Cognitive Psychology Group

About the Cognitive Psychology Group

This research group is coordinated by Dr Sigrid Lipka and aims to contribute to the scientific understanding of a broad range of cognitive phenomena. It specifically aims to create synergy using our particular areas of expertise such as experimental research, computer modelling, brain imaging, observational methods and eye tracking. Research includes cognitive ergonomics, psychopathology, neuropsychology and developmental psychology.

Research focuses on these topics:

Examples of current projects

Dr Ian Baker: The electrophysiological processing of remote staring detection

There is a widespread belief concerning feeling of being watched by others. This research represents an attempt to evaluate the electrophysiological processing of this phenomenon under controlled, laboratory conditions, using a variety of methods (including event-related potentials, frequency analysis, partial-least squares analysis, and electrodermal activity). This project also interlinks with research conducted in the Psychology of Paranormal Phenomena research group. For more information, contact Ian Baker.

Dr Ian Baker: The psychophysics of electrocortical threshold detection of luminance shifts in visual stimuli

Artefacts found during the above project suggested that it is possible for small luminance shifts that are at the border of conscious detection to have a significant impact upon event-related potentials (ERPs). This could have implications for a wide variety of research paradigms. This project will investigate this possibility further by examining the effects of luminance shifts on electrocortical processing in greater depth. For more information, contact Ian Baker at

Simon Bignell: Autism and Asperger's: Social communication skills in 3D virtual worlds

People with 'high-functioning' Autism often have considerable communication difficulties in social situations and higher level language skills that require the ability to consider the mental states of others and understand non-literal forms of language. They often choose to communicate in ways that allow them to slow down the process, for example by using email, text, internet messaging and social networking websites. Multi-user 3D virtual worlds provide high levels of social interactivity without the complex linguistic and social-behavioural processing required for face-to-face conversations. This project investigates why people with Autism and Asperger's Syndrome are reported to find virtual worlds rewarding and how they might be utilised for potential therapeutic interventions. For more information, contact Simon Bignell at

Simon Bignell: Pragmatic language skills of children with ADHD

Children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) experience pragmatic language deficits, but little is known about whether these difficulties are primarily associated with high levels of inattention, hyperactivity, or both. In a recent paper (Bignell & Cain, 2007) differing profiles of pragmatic language skill and comprehension were found in groups of children differentiated by teacher ratings of inattention and hyperactivity. Research is commencing that investigates these findings in groups of children diagnosed with ADHD. For more information, contact Simon Bignell at

Dr Frances A. Maratos: Magnetoencephalographic studies of face processing

Research is underway using MEG brain scanning that is advancing knowledge about the neural correlates of face processing, visual attention and emotion processing. In this study we are investigating face processing in both healthy adults and children. Once the neurological correlates of the paradigm have been established in healthy controls, it is planned that the paradigm will be used with children with developmental disorders such as Autism/ADHD to further understand the neuronal mechanisms associated with such disorders. Collaborators: Simon Bignell and Dr Steve Croker, University of Derby; Professor Anthony Bailey & Dr Sven Brauetigem (University of Oxford). For more information, contact Dr Frances A. Maratos at

Simon Bignell: Inferencing skills in children with ADHD

The word reading and story comprehension skills of 7-11 year olds with high hyperactivity and/or inattentiveness were assessed. Inferential skills were assessed in three story presentation conditions: child reads aloud, reads silently, and listens. Initial results suggest that children with high hyperactivity are impaired in all conditions but those with high inattention are only impaired when reading silently. This may suggest that reading comprehension deficits in children with ADHD symptoms do not simply arise because of poor attention and/or poor word reading. Research is commencing that expands these findings in diagnosed ADHD populations. For more information, contact Simon Bignell at

Maggie Gale: Dual-goal facilitation in Wason's 2-4-6- task

I am currently working on a project which aims to investigate DG facilitation in Wason's 2-4-6 task. I started by examining published accounts of the effect and have recently developed a new theory which aims to subsume all published data on the task. Collaborators: Dr Linden Ball (University of Lancaster). For more information, contact Maggie Gale at

Tom Hunt: Explaining the mathematics anxiety to performance relationship: The influence of cognitive intrusions

Within the maths anxiety literature explanations for the negative relationship between maths anxiety and arithmetic performance often focus on the concept of intrusive thoughts. This study aimed to investigate the influence of intrusive thoughts that may impact on an individual's ability to successfully perform mental arithmetic. From a processing efficiency and attentional control perspective self-reported intrusive thoughts were recorded and analysed in relation to error rates and reaction time. Intrusive thoughts were not found to mediate the relationship between maths anxiety and performance, although intrusive thoughts were found to independently predict performance. For more information, contact Tom Hunt at

Tom Hunt: Tracking eye movements to visually presented addition problems: The role of mathematics anxiety and mathematics self-efficacy

This study was designed to record eye movements to visually presented addition problems varying in the demands placed on working memory resources. Further to this, self-reported maths anxiety and maths self-efficacy were measured in an attempt to explain specific eye movement behaviour. Preliminary results show a direct positive relationship between maths anxiety and maths self-efficacy and number of regressions over a maths problem prior to response. Findings seem to support the argument that individuals high in maths anxiety and low in maths self-efficacy go through a process of double-checking prior to giving a final response and may explain the inefficient processing theory of maths anxiety effects on performance. For more information, contact Tom Hunt at

