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Bert Timmermans, P.I.

Currently a lecturer at the University of Aberdeen, I divide my time between social cognition and consciousness research. Previously I was a Marie Curie Fellow and subsequently a Volkswagen Foundation Fellow at the University Hospital of Cologne (social neuroscience) with Kai Vogeley, and before that a postdoc at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (consciousness) with Axel Cleeremans. I obtained my PhD in Psychology (social cognition) with Frank Van Overwalle at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, following masters in Cognitive Science (ULB) and in Psychology (clinical & experimental, VUB). I alternately believe that 99% of our actions are governed by unconscious processes, or that 99% of our actions depend on conscious experience. I also don't understand eye gaze, in that I will count the seconds I look you in the eye. Yes, that's a rabbit. A socially non-interactive, unconscious rabbit. It is there because I couldn't find a wombat.

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Gosia Kasprzyk, PhD student

Gosia completed a Master of Research in Psychology in September 2018 and has since then worked on a School of Psychology-funded PhD project on how reward associated with self-initiated joint attention can drive motor learning of eye movements, and more broadly how experience of social action contingencies can drive motor learning, using imitation and non-imitative action contingencies to improve people’s motor performance.

Crystal Silver, RA / PhD student

Crystal is finishing her undergraduate thesis at Abertay University with Ken Scott-Brown, investigating reactivity to digital gaze cues with human and computer agency. She will join the lab in June 2019 as a Research Assistant on a Carnegie Trust Research Incentive Grant, “Experiencing myself through you: Self-agency in social interaction,” and in autumn 2019 will start a PhD on the BBSRC EASTBIO project “Mechanisms of social agency,” co-supervised by Rama Chakravarthi.

Undergraduate Interns

Tanya Filipova (L3) works with Gosia on how seeing someone react to your actions can provide a reward to drive motor learning.

Anniina Finnas (L2) works on how self-initiated joint attention (gaze leading) can influence the cross-race effect, and memory for faces in general..

Sophie Heigel (L3) works on how experience of direct gaze varies between real interaction, interaction with videos, and with avatars

Current undergraduate & postgraduate thesis topics: the effect of separating decision difficulty and visual clarity on perceptual awareness and confidence ratings / sense of agency in social and non-social contexts, and the relationship with autistic traits, as well as effects on likability and pleasantness / parent-perceived empathy in autistic girls versus healthy boys /…

Past Lab Members


Postdoc Chris Luke came up from the University of Lincoln in August 2016 and worked on how social gaze dynamics predict and reflect joint task performance and person impression, using dual interactive eye tracking with virtual avatars (DiVA). He now works in the Real World (i.e., outside of academia).

Past Undergraduate Interns: Amy Wakefield spring 2018 (gaze & cross-race effect); Letizia Caruso 2017-18 (subjective awareness ratings) Tina Bennett summer 2017 (gaze & cross-race effect); Sophia Schön autumn 2016 (dual interactive eye tracking); Gosia Kasprzyk summer 2016 (reward/gaze); Matilda Cederblad summer 2015 (reward/gaze); Kyra Bebus summer 2014 (dual interactive gaze).

Past undergraduate & postgraduate thesis topics (past 3 years): 2018 — SJ Moll (MSc; The influence of live video link on texting in a problem-solving task); I Salomia-Frunza + Deimante Baltrusaityte + Kristyna Goldova (The influence of direct gaze duration and a perceived live video link on likability of avatars and real faces); R Marozaite + A Dallas (The effect of initiating joint attention on other-race-bias); D Reinhold (Morality in problem-focused discussions) // 2017 — J Dodgson (MSc; The other-race-bias, gaze patterns, and autistic traits); D El Amin (The effect of initiating joint attention on other-race-bias); M Goodwin (The effect of ethical leadership on perceived stigma and perceived barriers to mental health care in the military); G Kasprzyk (The effect of initiating joint attention on saccadic preparation time towards the attended location) // 2016 — A Aleksandrova (The relationship between confidence, leadership and gender); S Bendziute (The influence of direct gaze duration and a perceived live video link on likability and the effect of impression of interaction); B Kuthi (Does information about the competence of the other influence the “Two heads better than one” effect?); F Tinto (Ask me nicely: An investigation into the effect of rudeness over email on helping behaviour); K Tzonev (Can self-initiated joint attention constitute a social reward that mediates saccade motor learning?)

Visiting Researchers

Leonardo Zapata-Fonseca (PhD student) & Ruben Fossion (Group leader) (UNAM/Mexico)

December 2018 — Interaction dynamics


Zuzanna Skóra (PhD student/Jagiellonian/Krakow)

April-May 2018 — Unconscious visual perception


Marta Siedlecka (Postdoc/Jagiellonian/Krakow)

March 2017 — Marta works on how the influence of Type1/Type2 task order can tell us something about the information involved in those tasks.


Iva Barisic (PhD student/ETH/Zürich)

July 2013 / February 2016 — Iva programmed dual interactive eye tracking with virtual anthropomorphic avatars (in short, DiVA) from the ground up, and has since been helping out with coding of various avatar-related setups. She worked as a Research Assistant on the Volkswagen Foundation project at the University Hospital of Cologne (supervised by myself and Leo Schilbach), and is currently writing a PhD on navigation in groups at the Chair of Cognitive Science of the ETH in Zürich, Switzerland.

Collaborating Labs


Leo Schilbach (MPI/Munich)

During the 2009 Cargèse Summer School on Consciousness of Self & Other, Leo and I started on what would become, at the University Hospital of Cologne, a Volkswagen Foundation grant (with Tobias Schlicht and Niko Steinbeis), laying the basis for most of our current work. Leo is currently a consultant psychiatrist, head of the Clinic for Disorders of Social Interaction and group leader of the Research Group for Social Neuroscience at the MPI of Psychiatry in Munich, Germany. 


Michal Wierzchon (Jagiellonian/Krakow)

Michal and I met ages ago when he was visiting Axel Cleeremans' lab and we both worked on artificial neural networks. Since then our research paths have crossed in trying to figure out what we actually measure when we measure awareness — something which recently led to me being a collaborator on a HARMONIA grant of his. Michal is founder of the c-lab and currently also the Director of the Institute of Psychology at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland.


Axel Cleeremans (ULB/Brussels)

If I ever had a guru, Axel is as close as anyone comes to the title. I first met him whilst being a student on the Masters in Cognitive Sciences he organised, and after my PhD in social cognition spent 2 1/2 years at his CO3 group (Consciousness, Cognition & Computation) trying to re-learn everything there was to know on consciousness. Since, we've worked on higher-order neural networks, subjective measures of awareness, and implicit learning of subliminal material.