Dr. Valerie Benson

Senior Lecturer in Atypical Cognition

School of Psychology

Darwin Building, DB207

+44 (0) 1772 89 2021


Subject Areas: Psychology

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 as also active within the Vision, Cognition and Neuroscience research group.

Full Profile

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 2011. 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'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 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: VBenson3@uclan.ac.uk


  • PhD University of Durham, UK. 2004
  • BSc (Hons.) University of Durham, UK. 1993


Valerie Benson, Monica S. Castelhano, Philippa L. Howard, Nida Latif and Keith Rayner (2016). Looking, seeing and believing in autism: Eye movements reveal how subtle cognitive processing differences impact in the social domain. Autism Research. Article first published on line: 28 NOV 2015, DOI: 10.1002/aur.1580.

Au Yeung, S., Kaakinen, J. K., Liversedge, S., & Benson, V. (2017). Would adults with autism be less likely to bury the survivors? An eye movement study of anomalous text reading. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology . doi: 10.1080/17470218.2017.1322621.

Leyland, L-A. L., Godwin, H. J., Benson, V., & Liversedge, S. P. (2017). Neglect patients exhibit egocentric or allocentric neglect for the same stimulus contingent upon task demands. Scientific Reports, 7, [1941]. DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-02047-x.

Howard, P.L., Liversedge, S.P., & Benson, V. (2017). Processing of Co-Reference in Autism Spectrum Disorder. Autism Research, 1968-1980. doi: 10.1002/aur.1845.

More Publications



During Valerie's career she has become an internationally recognized expert in eye movements and visual cognition. As such she has supervised several Ph.D. students to completion, and currently leads a range of research projects that are being conducted with both national and international collaborators. Valerie delivered eye movement workshops in both China and Brazil, and is regularly invited as a speaker both in the UK and abroad. Valerie reviews for research journals including Cognition, Autism Research, JADD, JEP: LMC, JML, QJEP, JECP, M&C, APP, VC, R&W, JCP, PLoS ONE, Peer J, Vision etc. and also acts as a reviewer for grant applications, for several award funding bodies.


Valerie is currently working on a range of projects designed to reveal how eye movement patterns can contribute to our understanding of cognitive processing differences in atypical populations, including Autism, Anxiety, Visual Neglect and the Deaf.


In 2018, Valerie was invited to be a Key Note Speaker at two international eye movement conferences - held in Australia and China.  She also regularly attends major international conferences including European Conference on Eye Movements (ECEM), China International Conference on Eye Movements (CICEM), Annual Psychonomic Society (PS) meetings and the Experimental Psychology Society (EPS) meetings. Some of the presentations listed below were given at these conferences recently.

Teaching Activities and Responsibilities

Valerie 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: VBenson3@uclan.ac.uk


Keynote speaker May 2018 – 8th China International Conference on Eye Movements, ‘What can eye movements tell us about cognitive processing in Special Populations’? Normal University, Nanjing, Jiangsu, China

Keynote speaker April 2018 – The Australian Eye-tracking Conference, ‘Eye movements and visual cognition in Atypical Populations’ Macquaire University, Sydney, Australia

Invited seminar speaker September 2018  - ‘Eye movements and cognitive processing differences in Autism Spectrum Disorder’ China Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China

Invited seminar speaker June, 2018 - ‘What can eye movements tell us about how cognitive processing in adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder might impact in everyday communication’? Coventry, UK