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Dr Stefanie Becker
  – Postdoctoral Research Fellow

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Dr Stefanie Becker
+61 449 883870
+617 3365 4466
Postal Address:
School of Psychology
McElwain Building
The University of Queensland
St Lucia, QLD 4072
Username: uqsbeck1
Picture of 'Dr Stefanie Becker'
Dr Stefanie Becker

PhD (summa cum laude), University of Bielefeld (Germany).

Professional Activities:

Since I arrived at UQ in 2007, I have supervised numerous Honours Students and PhD students. If you're interested in one of the topics below to do a PhD or Honours degree in, or if you'd like to work on one of these topics as a volunteer and would like to know more about it, please contact me (

1. Emotional Faces: Recognition and Visual Search (with Prof. Ottmar Lipp).

2. Tracking the gaze of dogs: Understanding the cognitive abilities of dogs.

3. Visual search: Are shapes and colours processed contingent on the context?

4. Colour search: Do semantic labels in language affect how we perceive colours?

5. Inattentional Blindness: How can we measure IB repeatedly?

6. fMRI: What are the neuronal correlates for searching for a colour?


Frequently Asked Questions:

1) What kind of testing and data collection is usually needed or expected in this area for an honours student? What are the types of participants required, and the manner in which they will be recruited? When can testing start, and how much time is generally needed for completing the research?

>> I'm an Experimental Psychologist, so if you choose a project from my research programme, you'd be testing normal participants recruited via UQ's SONA paid participant pool in computer-based experiments. We can measure the response times, error rates, eye movements or EEG - multiple projects are available from which you can choose. Testing can start after ethical approval has been granted. Usually, a good honours thesis consists of 2 experiments wiht n=18 subjects. Running two experiments with altogether 36 subjects is not time-consuming -- however, the results do not always come out as you'd like them, and often, students choose to run more experiments to get better results. 

If you choose the dog eye tracking experiment, your participants will be ~14 dogs located at Gatton campus. 

2) What is your supervision style like - How much guidance would you give as a supervisor and your level of involvement? How often will we be meeting and how will meetings be structured?

>> I usually offer to meet with my students once per week. At the beginning, we meet to discuss relevant papers and develop an idea for a couple of experiments. Then, after gaining ethical approval, we program and run a couple of small pilot studies (n=4), to get an idea which experiments will work. Programming can be done by me or by the student (student's choice). Then the student goes and collects the data, and we meet to analyse and discuss the results. I usually recommend writing the thesis in the order (1) Methods, (2) Results and (2) Discussions for each experiment before writing the Introduction and the General Discussoin, but that's just a recommendation.

Generally speaking, I applaud student engagement and only help as much as they want me to. If requested, I'll program the experiment and analyse the data to the level of means. All students will have to do data collection, statistical analysis of the data in SPSS, and the write-up.

3) How many honours students will you be taking on this year?

>> I usually take on 2 honours students.

4) What is your schedule like for this year, will you be on conference, going away on holiday etc? If so, during which period(s) and for how long?

>> I'll be away on international conferences, workshops and lab visits from 09/05 to 14/07. During that time, I'll be available via email or skype. As a consequence of this, we'll have to get started early in 2013 and get the experiments ready before I leave.

5) Have you supervised honours students before?

>> Yes, I've supervised 9 Honours students so far, and I currently supervise 3 PhD students and 3 research students.

6) Are there lab meetings?

>> I'm affiliated with Professor Roger Remington's lab, and we have weekly lab meetings, and a reading seminar. Honours students are welcome to attend, but it is not compulsory. In the beginning, I will usually introduce my honours students to the other lab members (mostly PhD students), so that they know who they can turn to when they have a problem and I'm not there.

7) Do I need to have neuroscience knowledge? 

>> This depends on the project: There are eye tracking and behavioural projects that do not require extensive knowledge about neuroscience. However, it probably won't hurt when you try to include studies in your thesis that have used a similar method as yours but have also measured EEG or BOLD responses (fMRI).



Picture of 'Dr Stefanie Becker'
Dr Stefanie Becker
Research Activities:

I'm working in the area of Cognitive Psychology / Experimental Psychology. 

My main interests concern visual selective attention, that is, how the visual system selects information from cluttered visual scenes, and how top-down and bottom-up components of attentional guidance can be integrated in a model of visual selection. I use a variety of methods to unravel the factors that guide attention, including eye tracking, EEG and brain imaging.

