Nicola Anderson

NSERC Postdoctoral Fellow

Research Interests

I am interested predominantly in eye movements and attention. How do we decide where to look? How does this help us solve the seemingly simple, yet complex tasks of everyday life?

Attention in Virtual Reality Environments

Virtual reality is an up and coming technology that is working its way into our everyday lives. Here in the lab, we are interested in VR both as a tool to help us understand cognition and as a technology in itself.

VR gives us absolute control over our experimental design, and of particular interest to me, allows us to track both the head and the eyes, simultaneously. We are no longer constrained to studying eye movement behaviour on a single computer monitor – we can now do it with very high resolution and in a 3D environment! Currently we are working on simple experiments programmed in Unity, and exploring ways to analyze this more complex head and eye data.

While VR can provide insights into eye movement behaviour and cognition, it is also a unique platform in itself. We are interested in understanding what it’s like to use VR. How is it that we can exist in both a ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ reality simultaneously and what does this mean for our representations of space and cognitive capacity? How immersive is the VR experience and how can we enhance or reduce the experience of immersion?

We are looking for motivated students who might be interested in helping out with the more technical aspects of our VR setup – contact me for more info!

Attention in Natural Scenes

Our vision looks something like what you see here below, high-resolution at the point of gaze that drops off gradually into the periphery. If we can’t really ‘see’ very well in the periphery, how do we decide where to look? What kinds of information do we use? Natural scene viewing work has laid the foundation for understanding eye movements and oculomotor control in more complex settings. I am particularly interested in the interplay between top-down (cognitive) and bottom-up (stimulus-based) control of eye movements. In addition, I am interested in the analysis of the more complex data that can be obtained from natural scene viewing work. Check out the recurrence quantification analysis of eye movements that was developed in this lab for more info on one neat technique I use.


For a list of my publications – check out my google scholar profile here.