Rapid human visual perception: Lags and costs in processing features of multiple objects


With a view toward understanding how the brain manages incoming visual information through coordination of perception, attention, and cognition, you will use behavioral psychophysical techniques to probe human information processing. In particular, you will investigate lags in processing of object features, where our internal representations do not keep up with the changes in the outside world.


Professor Alex Holcombe

Research Location

School of Psychology

Program Type



Our lab has several experimental paradigms set up to reveal the hidden workings of human visual perception. Most experiments are directed at temporal aspects of human information processing. The brain takes time to process visual information, meaning that in many cases our brains are living in the past and having to predict events just to be less far behind the present. We have recently found evidence that the lag in perception increases when people  split their attention among multiple objects. This lag, although usually only a fraction of a second, can be very costly when one is attempting to intercept or avoid moving objects. Current experiments investigate the mechanism that updates our representation of object features and position.

An aspect of feature processing important for understanding neural computation is the issue of binding the multiple features of an object. The various features of an object, such as its shape, color, and sound are processed by distinct brain areas but must be represented as belonging together to create our perception of a unified world. Experiments underway are revealing the way these features are paired and updated asynchronously.

Additional Information

Our laboratory provides a number of ways for a motivated PhD student to be on the forefront of international research in human visual perception. The presence of four other labs in the building conducting internationally renowned research in related fields provides a stimulating environment where students are exposed to a wealth of knowledge in the area and a broad education in current techniques. The creative student can capitalize on these resources to make their own mark in the understanding of human information processing. Department support allows doctoral students to present their research at domestic and international conferences in the field.Conducting the research requires the student to perform extensive computer programming to create the necessary displays and experimental software. Some prior experience in programming is required, but most of the skills can be acquired in the lab. Some background in statistics is essential and coursework in perception, neuroscience, and/or cognition is desirable.

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visual perception, binding problem, Neuroscience, psychology, psychophysics, object tracking

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 546

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