Sarah Thompson

Research student, School of Psychology

Tower Building, 70 Park Place, Cardiff, CF10 3AT

Research summary

My PhD, as part of the Wales Autism Research Centre (WARC), will investigate face and emotional processing in autism spectrum disorders (ASD).  More specifically, my research will examine whether an eye dominance effect (an initial instinct to look to the eyes that is difficult to inhibit) exists in those with ASD.

Teaching summary

Year 1 Practical tutor (2013 – 2014):  Conducting tutorials with first year undergraduates covering lab reports and statistics.  This position also involves marking the undergraduates’ lab reports.
Year 2 Practical support (2013):  Supporting a second year undergraduate class on early language acquisition.  This included supporting the whole group teaching and seeing the groups individually to support them in writing their reports.

Research interests

Research topics and related papers

Previous research has found a preference in typical populations to look to the eyes over other areas of the face, although a large amount of research suggests this eye preference does not exist in ASD. In my MSc an eye dominance effect was established, where participants had difficulty inhibiting their instinctive looking patterns to another’s eyes. I aim to investigate whether this eye dominance phenomenon exists in ASD.

The majority of previous research into this area has primarily considered looking patterns alone, rather than how successfully participants are extracting information about identity or expression.  Therefore, I will be measuring eye gaze and behavioural performance simultaneously to overcome this limitation. I will also consider the impact of a variety of different stimuli, including emotional and dynamic stimuli on the face processing patterns seen in ASD.


Cardiff School of Psychology Studentship

Research group

Developmental & Health Psychology

Research collaborators

Dr Catherine Jones
Prof. Sue Leakham
Dr Tom Foulsham (University of Essex)