Dr O'Connor's current research falls mostly into two topics: theory of mind and word learning. Within theory of mind, he is interested in the mechanisms by which we are able to infer the beliefs and visual perspectives of other people when these are different to our own. He investigates these in both children and adults, and in both typically developing populations and populations with known differences in theory of mind performance.
Within word learning, his research has focused on the phenomenon of "fast mapping" (the rapid formation of an association between a word and its referent after minimal exposure), both in children and adults. He also investigates the role of gesture in word learning, particularly in second language learning.
Across these two research areas he uses experimental, lab-based studies. In particular, his most recent research uses mouse-tracking to investigate the activation and competition between different response options when participants make a judgement, for example when judging the meaning of a word or another person's belief. He has very recently been awarded, with Prof Kevin Riggs, funding from the ESRC to investigate egocentric bias in belief processing using this methodology.
More broadly, he is interested cognitive development across the lifespan. His PhD investigated object and goal representations in infants, using search tasks, looking-time and gaze-contingent eye-tracking.
Dr O'Connor welcomes applications in any of the areas of cognition and cognitive development listed in his research interests, with applications to investigate theory of mind particularly welcome.
Current PhD supervision:
Erin Minton-Branfoot (with Dr Henning Holle): gesture and L2 word learning
Completed PhD supervision:
Andrew Lucas (with Prof Kevin Riggs and Dr Shane Lindsay): ‘The nature of novel word representations: computer mouse tracking shows evidence of immediate lexical engagement effects in adults’