Cognition in Complex Environments

The Cognitive in Complex Environments Group combines researchers in the areas of cognition, perception and  development.

Our aim is to understand mind and brain, through the study of neuro-typical humans (including both adults and children), examination of atypical populations (including people with brain injury and neuro-developmental disorders) and the invest‌igation of animal models (including lesion studies and single cell electrophysiology).‌

Centre for Mobile Cognition website

The Cognitive Neuroscience group is a collection of researchers whose work spans across the domains of perception, memory, language, and action. Collectively, we are interested in understanding the functional and neural mechanisms that support mind and behaviour. Our long-term goal is to understand cognitive processing in rich, complex real-world physical and social environments – taking Psychological Science out of the laboratory and into the real world. We are pursuing this through the development of a diverse set of research methods – combining multiple physiological measures.

We are motivated by the belief that the future of Psychology lies in multi-disciplinary and impact-oriented research, underpinned by strong theory, rich data and powerful computational analysis. We are confident that basic research and impact go naturally together, and that high-quality research investigating complex naturalistic behaviour provides exciting opportunities to develop and test psychological theories. One of our current priorities is the development of mobile-cognition, based around the idea of the ‘instrumented person’, a suite of wearable technology that allow us to apply experimental methods in real-time outside the lab, including mobile eye-tracking, mobile electromyography and heart rate variability, mobile electroencephalography and location tracking.


We have a purpose-built human electrophysiology research centre -The Psychological Imaging Laboratory - which hosts twin 64-channel EEG recording chambers for use in Event-Related Potential (ERP) research. The laboratory is part of SINAPSE (a Scottish Funding Council Pooling Initiative in Brain Imaging). The Division also has a Vision Lab with stereoscopic viewing systems and a Perception Suite.

In their first year of life, children undergo crucial changes in their perceptual, motor, cognitive, and social abilities. By systematically observing these changes we aim to gain understanding in what stimulates and what constrains child development in these different domains. Such understanding is of vital importance to determine (a) why some children face problems in their development and (b) how these problems can be treated using evidence-based practice.

The Psychology at the University of Stirling has a long history of excellence in developmental research. We are concerned with several questions: How do children distinguish good intentions from bad intentions? How do they know what other people believe and want? How do children learn language? When do children start to experience complex emotions such as regret and relief? How do children process faces, and how do typically developing children differ from children with autism and children with Williams Syndrome? Are outdoor activities enhancing children’s creativity and learning process?


The University of Stirling provides excellent resources in the area of developmental psychology. Amongst these are the on-site Psychology Kindergarten (3 to 5 years) whcih offers invaluable access for both researchers and students of developmental psychology. The kindergarten offers excellent research facilities, including several video-monitored testing rooms and a one-way mirror observation room. We use a variety of approaches, ranging from observational studies, free-play paradigms, and experimental studies, including eye-tracking, and we are developing a child neuroimaging (EEG) lab. Children within the kindergarten have the chance to participate in new research ideas with staff members trained in child care and communication. 

Stirling has a long history of face research. We study almost all aspects of face perception, including low level visual processing, adaptation, gaze perception, social perception such as mate preference and attractiveness, mechanisms of recognition and forensic aspects such as unfamiliar face matching and eye witness recovery of memories for faces.

We run an MSc in the psychology of faces. We host the face research mailing list and the PICS face database. The EvoFIT facial composite system was developed here.

If you have some time, please participate in online studies.


We have a dedicated face research lab, with testing cubicles, a Tobii eyetracker, a 3D camera system and a meeting room.  Other facilities include the Psychological Imaging Laboratory and the Kindergarten.


We have attracted funding from many sources, including: BBSRCESRCEPSRCCSOLeverhulmeWellcome TrustBritish Academy.


Postgraduate Provision

We run MSc programmes in Psychological Research Methods (Psychology of Faces; Autism Research; Bilingualism Research; Cognition and Neuropsychology; Perception and Action; Child Development; evolutionary Psychology) and welcome PhD applications.

The Cognition in Complex Environments Group is holding weekly meetings to discuss new papers and interesting topics.  Meetings are held every Thursday during semester time at 12:30pm in the common room of Psychology (3A90).


For general enquiries about research, or PhDs please contact:

Peter Hancock
Professor in Psychology
Psychology, Faculty of Natural Sciences
University of Stirling
Stirling, FK9 4LA

01786 467675

Centre for Mobile Cognition website