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Prof Glyn Humphreys, Department of Experimental Psychology, has been awarded a European Research Council Advanced Investigator Award of around €2.2m to support research into our understanding of perception and the degree to which it is influenced by personal social biases.

The project is built around a new technique developed by the Humphreys laboratory for studying the effects of personal social biases on perception. In this novel approach, the research team will ‘tag’ stimuli for self-relevance to participants, which subsequently alters how the stimuli are perceived. Results show that there is a linked change in brain activity reflecting the coding of personal relevance.

The new project will fund studies that examine which stages of perception are penetrated by personal relevance, how the brain reconfigures to general personal relevance, how these processes develop in children and change in older adulthood, how they change across different cultures, and whether personal social relevance is mediated by reward or emotion-responding systems in the brain.

Professor Humphreys and his research team aim to prove that the prevailing view that visual perception is ‘informationally encapsulated’ is flawed. The research will present a new account in which our perceptual processes are moderated by personal relevance.