The Cognitive Control Lab

Dr. Ben Parris

Research interests

A quick aside: The Stroop task

Most of the projects described below utilise one of the most robust and commonly used paradigms in psychological research: The Stroop task (Stroop, 1935). If you are not familiar with this task and/or would like more information about why it is my paradigm of choice please click here.

The formation, content and maintenance of goal representations

Stroop interference and hypnotic suggestibility (with Professor Zoltan Dienes)

The Prefrontal Cortex and varieties of suggestion (with Professor Zoltan Dienes and Professor Irving Kirsch)

Suggestion has been defined as a form of communicable ideation or belief, that once accepted has the capacity to exert profound changes on a person’s mood, thoughts, perceptions and behaviours (Halligan & Oakley, 2014). The prefrontal region (the region of the frontal cortex anterior to the motor areas) of the human cerebral cortex appears to play an important role in suggestion (Asp et al., 2012). Whilst suggestion has been studied as an independent phenomenon in the contexts of hypnosis, placebo and forensic interrogation there has recently been a call to consider suggestion more generally to better understand these related phenomena. Suggestion is a very important part of human behaviour but has received relatively little attention in many contexts where is important. 

The role of the Prefrontal Cortex in cognition and behaviour

There are many theories about the role of the prefrontal region of the brain in cognition and behaviour. There are also theories about the functions of particular regions of the prefrontal cortex. For example, regions of the brain known as the anterior cingulate cortex and the dorselateral prefrontal cortex have been shown to be activated by tasks that require cognitive control.  Regions nearby these areas of the brain have been shown to be involved in the processing of rewarding stimuli such as chocolate and pleasant odours.  Since a goal often involves the desire to obtain a reward, the interactions of these brain regions are of significant interest to anyone wanting to understand goal-directed behaviour.  This area of research aims to further understand these interactions and to investigate neural regions involved in tasks requiring cognitive control in general.