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Dr Valerie Benson

Senior Lecturer in Atypical Cognition
School of Psychology and Computer Science

Valerie's research investigates how patterns of eye movements can reveal on-line cognitive processing differences for a range of tasks and with a range of populations. The aim is to show how processing differences might contribute to the observed behavioural characteristics of atypical populations, and the findings are used to develop theoretical accounts as to how cognition drives or underpins aspects of behaviour in specific groups. Valerie is currently leading National, European and International collaborative projects to examine various aspects of cognition in the deaf; in autism; in anxiety; in stroke patients and in older adults.

Valerie's research interests include oculomotor control and visual cognition. In everyday life the default strategy to sample the visual environment is to move our eyes in fast ballistic movements (saccades) interspersed with periods where the eye remains still (fixations). This is known as saccadic orienting, and its purpose is to re-position the high acuity area of the retina, the fovea, so that detailed inspection can be carried out at the point of fixation. Information is processed in detail during fixations. Where and when the eyes move for given tasks are tightly linked to on-line cognitive processing, and patterns of eye movements have the potential to reveal processing differences that might account for behavioural effects observed for various special or atypical populations. Eye movement methodology enables me to investigate on-line cognitive processing differences, for a range of tasks, with a range of participant populations.

Valerie began her academic career at the University of Durham, UK where she was awarded her PhD in Psychology (2004), having been supervised by one of the instrumental figures in eye movement research in the UK, Prof John Findlay. Valerie subsequently worked as a Research Fellow with one of the central figures in vision, Prof David Milner. In 2006, she was awarded a prestigious Roberts Research Fellowship, and relocated to the University of Southampton, UK where she spent the next five years developing an independent research profile, specialising in investigating eye movements in typical and atypical populations. In 2011, Valerie became a Lecturer in Psychology, and was promoted to a Senior Lecturer in 2014. In 2018, she relocated back to the North of England to take up a part-time Senior Lectureship in Atypical Cognition at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan). Valerie is active within the Vision, Cognition and Neuroscience research group and is always interested to talk to students wishing to carry out research in her area. If you are interested in carrying out research for a PhD under Valerie's supervision, please contact her via email: