Our Lab

The Different Minds Lab is a research group organized by Dr. Jim Tanaka, a cognitive psychologist and Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Victoria.

The scientific mission of the lab is to understand the cognitive processes and temporal dynamics of expert face and object recognition. In normal adults, everyday experience leads to an “expertise” for faces that enables us to recognize a familiar face or emotional expression in a split second without conscious thought. In some individuals, such as birdwatchers and dermatologists, extensive experience in a specialized interest also leads to expert recognition for these objects-of-expertise. Understanding the nature of holistic processing, a cognitive mechanism that is fundamental to face perception and memory, and the visual learning mechanisms that operate along the “path to expertise” is central to our research goals.

In the past few years, we have worked to transform our lab to primarily conduct web-based experimentation. Beyond learning existing tools, we have focused on developing new methods to push the boundaries of this field. Our main project has been Gazer- an extension of jsPsych that allows us to collect eye-tracking data using the video feeds from participant’s laptops.

As of 2023, we have shifted our primary focus in the lab to a new data modelling software, PsiZ, created by Dr. Brett Roads. So far, we have examined how PsiZ can track the development of perceptual expertise. PsiZ renders powerful visualizations that depict our participants’ perceived categorical structure of stimulus set items. Using PsiZ, we often survey experts and novices in various visually-based domains (e.g., warblers, rocks, NBA basketball, and Other-Race faces) to examine how one’s perception shifts with varying levels of expertise. We are also currently testing the limits of PsiZ by exploring how it may be used to assess individual differences in visual perception.

Members of the Different Minds Lab frequently collaborate with researchers from other institutions and labs. To support cross-lab collaborations, Dr. Jim Tanaka founded the Different Minds Collaborative (DMC), an interdisciplinary research collaborative that meets monthly to discuss ongoing research in vision sciences. These monthly discussions frequently spark cross-lab collaborations that have, in turn, fostered a strong sense of community within the DMC.

From left to right: Johannes Schultz-Coulon, Anna Lawrance, Dr. Jim Tanaka, Eric Mah

Lab News

VSS 2024

May 17-22, 2024. The Different Minds Lab attended the annual Vision Sciences Society meeting in St. Pete Beach, Florida. During the conference, they debuted the DML’s recent PsiZ work and caught up with colleagues!

Anna Lawrance — Shifting perceptions: The effects of subordinate level training on category restructuring [PDF]
Eric Mah — The influence of expertise and individual differences on psychological embeddings [PDF]
Jim Tanaka — Judging the perceptual similarity of own- and other-race faces [PDF]


May 3-4, 2024. The Different Minds Lab attended the 26th annual Northwest Cognition & Memory Conference, right here on home turf—the University of Victoria!


Anna Lawrance — Unveiling categories: Observing perceptual shifts in geology undergraduates


Kiera Ludlow — The category structure of fast and slow learners

Dynah Parlee, Jonathan Kiss, & Abby Hunter — Visual stimulus competition: May the best chips win

DML Attends OPAM 2023!

Nov 16, 2023. Eric and Anna attended the 31st annual OPAM held in San Francisco, California this week! At the conference, they both had the opportunity to share some of their recent work using PsiZ.

VSS 2023

May 18-24, 2023. The Different Minds Lab was present once again at the annual Vision Science Society meeting in St. Pete’s Beach, Florida! Katelyn, Jim, and Amy each presented posters of their most recent work. Later in the week, they attended a local Blue Jays game with former labmate Alison Campbell!


April 21-22, 2023. The Different Minds Lab presented five separate projects at NOrthWest Cognition & Memory 2023, hosted at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Richmond Campus. The lab members received great feedback from their peers and feel very pleased with the final versions of their presentations.


Amy vanWell – Conceptualizing categories: How do we represent the objects we see?

Anna Lawrance – How malleable are your judgements? The effect of subliminal priming on similarity judgements

Katelyn Forner – Does the face say it all? Examining integration in whole-person perception 

Jessica Silverman – Motivation as a moderating variable for learning performance


Jim Tanaka – Improving police lineup construction using psychological embeddings: An objective measure of perceptual similarity

Kyla Basbaum, presented by Laura Devonshire – Can you be an expert? Fast and slow learning in an object categorization task

DML Attends VSS 2022!

May 13-19, 2022. The Different Minds Lab was finally able to make its way back to Vision Science Society in St. Pete’s Beach, Florida! Alison, Jim, and Amy each presented posters of their most recent work. Jim and Amy were also able to make a splash on Monday’s Demo Night with a gaze-contingent paradigm of the new Gazer program.

Check out Alison’s poster, Jim’s poster, and Amy’s poster.

