- 2013— University of Aberdeen
- 2010—2012 Marie Curie / Volkswagen Foundation Fellow, Neuroimaging Group, UHCologne
- 2007—2009 Research Fellow, Consciousness, Cognition & Computation Group, ULBruxelles
- 2006 PhD in Psychology (Social Cognition), Vrije Universiteit Brussel
- 2000—2006 Research & Teaching Assistant, Social Psychology Lab, VUBrussel
- 1999 Master in Cognitive Science, Université Libre de Bruxelles
- 1998 MSc in Psychology (Clinical/Experimental), Vrije Universiteit Brussel
- Social cognition: social interaction, action contingencies & interaction dynamics, gaze & eye tracking, social reward, virtual avatars, social agency. Consciousness: perceptual awareness and metacognition, implicit learning, subliminal perception, agency.
Topics & Projects
Here's some of what's currently going on or will be in the near future. Undergraduates, prospective PhD students or postdocs, please enquire — people with skills in Python, Vizard, MatLab, eye tracking, or Cross-Recurrence Quantification Analysis (CRQA) are especially welcome:
- Social cognition in interaction versus observation
- Social versus monetary reward in social cognition & motor learning
- Real-time gaze-based social interaction, analysis of interaction dynamics
- Ascriptions of self- and other-agency in social interaction
- Subjective measures of consciousness and metacognition
Past year's Social Cognition updates
Empirical paper — Zapata–Fonseca L, Dotov D, Fossion RYM, Froese T, Schilbach L, Vogeley K & Timmermans B (2018) Multi-scale coordination of distinctive movement patterns during embodied interaction between adults with high-functioning autism and neurotypicals. Frontiers in Psychology, 9:2760. — showing that persons with High Functioning Autism do display different interaction and movement dynamics despite ostensibly similar task outcomes, focusing more on overall exploration than social interaction [1/2019]
Empirical paper — Zapata–Fonseca L, Froese T, Schilbach L, Vogeley K & Timmermans B (2018) Sensitivity to social contingency in adults with high-functioning autism during computer-mediated embodied interaction. Behavioral Sciences 8:22. — showing that persons with High Functioning Autism are equally apt at reacting to and identifying interpersonal dynamics as healthy controls, in an embodied minimalist virtual environment [2/2018]
Past year's Consciousness updates
Empirical paper — Siedlecka M, Skóra Z, Paulewicz B, Fijałkowska S, Timmermans B & Wierzchoń M (2018) Responses improve the accuracy of confidence judgements in memory tasks. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, in press — in which we show that when you first report on a memory task, this improves your metacognitive evaluation of whether you remember something or not. Draft available soon. [3/2018]
- Schilbach L* and Timmermans B*, Reddy V, Costall A, Bente G, Schlicht T, & Vogeley K (2013) Toward a second-person neuroscience. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 36(4):393–462 (Target Article + Open Peer Commentary + Author's Response). — 682 citations 2013-17
- Sandberg K* and Timmermans B*, Overgaard M, & Cleeremans A (2010) Measuring consciousness: Is one measure better than the other? Consciousness and Cognition 19(4):1069-78. — 215 citations 2010-17
[* equal contributions]
- Social interaction: fMRI hyperscanning & social interaction dynamics with the Norihiro Sadato Lab: Hiroki Tanabe, Takahiko Koike, Japan National Institute of Physiological Sciences, Okazaki (Nagoya); Iva Barišic, ETH Zürich; Frouke Hermens, University of Lincoln; Leonhard Schilbach, Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry Munich; Kai Vogeley, University Hospital of Cologne
- Consciousness: Axel Cleeremans, Université Libre de Bruxelles; Boryslaw Paulewicz, SWPS University Katowice; Michal Wierzchon, Jagiellonian University of Krakow
- 2019—2020 Carnegie Trust Research Incentive Grant (RIG008270) — "Experiencing myself through you: Self-agency in social interaction" £10,000
- 2015—2019 Marie Curie Career Integration Grant (EU FP7-PEOPLE-2013-CIG) — "DUALGAZE: Social cognition in gaze-based interaction" €100,000
- 2010—2013 Volkswagen Foundation grant — “Being addressed as you: Conceptual and empirical investigations of a Second-Person approach to other minds” — co-PI with L. Schilbach (University Hospital of Cologne), T. Schlicht (Ruhr-University of Bochum), N. Steinbeis (MPI Leipzig) €316,650
- 2009—2011 Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship (EU FP7-PEOPLE-IEF-2008) — "SOCIAL BRAIN: How does our brain learn to be social?" €168,700
- 2019—2023 Participant to, and UK Management Committee Substitute for COST Action (CA18106) “The neural architecture of consciousness” (PI Kristian Sandberg, Aarhus University)
