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School of Biological and Chemical Sciences

Deema Awad


PhD student



Project title: Contextual effects on person perception 

Summary: While we think our perception of the world is unbiased and accurate, it is influenced by many factors: simple objects can look different when viewed within a surround or on their own (e.g. “contextual effects”). It's argued that properties of simple visual stimuli are summarized in a statistical representation that does not include precise information about any individual item (ensemble averaging) because the amount of visual information that reaches our eyes exceeds what we can actually perceive.

Ensemble averaging has been shown to account for our perception of many basic visual features, including line orientation, size and motion. Recently, contextual effects have been shown to influence our perception of more complex social stimuli including facial expression, gender, or attractiveness. I will examine and systematically quantify how this applies to person perception. Specifically, I will examine how seeing a person in a group may alter (a) how we look at them (e.g. fleetingly or not) and consequently, (b) how accurately we perceive them. I will focus on fundamental characteristics of person perception such as race, age, emotional state and facial expressions.