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Perception Action Communication

Perception and Action
Human Motor Control
Virtual Human Agents
Visual Perception

This cluster includes seven members of staff and one associated member of staff.

The cluster has two main research themes Emotion and Perception and Action.

The Emotion group works on phenomena that distinguish between different individuals in the long term (individual differences) and between states of a single individual at different times (emotion-related). These are related at many levels, and the links raise important research issues.

The perception and action group works on the mechanisms underlying people’s ability to acquire information about their physical surroundings, and generate actions appropriate to their surroundings.

The two groups share similar goals and methods, and an interest in crossing narrow topic boundaries. That has led them to joint research in areas such as emotional intelligence, the perception of emotion, and links between perception and action.

Major research funding

The cluster has been very successful in Europe. These are the major grants that it has brought in recently:

  • HUMAINE 2004-2007 £299,677
  • SEMAINE 2008-2010 £320,942
  • SSPnet 2010-2014 £240,746
  • SIEMPRE 2010-2013 £255,430
  • ILHAIRE 2011-2013 £223,486

HUMAINE was a major EC project, co-ordinated by Queen’s, which brought together leading teams from 14 countries to lay the intellectual foundations for ‘emotion-oriented’ technologies. Queen’s led one of the strands of HUMAINE, whose aim was to collect databases that show how emotion appears in action and interaction – it provides the empirical basis of the project. SEMAINE built on that theory to create artificial characters that can hold a sustained, emotionally coloured conversation with a person. SSPnet extends the approach from emotion as such to subtler states, such as ‘stances’ including politeness, friendliness, curiosity, etc. ILHAIRE is an indepth study of a key nonverbal element in interaction, which is laughter. It is building a database of laughter as it appears in everyday life, and trying to identify the forms it takes. SIEMPRE studies the many kinds of communication that take place in live musical performance, and the ways they contribute to the emotional (and other) experiences that make live concerts special.

Professor Cathy Craig was one of the first to be awarded a Starting Independent Researcher’s grant by the European Research Council in 2007. This prestigious award has allowed her to develop her work on perception/action research. Other sources of funding in perception and action research include CARDI (Centre for Ageing Research Development in Ireland), Parkinson’s UK and Microsoft’s PhD programme.

Large scale projects recently completed include ORESTEIA, an international collaboration between psychologists, engineers and mathematicians on technologies for monitoring potentially hazardous states in drivers; and ERMIS, another international project funded by the EC, which developed systems for recognising emotion from audio-visual inputs, using techniques suggested by human perception.

Core lecturing staff

Professor Cathy Craig (Professor, Psychology) joined Queen’s from the University of Aix-Marseille II in Marseille in 2005. She is now Director of Research for the cluster taking over from Professor Roddy Cowie in July, 2011. Her main research focus is on the neural control of movement, with a particular interest in understanding how perceptual information, picked up from unfolding events in the environment influences and guides our actions. With over 10 year’s research experience in perception/action research. She has developed a state of the art perception and action research lab that harnesses the power of both motion capture and virtual reality technology to develop interventions that may improve motor performance in both sporting and health contexts (see Her particular interests concern enhancing movement performance at all levels (young to old) by using artificially generated patterns of sensory information (e.g. temporal guides). This includes acoustic and visual guides presented through VR based games that have been successfully used to train balance in older adults and help train decision making in players/athletes (see Movement Innovation Lab

Recent publications include

Rodger, M & Craig, CM. (2011) Timing movements to interval durations specified by discrete or continuous sounds. Experimental Brain Research, 214:393–402.

Dessing, JC & Craig, CM. (2010) Bending it like Beckham: How to visually fool the goalkeeper. PLoS One. 5(10): e13161. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0013161

A full list can be found here.

Professor Roddy Cowie led the whole HUMAINE network of excellence (see above) and Queen’s contribution to most of the projects that have followed. He has a background in visual and auditory perception, with a particular interest in computational models. Since the 1990’s he has worked mainly on the perception of emotion, as a problem where many of the issues that most interested him come together – it involves interactions among visual, auditory and linguistic channels, and it highlights questions about the nature of the experience that is the end result of perception.

Professor Roddy Cowie's Full Publication List

Dr Will Curran (Senior lecturer, Psychology) studies visual perception. His work has covered shape-from-shading and depth cue combination, the processes underlying the perception of motion transparency, and perceptual development in early infancy. He currently focuses on motion perception; specifically, transparency perception, direction repulsion, the motion aftereffect, the direction aftereffect and motion coherence, in collaboration with research groups at the University of Saint Andrew's, University College London, the University of Sydney, and Bristol University.

