Assistant professor

Sander Los

Assistant professor

Phone: +31 (0) 20 598 8796
Room: 1B-79


After attaining my master’s degree in experimental psychology at the VU in 1988, I spent 16 months at the TNO institute of applied science in Soesterberg, where I was involved in research financed by the Dutch ministry of defense. I returned to the VU in 1990 and attained my PhD degree in 1994 under supervision of prof. dr. Andries Sanders. My thesis was titled: “on the origin of mixing costs: exploring information processing in pure and mixed blocks of trials”, which was later published in Acta Psychologica (Los, 1996). I continued my career at the VU, first as a post doc and later as an assistant professor. During this period, my research focus has been on human timing processes (see Research Interests below). I am also actively involved as a teacher of several courses in the bachelor’s program (B1_CognitivePsychology and B3_ResearachMethods) and the research master’s program Cognitive Neuropsychology (Practical skills for researchers).

Research interests

Timing is crucial in many everyday activities, such as driving a car or catching a ball. How do we learn the temporal contingencies among events? I have studied this question in reaction time experiments by varying the foreperiod between a warning and target stimulus. It is well known that both the duration and distribution of foreperiods have strong effects on mean reaction time. My old trace conditioning model explains these effects by assuming trial by trial adjustments of a conditioned state. However, this model turned out to be “nearsighted” as it cannot explain temporal effects stemming from the more distant past. To repair this shortcoming, my colleagues and I (Los et al., 2014) have recently proposed a multiple trace theory, which assumes that each timing experience of both the recent and more distant past contributes to current timing. We are currently testing this theory. In addition to the role of learning in human timing, I am also interested in the time course of the preparatory process that develops during the foreperiod. Here I have coined the idea of “effective preparation period”, asking when preparation starts and when it ends. Recent findings strongly suggest that preparation starts sometime after the onset of the warning stimulus and continues for a while after the onset of the target (Los & van der Burg, 2013).


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