Dr Sigrid Lipka: Semantic and contextual processes in language comprehension

Using self-paced reading and eye tracking methods, I investigated how readers make use of word meaning and plausibility when they process sentences which have more than one syntactic interpretation. This research contributes to a lively theoretical debate in this field. Current developments include investigations of the role of working memory in language processing, and individual differences in the amount of mental effort that readers are prepared to invest when reading. For more information, contact Sigrid Lipka at

Lipka, S. (2002) Reading Sentences with a Late Closure Ambiguity: Does Semantic Information Help? Language and Cognitive Processes, 17 (3), 271-298. (DOI: 10.1080/01690960143000029). View the paper at:

Dr Sigrid Lipka: Rehearsal processes in working memory

This is a recently completed international collaborative project supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG). We used EEG coherence as a measure of the synchronization of brain areas in order to investigate sub-vocal rehearsal processes and irrelevant speech in a delayed serial-recall paradigm. The findings provide important information about the brain networks involved in the irrelevant speech effect and point to the relevance of specific frequency bands for short-term memory processes. Collaborators: Prof Erich Schröger and Franziska Kopp (Leipzig University, Germany). For more information, contact Sigrid Lipka at

Kopp, F., Schröger, E., & Lipka, S. (2006). Synchronized brain activity during rehearsal and short-term memory disruption by irrelevant speech is affected by recall mode. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 61, 188-203.( DOI: 10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2005.10.001). View the paper at: 

Kopp, F., Schröger, E., & Lipka, S. (2004). Neural networks engaged in short-term memory rehearsal are disrupted by irrelevant speech in human subjects. Neuroscience Letters, 354 (1),42-45. (DOI: 10.1016/j.neulet/2003.09.065). View the paper at: 

Dr Sigrid Lipka: Applications of cognitive psychology

I’m interested in applying theories and tasks developed by cognitive psychology to everyday contexts as well as to questions arising in research areas that typically do not have much contact with cognitive psychology. This has led me to study a diverse range of topics, including alcohol-related aggression, exam anxiety, pain, and faking in neuropsychological and forensic settings. For more information, contact Sigrid Lipka at

Drake, K. E., Lipka, S., Smith, C. & Egan, V. (2013). The effect of cognitive load on faking suggestibility on the Gudjonsson Suggestibility ScalePersonality and Individual Differences, 54, 845-849.  (DOI: 10.1016/j.paid.2012.12.011). View the paper at: 

Dr Frances Maratos: Attention, affordance and action

It is generally accepted that affordance is important for the automatic generation of motor codes through visual perception. However, evidence also exists suggesting that attentional biases may underlie visual routes to action. In a series of behavioural and neuroimaging studies Steve Anderson and I have been investigating this. Collaborator: Professor Stephen Anderson (Aston University). For more information, contact Frances Maratos at

Dr Frances Maratos: Development of temporal attention

Human visual attention is limited in respect to both space and time. However, whilst the former has been extensively researched in both adults and children alike, research into processes of temporal attention has primarily been conducted with adolescents and adults. Funded by the British Academy, our aim is to extend this research by investigating developments of temporal attention in primary school children. Collaborator: Dr Steve Croker (University of Derby). For more information, contact Frances Maratos at

Dr Frances Maratos: Processing emotional faces

According to cognitive and neural theories of emotion, attentional processing of innate threat stimuli, such as angry facial expressions, is prioritised over neutral stimuli. In a series of behavioural and neuroimaging studies, my collaborators and I have been investigating this premise. Collaborators include, Prof. Karin Mogg & Prof. Brendan Bradley (University of Southampton), Dr. Gina Rippon & Dr. Carl Senior (Aston University), Prof. Tony Bailey & Dr. Sven Braeutigam (Oxford University). Work with Oxford collaborators has been funded by a University of Derby Teaching Informed by Research award, to Dr Frances Maratos, Dr Steve Croker and Simon Bignell. For more information on these various studies please visit Dr Frances Maratos' staff page.

Dr Miles Richardson: Assembly task complexity

I developed a methodology for analysing the characteristics of self-assembly products that predict assembly complexity. Future developments include repeating this research with children in order to develop a theoretical understanding of how children's construction play develops from middle childhood through to adolescence. For more information contact Miles Richardson at

Dr Miles Richardson: Perception of nutrition labels

The project studies consumer perceptions of nutritional information and front of pack signpost labelling. Current research is concerned with how people make judgments about food healthiness from nutrition information. For more information contact Miles Richardson at

Paul Staples: Maths anxiety

I am currently working on a project that is investigating the relationship between maths anxiety, working memory and arithmetic. I am particularly interested in how intrusive thoughts impact on working memory capacity and how this in turn affects performance on arithmetic tasks. Collaborator: Dr David Sheffield (Staffordshire University). For more information contact Paul Staples at

Paul Staples: Food neophobia and attentional biases

Food neophobia is the rejection of new or novel foods. I am currently working on a project that explores the cognitive processes that underpin food choice. The research is funded by The University of Derby, Research Inspired Curriculum Fund. Collaborators: Frances Maratos (University of Derby), Terrence M. Dovey (Staffordshire University) and Catherine Brignell (University of Southampton). For more information contact Paul Staples at