Søren Kyllingsbæk


Department of Psychology
Øster Farimagsgade 2A
1353 København K

Office: 03-4-416a
Phone: +45 353-24861
Phone (Reception desk): +45 353-24800
Mobile: +45 61774847
E-mail: soeren.kyllingsbaek@psy.ku.dk

Current research

Modeling Visual Cognition - perception, attention, and short-term memory

The Sapere Aude Program, Danish Council for Independent Research

Every moment our eyes receive a massive, constantly changing set of inputs. A complex sequence of mental processes enables us to perceive and attend to the most important part of this information for consciousness and action. The study of visual perception, attention, and short-term memory are classical research areas within psychology and previous decades have seen much progress in this field. Our research at the Department of Psychology at the University of Copenhagen has contributed significantly to the field. More specifically, the research has focused on formulating mathematical theories of the mental processes involved in visual perception, attention, and short-term memory (e.g. Bundesen, 1990; Bundesen, Habekost, & Kyllingsbæk, 2005; Kyllingsbæk, 2006; Kyllingsbæk & Bundesen, 2007; Kyllingsbæk, Valla, Vanrie, & Bundesen, 2007; Kyllingsbæk & Bundesen, 2009). The theoretical work has integrated a large part of the existing theoretical and empirical knowledge. Specifically, the theories partition mental function into different model parameters that can be precisely measured in psychological tests. Such accuracy is vital for assessing mental disturbances after brain damage, a clinical application that has recently been taken up by research groups around Europe (e.g. Finke et al., 2006). Moreover, we have demonstrated a close analogy between the central equations in our theory of visual attention and the activity of individual neurons in the visual system of the brain (see Bundesen, Habekost, & Kyllingsbæk, 2005; Kyllingsbæk, 2006).

The purpose of the research project is to take advantage of this unique theoretical position and develop a unified mathematical account of visual cognition including perception, attention, and visual short-term memory that integrates psychological and neurobiological perspectives. We are pursuing this goal in four research projects described below (see Research Projects). We will explore 1) how visual objects are identified over time, 2) how visual objects are processed when they are separated in time, 3) how visual processing capacity is distributed, and 4) the nature of visual short-term memory, where visual information becomes conscious and available for voluntary action.

For further information: http://www.psy.ku.dk/Forskning/Fokusomraader/mvc/

Intentional action, attention to objects, and working memory

How does a human subject control her own behaviour? Human voluntary action can be investigated from various perspectives. In recent years, the issue of control of human action has been explored from the perspective of (1) theories of visual attention and executive control, (2) theories of visual control of manual action (like grasping), and (3) philosophical theories of intentional action and control on a personal level. Normally research in each of these three domains is carried out without taking account of insights and results in the other domains, even though some of the most central problems of human behaviour require such integrative effort. Understanding the mechanisms of intentional object-oriented action is one such problem. It is the aim of this project to integrate these areas of research in an investigation of the way in which an agent controls her own object-oriented behaviour by way of visual attention. When a person acts on or with objects in her environment, many features of a person’s motor behaviour are not under the agent’s conscious control. For example, the subject automatically adjusts her behaviour to changes in the location of the object (Bridgeman, Hendry, & Stark, 1975; Castiello, Paulignan, & Jeannerod, 1991) or in the size of the object (Agliotti, De Souza, & Goodale, 1995). Results such as these raise questions about which aspects of her motor behaviour the agent is able to control consciously and by which mechanisms conscious control is possible. Our hypothesis is that research in visual attention and how attention is related to working memory and executive control holds the key to these important questions. The aim of this project is to use certain philosophical insights in an investigation of neurocognitive mechanisms of conscious control of intentional action. We want to investigate under which descriptions a subject can be said to consciously control her action. Our proposal is that often the subject consciously controls her behaviour by the way in which she consciously attends to and selects objects for action.

Curriculum vitae

Bachelor degree in Psychology, University of Copenhagen, 1995.

Master’s degree in Psychology, University of Copenhagen, 1997.

PhD in Psychology, University of Copenhagen, 2002

(Full CV)