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Psychological Science

Understanding the cognitive, neural, and social processes that underpin behaviour in adults, children, and animals.

The Challenge

The Psychological Science group investigates perception, memory, thinking, decision making and social interaction in adults, children and animals. We also aim to establish how these abilities are linked to particular brain areas, how they might be affected by mental health conditions such as depression and schizophrenia, and whether they differ in atypical populations.

The Approach

Members of the group conduct experimental behavioural studies and observational research. To investigate neural processes we use electrophysiological (EEG), neuroimaging (fMRI/fNIRS) and neuromodulatory methods (TMS/tDCS). Our studies take place in dedicated research laboratories as well as schools, charitable organisations, dog rescue centres, wildlife reserves and the natural environment. 

Brain and sketching


  • To understand the fundamental cognitive and biological processes that underpin human and animal behaviour
  • To identify brain areas involved in psychological processing
  • To understand how cognition may be affected by mental health conditions and in atypical populations

The Impact

Our research has impact within education, mental health, the environment, and the workplace. In the most recent Research Excellence Framework our impact cases were rated as world leading or internationally excellent. 

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  • Themes

    Attention and Perception

    Theme convenor: Dr Henning Holle

    Research in this theme focuses on understanding the processes that support perceptual, spatial and physiological awareness. Current interests include visual perception and visual search (Skarratt), perceptual and associative learning (George), speech perception and production (Smith, Lindsay), interactions between vision, sound, and touch (Holle) and the neural processes involved in the representation of near and far space (Schindler). Researchers also investigate the cognitive and neural processes associated with physiological sensations such as itch (George, Holle).

    Behaviour and Ecology

    Theme convenor: Dr Blake Morton

    Members of this theme are concerned with understanding the complex relationships between humans, animals, and the environment. The questions addressed include how humans connect with nature, how animals adapt to their environment, and whether cognitive processes present in humans can also be observed in other species. Examples of the group’s recent outputs include perceptual and associative learning (George), vocal perception in dogs (George), decision-making heuristics in dogs (George), visual attention in fish (Skarratt) and personality in a range of species (Morton). Field-based projects have included the impact of urbanisation on problem-solving in wild foxes (Morton) and exploration and tool use in wild raccoons (Morton).

    Thinking, Imagination and Memory

    Theme convenor: Dr Rachel Anderson

    Members of this theme are concerned with understanding human memory and the functions that memory serves in our everyday lives, such as reliving past experiences and imagining hypothetical events. Current projects include the role of memory in imagining future events and alternative realities (Anderson, Dewhurst, Riggs) and word learning (Lindsday, O’Connor, Riggs). Other topics include autobiographical memory (Anderson, Dewhurst) false memories (Anderson, Dewhurst), prospective memory (Anderson, Dewhurst), the conscious experiences associated with memory (Dewhurst), intentional forgetting (Anderson, Dewhurst), and memory deficits in people with depression (Anderson) and schizophrenia (Wright).

    Understanding Other Minds and Communication

    Theme convenor: Dr Richard O’Connor

    The aim of this theme is to understand the cognitive and neural processes involved in social interaction and communication. Current projects include belief and knowledge processing (O’Connor, Riggs) emotional processing in people with autism (Jellema) and the neural correlates of action prediction in human–human and human–robot interactions (Jellema, Schindler). Researchers also investigate the role of visual attention during social interaction (Skarratt) and the relationship between gesture and speech (Holle, Mather). 

  • Outputs and publications
  • Group members
  • Research students

    Joseph Abel

    Remembering to remember: Improving prospective memory performance

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

    Sarah Etty

    An attentional bias approach to psoriasis

    Dr Henning Holle (primary supervisor), Dr David George (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)

    Erin Minton-Branfoot

    Gesture as a stepping stone into rapid second language acquisition

    Henning Holle (Primary Supervisor) and Richard O’Connor (Co-Supervisor)

    Matthew Page

    Excitatory and inhibitory motor processes underpinning the urge to scratch

    Henning Holle (Primary Supervisor) and Emmanuele Tidoni (Co-Supervisor)

    Tom Peney

    The effect of virtual immersion on human educational development

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

    Joana López Pigüi

    Cortical oscillations related to predicting and observing actions

    Dr Tjeerd Jellema (primary supervisor), Dr Igor Schindler (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 Dave George (co-supervisor)

    Bethanie Richards

    The Influence of breathing pathway on memory processes

    Dr Shane Lindsay (primary supervisor) Dr Henning Holle (co-supervisor)

    Shamini Howshigan

    Improving user accessibility for waste recycling behaviour via a symbol matching system

    Prof Igor Schindler (primary supervisor) Prof Kevin Riggs (co-supervisor)

    Kristy Adaway

    Linking animal psychology to conservation strategies

    Dr Blake Morton (primary supervisor) Dr Charlotte Hopkins (co-supervisor)

    Thomas Thompson

    Automaticity in perspective taking

    Dr Richard O’Connor (primary supervisor Prof Kevin Riggs (co-supervisor)

    Tereza Skodova

    Implicit social learning in autism

    Dr Tjeerd Jellema (primary supervisor) Dr Richard O’Connor (co-supervisor)

    Beth Markham

    The role of executive function in memory biases in depression

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

    Dylan Jones

    Carnivore behaviour and psychology

    Dr Blake Morton (primary supervisor) Dr Dave George (co-supervisor)

    Alex Smith

    Knowledge processing in Theory of mind

    Dr Richard O’Connor (primary supervisor) Prof Kevin Riggs (co-supervisor)

    Yumeng Lyu

    Language processing and sleep

    Dr Shane Lindsay (primary supervisor) Prof Kevin Riggs (co-supervisor)

    Keryn Siddle

    Language and gesture learning

    Dr Emily Mather (primary supervisor) Dr Henning Holle (co-supervisor)

    Kelly Robson

    The impact of University life on the mental health & wellbeing of undergraduate students

    Dr Julie Castronovo (primary supervisor) Prof Jacqui White (co-supervisor)



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