Representative Publications:

Please visit my website for reprints of papers;

Journal Articles:

2014 / in press:

36.  Ansorge, U., & Becker, S.I. (in press). Contingent capture in cueing: The role of color search templates and cue-target color relations. Psychological Research. (pdf)

35.  Becker, S.I., Harris, A.M., Venini, D., & Retell, J.D. (in press). Visual search for colour and shape: When is the gaze guided by feature relationships, when by feature values? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance. (pdf)


34.  Becker, S.I. (2013). Simply shapely: Relative, not absolute shapes are primed in pop-out search. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 75, 845-861. (pdf)

33.  Savage, R.A., Lipp, O.V., Craig, B.M, Becker, S.I., & Horstmann, G. (2013). In search for the emotional face: Anger vs. happiness superiority in visual search. Emotion, 13, 758-768. (pdf)

32.  Barutchu, A., Becker, S.I., Carter, O., Hester, R., & Levy, N.L. (2013). The role of task-related learned representations in explaining asymmetries in task switching. PLoS ONE, 8, e61729. (pdf)

31.  Bayliss, A.P., Murphy, E. Naughtin, C.K., Kritikos, A., Schilbach, L., & Becker, S.I. (2013). ‘Gaze leading': Initiating simulated joint attention influences eye movements and choice behaviour. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 142, 76-92. (pdf)

30.  Becker, S.I., Folk, C.L., & Remington, R.W. (2013). Attentional Capture does not depend on Feature Similarity, but on Target-Nontarget Relations. Psychological Science, 24, 634-647. (pdf)

29.  Becker, S.I., & Ansorge, U. (2013). Higher set sizes in pop-out search displays do not eliminate priming or enhance target selection. Vision Research, 81, 18-28. [pre-print]

28.  Harris, A.M., Remington, R.W., & Becker, S.I. (2013). Feature specificity in attentional capture by size and colour. Journal of Vision, 13:12, 1-15. (pdf)

27.  Valuch, C., Becker, S.I., & Ansorge, U. (2013). Priming of fixations during recognition of natural scenes.Journal of Vision, 13:3, 1-22. (pdf)


26.  Ansorge, U., & Becker, S.I. (2012). Automatic priming of attentional control by relevant colors. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 74, 83-104. (pdf)

25.  Horstmann, G., Lipp. O.V., & Becker, S.I. (2012). Of toothy grins and angry snarls − Open mouth displays contribute to efficiency gains in search for emotional faces. Journal of Vision, 12(5):7, 1-15. (pdf)

24.  Priess, H., Scharlau, I., Becker, S.I., & Ansorge, U. (2012). Spatial mislocalization as a consequence of sequential encoding of stimuli. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 74, 365-378. (pdf)

23.  Schneider, D., Bayliss, A.P., Becker, S.I., & Dux, P.E. (2012). Eye movements reveal sustained implicit processing of mental states. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 141, 433-438. (pdf)


22.  Becker S. I. (2011). Determinants of dwell time in visual search: Similarity or perceptual difficulty?  PLoS One, 6 (3), e17740. (pdf)

21.  Becker, S.I., & Horstmann, G. (2011). Novelty and saliency in attentional capture by unannounced motion singletons. Acta Psychologica, 136, 290-299. (pdf)

20.  Becker, S. I., Horstmann, G., & Remington, R. W. (2011). Perceptual grouping, not emotion, accounts for search asymmetries with schematic faces. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 37, 1739-1757. (pdf)

19.  Horstmann, G. & Becker, S.I. (2011). Evidence for goal-independent attentional capture from validity effects with unexpected novel color cues  ΜΆ  A reply to Burnham (2007). Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 18,512-517. (pdf)


18.  Ansorge, U., Carbone, E., Becker, S. I., & Turatto, M. (2010). Attentional capture by motion onsets is spatially imprecise. The European Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 22, 62-105. (pdf)

17.  Becker, S. I. (2010). The role of target-distractor relationships in guiding attention and the eyes in visual search. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 139, 247-265. (pdf)

16.  Becker, S.I., (2010). Testing a post-selectional account of across-dimension switch costs. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 17, 853-861. (pdf)

15.  Becker, S.I. (2010). Oculomotor capture by irrelevant colour singletons depends on intertrial priming.Vision Research, 50, 2116-2126. (pdf)

14.  Becker, S.I., Folk, C. L., & Remington, R. W. (2010). The role of relational information in contingentcapture. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 36, 1460-1476. (pdf)

13.  Horstmann, G., Becker, S.I., Bergmann, S., & Burghaus, L. (2010). A reversal of the search asymmetry favoring negative schematic faces. Visual Cognition, 18, 981­1016. (pdf)


12.  Ansorge, U., Becker, S. I., & Breitmeyer, B. G. (2009). Revisiting the metacontrast dissociation: Comparing sensitivity across different measures and tasks. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 62, 286-309. (pdf)

11.  Becker, S. I., Ansorge, U., & Horstmann, G. (2009). Can intertrial priming account for the similarity effect in visual search? Vision Research, 49, 1738-1756. (pdf)

