Dr Priscilla Heard

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About me

I am an experimental cognitive psychologist, so I like doing experiments.    A long time ago I helped to do experiments on the Cafe wall illusion at the bottom of St Michael's Hill in Bristol.    The perfectly horizontal and parallel tiles look wedge shaped.   We discovered that the horizontal mortar between the rows of tiles was critical and gives the best effect if very narrow and intermediate in luminance between the light and dark tiles.  We explained it in terms of problems with early visual neural processing.
After that I got involved in starting the Old Bristol Exploratory, the first British hands-on science centre - It became At-Bristol with millennium funding.   The exploratory was great fun helping to build experiments that we hoped would lead to better science understanding, such as pendulums where the mass of the swinging bob or the length of the string could be varied to find out how the rate of swing changed.    What was a surprise was that not everyone was interested.   I was funded by the Royal Society and Hewlett Packard  and with the help of John Talyor, Tim Barrett, and Sally Divall we made a mobile-phone auditory explanation system for children to wear and get instructions for what to do and what to discover.  We found that children who took part in the study liked to listen, and indeed learned a lot especially the girls.    
I have been involved in a couple of art exhibitions.   One on tromple l'oeil at the Pallazzo Strozzi, Florence, in 2009 and another Illusoriamente in Sardina in 2012.   Here at UWE Nicola Holt is module leader for Psychology and the arts.  
I am currently collaborating with Charlie Frowd, Winchester University, on experiments with his program EvoFIT to construct composites of a face from memory.  It is proving very successful with the police in identifying criminals.    Charlie has programmed a hands-on version for At-Bristol funded by the BPS.  More recently with David Phillips I have been investigating  "The witch ring illusion".


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