Centre for Systems Studies

Cognition and Development

Our research has impacts in education, in mental health and in the workplace. 

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Faculty of Health Sciences
Prof Kevin Riggs
Group Lead

The Challenge

Cognitive psychology is the scientific investigation of mental processes such as attention, perception, language, learning, memory and reasoning. Members of the group investigate the nature of these processes in adults, how they develop in children and decline in old age, and whether similar processes can be observed in non-human species. 

The Approach

Members of the group conduct behavioural studies of children, young adults, and elderly adults, as well as non-human species such as dogs and primates. These studies take place in dedicated research laboratories in the Department of Psychology and in external environments such as schools, the workplace, dog rescue centres and wildlife reserves.

Rubick's cube

OUR AIMS

  • To understand the fundamental cognitive processes that underpin human and animal behaviour
  • To understand how cognition develops across childhood and declines in old age
  • To understand the role of cognition in applied contexts such as the workplace
  • To understand how cognitive processes might be affected by issues such as mental health problems and neurological conditions

Projects

Learning

Attention and Perception

Research focuses on the cognitive and perceptual processes involved in the selection and processing of visual and auditory information. Current interests include the interaction between attention and associative learning, the nature and time course of the acquisition of information in speech and vision, face recognition in children and adults, the 'rubber hand' illusion, visual attention during social interaction, and word learning. 

Aging

Cognitive Decline and Impairment

The aim is to investigate the causes and consequences of impairments to cognitive functions. Current projects investigate how cognitive processes are affected by normal ageing and in individuals with conditions such as autism, dementia, depression, and schizophrenia.

Cognition and Development

Comparative Psychology

The questions addressed are whether similar psychological mechanisms govern learning in humans and non-human animals, and whether high-level cognitive processes present in humans can also be observed in non-human species. Current projects include associative and perceptual learning in humans, spatial learning in humans and other species, social cognition and personality in primates, cognition and perception in dogs, and visual search in fish species.

Exercise

Human Factors

Research here investigates the cognitive processes that underpin performance in applied contexts. Current projects include the effects of stress and fatigue on performance in the workplace, the effects of environmental noise on cognition, the cognitive underpinnings of traits such as mental toughness and resilience, and the role of mental toughness in sport, work, and education.

languages

Language

This focuses on the cognitive processes involved in verbal and nonverbal language comprehension and language development. Current projects are investigating word learning in children and adults, the interaction between visual processing and language, the effects of sleep on word learning in adults, the integration of gesture and language, and the effects of negation and falsification of information.

Group of people

Social Cognition

Our research investigates the cognitive processes involved in social interaction, group behaviour, and the processing of emotions. Current projects are concerned with social inhibition of return, theory of mind across the lifespan in both neurotypical people and people with autism, understanding implicit processes in social cognition, intergroup dynamics in conflict and cooperation, and social behaviour in primates.

Memories

Thinking, Imagination and Memory

Members of this group are concerned with understanding human memory, with current interests in autobiographical memory, false memories, involuntary memories, and memory deficits in mood disorders such as depression. Members of the group are also concerned with understanding the cognitive processes that enable us to think creatively, to imagine alternative realities, and to anticipate events that might occur in our future.

View all projects

Attention and Perception

Research focuses on the cognitive and perceptual processes involved in the selection and processing of visual and auditory information. Current interests include the interaction between attention and associative learning (George), the nature and time course of the acquisition of information in speech and vision (Smith), face recognition in children and adults (Nakabayashi), the 'rubber hand' illusion (George, Holle,), visual attention during social interaction (Skarratt), and word learning (Mather, Riggs)

Cognitive Decline and Impairment

The aim is to investigate the causes and consequences of impairments to cognitive functions. Current projects investigate how cognitive processes are affected by normal ageing (Guerrini, Morton) and in individuals with conditions such as autism (Jellema), dementia (Guerrini), depression (Anderson), and schizophrenia (Wright).

Comparative Psychology

The questions addressed are whether similar psychological mechanisms govern learning in humans and non-human animals, and whether high-level cognitive processes present in humans can also be observed in non-human species. Current projects include associative and perceptual learning in humans (George), spatial learning in humans and other species, social cognition and personality in primates (Morton), cognition and perception in dogs (George), and visual search in fish species (Skarratt).

