Ian M. Thornton

Professor of Cognitive Science

Department of Cognitive Science
Faculty of Media & Knowledge Science
University of Malta
Msida, MSD 2080
Tel:  +356 2340 2417
Email: ian.thornton at um.edu.mt
Web:  www.ianthornton.com

Research Interests

(Click here for more information on my publications in these areas.)

I'm interested in understanding how the brain represents information that changes over time. Much work on vision in Cognitive Science continues to concern itself with stable states. Often this is simple because static experimental stimuli have traditionally been more available and/or conceptually tractable. In my research I try to explore the role that time plays in mental representation. I do this by adapting standard experimental methods/techniques for use with dynamic stimuli.

My particular research interests include:

Mobile Devices
  • developing experimental apps
  • exploring action & attention
  • indirectly measuring performance
  • using apps with special populations

  • Foraging, Search & Change
  • is human foraging constrained by attention?
  • what other factors modulate foraging/search?
  • Do "unseen" changes still affect behaviour?
  • does foraging/search have a temporal context?

  • Face Perception
  • is facial motion a cue to identity?
  • what sort of facial motion is important?
  • what tasks should be used with dynamic faces?
  • how do facial and body ID interact?

  • Biological Motion
  • why is biological motion processing important?
  • what mechanisms underlie such processing?
  • what role does attention play?
  • what techniques/tasks can be used?

  • Localization
  • why do we sometimes mislocalize objects?
  • are different types of error related?
  • what do they tell us about vision?
  • do they also affect action?

  • (Click here for more information on my publications in these areas.)


    I was born and brought up in North East London, went to Lancaster for my undergrad and then on to Cambridge for an MPhil. I left the UK in late Eighties, travelling first to Japan, where I taught English, and then on to Australia. For four years I was a research assistant at Sydney University while completely failing to learn to surf. I then moved to the West Coast of the US, starting my PhD with Jennifer Freyd, at the University of Oregon, Eugene. I took my second year out to visit the lab of Maggie Shiffrar at Rutgers University, Newark, NJ. Returning to Eugene for two more years, I graduated in 1997. I did a post-doc in Boston, working at the now-vanished Cambridge Basic Research labs, split between MIT & Harvard. I had the good fortune to work with a number of inspiring colleagues, including Ron Rensink, Patrick Cavanagh, Simon Rushton & Rob Gray. In 2000, I moved back to Europe, joining Heinrich Buelthoff's group at the Max Planck Insitute for Biological Cybernetics in Tuebingen, Germany. In 2005 I became Professor of Cognitive Psychology at Swansea University. Since 2013 I have been Professor of Cognitive Science at the University of Malta. I also live in Belgrade, Serbia for part of the year.

    Last updated Sept 2017