wendy pic

Wendy Adams

Professor of Experimental Psychology
University of Southampton


Research in my lab covers a broad range of topics across human visual and multisensory perception. Most work combines psychophysics with computational modelling to probe human perception – how we combine sensory data with prior knowledge to understand our world. Current research themes are highlighted below, with some recent publications:

Multisensory perception

We combine visual information with sensory signals from other modalities, such as haptics (touch) to estimate object properties such as 3D shape. My lab investigates how the different modalities interact to resolve ambiguity, improve precision and to drive sensory recalibration.
Adams, W.J., Kerrigan IS & Graf, EW (2016) Touch influences perceived gloss. Scientific Reports. 6 21866. (Link)
Adams, W.J. (2016) The Development Of Audio-Visual Integration For Temporal Judgements. PLOS Computational Biology. 12(4): e1004865. (Link)
Adams WJ, Kerrigan IS, Graf EW (2010). Efficient visual recalibration from either visual or haptic feedback: The importance of being wrong. Journal of Neuroscience, 30(44), 14745 - 14749. (Link)

Natural scene statistics

Recovering 3D scenes from 2D images is an under-constrained task; optimal estimation depends upon knowledge of the underlying scene statistics. We have produced the Southampton-York Natural Scenes dataset (SYNS). This public resource provides comprehensive scene statistics from 25 indoor and outdoor scene categories that are useful for understanding biological vision and for improving machine vision systems. We are currently using the database in projects on a range of topics including perception of surface attitude and reflectance, edge classification and camouflage.
Adams WJ, Elder JH, Graf EW, Leyland J, Lugtigheid A & Muryy A (2016) The Southampton-York Natural Scenes (SYNS) dataset: statistics of surface attitude. Scientific Reports. 6 35805. (Link)

Material perception / effects of illumination

Visual cues to material properties (e.g. surface gloss), are confounded by surface shape and the properties of the illumination. A number of projects investigate the interactions between reflectance, shape and illumination in perception.

Illumination can change the perceived material of an object. A glossy stormtrooper (below left) appears matte when the light field (below right) is manipulated to remove high frequencies
Adams WJ & Elder JH (2014). Effects of specular highlights on perceived surface convexity. PLOS Computational Biology. 10(5): e1003576. (Link)
Kerrigan IS & Adams WJ (2013). Learning different light prior distributions for different contexts. Cognition, 127(1), 99-104. (Link)
Kerrigan IS & Adams WJ (2013). Highlights, disparity and perceived gloss with convex and concave surfaces. Journal of Vision. 13(1), art 9, 1-10. (Link)

Faces, emotion and threat

Are fearful faces special? Do they attract attention and reach awareness more quickly than other stimuli? Do threatening stimuli evoke physiological responses even when we aren’t aware of them? Our own psychophysical studies and meta-analyses suggest that threat-sensitive mechanisms do not operate outside of awareness. However, some threat-relevant stimuli are particularly salient due to their low-level properties (e.g. luminance contrast) and this explains their dominance in binocular rivalry and masking paradigms. In other projects we collaborate with clinical researchers to explore emotional face processing in special populations.
Hedger, N., Gray KLH, Garner, M. & Adams, W.J. (2016) Are visual threats prioritized without awareness? A critical review and meta analysis involving 3 behavioral paradigms and 2696 observers. Psychological Bulletin 142(9), 934-968. (Link)
Short RML, Sonuga-Barke EJS, Adams, W.J. , Fairchild G (2016) Does Comorbid Anxiety Counteract Emotion Recognition Deficits in Conduct Disorder? Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 57(8) 917-26. (Link)
Hedger, N., Adams, W.J. and Garner, M. (2015) Fearful faces have a sensory advantage in the competition for awareness. Journal of Experimental Psychology Human Perception & Performance 41(6) 1748-57. (Link)
Hedger N, Adams WJ & Garner M (2015). Autonomic arousal and attentional orienting to visual threat are predicted by awareness. Journal of Experimental Psychology Human Perception & Performance 41(3) 798-806. (Link)
Gray KLH, Adams WJ, Hedger N, Newton KE & Garner M (2013) Faces and awareness: low-level, not emotional factors determine perceptual dominance. Emotion. 13(3), 537-44. (Link)

Motion, attention, perception and adaptation

Moving stimuli can capture attention, drive segmentation and produce robust after-effects. We have explored interactions between motion and attention using various paradigms, and in a recent meta-analysis.
Bartlett, LK, Adams WJ, Graf EW & Hedger N (2017). Attention modulates the motion after-effect. Journal of Vision, 17. (VSS abstract)
Bartlett, LK, Adams WJ, Graf EW (2016). Attention and the motion aftereffect. Perception 45 103-103 (ECVP Abstract)
Taya S, Adams WJ, Graf EW, Lavie N (2009). The fate of task-irrelevant visual motion: Perceptual load versus feature-based attention. Journal of Vision, 9(12), art. 12, 1 - 10. (Link)