Recent publications include

CP Benton, W Curran Coherent global motion percepts from stochastic local motions. Vision Res. 24, 55–62

Benton CP, Curran W (2003) Direction Repulsion Goes Global Current Biology 13, 767–771

Dr Joost Dessing (lecturer, Psychology) joined Queen's from York University, Toronto in 2012. Joost's research has always focused on eye-hand coordination, with a particular focus on catching and hitting movements. He examines how (predominantly visual) information is transformed by the brain into adequate motor commands. He studies this at a fundamental level in laboratory tasks as well as in more applied situations, such as sports. He uses behavioural experiments (in combination Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation) in real and virtual situations and neurocomputational modeling.

Recent publications include

Dessing, J. C., Byrne P. A., Abadeh, A., & Crawford J. D. (2012). Hand-related, rather than goal-related, source of gaze dependent errors in memory-guided reaching. Journal of Vision, 12(11):17, 1–8.

Dessing, J. C. (2012). Updating of an occluded moving target for interceptive saccades. Journal of Neuroscience, 32, 7767-8.

Dr Mihalis Doumas (lecturer Psychology) joined Queen’s from KU Leuven, Belgium in 2011. He performs research in human movement control. He is primarily interested in the way sensory information is used for optimal movement performance in tasks including rhythmic movements and the control of upright standing (postural control). Research in these areas is performed using methods such as brain stimulation and includes a large age-range of individuals (children, young and older adults) as well as clinical populations (ADHD, major depression).

Recent publications include

Doumas M., Smolders C., Brunfaut E., Bouckaert F., & Krampe R.T. (2011). Dual task performance of working memory and postural control in major depressive disorder. Neuropsychology.

Doumas M., & Krampe R.T. (2010). Adaptation and sensory reintegration in young and older adults’ posture control. Journal of Neurophysiology, 104, 1969-1977.

Dr Matthew Rodger (lecturer, Psychology) joined the School as Research Fellow in 2010 and was appointed lecturer in 2012. He researches perception and action. Matthew's main interests are: auditory perception in movement control and timing; musical performance, perception and skill acquisition. Primarily using motion capture technology, he investigates how the brain can pick up information in sound to control actions, and how this might be used to improve motor performance in clinical populations. He also researches the links between movement and music, both in performance and skill acquisition, with the goal to enhance music training practices and to use music in the context of motor rehabilitation.

Recent publications include

Rodger, M., Craig, C., & O’Modhrain, S. (2012). Expertise is perceived from both sound and body movement in musical performance. Human Movement Science, 31:1137-1150.

Rodger, M., & Craig, C. (2011). Timing movements to interval durations specified by discrete or continuous sounds. Experimental Brain Research, 214:393–402.

Dr Ian Sneddon (Senior lecturer, Psychology) has studied animal welfare for many years – particularly in farm animals. That raises questions about recognition of emotional states in animals, the use of cognition/emotion as indicators of stress/welfare in animals, and the nature and stability of temperament in animals. He is currently applying the data collection skills developed in animal observation to the study of human emotion in naturalistic settings and has developed an interest in the methodology and ethics of collecting and handling data on human emotion.

Recent publications include

Durrell, J. L., Sneddon, I. A., O’Connell N. E., & Whitehead, H. (2004) Do pigs form preferential associations?. Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 89 (1) 41-52.

Sneddon, I.A. (2004) Human emotions: The ethics of data collection and storage. Humaine workshop on data collection and labelling. Belfast.

Associated lecturing staff

Professor Richard Carson (Professor, Psychology) joined Queen’s from the University of Queensland. He studies how people move and the factors that limit and enhance this capacity to move. The focus is upon the laws and principles that govern the coordination of human movement. He is concerned not only with understanding the basic question of how movement is controlled, but also with the alterations in coordination which occur throughout the lifespan, and in response to acquired disorders of movement.

Recent publications include

Carson, R.G. (2005). Neural pathways mediating bilateral interactions between the upper limbs. Brain Research Reviews 49. 641-662.

Carson, R.G., Riek, S., & Shahbazpour, N. (2002). Central and peripheral mediation of human force sensation following eccentric or concentric contractions. Journal of Physiology (Lond), 539, 913-925

Ellen-Douglas-Cowie (Dean, Humanities and Social Sciences) works on speech, and particularly the variations in speech that convey information about individual speakers. She heads the strand of HUMAINE concerned with the development of databases showing how emotion is expressed as part of action and interaction.

Recent publications include

Douglas-Cowie, E., Campbell, N., Roach, P., and Cowie, R. (eds) Special edition of Speech Communication on Speech and Emotion 40 (1-2)

Douglas-Cowie, E., Campbell, N., Cowie., & Roach, P. (2003). Emotional speech: towards a new generation of databases. Speech Communication,40, 33-60

Facilities & Labs used by EPIC Cluster

PhD Students in the Perception Action Communication Research Cluster