Dr Lisa Jefferies
Ph.D.

Lecturer Psychology

About me

I am a Lecturer in the School of Psychology and Exercise Science at Murdoch University, Perth, Australia and director of the Visual Cognition and Attention Laboratory. My research interests lie at the intersection of visual perception, attention, and memory.

Before joining the School of Psychology and Exercise Science at Murdoch University in January 2013, I spent two years as a post-doctoral fellow at The Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, USA), working with Dr. Steve Yantis.  Prior to that, I completed an M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of British Columbia (Vancouver, Canada) working with Dr. Jim Enns and Dr. Vince Di Lollo.

Please visit the Visual Cognition & Attention Lab webpage for more information about current research projects, the lab, and current lab members.

Teaching area

I am teaching PSY353 (Cognitive Processes) this semester.  This course provides an opportunity to sample the most interesting and exciting recent findings in all areas of human cognition including memory, attention, perception, decision making, language comprehension, and cognitive neuroscience.  The lectures are complemented by labs designed specifically to allow you to experience research in cognitive psychology first-hand.

PSY353 (Cognitive Processes)

Research areas

In the Murdoch University Visual Cognition and Attention Laboratory, we use behavioural and psychophysical techniques to investigate various aspects of perception, attention, and visual cognition.  We are interested in questions such as:  What determines how attention is deployed across space and time, and how do changes to focal attention alter how we process information?  How do attention and visual memory interact?  How do the dynamics of attention differ among individuals, across the lifespan, and in special populations?  And how do emotions and emotional processing impact attention?

Members of the Visual Cognition and Attention Lab

 Dr. Lisa N. Jefferies

Director of the Murdoch University Visual Cognition and Attention Laboratory

Honours Students:

  • Evatte Sciberras-Lim
  • Ivan Cheung
  • Tom Scott
  • Rob Ruane (Starting 2014)

Bachelor of Psychology Students:

  • Elsa Dixneuf
  • Simon Martin
  • Natasha Quick
  • Bradley Sutton
  • Jai Lee Yeap

Please visit our web site for more information about the members of the Visual Cognition & Attention Lab and for a description of current research projects.

 

Current projects

Attentional Focusing

Visual attention is a highly flexible, dynamic mechanism essential for the efficient perception of our visual world. There has been much interest over the last several decades in the dynamics of visual attention, particularly in the dynamics of attentional orienting (the shifting of focused attention from one object or location to another) and attentional focusing (adjusting the spatial extent or breadth of the focus of attention to match an attended object or region of space). Several research streams in the lab are dedicated to investigating various aspects of attentional focusing:

 1) Object representations and attentional focusing

Objects play a central role in visual attention, and it is known that high-level object representations guide attentional orienting. It not known, however, whether attentional focusing is driven by low-level object representations (which code object size in terms of retinal extent) or by high-level representations (which code perceived size). In these projects, have manipulated the perceived size of physically identical objects by using line drawings or photographs that induced the Ponzo illusion.  Our results have shown that attentional focusing is based on the perceived size and not the retinotopic size of an attended object, indicating that attentional focusing operates on high-level object representations.  When attention focusing is triggered by gaze information, however, then focusing is instead based on the retinal image size of an object.

    2) The spatial and temporal dynamics of attentional focusing:

Attentional focusing plays a vital role in cognition. Despite this, there is a distinct lack of research examining dynamics of attentional focusing, and many fundamental characteristics such as the rate at which focal attention can be expanded or contracted, not to mention the effect of stimulus or observer characteristics, are still unknown. To explore these and other issues, Vince Di Lollo and I developed a highly-sensitive methodology that allows fine changes in the breadth of attention to be tracked over very brief intervals of time. Using this methodology, we have examined the rate of attentional focusing, explored how the dynamics of focusing change as a function of the physical salience and goal-relevance of the stimuli, tracked how focusing changes with age, and compared the dynamics of focusing in individuals with and without Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Divided Attention

Whether the focus of attention is unitary or divided has been the topic of much discussion and debate. We have demonstrated that observers can flexibly deploy attention either a unitary or a divided focus of attention in the same experimental task, depending solely on the observers’ goals (Jefferies, Enns, & Di Lollo, in press). Our goal is to further identify the processing situations that cause attention to be deployed in a unitary versus a divided mode.

Visual Memory

Memory is a foundation for almost every human cognitive ability. Despite this, visual memory is often severely limited in both duration and capacity (as anyone struggling to remember a room full of newly-introduced colleagues can attest). As the limits of visual memory translate directly into cognitive and performance limits, it is essential to identify the factors that affect visual memory, understand how visual memory interacts with other cognitive processes, and determine whether and how visual memory can be enhanced. This is a core area of research in the lab at the moment, with multiple projects directed at exploring and characterizing the effects of visual attention on visual memory.

