Dept of Psychological Sciences | Our staff | Dr Tim J Smith | Areas of research interest
Document Actions

Areas of research interest

Research blog

My research focuses on visual cognition in the context of naturalistic visual scenes. How do we attend to, perceive, encode in memory and reason about complex visual scenes? Key to my research is the observation that viewers overtly shift their attention about a scene when free to do so. This sequence of eye movements provides an index of the viewer's on-line cognitive processing of a visual scene. By using eyetracking to monitor where a person fixates and when they program saccades in combination with behavioural probes either during viewing (e.g. gaze-contingent onsets/offsets), or after viewing (e.g. recognition tests) we are able to investigate the cognitive processes occurring during scene viewing.

I use these methods to investigate the time course of visual encoding, saccade programming, inhibitory/facilitatory effects on gaze guidance, and the influence of Top-Down vs. Bottom-Up factors on gaze during scene viewing. I use high-speed eyetracking, behavioural tasks, co-registration of electrophysiology (EEG/ERP) and eye movements and cognitive modelling. I am a co-author of the CRISP computational model of fixation durations in scene viewing (Nuthmann, Smith, Engbert and Henderson, 2010).

The majority of research into scene perception uses static visual scenes. However, I have a special interest in how we process dynamic visual scenes such as real-world scenes, videos or edited visual media such as film. How do we reconcile the dynamics of the natural flow of visual information with the spatiotemporal limitations of our attentional and cognitive processes? How do expectation, and prior experience influence perception and memory of dynamic scenes? During my PhD I developed a theory of how we perceive edited film (i.e. movies) based on current theories of dynamic scene perception and film theory. A copy of my PhD is available here. I am interested in all aspects of film cognition and the application of empirical cognitive psychology methods to questions about the evolution, form, techniques and experience of visual narratives.

The majority of my research involves neurotypical, adult populations. However, I am also interested in the development of attentional control, scene perception, and social cognition in infants and the impairment of these processes in children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder.


Dr Tim J Smith