MSc (Nijmegen) PhD (Utrecht), FRSN 



Psychology
2021

Frans Verstraten was trained as an experimental psychologist at Radboud University Nijmegen, supervised by physicist Charles De Weert. De Weert was integral in the development of Verstraten’s approach to studying Brain & Behaviour. For example, his MSc work concerned a low-level psychophysical approach to gain insight into a higher-level memory distortion known as Representational Momentum. The resulting thesis was nominated for the best thesis award.

This emphasis on psychophysical methods to study psychological phenomena developed even further during Verstraten’s years as a graduate student at Utrecht University. He was interested in adaptive mechanisms in the brain; specifically, the brain’s reaction to fast changing environments, which can be demonstrated for example when observers stop moving and return to a stationary position. This resulted in a Summa Cum Laude PhD defence that won him the Dissertation Award of the Dutch Psychonomic Society. His work on adaptation showed that (re)calibration to different movement conditions is an ongoing active process, not just a passive recovery process. Apart from several well cited papers, this work led to 2 review papers in the renowned journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences, as well as an invitation to co-edit a book on motion aftereffects; Mather, Verstraten & Anstis, The Motion Aftereffect: A modern perspective. 1998, Cambridge: MIT press.

As a post-doctoral researcher at McGill and Harvard, Verstraten worked on a variety of topics but gained interest in the temporal limits of moving our attentional focus. This resulted in a now classic paper; Verstraten, Cavanagh & LaBianca, Vision Research, 2000.

While at Harvard he was trained in functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and that became the basis of a multi-million-dollar grant from the Netherlands Organisation of Scientific Research, which Verstraten was awarded soon after he was appointed a full professor at Utrecht University (5 years after his PhD defence). In Utrecht, his research interests grew broader. For example, looking at brain activity when observers were problem solving, and how brain areas adjust their connectivity when learning perceptual-motor tasks. His continued interest in attentive systems resulted in many publications on the role of eye-movements in visual search. So far, he has successfully supervised 20 PhD students, several are now professors.

In the past 20 years, Verstraten has also contributed significantly to making psychology more accessible for the general audience. He participated in a televised science show, airing for 7 seasons on national TV; wrote a book ‘Psychology in a Nutshell’ and published a 4 CD box with some of his renowned lectures (he was elected 3 times for ‘teacher of the year’ by his students). He was also a columnist for several outlets, one of them being ‘De Volkskrant’, one of the main national newspapers in The Netherlands.

In the last few years, Verstraten’s interest has extended to the applied aspects of experimental psychology. Research results are rarely discussed in terms of possible implications for other fields within Psychology, in particular the clinical applications, which is where his future work will also focus on.

2013 – now      Head of School, School of Psychology, The University of Sydney

2012 – now      McCaughey Chair of Psychology, The University of Sydney.

2010 – 2012      Scientific Director of the Helmholtz Institute, Utrecht University.

2001 – 2010      Department Head, Dept. of Experimental Psychology, Utrecht University.

1999 – 2012      Professor of Cognitive & Theoretical Psychology, Utrecht University.

1997 – 2000      Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences Program Researcher.

1996 – 1997      Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute, Kyoto, Japan.

1995 – 1996      Postdoctoral Researcher at Harvard University

1994 – 1995      Postdoctoral Researcher at McGill University

Fellow of the Royal Society of New South Wales (FRSN)

Board member Scientific Advisory College Committee. Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, The Hague, The Netherlands

Member of the Board of Directors of the Niels Stensen Fellowship Committee, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Member, past Board Member, and President of Vision Sciences Society.

Recipient Teaching Excellence Award 2007-2008; 2004-2005; 2002-2003 – Psychology. Utrecht University.

Recipient of the best dissertation award 1993-1995 – The Dutch Psychonomic Society.

  1. Rodrigues, R. & Verstraten, F.A.J. (2021). Should we discuss possible implications of our research? Perception. (forthcoming November issue)
  2. de Vries, J. P., Verstraten, F. A. J., Hooge, I. T. C., Fabius, J. H., & Van der Stigchel, S. (2021). Inhibition of return in the oculomotor decision process: Dissociating visual target discrimination from saccade readiness delays. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 47(1), 140–160. https://doi.org/10.1037/xhp0000870
  3. Han, S., Alais, D., MacDoughall, H., & Verstraten, F.A.J. (2020). Brief localised monocular deprivation in adults alters rivalry predominance retinotopically and reduces spatial inhibition. Scientific Reports, 10(1):18739 . DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-75252-w
  4. Lo Verde, L., Alais, D., Burr D.C., Morrone, C.M., MacDoughall, H., Verstraten, F.A.J. (2019). The time dilation effect in an active observer and virtual environment requires apparent motion: no dilation for retinal- or world-motion alone. Journal of Vision, 19, 4. doi:https://doi.org/10.1167/19.3.4
  5. Maarseveen, J., Paffen, C.L.E., Verstraten, F.A.J. & Hogendoorn, H. (2019). The duration aftereffect does not reflect adaptation to perceived duration. PlosOne, x, 1-11 doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0213163