Mood and Visual Cognition

There is an intricate relationship between mood and attentional control, and we are interested in understanding the nature and effect of these connections.  Our research has shown that two orthogonal dimensions of emotional state – affect and arousal – have interacting effects on attentional control (Jefferies, Smilek, Eich, & Enns, 2009). Currently, we are exploring how mood modulates fundamental aspects of visual processing and visual perception.  Mood_Grid

Awards and grants

Research Awards

(2010) British Columbia Psychological Association Gold Medal in Psychology (top Ph.D thesis)

(2007 – 2009) Izaak Walton Killam Memorial Pre-Doctoral Scholar (Ph.D level)

(2006) Canadian Psychological Association Masters Thesis Award (top M.A. thesis)

(2002) British Columbia Psychological Association Undergraduate Gold Medal in Psychology (top Honours thesis)

(2002) Simon Fraser University Psychology Best Honours Thesis

Competitive Major Grants/Fellowships/Scholarships

(2009 – 2011) Post-doctoral Fellowship, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

(2007 – 2009) Senior Research Fellowship, Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research

(2005 – 2007)  Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarship (Ph.D) from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.  * Awarded to those ranked in the top 5% of funded applicants

(2003 – 2005) Post-graduate Scholarship A (M.A.), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

(2002)  Ontario Graduate Scholarship (declined), University of Toronto

(2002) Graduate Fellowship (declined), McMaster University

(2002) Graduate Scholarship (declined), Simon Fraser University

 Other competitive Grants/Fellowships/Scholarships:

(2008)  Ph.D. Tuition Award, The University of British Columbia

(2007)  Ph.D. Tuition Award, The University of British Columbia

(2006)  Ph.D. Tuition Award, The University of British Columbia

(2005)  Tuition Award, The University of British Columbia

(2005)  The University of British Columbia Graduate Travel Award

(2003)  Grant Supplement Award, The University of British Columbia

Events and speaking engagements

  • October 17, 2013, MPS Research Conference, Murdoch University

Harnessing attention to improve visual memory

  • September 24, 2013, University of Western Australia

To be (broad) or not to be (broad): The dynamics of attentional focusing

Focused visual attention is a mechanism by which relevant visual information is selectively prioritised for further processing. Given this vital role, focused attention is essential for the efficient visual perception of a world that is not only richly varied, but also continually changing.  Great strides have been made in understanding the shifting of focused attention from one object or location to another, but relatively little is known about an independent and equally critical component of attentional control – attentional focusing.  The term attentional focusing refers to the fact that the focus of attention flexibly expands and contracts in spatial extent to encompass larger or smaller objects or regions of space.  Despite the relative lack of research on focusing, it profoundly affects many aspects of visual perception and has substantial ramifications for cognition.  In this seminar, I will present data on three inter-related aspects of attentional focusing: the spatiotemporal dynamics of focusing, object representations and their role in focusing, and the consequences of focusing on visual processing.

  • May 03 2013, Psychology Seminar, Murdoch University

Attention and Low-level Vision, or Does visual processing change when you go hiking in the mountains?

Our visual world is both richly complex and highly dynamic – without focused attention to guide and limit visual processing, we would be rapidly overwhelmed by a dizzying influx of information.  Visual attention, then, can be thought of as a window through which we perceive and interact with our world.  Attention is known to alter many aspects of visual perception.  Attended objects seem larger, brighter, and clearer than unattended objects, and their representations in memory are both richer and more durable.  It is unknown, however, whether attention also affects the very earliest stages of visual processing.  In this seminar we will consider a series of experiments exploring whether attention affects low-level vision – and find out how visual processing might change when you go hiking in the mountains.

Professional and community service

Ad Hoc Reviewer for:

  • Attention, Perception & Psychophysics
  • Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology
  • Experimental Brain Research
  • Journal of Experimental Child Psychology
  • Journal of Experimental Psychology:  Human Perception and Performance
  • Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society
  • Perception
  • Psychological Bulletin & Review
  • Psychophysiology
  • Psychological Science
  • Visual Cognition
  • Vision Research

Also reviewer for the National Fellowships Committee of the Sigma Delta Epsilon Graduate Women in Science Society.

