Professor Szonya Durant | Director of the Virtual Reality Lab, Psychology
“My research is finding an explanation for the way we see things and interact with today’s world.”
My research is in visual perception - looking at how the brain pieces together information that comes from the eyes. This involves making the connection between the biology of the brain and our sensory experience of everything around us, from the early stages of knowing where one object ends and another begins, understanding the building blocks of our vision and how our brain understands what we see.
I came from a maths background into Psychology, discovering that the visual system is a good model system and that actions of neurones cab be thought of as computations in the brain. Through more applied work my research uses eye tracking technology that looks at the basics of visual information, and open up a world of discovery. For example, how we navigate a busy road crossing, how we use eye contact in social interaction, how we allocate attention when watching a movie or how we use our eyes when we use technology.
Technology is all around us, and on the human computer interactions side, there is a demand for understanding user experience and market research – all rely on understanding how we interact with today’s world. Through eye tracking research I can design better displays in cockpits and advise money market traders on the shop floor how to make electronic trading more efficient.
It’s rewarding to provide a small stepping stone in our understanding of visual perception and to help improve the technology we use by putting the human back into technology solutions.
Studying Psychology at Royal Holloway
Students who join my courses learn about visual perception and understanding the brain as well as techniques such as eye tracking and how we use it to solve real world problems. Neuroscience methods using eye tracking are developing rapidly, and by using these tools we can see what requires mental effort, what attracts attention, and where it goes wrong.
As a student you’ll enjoy taking part in experiments with eye tracking and other neuroscience based equipment, often with industry involved and also with other disciplines. It’s an exciting time to be involved, and at Royal Holloway we use the cutting edge of eye tracking equipment in teaching, from mobile eye tracking, to virtual reality.