Christel obtained her PhD in Psychological Sciences from the University of Liege (Belgium). She is now a Lecturer in Cognitive Psychology.
Current lab members
Morgan Reedy (Honour’s student)
For her thesis, Morgan is looking at how variability in appearance affects our ability to learn new faces, and how this might interact with individual face processing skills.
Sofie de Sena (Undergraduate student)
Sofie is a second year student, currently helping with various projects related to individual differences in face processing skills.
Past lab members
During his undergrad studies, Elliott did a summer research project (SCIE306) looking at the effect of within-person variations on the ability to learn new faces.
During her undergrad studies, Annabelle helped develop a new challenging and ecological test of face recognition, and worked on a study examining individual differences.
In essence, I am interested in how we make sense of the complex information our eyes receive from the world around us, in how we remember that information, and in how perceptual and memory processes are affected by our visual experience, our expectations or our emotions. Over the last 10 years, I have studied these questions from various angles.
Individual differences in face processing skills:
Why do different people show such variations in their abilities to recognise faces? This task feels like a piece of cake for some, and is a real struggle for others. Currently, I am particularly focused on this question, and have been designing very challenging face recognition tasks to differentiate good from poor recognisers. The first results indicate that good recognisers are not good because they recognise more faces than others, but because they know when they see someone for the first time. Poor recognisers on the other hand are prone to false recognitions and recognise a lot of faces that they should not recognise. There is still a lot of work to accomplish to understand why this might be the case, and the type of information poor and good recognisers rely on to make their judgments.
Expertise and face recognition abilities:
Does being an expert with faces make you better at recognising them? I have studied portrait artists, whose job is to depict the face of other people accurately, and found that they have better face processing skills. Is it due to their extraordinary experience with faces, or did they choose this career because they are better with faces in the first place? New data on novice drawers seem to be in favour of the latter. We observe a correlation between the quality of people’s drawings and their face processing abilities, even if they never draw. In other words, having a good eye for faces makes you better at drawing them.
Are there objects in the world that we are more likely to perceive than others, and does it depend on their personal relevance or their emotional value? I have examined these questions with faces, self-relevant stimuli, emotional scenes, or fear-related stimuli. The short answer is that our attention is not grabbed by meaningful or important objects. Rather, we pay attention to objects that might be of interest, if we have reasons to believe that they might be relevant to us (e.g., because we expect something scary to appear, or because we detect a face in the periphery). However, we need to look at these objects to be able to recognise what they are. Once we do so, we might spend longer paying attention to objects that interest us most (e.g., like a spider if we fear spiders, or our own face relative to other faces).
I use a variety of research methods including behavioural experiments with manual response times or eye-tracking, pupillometry, neuroimaging, and brain stimulation to uncover the mechanisms that allow us to make sense of our complex visual world.
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