Human Factors

Research here investigates the cognitive processes that underpin performance in applied contexts. Current projects include the effects of stress and fatigue on performance in the workplace (Earle), the effects of environmental noise on cognition (Wright), the cognitive underpinnings of traits such as mental toughness and resilience (Anderson and Dewhurst), and the role of mental toughness in sport, work, and education (Earle).

Language

This focuses on the cognitive processes involved in verbal and nonverbal language comprehension and language development. Current projects are investigating word learning in children and adults (Mather, O'Connor, Riggs), the interaction between visual processing and language (Lindsay, Nakabayashi), the effects of sleep on word learning in adults (Lindsay), the integration of gesture and language (Holle, O'Connor), and the effects of negation and falsification of information (Weil).

Social Cognition

Our research investigates the cognitive processes involved in social interaction, group behaviour, and the processing of emotions. Current projects are concerned with social inhibition of return (Skarratt), theory of mind across the lifespan in both neurotypical people and people with autism (JellemaRiggsO'Connor, Tidoni), understanding implicit processes in social cognition (Jellema, Tidoni), intergroup dynamics in conflict and cooperation (Nakabayashi), and social behaviour in primates (Morton).

Thinking, Imagination and Memory

Members of this group are concerned with understanding human memory, with current interests in autobiographical memory (AndersonDewhurst), false memories (AndersonDewhurst), involuntary memories (AndersonSayan), and memory deficits in mood disorders such as depression (AndersonSayan). Members of the group are also concerned with understanding the cognitive processes that enable us to think creatively, to imagine alternative realities, and to anticipate events that might occur in our future (AndersonDewhurstRiggs).

Outputs and publications

Anderson, R.J., Clayton-McClure, H., Boland, J., Howe, D, Riggs, K.J., & Dewhurst, S.A. (2023). The relationship between depressive symptoms and positive emotional anticipation of goal achievement. Journal of Experimental Psychopathology. In press.

Dewhurst, S.A., & Anderson, R.J., O’Connor, R.J., & Dean, G.M. (2023). The effect of survival processing on memory for pictures depends on how memory is tested. Memory, 31, 502-508.

Grace, L., Dewhurst, S.A., & Anderson, R.J. (2021). The effect of dysphoria on the relationship between autobiographical memories and the self. Cognition & Emotion, 35, 71-83.

Dewhurst, S.A., Anderson, R.J., Grace, L, & Howe, D. (2019). Simulation, false memories, and the planning of future events. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition, 45, 26-36.

Dewhurst, S.A., Anderson, R.J., Berry, D.M., & Garner, S.R. (2018). Individual differences in susceptibility to false memories: The effect of memory specificity. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 71, 1637-1644.

Aguirre C, Gomez C, Mazzoni G, Andres P, Bajo T, ‘Boundary features and mechanisms of selective directed forgetting’, Frontiers in Psychology, 8:316 (2017)

View all publications

Research Students

Joseph Abel

Remembering to remember: Improving prospective memory performance

Prof Steve Dewhurst (primary supervisor), Dr Rachel Anderson (co-supervisor)

Adam Boulby

Cognitive underpinnings of exercise attitudes and behaviours

Dr Rachel Anderson (primary supervisor), Prof Steve Dewhurst (co-supervisor)

Andrew Lee

Decision making in Flood Rescue

Dr Fiona Earle (primary supervisor), Prof Terry Williams (co-supervisor)

Stefi McMaster

Fatigue in Wind Technicians

Dr Fiona Earle (primary supervisor), Prof Terry Williams (co-supervisor)

Tom Peney

The effect of virtual immersion on human educational development

Dr Paul Skarratt (primary supervisor), Prof Kevin Riggs (co-supervisor)

Lisa Somerville

Evaluating the impact of motion travel on cognitive ability of offshore workers a VR experience

Prof Terry Williams (primary supervisor), Dr Fiona Earle (co-supervisor), Dr David Smith (co-supervisor)

Inspired?

Our research impacts the world. Come and join us.

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