I am an experimental psychologist and cognitive neuroscientist interested in how our minds and brains represent meaning. Making sense of the world requires representing concrete and abstract information about ourselves, our experiences, the objects we perceive, and the people we interact with. Information at different levels of abstraction is organised hierarchically in the brain, from incoming sensory information represented as elemental perceptual features (e.g. colour, form) to high level abstract thought (e.g. social beliefs, aesthetic judgment) structured according to current goals and contexts. The goal of my research is to understand the organisation and structure of knowledge, meaning, and thought in mind and brain at different levels of abstraction. I am particularly interested in understanding the roles that perceptual and semantic representations play in aesthetic experiences and curiosity. I use a variety of methods, including behavioural experiments, functional neuroimaging, studies of neurological patients, large scale online studies, and video analysis of dyadic social interactions.
I completed an undergraduate degree in Psychology, a master’s degree in Research Methods & Statistics and a PhD in Psychology at the University of Manchester under the mentorship of Dr. Ellen Poliakoff (University of Manchester), Dr. Judith Holler (Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics), and Dr. Trevor Crawford (University of Lancaster). My doctoral thesis investigated co-speech gesture as a window into impaired action representations and spatial cognition in Parkinson’s disease. After my PhD, I completed a postdoc with Dr. Anjan Chatterjee in the Penn Center for Neuroaesthetics (University of Pennsylvania) from 2016-2021. My postdoc projects in the ChatLab examine behavioural and neural responses to abstracted representations of actions in metaphors and paintings.
*** In April 2021 I am starting as a Lecturer (Asst Prof) in Psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London. ***
I am launching a new program of research investigating curiosity as a driver of information-seeking behaviour in social, educational, and aesthetic contexts. I will also be joining the team that delivers the MSc in Psychology of the Arts, Neuroaesthetics & Creativity – the first postgraduate programme of its kind in the world for the scientific study of aesthetics and creativity. If you are interested in applying for this master’s programme and completing your thesis project with me, please get in touch at S[dot]Humphries[at]gold[dot]ac[dot]uk.
I believe science should be open, transparent and reproducible. My experiments are pre-registered and my code and materials are freely and publicly available. Check out my osf profile: https://osf.io/4x8cr/