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

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
D Preciado, J Munneke & J Theeuwes (2017) Was that a threat? Attentional biases by signals of threat.. Emotion 17 (3), 478
M Kilpeläinen & J Theeuwes (2016) Efficient avoidance of the penalty zone in human eye movements. PLoS one 11 (12), e0167956
B Wang, C Yan, Z Wang, CNL Olivers & J Theeuwes (2016) Adverse orienting effects on visual working memory encoding and maintenance. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 1-7
B McCoy & J Theeuwes (2016) Effects of reward on oculomotor control. Journal of Neurophysiology 116 (5), 2453-24662
T Nissens, M Failing & J Theeuwes (2016) People look at the object they fear: oculomotor capture by stimuli that signal threat. Cognition and emotion, 1-8
D Pearson, R Osborn, TJ Whitford, M Failing, J Theeuwes & ME Le Pelley (2016) Value-modulated oculomotor capture by task-irrelevant stimuli is a consequence of early competition on the saccade map. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics 78 (7), 2226-22404
B Bucker & J Theeuwes (2016) Appetitive and aversive outcome associations modulate exogenous cueing. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics 78 (7), 2253-22653
D van Moorselaar, J Theeuwes & CNL Olivers (2016) Learning changes the attentional status of prospective memories. Psychonomic bulletin & review 23 (5), 1483-14902
J Munneke, AV Belopolsky & J Theeuwes (2016) Distractors associated with reward break through the focus of attention. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics 78 (7), 2213-22252
PJ Boon, AV Belopolsky & J Theeuwes (2016) The Role of the Oculomotor System in Updating Visual-Spatial Working Memory across Saccades. PloS one 11 (9), e0161829
B Bucker & J Theeuwes (2016) Pavlovian reward learning underlies value driven attentional capture. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 1-142
B Wang, X Cao, J Theeuwes, CNL Olivers & Z Wang (2016) Separate Capacities for Storing Different Features in Visual Working Memory.. American Psychological Association4
J Heeman, TCW Nijboer, N Van der Stoep, J Theeuwes & ... (2016) Oculomotor interference of bimodal distractors. Vision research 123, 46-55
S Jahfari & J Theeuwes (2016) Sensitivity to value-driven attention is predicted by how we learn from value. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 1-81
T Knapen, JW de Gee, J Brascamp, S Nuiten, S Hoppenbrouwers & ... (2016) Cognitive and ocular factors jointly determine pupil responses under equiluminance. PloS one 11 (5), e01555745
S Gayet, CLE Paffen, AV Belopolsky, J Theeuwes & S Van der Stigchel (2016) Visual input signaling threat gains preferential access to awareness in a breaking continuous flash suppression paradigm. Cognition 149, 77-837
LJ Schmidt, AV Belopolsky & J Theeuwes (2016) The time course of attentional bias to cues of threat and safety. Cognition and emotion, 1-133
SS Hoppenbrouwers, S Van der Stigchel, CS Sergiou & J Theeuwes (2016) Top-down attention and selection history in psychopathy: Evidence from a community sample.. Journal of abnormal psychology 125 (3), 4351
M Failing & J Theeuwes (2016) Reward alters the perception of time. Cognition 148, 19-2611

View full list of publications on Google Scholar