The Cognitive Research Group focuses on a range of areas including selective attention and distraction, working memory, executive functioning, the social contexts of perception, biases in reasoning, reading development and aspects of social cognition.
The study of human cognition within the School is characterised by applied research with a strong theoretical basis, including but not limited to executive and memory processes in illicit drug users, social cognition including the experience of loneliness in adults and children, reading development and reading difficulties, face recognition and the construction and utilization of facial composites, and individual differences in reasoning and decision making.
Our research focuses on understanding how individuals are able to selectively attend to certain information whilst ignoring other irrelevant/distracting information. To date, this has involved examining gender differences in visual attention and future work is planned to develop this area of research as well as exploring hemispheric processing and attention/distraction. Another strand of work involves investigating different varieties of auditory distraction in the context of short-term and long-term memory. There are active domestic collaborations with other researchers at Cardiff University, Reading University and Royal Holloway University. There are also international collaborations with researchers at the University of Gavle (Sweden), Heinrich-Heine University (Germany), Laval University (Canada), and the University of San Antonio, Texas (USA).
Researchers: Marsh, Judge, Taylor.
Individual differences in reasoning and decision making
Work in this area involves laboratory and real-world studies of fundamental reasoning, problem solving and decision making processes. A particular emphasis is placed on understanding the nature of individual differences in reasoning, whether such differences arise from the expertise, cognitive ageing, dispositional influences and ability variables (e.g., those associated with the capacity limitations of available working memory) or as a consequence of illicit drug use. Our reasoning research also focuses on advancing a conceptual understanding of the interplay between implicit, intuitive processes and explicit, analytic processes. Topics of interest in relation to such dual-process theories concern factors that influence the dominance of intuitive versus analytic processes, the way in which competition and conflict between dual reasoning processes is monitored, detected and resolved, and the implications of dual-process views of reasoning for an understanding of individual differences in human rationality.
Researchers: Ball, Fisk
Focusing on face recognition, facial composites and their utilization in criminal investigation, this research has contributed to our understanding of the processes underlying face perception and has had a direct effect in enhancing the identification of criminal suspects directly resulting in arrests. This area of research has been part funded by the EPSRC £202,000 and the ESRC (£77000) and through internal sources of finance. Collaborations exist with researchers based at University of Winchester.
This research is of particular value in identifying the specific processes which are of importance in determining the course of language development in bilingual children.
Executive and Memory Processes in Illicit Drug Users
Our research has involved investigations of executive functioning, learning and memory, visuo-spatial processing and reasoning ability in recreational drug users. This work has added to the body of information which identifies the potential long term harmful effects of illicit drugs on cognitive functioning. There is active regional collaboration between our research team and other researchers at Liverpool John Moores University, Edge Hill University and Nottingham Trent University. In relation to the street drug ecstasy (MDMA) and its effects on cognition, during the current REF period, Fisk and co-workers account for a significant proportion of the peer reviewed output that has been produced worldwide This work has been funded internally through the provision of PhD bursaries and undergraduate internships.
Researchers: Fisk, Gallagher, Judge, Morley, Robinson, Taylor.
The research focuses on how individuals construe their social world and the processes that underlie social judgment and behaviour. ESRC research has shown that specific cognitive biases surrounding social threat are implicated in chronic loneliness, whilst empirical examination of trust and emotional intelligence has shown how it is translates to actual behaviour in children’s peer relationships. The cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between mental state understanding, emotion understanding and Executive Function are also examined, with recent work focusing on pre-schoolers. Chu’s work investigates the social contexts of perception (£7.5KNuffield Foundation) and his and Brewer’s work investigates sexual attractiveness from an evolutionary perspective.
Researchers: Brewer, Chu, Dacre-Pool, Gardner, Qualter PhD students: Abell, Bangee, Harris, Roper
Anomalistic psychology attempts to explain paranormal beliefs and ostensibly paranormal experiences in terms of known psychological (and physical) factors. Work within the Centre has examined the relationship between belief in the paranormal and probabilistic reasoning biases as well as a range of other individual difference measures such as emotional intelligence and adult attachment style. Some of this work has been funded internally through the provision of undergraduate internships.
Researchers: Rogers, Fisk, Winsper
Research interests focus on physical attractiveness and sexual and romantic relationships from an evolutionary perspective. Collaborations exist with researchers based at Durham University, Liverpool Hope University, University of Goettingen, and the University of Leeds. Findings have been disseminated in a range of publications including The Sunday Times and USA Today.
Stemming from previous work with ‘Sure Start’, Hutchinson developed partnerships with Sure Start Children’s Centre staff, Blackpool’s Children, Families and Adult Services, and Blackpool Educational Psychology Services in an ‘early years’ intervention. As part of the Early Learning in Families Project she trained staff to deliver a dialogic (interactive) story reading intervention to parents of ‘very hard to reach children’. Despite starting with very low vocabulary skills the educational outcome for these children was much improved: catch-up in receptive and expressive vocabulary and progress across a range of developmental measures e.g. play and eye-hand co-ordination, good attendance at nursery, increased ability to pay attention for sustained periods, increased parental engagement with their children’s learning and improved behaviour management skills. To disseminate the findings, UCLan co-hosted a conference for early year’s practitioners across North West England.
Dr Oliver Kannape’s research is to understand the functional and neuronal contributions of human action and (action) awareness to body perception and self-consciousness. He has had an article published on The Conversation, entitled Here’s how to convince the brain that prosthetic legs are real