioural, electrophysiological and genetic data to investigate the development of individual differences across time.
    • Wendy Lecluyse works with Ray Meddis and investigates basic mechanisms of hearing, alternative assessment procedures for hearing impairment and speech perception in noise.
    • Konstantina Zougkou works with Silke Paulmann and Netta Weinstein and her work focuses on how motivations are communicated through tone of voice. She uses a wide range of experimental techniques including event-related brain potentials to study this phenomenon.

  • PhD students


    • Monica Berntsen is currently working to understand the functional significance of the EEG mu rhythm during action observation and its relationship with empathy.
    • Katie Groves investigates body perception and its neural correlates in adults with and without eating disorders.
    • Amanda Marshall is currently investigating the effects of life stress on cognition in ageing.
    • Steven Southworth's current work focuses on the emotional and attentional benefits of various meditative practices.
    • Nina Wolinski's current work fouses on the behavioral performance in attention and memory tasks and corresponding neurophysiological substrate of individuals with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) using behavioural tests, neurostimulation tools (tACS , TMS) and EEG measures.

Social and Health Psychology Group

The current Social and Health Psychology Research Group consists of a dynamic group of international researchers, with a diversity of backgrounds and complementary interests. We have received research funding from a variety of sources, including the British Academy, ESRC, Leverhulme Trust, EOARD, and the National Science Foundation. Members of the group regularly publish their research in top social and health psychology journals, such as Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Health Psychology, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, and Social Psychological and Personality Science.

Group members

  • Staff

    Academic staff

    • Kathryn Buchanan researches factors that influence pro-environmental behaviour and subjective well-being. She is also interested in digital technology and behaviour change.
    • Mitchell Callan investigates the psychology of justice. Most recently he has been examining how a concern for justice and deservingness influences immanent justice reasoning, self-defeating beliefs and behaviours, and temporal discounting.
    • Philip Cozzolino investigates the varied ways in which individuals attempt to find a balance between satisfying internal needs and motives, while also satisfying and living up to the obligations of external social demands.
    • Nicolas Geeraert Nicolas Geeraert investigates acculturation (i.e. how people who move abroad adapt to their new cultural environment), and cross-cultural differences in psychology. More broadly, he is interested in social perception and social cognition.
    • Marie Juanchich studies judgment and decision making, with a special focus on (1) risk communication, (2) individual differences in decision-making performance and (3) behavioural change.
    • Rick O'Gorman studies whether human behaviour is functionally adaptive, particularly in regard to how we achieve cooperation in the face of evolutionary pressures for selfishness.
    • Sheina Orbell investigates self-regulation of behaviour with particular emphasis on how we regulate our actions in response to health related threats.
    • Gillian Sandstrom studies the factors that promote and inhibit people from talking to each other, and examines the benefits of having social interactions with strangers and acquaintances.
    • Miroslav Sirota investigates judgment and decision-making, statistical reasoning and risk communication; he is especially interested in social factors influencing decisions and medical decision-making.
    • Gerulf Rieger investigates sexual orientation: how it is organized, how it develops, and how it affects a person’s life.

    Research staff

    • Rael Dawtry is a postdoctoral research officer (funded by Dr Callan's Leverhulme Trust grant). He is examining the effects of relative vs. absolute judgements and emotional impact on victim derogation.
    • Hyunji Kim is a postdoctoral research officer (funded by Drs Callan and Matthews' Leverhulme Trust grant). She is examining the causes and consequences of personal relative deprivation.
    • Konstantina Zougkou is a postdoctoral research officer (funded by Drs Weinstein and Paulmann's Leverhulme Trust grant). She is examining motivational prosody.

  • PhD students


    • Phakkanun Chittham has research interests in cross-cultural psychology.
    • Mark Wheeler is investigating medical decision making.