Centre for Systems Studies

Cognition and Development

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

Steve Dewhurst
Faculty of Health Sciences
Professor Steve Dewhurst
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 cognition

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.

Virtual reality

Imagination and thought

This theme is 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. Current projects investigate counterfactual thinking and its development and the simulation of hypothetical future events.

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.

Memories

Learning and memory

Research here is concerned with understanding human memory, with current interests in associative and perceptual learning, autobiographical memory, false memories, category learning in infants, intentional forgetting, and the effects of sleep on memory consolidation and retrieval. 

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 in people with autism, understanding implicit processes in social cognition, intergroup dynamics in conflict and cooperation, and social behaviour in primates.

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, Mazzoni), 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 cognition

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 (Wilson), 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).

Imagination and thought

This theme is 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. Current projects investigate counterfactual thinking and its development (Anderson, Riggs, O'Connor) and the simulation of hypothetical future events (Anderson, Dewhurst).

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).

Learning and memory

Research here is concerned with understanding human memory, with current interests in associative and perceptual learning (George, Wilson), autobiographical memory (Anderson, Mazzoni), false memories (Anderson, Dewhurst, Mazzoni), category learning in infants (Mather), intentional forgetting (Anderson, Dewhurst, Mazzoni), and the effects of sleep on memory consolidation and retrieval (Lindsay).

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 in people with autism (Jellema, Riggs, O'Connor), understanding implicit processes in social cognition (Jellema, Weil), intergroup dynamics in conflict and cooperation (Nakabayashi), and social behaviour in primates (Morton).

Members
Outputs and publications

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

Anderson R J, Boland J, Garner S R, 'Overgeneral past and future thinking in dysphoria: The role of emotional cues and cueing methodology', Memory, 24, pp 708-719 (2016)

Anderson R J, Dewhurst S A, Dean G M, 'Direct and generative retrieval of autobiographical memories: The roles of visual imagery and executive processes', Consciousness and Cognition, 49, pp 163-171 (2017)

Antonova E, Amaratunga K, Wright B, Ettinger U, Kumari V, ‘Schizotypy and mindfulness: Magical thinking without suspiciousness characterises mindfulness meditators’, Schizophrenia Research: Cognition, 5, pp 1-6 (2016)

Biau E, Fernandez L M, Holle H, Avila C, Soto-Faraco S, 'Hand gestures as visual prosody: BOLD responses to audio-visual alignment are modulated by the communicative nature of the stimuli', Neuroimage, 132, pp 129-137 (2016)

Boland J, Riggs K J, Anderson R J, 'A brighter future: The effect of positive episodic simulation on future predictions in non-depressed, moderately dysphoric and highly dysphoric individuals', Behaviour Research and Therapy, 100, pp 7-16 (2018)

View all publications

Research Students

Joseph Abel

The role of visual imagery in prospective memory

Prof Steve Dewhurst and Dr Rachel Anderson

Deniz Aygun

Self evaluation and cognitive performance in physically active and healthy older adults

Dr Chiara Guerrini

Ilse Coolen

The Approximate Number System and maths achievement

Dr Julie Castronovo

Erin Dysart

Action-object mapping

Dr Kevin Riggs

Lydia Grace

Autobiographical memory and the self in dysphoria

Dr Rachel Anderson

David Howe

Implicit and explicit attitudinal consequences of false autobiographical memories and beliefs

Prof Steve Dewhurst

Jonathan Huddlestone

Risk and safely culture in offshore wind

Dr Fiona Earle

Andrew Lucas

Word learning in adults

Dr Kevin Riggs

Sylwia Macinska

Cognition and Emotion: intertwined or distinct abilities?

Dr Tjeerd Jellema

Steffi McMaster

Causes and consequences of fatigue in offshore wind technicians

Dr Fiona Earle

Lee Parkin

Anatomical and gender differences in near and far space processing

Dr Igor Schindler

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