- 2015—2018 Research partner to PI Michal Wierzchon, Jagiellonian University of Krakow, on a HARMONIA grant from the Polish National Science Centre — "Cognitive and neuronal mechanisms of metacognitive awareness"
- Level 3 — PS3015 Methodology A [course coordinator; ANOVA/SPSS lectures]
- Level 3 — PS3522 Methodology B [course coordinator; research project supervisor]
- Level 3 — PS3520 Social Psychology [Social Dynamics tutorials]
- Level 4 — PS4530 / PS4536 Senior Honours (Level 4) Psychology B [critical reviews tutorials]
- Level 4 — PS4019 / PS4034 / PS4038 Psychology Thesis [supervision]
- Level 3–4 — SX3504 interdisciplinary Sixth Century Course "Consciousness" [course coordinator; Subjective Measures lectures; see blog]
- Level 1–4 — Methodology curriculum coordinator
- MSc FCP & MRes — PS5302 / PS5801 Basic & Advanced Research Methods for Postgraduates [lectures + tutorials in R; ANOVA; Exploratory Factor Analysis; Logistic Regression & Loglinear Analysis]
- MRes — PS5017 Research Project for Postgraduate Students in Psychology [supervision]
- MSc PS — PS5903 Research Project [supervision]
- Further Info
- Grant reviewer for FWO Flanders, ESRC/ORA, Mind Science Foundation, Carnegie Trust
- Book proposal reviewer for Routledge & OUP
- Course coordinator for PS3015 Methodology A
- Course coordinator for SX3504 Sixth Century Course "Consciousness"
- Methodology curriculum coordinator
- Communications Team: Social media coordinator + public engagement & events officer
- Equality & Diversity Team: Data analyst (previously Athena Swan Self-Assessment Team)
Seeking PhD students
Are you interested in social interaction, interaction dynamics, social reward, gaze, or anything related? Please contact me to discuss a potential project. Currentlly there is an EASTBIO project "Mechanisms of social agency" available supervised by myself and Rama Chakravarthi. It's a open to UK/EU students, and competition-funded, meaning that EASTBIO projects are awarded based on applicant merit not just within that project but across all EASTBIO projects.
All my research revolves around one question: does social interaction matter? Despite the fact that our social world consists mostly of actively interacting with others, most social cognition research has put people in a passive role, looking at “social stimuli” and having them make judgments. I want to look at whether being in interaction with someone actually makes a difference. To do this, we make use of eye tracking and virtual human avatars to manipulate the experience of contingency, and also look at how interaction dynamically changes over time and how this predicts how we think about and act with others. Possible topic areas:
- Agency in social interaction: we know a lot about how people experience sense of agency when interacting with inanimate objects (the subjective experience of causal influence over an effect), but what if the effect of your actions is the action of another person? Specifically, how does our own sense of agency depend on our perception of the other as an agent, and is this specific to social processes or related to more basic aspects that happen to characterise social interaction?
- Gaze dynamics and person perception: Do gaze dynamics predict how people will perceive one another, and does how we perceive others determine our gaze dynamics in interaction? Using Dual interactive eye tracking with Virtual anthropomorphic Avatars (DiVA) the aim is to look at how gaze-based interaction dynamics predict how similar we perceive others to be. Does it influence how we cooperate ore compete with them in a joint task?
- Action contingencies and reward processing: Can experience of someone behaving contingenctly upon my action (gaze, hand movement) constitute a reward that drives my motor learning; in other words, can social interaction provide the necessary reward to drive learning of (social) skills?
- Task-relevant versus -irrelevant dynamics: Gaze/posture/speech dynamics as task-relevant action versus social communication: How do gaze / postural / speech dynamics differ between situations where I actively engage that modality in problem-solving versus when problem solving occurs in a different modality? How does it predict action outcomes?
Information for Visitors
- Aberdeen — Even when here for a short time, visitors may want to explore the following around campus (click for guide): King's College, Old Aberdeen (do visit Cruickshank Botanic Garden and St Machar Cathedral), Donmouth LNR, or a walk including all three. More information on exploring the City of Aberdeen will follow. In the meanwhile these are places where you can enjoy traditional and other music.
