Chair and department head

Jan Theeuwes

Chair and department head

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


In 2012 I received an ERC advanced grant `What you get is what you see: How Reward Determines Perception’. In this project I investigated the effects of reward on attentional selection. In 2019, I received a second ERC advanced grant titled “What to expect when you are not expecting it: How implicit regularities drive attentional selection”. In this project I will investigate how we learn to extract statistical regularities from the environment and how this affects attentional selection. Extracting statistical regularities from the environment is one of the most fundamental abilities of any living organism. This type of learning is largely unconscious, unintentional, and implicit that runs "in the background", both seeking and giving structure to the world around us, making it coherent, predictable and quickly manageable. During the coming years I will examine on how, when and what is learned, how learning affects attentional selection, and how flexible learning is in a changing environment.


After obtaining a BSc in Mechanical Engineering (1981), I studied Psychology at Tilburg University receiving a BSc and MSc in Experimental Psychology (1987) with the highest honour (cum laude). In 1992 I received a PhD from the Vrije Universiteit (advisor A.F. Sanders) with the highest honor. I worked from 1988 until 1999 at the TNO Human Factors Institute in Soesterberg conducting applied research for governments, car companies (BMW, Caterpillar Volvo) and the EU. In 1999 I was appointed full professor at the VU. I have published more than 250 peer-reviewed papers. In 2010 I was elected into the Royal Dutch Academy of Science (KNAW). In 2001 I was awarded the first Bertelson Award in recognition of outstanding psychological research from the European Society for Cognitive Psychology. I was the president of ESCOP from 2016 to 2018. I am one of the principal advisors of the Dutch Department of Transportation (Rijkswaterstaat) regarding road design and signing. Last year, with two former PhD students I started a new company named Attention Architects, which focuses on eye tracking in applied settings

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
Google Scholar

Recent publications

J Theeuwes (2021) Self-explaining roads: What does visual cognition tell us about designing safer roads?. Cognitive research: principles and implications 6 (1), 1-15
Z Xu, SA Los & J Theeuwes (2021) Attentional suppression in time and space.. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance 47 (8 …1
P Imants, J Theeuwes, AW Bronkhorst & MH Martens (2021) Effect of multiple traffic information sources on route choice: A driving simulator study. Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour 81, 1-13
L Wang, B Wang & J Theeuwes (2021) Across-trial spatial suppression in visual search. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 1-9
F van der Horst, J Snell & J Theeuwes (2021) Enhancing banknote authentication by guiding attention to security features and prevalence expectancy. De Nederlandsche Bank Working Paper
C Huang, A Vilotijević, J Theeuwes & M Donk (2021) Proactive distractor suppression elicited by statistical regularities in visual search. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 1-103
Y Ivanov & J Theeuwes (2021) Distractor suppression leads to reduced flanker interference. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics 83 (2), 624-636
J Munneke, JJ Fahrenfort, D Sutterer, J Theeuwes & E Awh (2021) Multivariate analysis of EEG activity indexes contingent attentional capture. NeuroImage 226, 1175621
SJ Luck, N Gaspelin, CL Folk, RW Remington & J Theeuwes (2021) Progress toward resolving the attentional capture debate. Visual Cognition 29 (1), 1-2121
P Imants, J Theeuwes, AW Bronkhorst & MH Martens (2021) Psychology and Behaviour. Transportation Research Part F 81, 1-13
D Gong & J Theeuwes (2021) A saliency-specific and dimension-independent mechanism of distractor suppression. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics 83 (1), 292-3071
R Lin, X Li, B Wang & J Theeuwes (2021) Spatial suppression due to statistical learning tracks the estimated spatial probability. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics 83 (1), 283-2914
F van der Horst, J Snell & J Theeuwes (2020) Finding counterfeited banknotes: the roles of vision and touch. Cognitive research: principles and implications 5 (1), 1-144
Y Gao & J Theeuwes (2020) Independent effects of statistical learning and top-down attention. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics 82 (8), 3895-39062
C Huang, J Theeuwes & M Donk (2020) Statistical learning affects the time courses of salience-driven and goal-driven selection.. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance3
B Wang & J Theeuwes (2020) Salience determines attentional orienting in visual selection.. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance 46 (10 …14
D Duncan & J Theeuwes (2020) Statistical learning in the absence of explicit top-down attention. Cortex 131, 54-656
M Le Pelley, P Watson, J Theeuwes & S Most (2020) Reward learning and statistical learning independently influence attentional priority of salient distractors in visual search. PsyArXiv1
J Theeuwes & M Failing (2020) Attentional Selection: Top-Down, Bottom-Up and History-Based Biases. Elements in Perception6
J Snell & J Theeuwes (2020) A story about statistical learning in a story: Regularities impact eye movements during book reading. Journal of Memory and Language 113, 1041275

View full list of publications on Google Scholar