Chair and department head

Jan Theeuwes

Chair and department head

Phone: +31 (0) 20 598 8790
Room: 1E-11

Personal webpage


Since 2012 I primarily work on an advanced ERC project` What you get is what you see: How Reward Determines Perception’. Here I investigate how our brain reacts to objects that are associated with either a high or low reward. A lot is known about the motivational effect of reward, but its effect on attention and perception has only marginally been explored. The project investigates the role of dopamine in reward in studies involving Parkinson’s patients and by means of deep brain stimulation. The individual sensitivity  to reward will be associated to the development of addiction and risk seeking behaviour. The proposed research will have tremendous impact on the study of cognition, education, and (risky) decision making, as well as on a variety of clinical syndromes in which both attention and reward have been critically implicated, such as (drug) addiction and obesity.


After obtaining a BSc in Mechanical Engineering (1981), Jan Theeuwes studied Psychology at Tilburg University. He received a BSc and MSc in Experimental Psychology (1987) with the highest honour (cum laude). In 1992 he received a PhD from the Vrije Universiteit (advisor A.F. Sanders) with the highest honor. He worked from1988 until 1999 at the TNO Human Factors Institute in Soesterberg conducting applied research for governments, car companies (BMW, Volvo), and the EU. In 1999 he became a full professor at the VU where he built a new research group, now consisting of about 35 researchers and graduate students. Jan Theeuwes published more than 220 peer-reviewed papers. For his accomplishments, Jan Theeuwes was elected member of the Royal Dutch Academy of Science (KNAW) in 2010. In 2001 Jan Theeuwes was awarded the first Bertelson Award in recognition of outstanding psychological research from the European Society for Cognitive Psychology. Currently, he is president-elect of the European Society for Cognitive Psychology, member of the Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders (NVAO) and member of Scientific Advisory Board TNO- LIFT. He is one of the principal advisors of the Dutch Department of Transportation (Rijkswaterstaat) regarding road design and signing.

Research interests

My main interest is to acquire fundamental knowledge on a wide array of subjects including perception, attention, memory and emotion using a wide range of methods, including behavioral (RT measurement), eye tracking, functional MRI, psychophysiological recordings (e.g., ERP), patient work and modeling. I published papers on attentional and oculomotor capture, working memory, multimodal integration, remapping, face perception, visual search, emotion, unconscious processing, the attentional blink, reward processing as well as several applied papers involving road design and headlamp glare. In 2012 I published a book Designing Safe Road Systems (


Curriculum Vitae
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Recent publications

D van Moorselaar, JJ Foster, DW Sutterer, J Theeuwes, CNL Olivers & ... (2017) Spatially Selective Alpha Oscillations Reveal Moment-by-Moment Trade-offs between Working Memory and Attention. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
M Failing & J Theeuwes (2017) Selection history: How reward modulates selectivity of visual attention. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 1-25
JC Van Slooten, S Jahfari, T Knapen & J Theeuwes (2017) Individual differences in eye blink rate predict both transient and tonic pupil responses during reversal learning. PloS one 12 (9), e0185665
B Wang, C Yan, Z Wang, CNL Olivers & J Theeuwes (2017) Adverse orienting effects on visual working memory encoding and maintenance. Psychonomic bulletin & review 24 (4), 1261-1267
M Failing & J Theeuwes (2017) Don’t let it distract you: How information about the availability of reward affects attentional selection. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 1-246
LJ Schmidt, AV Belopolsky & J Theeuwes (2017) The time course of attentional bias to cues of threat and safety. Cognition and emotion 31 (5), 845-8575
F Walker, B Bucker, NC Anderson, D Schreij & J Theeuwes (2017) Looking at paintings in the Vincent Van Gogh Museum: Eye movement patterns of children and adults. PloS one 12 (6), e0178912
J Slotboom, SS Hoppenbrouwers, YHA Bouman, W In't Hout, C Sergiou & ... (2017) Visual attention in violent offenders: Susceptibility to distraction. Psychiatry research 251, 281-286
PJ Boon, J Theeuwes & AV Belopolsky (2017) Eye abduction reduces but does not eliminate competition in the oculomotor systemBoon, Theeuwes, & Belopolsky. Journal of Vision 17 (5), 15-15
D Preciado, J Munneke & J Theeuwes (2017) Mixed signals: The effect of conflicting reward-and goal-driven biases on selective attention. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 1-14
D van Moorselaar, S Gayet, CLE Paffen, J Theeuwes, S Van der Stigchel & ... (2017) Competitive interactions in visual working memory drive access to awareness. Cortex1
D Preciado, J Munneke & J Theeuwes (2017) Was that a threat? Attentional biases by signals of threat.. Emotion 17 (3), 4782
S Jahfari & J Theeuwes (2017) Sensitivity to value-driven attention is predicted by how we learn from value. Psychonomic bulletin & review 24 (2), 408-4153
B Bucker & J Theeuwes (2017) Pavlovian reward learning underlies value driven attentional capture. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics 79 (2), 415-4285
B Wang, X Cao, J Theeuwes, CNL Olivers & Z Wang (2017) Separate capacities for storing different features in visual working memory.. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition 43 (2), 2265
PC Klink, D Jeurissen, J Theeuwes, D Denys & PR Roelfsema (2017) Working memory accuracy for multiple targets is driven by reward expectation and stimulus contrast with different time-courses. Scientific Reports 71
SS Hoppenbrouwers, J Munneke, KA Kooiman, B Little, CS Neumann & ... (2017) Fearful Faces do Not Lead to Faster Attentional Deployment in Individuals with Elevated Psychopathic Traits. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 1-9
DM van Es, J Theeuwes & T Knapen (2017) Global interactions between feature-based and spatial attention redistribute feature sensitivity across visual space. bioRxiv, 147223
J Heeman, S Van der Stigchel & J Theeuwes (2017) The influence of distractors on express saccadesHeeman, Van der Stigchel, & Theeuwes. Journal of Vision 17 (1), 35-351
M Kilpeläinen & J Theeuwes (2016) Efficient avoidance of the penalty zone in human eye movements. PLoS one 11 (12), e0167956

View full list of publications on Google Scholar