- Aberdeenshire — Love the countryside? You get a car, as there are excellent daytrips in Aberdeenshire of which I recommend foremost intinerary 4, and also 3 (see also here). North, closeby stunning nature can be found in the dunes of Forvie National Nature Reserve (leaflet; 20min by car). Or at the cliffs of the Bullers of Buchan and the Longhaven Cliffs reserve(leaflet/map; 35min by car) — the latter two, especially attractive in bird nesting season May-July, are part of the Aberdeenshire Coastal Path and North Sea Trail and can be visited on a stunning walk (possibly combined with another) that actually has public transport at both ends. Roving southward, apart from the aforementioned coastal path, the short walk from lovely Stonehaven to impressive Dunnottar Castle (both 25min by car; train to Stonehaven) is magnificent, as is a visit to the Fowlsheugh bird cliffs (map; 30min by car, 5min from Dunnottar). Do watch out on all those cliffs, the path sometimes comes close to the edge. More to the west the place gets mountainous and the Cairgorms loom, so why not get a good look and head up Bennachie (start 35min by car)? Aberdeenshire has some of the highest castle density in Scotland (most are only open April through September). Neolithic and other sites are plenty. Never a dull moment!
- Cairngorms/Highlands — Yes, the Cairngorms are but a 1 to 1.5hr drive away, and you can completely circle them from Aberdeen in 5 to 6hrs depending on the route. Obviously not that high in absolute terms (most of the plateau lies between 900 and 1100m), but their high latitude and pummelling winds mean that most of the year the plateau has arctic or subarctic conditions and snow often lasts until way up in May. Updated information to follow. And in the meanwhile look at the Scottish National Heritage guide or daytrips or all sorts of information or get some geological information with impressive pics. Remains this: if you're curious to get a whiff of caledonian pine forest, this map gives an overview (closest by is Glen Tanar in Deeside, while on the western Cairngorms is the largest stretch, made up of the vast Abernethy / Glenmore / Rothiemurchus / Glen feshie forests). Excellent for walks, I recommend the magnificent walkhighlands website (with find-a-walk you can look for a walk tailored to your needs, ranked by user rating, length or whatever).
- A lot is made of "the west coast" and effectively you haven't seen Scotland if you haven't been there, and even if it's not really day trip material, many destinations are reachable in a weekend. More detailed information on it is a bit beyond the scope of this snippet, but reaching it by car takes between 3.5hrs and 4.5hrs depending on where you go. Access to insane scenery is quickest at (from north to south) Lochinver (4:30), Achiltibuie/Coigach (4:20), Ullapool (3:30), Gairloch (4:00), Torridon (3:30), Kyle of Lochalsh (4:00), Arisaig/Morar (4:20), Fort William (3:40), Oban (4:20). Zoning out further, the famous Isle of Skye's capital Portree is about 5hrs away. Inspiration for tours at undiscoveredscotland. Note my personal favourite is this tour with this walk (the tour there and back is 8.5hrs, the walk 4hrs, so an ideal first weekend trip). Go for it.
- In statistical terms the best month to visit Aberdeen (and the rest of Scotland) is May, by a long shot: most susnhine (more than in June!), least rain. April comes in second. Dry days exist, and Mid-February through mid-June are the 4 driest and sunniest months (in the Cairngorms that is mid-April to mid-August), although June through September are the warmest — but that being extremely relative (it means maximum temperatures are above 15C), the second half of spring is by far the best season. On average maximum temperature ranges from 10C early April to 15C early June, but late May might help you avoid the occasional frosty night. Rest assured midges are not an issue on the east coast, but are present in the Cairngorms July through late September (on the west coast it can become very dismal in that period – check the midge forecast). End of the year, October through December are the rainiest months, but January through March, while much sunnier and drier, still have little birdlife and many closed attractions. Yet, bear in mind that in Aberdeen during 5 months (early November until early April) average maximum temperature does not exceed 10C, and for more than half of the year (late October until early May), average minimum temperature will not exceed 5C. One good weather forecast does a lot, check wetter24.de (for the week) and yr.no (for the upcoming 2 days), the mountain weather forecast (3 days, an imperative check before heading onto the hills; check also the one for SE Highlands for south of Braemar). Up high you might ski in winter and the snow forecast for the 3 closest ski areas are The Lecht, Glenshee, and Cairngorm.