10.  Becker, S. I., Ansorge, U., & Turatto, M. (2009). Saccades reveal that allocentric coding of the moving object causes mislocalisation in the Flash-Lag Effect. Attention, Perception & Psychophysics, 71, 1313-1324. (pdf)

  9.  Becker, S. I., & Horstmann, G. (2009). A feature weighting account of priming in conjunction search.Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 71, 258-272(pdf)


  8.  Becker, S. I. (2008). Can intertrial effects of features and dimensions be explained by a single theory?Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 34, 1417-1440. (pdf)

  7.  Becker, S. I. (2008). The stage of priming: Are intertrial repetition effects attentional or decisional? Vision Research48, 664-684. (pdf)

  6.  Becker, S. I. (2008). The mechanism of priming: Episodic retrieval or priming of pop-out? Acta Psychologica127, 324-339. (pdf)

  5.  Horstmann, G., & Becker, S. I. (2008). Attentional effects of negative faces: Top-down contingent or involuntary? Perception & Psychophysics, 70, 1416-1434(pdf)

  4.  Horstmann, G., & Becker, S. I. (2008). Effects of stimulus-onset asynchrony and display duration on implicit and explicit measures of attentional capture by a surprising singleton. Visual Cognition, 16, 290-306.(pdf)


  3.  Ansorge, U., Breitmeyer, B. G., & Becker, S. I. (2007). Comparing sensitivity across different processing measures under metacontrast masking conditions. Vision Research, 47, 3335­3349. (pdf)

  2.  Ansorge, U., Neumann, O., Becker, S. I., Kaelberer, H., & Cruse, H. (2007). Sensorimotor supremacy: Investigating conscious and unconscious vision by masked priming. Advances in Cognitive Psychology3, 257-274. (pdf)

  1.  Becker, S. I. (2007). Irrelevant singletons in pop-out search: Attentional capture or filtering costs? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance33, 764-787. (pdf)


Book Chapters & Conference Papers:

  1.  Becker, S.I. (in press). Guidance of attention by feature relationships: The end of the road for feature map theories? In Horsley, M., Eliot, M., Riley, R., and Knight, B. (Eds.) Current Trends in Eye Tracking Research. Springer. [pre-print]

  2.  Becker, S.I. (in press). Why you cannot map attention. A relational theory of attention and eye movements.Australian Psychologist.

Research Area:
Cognitive Neuroscience

If you're looking for an Honours Supervisor and would like to talk to me, just write me an email:

General Information:

Below you'll find some project outlines that are good examples of the kind of projects I'm pursuing. You do not have to choose one of these projects, and you can can definitely make up your own project, but experience has shown that the outcome is better if the project is within my area of expertise (Attention and Eye Movement Control). The choice of the Honours project and your workload depends, amongst other things, on your goals, interests, commitment and time contraints (relative to pre-existing skills). If you'd like to know more, let's set up a meeting -- email


Honours Projects:

1. Emotional Faces in Visual Search: Why do we find angry faces faster than friendly faces? (in collaboration with Ottmar Lipp).

In visual search, an angry face is detected faster among friendly faces than vice versa, a friendly face among angry faces. This 'anger superiority effect' has been attributed to the fact that angry faces are more relevant to survival. However, there is some indication that this effect may instead be due to salient perceptual characteristics of angry faces, such as an open mouth and the visibility of teeth. In the present study, we'll use eye tracking to measure which regions attract a person's gaze. The results will allow new insights into the question of whether the anger superiority effect is driven by perceptual or emotional factors.


2. fMRI study: Visual Search for Angry and Friendly Faces.

In visual search, an angry face can be found faster than a friendly face: Is this due to the fact that evolution has equipped us with a threat detector that signals the presence of potentially threatening stimuli in the environment? We sincerely doubt this explanation and instead favour a perceptual explanation. According to our perceptual grouping account, angry faces can be found faster because they have salient perceptual properties that faciliate search. In the present study, brain imaging techniques will be used to disentangle emotional and perceptual factors in the search asymmetry. Critical questions that we will assess are: 1. Can emotional faces differentially activate fear-relevant brain regions, such as the amygdala? 2. Does activity in these brain areas correlate with search performance, or is search performance more closely correlated with activity in "purely visual" brain areas?


3. How does Similarity affect Visual Search?

Visual Search is one of the most frequent activities in everyday life. Current models of visual search heavily rely on target-nontarget similarity to explain the difference between efficient search -- where we can immediately find the sought-after item -- and inefficient search -- where it takes a long time to find the target. However, surprisingly few studies have systematically investigated effects of similarity on visual search. In this study, we will systematically vary the similarity of target and nontargets while people search for a colour target and we meausure people's eye movements. The results will give us a better understanding how and to what extent similarity really influences visual search.


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