Professional Affiliations:

  • Member of the American Psychological Society
  • Member of the Vision Sciences Society
  • Member of the Canadian Society for Brain, Behaviour, and Cognitive Science

 Committee Memberships:

  • Member of the Murdoch University Low Risk Ethics Committee

Publications

Journals

  • Jefferies, L., Enns, J., Di Lollo, V., (2014), The Flexible Focus: Whether spatial attention is unitary or divided depends on observer goals, Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 40, 2, pages 465 - 470.
  • Jefferies, L., Roggeveen, A., Enns, J., Bennett, P., Sekuler, A., Di Lollo, V., (2013), On the Timecourse of Attentional Focusing in Older Adults, Psychological Research: an international journal of perception, attention, memory and action, , , pages -.

Manuscripts Under Review:

Jefferies, L.N.  (under review).  Gaze-driven attention triggers changes to the perceived size of an object.

Jefferies, L.N.*, Gmeindl, L.* & Yantis, S.  (under revision). The focus of attention and visual sensory memory. * Contributed equally

Publications:

Jefferies, L.N., Gmeindl, L., & Yantis, S. (2014). Attentional focusing is triggered by illusory differences in the size of physically identical objects, Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics.  DOI: 10.3758/s13414-014-0666-7

Jefferies, L.N., Enns, J.T., & Di Lollo, V. (2013). The Flexible Focus: Whether spatial attention is unitary or divided depends on observer goals. Journal of Experimental Psychology Human Perception and Performance. doi: 10.1037/a0034734

Jefferies, L.N., Roggeveen, A.B., Enns, J.T., Bennett, P.J. Sekuler, A.B., & Di Lollo, V. (2013). On the time course of attentional focusing in older adults. Psychological Research, 1-14. DOI 10.1007/s00426-013-052802.

Jefferies, L.N., & Yantis, S.  (2010). Unitary vs. multiple attentional loci reflect space-based vs. object-based modes of attention.  Visual Cognition, 18, 1510 – 1514. 

Jefferies, L.N., & Di Lollo, V. (2009). Linear Changes in the Spatial Extent of the Focus of Attention Across Time. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 35, 1020 – 1031.

Wright, R.D., & Jefferies, L.N.  (2009)  Inhibition of Return is Cognitively Penetrable.  In Trick, L.M., (Ed.), Computation, Cognition, and Pylyshyn.  MIT Press.

Ghorashi, S., Jefferies, L.N, Kawahara, J-i., & Watanabe, K. (2008). Does attention accompany the conscious awareness of both location and identity of an object? Psyche, 14(1).

Jefferies, L.N., Smilek, D., Eich, E., & Enns, J.T. (2008). Emotional valence and arousal interact in the attentional blink. Psychological Science, 19, 290 – 295.

Jefferies, L.N., Ghorashi, S., Kawahara, J-i., & Di Lollo, V. (2007). Ignorance is Bliss: The role of observer expectation in dynamic spatial tuning of the attentional focus. Perception & Psychophysics, 69, 1162-1174.

Arya, A., Jefferies, L.N., Enns, J.T., & Di Paola, S. (2006). Facial actions as visual cues for personality. Computer Animation and Virtual Worlds, 17, 371-382.

Jefferies, L.N., Wright, R.D., & Di Lollo, V. (2005). Inhibition of return to an occluded object depends on expectation. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance, 31, 1224-1233.

Manuscripts in preparation:

Jefferies, L.N.  Harnessing strategic attention to enhance visual working memory.

Jefferies, L.N., Ghorashi, S., Enns, J.T., & Di Lollo, V.  Adjusting the focus of attention across time:  Factors which influence the rate of narrowing. (Manuscript available upon request).

Ringo, J., Jefferies, L.N., Enns, J.T., Burack, J., & Di Lollo, V.  Attentional Gating in Asperger’s Syndrome

Laurent, P., Jefferies, L.N., & Yantis, S. Stirring up the Alphabet Soup: How structural regularities in contextual information guide visual search for meaningful stimuli.

Gmeindl, L., Jefferies, L.N., & Yantis, S.  Individual differences in the ability to restrict the breadth of attention predict visuospatial working memory capacity.

Conference Proceedings (selected):

Jefferies, L.N., Gmeindl, L., & Yantis, S. (2011).  The distribution of visuospatial attention is influenced by illusory differences in the size of physically identical objects.  Journal of Vision, 11(11), 1261.

Gmeindl, L., Jefferies, L.N., & Yantis, S. (2011).  Individual differences in the ability to restrict the breadth of attention are correlated with visuospatial working memory capacity.  Journal of Vision, 11(11), 237.

Jefferies, L.N., Ghorashi, S., & Di Lollo, V. (2010).  How fast and flexible is the focus of attention?  Evidence from the attentional blink and Lag-1 sparing.  Journal of Vision, 10(7), 287.