DML Attends NOWCAM 2022 In Person!

April 28-30, 2022. The Different Minds Lab presented five separate projects at NOrthWest Cognition & Memory 2022, hosted at Simon Fraser University, Surrey Campus. As the first in-person conference we’ve attended since 2019, this conference was a great success!


Amy vanWell – Gazer: The temporal and spatial resolution of a web-based eye tracking system [pdf]

Tahirih Nasseri – Emotion recognition of genuine versus posed expressions

Katelyn Forner & Isabella Schopper – Does the face say it all? How face information influences body perception [pdf]


Allie Rolle & Kyla Basbaum – Is it who you know? Cross-race perception of facial expressions in Black and White groups [pdf]

Ipek Cukurova & Olivia Longpre, presented by Jessica Silverman – Investigating individual differences in visual word recognition using a lexical decision task and the north american adult reading [pdf]

Amy vanWell presents Gazer method at OPAM 2021

Nov 4, 2021. At virtual OPAM 2021, Amy will present a poster titled “Investigating the time course of exogenous attention using a web-based eye-tracking tool”.  The poster describes the details of her new tool Gazer,  which will allow vision scientists to conduct eye-tracking using laptop cameras. 

Alison Campbell wins President’s Fellowship for Research-Enriched Teaching

June 1, 2021. Alison has won the President’s Research-Enriched Teaching Fellowship for her proposed reinvention of the upper-level undergraduate class on cognitive psychology. This award helps PhD students and postdoctoral fellows to embrace new teaching and mentoring opportunities and provide more research-based learning experiences for undergraduate students.

V-VSS 2021 Virtual Posters

May 21-23, 2021 Congratulations to our lab members presenting at the 2021 Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting

Tahirih Altair, James Tanaka, Amy Dawel, & Amy vanWell, Emotion recognition of perceived genuine or posed expressions using web-based eye tracking

Katelyn Forner, James Tanaka, & Isabella Schopper, Evaluating faces and bodies: Does body information influence face perception?

Olivia Longpre, James Tanaka, Ipek Cukurova, & Amy vanWell, Investigating the Effects of Orthography, Neighborhood Density, and Frequency on Single Word Recognition in a Visual Search Task

Amy vanWell, James Tanaka, Xiaoyi Liu, & Jacob Martin, Investigating the Time Course of Face Perception Using Web-based Eye Tracking

Amy vanWell wins NSERC CGS-M scholarship and President’s Research award

Apr 1, 2021. Amy has been awarded the CGS-M Alexander Graham Bell scholarship, and UVIC’s President Research award, for her proposed graduate-level research. Amy will begin her Master’s in Psychology with Dr. Jim Tanaka as her supervisor in September 2021. Her first research focus will be to finish development of her Gazer eye-tracking method, and create publishable research showing its efficacy in recording visual search behaviour.

Alison Campbell presents talk at OPAM 2020

November 19, 2020  At Virtual OPAM 2020, Alison will present a series of experiments we conducted to test whether visual masks can be manipulated to disrupt face identity processing at different levels of the visual hierarchy. OPAM 28 will be held online on November 28-29 and registration is free! 

Campbell, A. & Tanaka, J. W. Conscious visual perception of face identity requires at least 33 ms of uninterrupted low-level processing and 100 ms of uninterrupted high-level processing. Talk Session 4, Thursday November 19, 2:45 pm CST for live talk and Q & A session.

Psychopy Workshop

Aug 3 – Aug 14 Amy van Well will be hosting a workshop that will aim to provide participants with the ability to develop vision science experiments using Psychopy. The workshop will introduce the fundamentals of programming using Python, and guide participants through the steps of creating a behavioural experiment of their own design.

Different Minds Lab Virtual Conference

April 29, 2020 The Different Minds Lab will host an online virtual conference Wednesday, April 29th, 2 PM to 3:30 PM (PDT). The conference will be an opportunity for us to share the latest research from our lab. Conference talks will cover a wide range of topics including lateralized face processing of holistic gist, trainability in perceptual expertise, own-face/body perception and familiarity effects in ultra-fast face recognition. The conference will take place on the Zoom video conferencing platform. Confirmed attendees for the conference include: Jake Martin (Georgetown University, US), Simen Hagen (Donders Institute, NL), Liz Gregory (University of British Columbia, CA), Amy Dawel (National Australian University, AU), Quoc Vuong (Newcastle University, UK), Stuart MacDonald (University of Victoria, CA) and Buyun Xu (Ministry of Justice, British Columbia). For more information, please email Jim Tanaka (jtanaka@uvic.ca). To register for the conference, please email Karolina Pyszkowska (karolinapyszkowska@hotmail.com).