Vision & Cognition

Victoria University of Wellington


We are a research group in the School of Psychology at Victoria University of Wellington led by Tirta Susilo. We study visual perception with a focus on face and object perception. We use face and object perception as a model problem for understanding some of the basic principles governing human vision and cognition. We ask questions such as how does our mind work when we recognise faces and objects? What mechanisms are involved, and how are they implemented in the brain? Which of these mechanisms are general-purpose, and which are specialised for specific types of objects? How do these mechanisms develop across the lifespan, and what happens when development goes awry? What is the role of experience in shaping our ability to recognise faces and objects, how much does this ability vary across people?

Our research combines theories and approaches from experimental psychology and cogntive neuroscience. Our main methods include behavioural experiments in the lab, online experiments on the internet, eye tracking, and modelling. We run experiments with human participants across the lifespan, and we work with both typical and clinical samples.

A major focus of our work is prosopagnosia – the inability to recognise faces despite otherwise normal vision and cognition. Prosopagnosia is usually lifelong and results from developmental or congenital disorder, but in rare cases prosopagnosia can be acquired following specific brain injury. We study prosopagnosia for its own sake, but we also use prosopagnosia as a window for understanding how face perception typicall works. More on prosopagnosia here