Potential PhD Projects

Effects of colour on perceptual organisation across the life-span

Perceptual organisation is an essential process in human vision that ensures that various features are grouped together and segmented from their backgrounds. There are many factors that influence such grouping, e.g., proximity, symmetry, similarity. Recent findings from my lab indicate that short-wavelength colour signals have a significant impact on the extraction of objects from their backgrounds. This result has potential impact on vision in people over 60 years old, which experience both a loss of information in the short-wavelength part of the spectrum (i.e. bluish colours) and a deterioration of certain perceptual organisation processes (e.g. symmetry, contour integration). The project will examine the putative links between the effects of aging on the short-wavelength colour system, on one hand, and the perceptual organisation, on the other hand.

Spatial codes in representation of complex auditory information

One of the most prominent discoveries from the last 30 years of cognitive psychology is the spatial-numerical association of response codes (SNARC) effect: the fact that our representation of magnitude has a spatial code, e.g. left side of the space is associated with lower magnitudes and right side of the space with higher magnitudes. While various motor, visual, or cognitive dimensions and tasks have been examined in relation to the SNARC effect, there has been less research on the automatic, SNARC-like spatial codes that may relate to complex auditory information, such as music. SMARC (musical SNARC) has been reported in relation to pitch, but further work remains to be done. This project will investigate how SNARC-like effects relate to other musical dimensions and will also explore the links between auditory lateralisation examined through high-low and glissando illusions, handedness, and representation of external space in both musically trained and naïve participants.

Attentional selection of colour

Colour is one of the most salient visual features. Yet it is a complex feature dimension with several levels of representation, from subcortical cone-opponent mechanisms in the lateral geniculate nucleus to multiple higher-order cortical mechanisms. This project aims to explore the feature dimension of colour in terms of how it affords attentional selection. Which colour representations are predominantly used for selection: Cone-opponent, colour-opponent or categorical? Does this hold across different tasks? Models of colour selection on the basis of different colour-spaces will be created and used to generate predictions, which will be subsequently tested. The outcome will be an increased understanding of colour selection which can ultimately be applied to human-computer interface design.