Jefferies, L.N., Enns, J.T., & Di Lollo, V. (2009).  Temporal dynamics of dividing spatial Attention.  Journal of Vision, 9(8), 119.

Ghorashi, S., Jefferies, L.N., & Di Lollo, V.  (2008).  Expansion and Contraction of the Attentional Focus Is Influenced by Top-Down Factors.  Journal of Vision, 8(6), 141.

Jefferies, L.N. & Di Lollo. (2008).  Shrinking and Shifting:  Two alternative task-dependent modes of attentional control.  Journal of Vision, 8(6), 5.

Enns, J.T., Jefferies, L.N., Smilek, D., & Eich, E.  (2007).  Affect and arousal interact in the attentional blink.  Journal of Vision, 7(9), 697.

Jefferies, L.N., & Di Lollo, V. (2007).  Temporal dynamics of the expansion and   contraction of the attentional window.  Journal of Vision, 7(9), 808.

Conference Talks:

Jefferies, L.N., & Yantis, S.  (2010).  Unitary vs. multiple attentional loci reflect space-based vs. object-based modes of attention.  Talk presented at the Object Perception and Memory Conference, St. Louis, MO. 

Jefferies, L.N., Enns, J.T., & Di Lollo, V. (2009).  Temporal dynamics of dividing spatial attention.  Talk presented at the 9th annual meeting of the Vision Sciences Society, Naples, Florida.

Jefferies, L.N. & Di Lollo, V. (2008).  Controlling the spotlight of attention: one beam or two?  It depends on the task.  Talk presented at the annual meeting of the Canadian Society for Brain, Behaviour, and Cognitive Science (CSBBCS), London, Ontario, Canada.

Jefferies, L.N., & Enns, J.  (2007).  Are you talking to me? Actions give personality.  B.C. Emotion Conference, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Jefferies, L.N., & Di Lollo, V. (2007).  Temporal dynamics of the expansion and contraction of the attentional window.  Talk presented at the 7th annual meeting of the Vision Sciences Society, Sarasota, Florida.

Conference Poster Presentations (selected):

Jefferies, L.N., & Yantis, S.  (2011).  Working memory load and capacity modulate the deployment of unitary vs. divided focal attention.  Poster presented at the 52nd annual meeting of the Psychonomic Society, Seattle.

Jefferies, L.N., Gmeindl, L., & Yantis, S. (2011).  The distribution of visuospatial attention is influenced by illusory differences in the size of physically identical objects.  Poster presented at the 11th annual meeting of the Vision Sciences Society, Naples, Florida.

Gmeindl, L., Jefferies, L.N., & Yantis, S. (2011).  Individual differences in the ability to restrict the breadth of attention are correlated with visuospatial working memory capacity. Poster presented at the 11th annual meeting of the Vision Sciences Society, Naples, Florida.

Jefferies, L.N., Ghorashi, S., & Di Lollo, V. (2010).  How fast and flexible is the focus of attention?  Evidence from the attentional blink and Lag-1 sparing.  Poster presented at the 10th annual meeting of the Vision Sciences Society, Naples, Florida.

Jefferies, L.N. Weeks, D.J., & Di Lollo. (2008).  Task demands determine whether the focus of attention is unitary or divided.  Poster presented at the 49th annual meeting of the Psychonomic Society, Chicago.

Jefferies, L.N. & Di Lollo. (2008).  Shrinking and Shifting:  Two alternative task-dependent modes of attentional control.  Poster presented at the 8th annual meeting of the Vision Sciences Society, Naples, Florida.

Jefferies, L.N.,  Enns, J.T., & Di Lollo, V. (2007.).  Varying the rate of expansion and  contraction of the attentional window.  Poster presented at the annual meeting of Object Perception and Memory, Long Beach, CA.

Jefferies, L.N., Smilek, D., Eich, E., & Enns, J.T. (2007).  Affect and Arousal:      Interacting effects on the attentional blink.  Poster presented at the Northwest             Cognition and Memory Conference, Vancouver, Canada.

Jefferies, L.N., Weeks, D.J., & Di Lollo, V.  (2006).  Linear changes in the spatial extent of the focus of attention.  Poster presented at the 47th annual meeting of the Psychonomic Society, Houston, Texas.

Jefferies, L.N., Arya, A., & Enns, J.T. (2006).  I like the way you move:  Personality perception in animated talking heads.  Poster presented at the 6th annual meeting of the Vision Sciences Society, Sarasota, Florida. Jefferies et al Psychological Research Gs

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