My current research focuses on how rewards and penalties can control our attention and distractibility. I use eye tracking, reaction times, and choice measures to quantify distraction and reward processing. I investigate the effect of drugs, neurodegenerative conditions, and focal brain damage on reward processing, and how they may influence the allocation visuospatial attention.
I also have interests in how we sequentially search for information with our eyes, and how we retain information in visuospatial working memory.

Video papers


Recent Work

Missed rewards capture attention

In oculomotor capture paradigms, such as in the figure, subjects are told to look to the item on the screen that doesn't change. They are often unable to, and are distracted by items that get brighter.

I showed firstly that capture depends on reward and penalty contingencies, and sencondly that it is modulated very specifically by the previous trial's target location, and whether or not that target was rewarded or not.

Cabergoline and reward

In collaboration with Stephanie Burnett, Agnes Norbury and Leslie van der Leer, we measured effects of the dopaminergic drug cabergoline on reward processing. We used an oculomotor distraction paradigm similar to above in which the stakes were manipulated from trial to trial.

We show increased distractibility and slower error-correction responses on the drug. Subjects also showed changes in a gambling paradigm, and altered ability to filter items in working memory.

Working memory for durations

Between 1 and 5 time intervals were presented sequentially to subjects, as tones, and they had to reproduce one of them by pressing a key. The required item to be recalled was indicated by a number or symbol from 1 to 5. We measured the precision of the response compared to the probed item duration. Subjects showed classical working memory effects of serial order including primacy and recency, and a capacity effect. The primacy benefit was lost when subjects knew before each trial began how many items would be presented. The primacy effect was also lost when items in the sequence were made different in pitch - this is an irrelevant dimension as far as the task was concerned but may make tones easier to individuate in memory.

Other Collaborations

Work-related articles: