How does the brain store and use memory for colour? Some experiments involve short-term and long-term memory for the colours themselves. Others involve memory for more complicated objects (natural scenes, faces, simple geometrical solids, etc.) that contain colours. The objective is to understand how the visual system processes and stores information about colour and to determine whether this information is helpful for visual memory in general. This research is supported by NSERC.


How people process information in displays is of great practical and theoretical interest. With the increased use of electronic displays, it is important to understand how information presented in graphical form is decoded. The research involves the application of psychological theories from cognition, perception, and quantitative psychology to the perception of information displays and statistical graphs. Some research is concerned with psychophysical aspects and performance; other work seeks to model process and to explore the role of higher cognitive functions, including memory. Although practical in its orientation, the principal goal of the research is to contribute to our fundamental understanding of basic perceptual and cognitive processes. This research is supported by NSERC.


The goal is to understand the user's predispositions to behave when using interactive displays (GUIs, web sites, control panels, etc.) and, by using this knowledge, to devise ways of releasing the user from the tedious tasks often required when using a non-adaptive interface. One line of work involves the development of a Technology Profile Inventory (TPI). Knowledge of the distribution of technology types in the general population will form the basis for a variety of design strategies that will maximize user satisfaction and productivity. Another line of research examines the determinants of "lostness" in web navigation. This research is supported by BUL, CITO, and IBM.


A recent new line of research in the lab concerns the role of women in Information and Communications Technology (ICT). Participation of women in the information and communication technology (ICT) sector is very low worldwide and in Canada only one in three jobs in ICT is held by a woman. This is deplorable in both human and economic terms. With Canada's economic health increasingly reliant on the high technology and knowledge industries, it is imperative to increase the participation of women in ICT. Early education, socialization, and discrimination have been thought to be primarily responsible, but it is also possible that the cognitive capabilities of women may be less well suited to the tasks required in ICT. Some have speculated that since the early development of ICT was almost exclusively the province of men, software and hardware design is "gendered", thus affording an advantage to males. However, despite previous efforts to understand these possible causes, our knowledge of both social and cognitive factors is surprisingly meagre. In our lab, we are studying the possible male/female differences in cognitive abilities that affect participation in ICT and we are also studying the relationships between cognitive abilities and women's attitudes to ICT.


Prof. Ian Spence
Department of Psychology
Sidney Smith Hall
100 St George St
University of Toronto

Toronto, Ontario
Canada M5S 3G3

Engineering Psychology Lab: Sidney Smith Room 630
Lab R.A. Phone: 416-946-5813
Lab Office Phone: 416-978-7623
Fax: 416-978-4811

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