School of Psychology William Guild Building Room T6 Kings College Old Aberdeen AB24 3FX
I'm an experimental psychologist, and my research has primarily addressed two questions. How does the brain manage to rapidly construct and update a reasonably good model of the world within our conscious experience? And, how does our model of the world avoid distortion or false beliefs when exposed to social influences from other people or from persuasive new technologies, like AI?
My background and training is in the cognitive neuroscience of long-term memory, stemming from my St Andrews University PhD work, using EEG to identify neural correlates of conscious and unconscious retrieval processes. I continued along similar lines, using PET and fMRI, in London as a research fellow at the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, before moving to Aberdeen at the turn of the century. Here, I've continued to work on the neural basis of retrieval processing, but over the years I've grown increasingly interested in how our model of the world adapts to social influences that carry useful information or misinformation. In 2015, I began to work almost exclusively on cognitive and EEG-based diagnostics for Alzheimer's disease, leading to the formation of a spin-out company. In 2019, I returned to the School of Psychology full-time, where I've continued to research social influences upon cognition, in particular how the influence of AI may be psychologically regulated, and a new approach to the neural basis of long-term memory using mutli-level modelling at the single-trial level.
I coordinate the School's OnDemand course provision, as well as two 4th year option courses (PS4040, Current Topics in Psychology, and PS4041 Critical Review) and one of our core MSc Conversion courses (PS5527).
Human-AI interaction - how do we engineer AI to be appropriately persuasive?
Episodic memory and it's neural basis - how do we recollect specific episodes?
Adapting to social influences - how do we avoid incorporating other people's false beliefs or distorted views of the world into our own - obviously perfect - cognitive model of the world?
Self-reference effects - what do they tell us about the purpose of human cognition?
I am currently accepting PhDs in Psychology, Computing Science.
Please get in touch if you would like to discuss your research ideas further.
Computing ScienceAccepting PhDs
- Artificial Intelligence
- Cognitive Neuroscience
- Cognitive Psychology
Our research specialisms are based on the Higher Education Classification of Subjects (HECoS) which is HESA open data, published under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence.
We are developing experimental protocols that allow us to study specific features of human-AI interaction. In particular, the propagation of bias (e.g. gender-bias) from AI into human decision-making, and how signals of accuracy, likelihood or confidence provided by AI influence trust in what they recommend.
Do ERP correlates of episodic retrieval modelled at the single-trial level reflect an individual's memory function? Do they reflect cornerstone features of our theoretical models of long-term memory?
How do we avoid or accept other people's biases during social interaction?
Is memory conformity regulated by self-reference effects?
A goldilocks zone for credible AI
We propose that decades of work on human-human social influence apply also to human-AI interaction. Our prediction that human social cognition partially regulates AI's influence is now confirmed experimentally by the finding that identical patterns of conformity emerge during interactions either with a human or a simulated image recognition AI.
You can read the paper here: In search of a goldilocks zone for credible AI
We have just been awarded ESRC funding for a project to engineer an appropriately persuasive, natural language AI recommendation system, in collaboration with Dr Gowri Sripada and Dr Georgios Leontidis from the School of Natural and Computing Sciences.
I am currently supervising Mr Jacobo Azcona's PhD, which begins in earnest this autumn, looking at bias propagating from natural language AI to their human users, especially stereotypical biases that fuel gender discrimination.
Over the last 20 years, I have supervised or jointly supervised 11 PhD students, most recently Mr Lip Jin Tee (May, 2019, 'Potential biomarkers for early identification of individuals at risk of developing Alzheimer's disease') and Ms Maria Bulmer (Feb, 2020, 'The roles of episodic memory and semantic knowledge in individuation and stereotyping').
Funding and Grants
Currently, I have funding from the ESRC for a PhD studentship (beginning in autumn, 2022) to develop a natural language AI system that allows us to study how gender-bias propagates from AI into human decision-making.
Over the last 20 years, I've received more than £1m in funding from various sources (including TauRx pharmaceuticals, ESRC, BBSRC, Bial Foundation, Carnegie Trust, SINAPSE) to investigate cognitive and EEG based diagnostics in Alzheimer's disease, the cognitive and neural basis of episodic memory, neurophysiological markers of suceptibility to memory distortion, and other topics.
I currently teach - and coordinate - two 4th year option courses (PS4040/PS5040 Current Topics in Psychology, PS4041 Critical Review), as well as the 4th year Cognitive Neuroscience option course (PS4510/PS3524). I supervise 4th year honours projects, and I also teach on 3rd year methods courses.
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In Search of a Goldilocks Zone for Credible AIScientific Reports, vol. 11, 13687Contributions to Journals: Articles
Rapid and reversible impairment of episodic memory by a high-fat diet in miceScientific Reports, vol. 8, 11976Contributions to Journals: Articles
Effects of Sexually Dimorphic Shape Cues on Neurophysiological Correlates of Women's Face ProcessingAdaptive Human Behavior and Physiology, vol. 3, no. 4, pp. 337-350Contributions to Journals: Articles
- [ONLINE] DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s40750-017-0072-1
Simulation-Based Mentalizing Generates a “proxy” Self-Reference Effect in MemoryQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, vol. 70, no. 6, pp. 1074-1084Contributions to Journals: Articles
Old-new ERP effects and remote memories: the late parietal effect is absent as recollection fails whereas the early mid-frontal effect persists as familiarity is retainedFrontiers in Neuroscience, vol. 9, 00532Contributions to Journals: Articles
- [ONLINE] DOI: https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2015.00532
- [OPEN ACCESS] http://aura.abdn.ac.uk/bitstream/2164/5274/1/fnhum_09_00532.pdf
Breastfeeding and introduction of complementary foods during infancy in relation to the risk of asthma and atopic diseases up to 10 yearsClinical & experimental allergy, vol. 43, no. 11, pp. 1263-1273Contributions to Journals: Articles
- [ONLINE] DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/cea.12180
An obesogenic bias in women's spatial memory for high calorie snack foodAppetite, vol. 67, pp. 99-104Contributions to Journals: Articles
- [ONLINE] DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2013.03.011
Is the N400 effect a neurophysiological index of associative relationships?Neuropsychologia, vol. 51, no. 9, pp. 1742-1748Contributions to Journals: Articles
- [ONLINE] DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2013.05.003
Socio-sexuality and episodic memory function in women: further evidence of an adaptive “mating mode”Memory & Cognition, vol. 41, no. 6, pp. 850-861Contributions to Journals: Articles
- [ONLINE] DOI: https://doi.org/10.3758/s13421-013-0301-1
Explicit mentalizing mechanisms and their adaptive role in memory conformityPloS ONE, vol. 8, no. 4, e62106Contributions to Journals: Articles