Health Sciences Research and Enterprise - Cognitive Psychology

Cognitive Psychology Research Group

​The Cognitive Psychology Research Group applies theory and research into cognitive psychology to practical situations, exploring its impact upon specific communities and the wider society. As such, our areas of interest are wide-ranging, and often overlap with other areas of psychology and with other disciplines.

Research Areas

Distraction and Performance

Cognitive Psychology distraction and performanceWe are interested in how background sounds affects task performance and how certain individuals may be more affected than others. At its core, the research is focused on the irrelevant sound effect, which uses serial recall, but has extended into other tasks such as reading comprehension, creativity, spatial awareness and mental arithmetic. Interruptions are another type of distraction, requiring temporary switching of attentional resources towards a separate intervening activity, before subsequent resumption of the primary task. We investigate those factors exacerbating the cost of interruption to performance, and how disruption can be minimized.

Attraction and Relationships

Cognitive Pyschology attraction and relationshipsAnother vibrant and burgeoning topic of ongoing research concerns the identification of factors surrounding mate attraction, the features of attractiveness, and relationship formation and termination. Particular attention is directed at: delineating the contextual cues surrounding attraction and how such cues differentially influence the sexes; to age preferences expressed by online daters; and in how sex differences in jealousy manifest following the discovery of infidelity-revealing mobile phone messages. Combining an evolutionary approach with the use of modern technology, this research is currently endeavouring to inform not only our knowledge of the complexities of human mate attraction, but also how this knowledge is used to enhance relationship satisfaction and harmony.

Emotion, Mood and Cognition

Processing emotional information can cause biases in cognitive performance (attention, memory and reasoning) and we are interested in how different people are affected by these.

Core cognitive deficits in schizophrenia analogue samples

There is a growing realisation that patients diagnosed with schizophrenia Cognitive Psychology emotion mood cognitionhave such a broad range of impairments and are compromised so much by medication, that they can make only a limited contribution to our understanding of the central cognitive processes underlying the disorder. A growing body of research now employs normal, non-clinical samples (who vary along a continuum in their similarity to the symptom clusters of schizophrenia). We have historically considered the possibility that schizophrenia may reflect an underlying deficit in 'theory of mind' but our more recent work has been exploring the possibility that high levels of negative schizotypy reflect a hybrid deficit in contextual working memory and outcome processing. We are currently preparing a number of journal manuscripts based on this work.

Decision-Making and Reasoning

Making decisions and reasoning are fundamental aspects to human behaviour, and we are interested in how internal factors, such as emotion and background knowledge, effect these processes. Furthermore, we explore how these processes are undertaken in specific situations.

Cognitive Psychology decision making Cognitive bias and psychiatric triage

Cognitive bias (including 'anchoring' and heuristic strategies) has been widely demonstrated in the decision making of clinicians operating in the full range of health care settings. Little is known however about decision processes around the allocation of psychiatric patients to different levels of security. We are currently evaluating the decision making of psychiatric gate keepers in their direction of patients to community, low secure and medium secure services. Our most recent study is using a recently published standard for psychiatric triage (Flynn et al., 2011. BMC Psychiatry) as a benchmark against which the extent of un-evidenced cognitive bias in decision making can be gauged.

Cytologist's decision making

The ability to diagnose a cancerous cell is vitally important in the prevention and treatment of cancer, yet little is known about the cognitive processes that underpin such skills. Current research focuses on the modality of the diagnostic image and the effectiveness of different training techniques.

Diet and Mental Performance 

Cognitive Psychology diet mental performance Certain elements of our diets and dietary patterns can affect the way we feel and the efficiency with which we perform mental tasks. For example, much is known about caffeine and how it can increase alertness and vigilance, especially when tired. Less is known however about its interaction with glucose. How often we eat can also affect mental performance, possibly by affecting blood glucose. The type of tasks examined ranges from logical reasoning to simple reaction times.



Group Members

Lecturer in
Applied Psychology
Lecturer and
Research Associate in
Applied Psychology
Reader in
Applied Psychology
and REF co-ordinator


Lecturer in
Applied Psychology
Senior Lecturer in
Applied Psychology
Lecturer in
Applied Psychology




Dr Fei Zhao, Department of Healthcare and Food, Cardiff School of Sport & Health Sciences

Mr Tony Smith, Cardiff School of Sport & Health Sciences

Dr Andrew Evered, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Cardiff School of Sport & Health Sciences


Dr John Marsh, University of Central Lancashire

Dr François Vachon, Université Laval  

Professor Sébastien Tremblay, Université Laval

Professor Phil Reed, Swansea University

Professor Bob Snowden, Cardiff University

Key Publications

Marsh JE, Perham N., Sörqvist P., Jones DM. Boundaries of semantic distraction: dominance and lexicality act at retrieval. Memory & Cognition. 2014 Nov; 42 (8): 1285-301.

Dunn MJ. and McLean H. Jealousy-induced differences in eye gaze directed at either emotional- or sexual infidelity-related Mobile phone messages. Cyberpsychology, Behaviour and Social Networking. 2015 Jan; 18 (1): 37-40.

Perham N. and Rosser J. "Not thinking" helps reasoning. Current Psychology. 2012 Jun; 31 (2): 160-7.

Evered A., Walker D., Watt A., Perham N. Visual distraction in cytopathology: should we be concerned? Cytopathology. 2016 Oct; 27 (5): 351-8.

Hewlett P. and Wadsworth E. Tea, coffee and associated lifestyle factors. British Food Journal. 2012 Mar; 114 (3): 416-27.