School of Psychology

Experience Excellence Studying People

Dr Heather J Ferguson

Senior Lecturer in Psychology


Research interests

My primary research interest is in Cognitive Psychology. I am particularly interested in the interface between cognitive processes and social interaction, specifically the way that we access and represent other people's perspectives during communication. I use a variety of techniques, including eye-movements, event-related brain potentials and reaction times to look at questions, such as:

  • How do adults understand and predict events in terms of other people's mental states (e.g. their intentions, beliefs and desires)? And how quickly can they do this?
  • What happens when these intentions, beliefs or desires are at odds with our own knowledge of the world?
  • What makes this sort of thinking ‘special’ compared to thinking about more concrete, factual events? And are there gender differences in these abilities?
  • How do we separate reality from fantasy (say, in a fictional novel), and why do they get muddled up sometimes?
  • What factors makes ‘negated’ sentences easier or harder to understand?

Key publications

  • Ferguson, H.J., Apperly, I., Ahmad, J., Bindemann, M., & Cane, J.E. (in press). Task constraints distinguish perspective inferences from perspective use during discourse interpretation in a false belief task. Cognition.
  • Ferguson, H.J., Cane, J.E., Douchkov, M., & Wright, D. (in press) Empathy predicts false belief reasoning ability: Evidence from the N400. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.
  • Ferguson, H.J., & Breheny, R. (2011). Eye movements reveal the time-course of anticipating behaviour based on complex, conflicting desires. Cognition, 119, 179-196.
  • Ferguson, H.J., & Sanford, A.J. (2008). Anomalies in real and counterfactual worlds: An eye-movement investigation. Journal of Memory and Language, 58, 609-626.




School of Psychology - Keynes College, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NP

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Last Updated: 04/08/2015