(photo of JHU's Peabody Library, where we wish we held our lab meetings)


The PERCEPTION & MIND LAB investigates how we see, how we think, and especially how seeing and thinking interact to produce sophisticated behavior. We are located in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Johns Hopkins University, and we are also affiliated with the cross-departmental Vision Sciences Group. This page contains information about who we are and what we do.


News

  • We have a website! This is it. It has a cool web address: http://perception.jhu.edu. (August 2016)

  • Our paper on the "El Greco fallacy" in perception research has been immortalized on Wikipedia! Finally, students worldwide can take lazy shortcuts when they write term papers about seeing and thinking. (July 2016)

  • It's official! In Summer 2017, we're starting up our new lab in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Johns Hopkins University. (March 2016)

  • Our paper on the relationship between perception and cognition (forthcoming in Behavioral and Brain Sciences) was featured in an insightful piece over at Discover Magazine. (July 2015)


People

Principal Investigator

 
Chaz Firestone (personal homepage)
Assistant Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences
chaz@jhu.edu

Chaz comes to Hopkins after having done his graduate work in the Department of Psychology at Yale. Before that, he spent some time as a graduate student in philosophy at Brown, where he was also an undergraduate. When he's not trying to figure out how seeing and thinking relate to one another, Chaz likes to grapple, eat ceviche, and set spurious world records for fastest circumnavigation of the globe on foot.

Graduate Students and Postdocs

We are actively seeking graduate students, a postdoctoral fellow, and a lab manager to start in Summer or Fall 2017. If you're interested in joining the lab, please send an e-mail to Chaz Firestone. Please also check out our opportunities page to learn more about the positions currently available in the lab.

Collaborators

We have recently collaborated with the following researchers:


Perception is how we make contact with the world around us. How does this core process interface with the rest of the mind?

Our lab approaches this and other questions using the tools of vision science. Much of our work uses computer-based psychophysical experimentation, but we also explore these questions using larger real-world environments, computational models, 3D-printed stimuli, studies of brain-damaged patients, and even some unusual 'field work' (including experiments run in New York City's Times Square!).

A central research interest in the lab is how perception is 'smarter' and richer than we often give it credit for, often influencing — or even incorporating — surprisingly sophisticated processing that you might typically associate with higher-level cognition. For example, we've recently become interested in how our minds generate physical intuitions about the world (e.g., how we determine that a pile of rocks will topple over or stay upright). In one recent project, we have explored how basic representations of an object's shape can reach all the way up to our higher-level judgments about how that object will behave in physically rich scenarios, creating illusions of balance whereby objects that look hopelessly unstable may in fact balance perfectly (or vice versa).

We have also engaged with core questions about the underlying 'format' of what we see. Just as the format of a digital file constrains how it can be used (consider how a .doc file is useful for different purposes than a .pdf), the way our minds encode and represent information constrains how that information can be used by other processes. We have explored the format of perceptual representations by taking objects and shapes as a case study. Using new paradigms the lab has developed, we have found surprisingly direct evidence that the mind represents objects much as an architect might represent a building — in the format of a 'blueprint' or 'skeleton' that explains why objects look and behave as they do.

The lab also has a deep interest in foundational questions about the nature of perception. In particular, we have explored the ways in which higher-level factors such as language, desire, emotion, and action can — and cannot — influence what we see. Our work on this long-standing question in cognitive science has suggested that vision is not simply another kind of cognition, but rather is a truly distinct, 'encapsulated' process in the mind.

For a list of lab publications, see here.

Research


Some of our recent work explores illusions of balance.


Click this shape, anywhere you like!


What can art history tell us about seeing and thinking? Find out here.


Join Us

We are actively recruiting graduate students, a postdoctoral fellow, and a lab manager to start in Summer or Fall 2017. There are also opportunities for undergraduate research assistants. If you're interested in joining the lab, please send an e-mail to Chaz Firestone. Please also check out our opportunities page to learn more about the positions currently available in the lab.