Dr Colin Palmer
Visiting Fellow

Dr Colin Palmer

School of Psychology

Postdoctoral Fellow

ARC DECRA Fellowship, 2019–2021

Postdoctoral Researcher, UNSW, 2016–2019

Ph.D., Monash University, 2016

Bachelor of Behavioural Neuroscience (Honours), Monash University, 2009

Contact: colin.palmer@unsw.edu.au

Research Summary

I study visual perception, with a focus on how the brain processes the social features of our sensory environment, like the eyes, faces, and behaviours of the people around us. I study this using visual psychophysics together with methods that include computational modelling and 3D graphical rendering. An aim of this research is to build upon our knowledge of how the visual system extracts the most basic elements of our environment (e.g., colour, shape, and motion) and develop a similarly mechanistic understanding of how our experience of the social world arises from the activity of our nervous system.

I am funded by the Australian Research Council, working on a project that seeks to understand the perceptual and neural mechanisms that underlie our sensitivity to dynamic cues to social attention (e.g., eye and head movements). I lead another ARC project together with Professor Colin Clifford, which focusses on the detection of animacy in human vision, such as the question of what characterises 'lifelike' or ‘humanlike’ patterns of motion. A clinical application of this research is to understand how systematic differences in the way that the brain deals with sensory information contribute to both sensory and social difficulties in conditions like autism and schizophrenia, which I pursue together with collaborators in the UK and Australia.

Previously, I worked as a postdoctoral researcher in Professor Colin Clifford’s lab at UNSW, focussing on the neural and sensory mechanisms underlying our perception of other people’s gaze direction. I completed an interdisciplinary Ph.D. at the Cognition and Philosophy Lab at Monash University, supervised by Professors Jakob Hohwy and Peter Enticott. My doctoral research concerned how general neurocognitive models of sensory processing in the brain (e.g., Bayesian and predictive coding models) shed light on the differences in sensory integration and social cognition that can occur in autism.

Research Areas: social vision, sensory processing, face perception, computational psychiatry, autism.


PSYC 3221 Vision and Brain (2019–present) 

Available to supervise research students.

Journal Articles:

Palmer, CJ, Bracken, SG, Otsuka, Y, Clifford, CWG. (2022). Is there a ‘zone of eye contact’ within the borders of the face? Cognition, 220, 104981.

Han, S, Alais, D, Palmer, CJ. (2021). Dynamic face mask enhances continuous flash suppression. Cognition, 206, 104473.  

Palmer, CJ, Otsuka, Y, Clifford, CWG. (2020). A sparkle in the eye: Illumination cues and lightness constancy in the perception of eye contact. Cognition, 205, 104419.
Deschrijver, E., & Palmer, CJ. (2020). Reframing social cognition: Relational versus representational mentalising. Psychological Bulletin, 146(11), 941-969.  

Palmer, CJ, & Clifford, CWG. (2020). Face pareidolia recruits mechanisms for detecting human social attention. Psychological Science, 31(8), 1001-1012.

Palmer, CJ*, Caruana, N*, Clifford, CWG, Seymour, K. (2018). Adaptive sensory coding of gaze direction in schizophreniaRoyal Society Open Science. *Joint authorship.

Palmer, CJ*, Caruana, N*, Clifford, CWG, Seymour, K. (2018). Perceptual integration of head and eye cues to gaze direction in schizophreniaRoyal Society Open Science. *Joint authorship.

Clifford, CWG, & Palmer, CJ. (2018). Adaptation to the direction of others’ gaze: a reviewFrontiers in Psychology, 9:2165.

Palmer, CJ, Lawson, RP, Clifford, CWG, & Rees, G. (2018). Establishing the scope of the divisive normalisation theory of autism: A reply to Rosenberg and SunkaraCortex.

Ding, C, Palmer, CJ, Hohwy, J, Youssef, G, Paton, B, Tsuchiya, N, Stout, J, & Thyagarajan, D. (2018). Deep brain stimulation for Parkinson’s disease changes perception in the rubber hand illusionScientific Reports, 8:13842.

Palmer, CJ, & Clifford, CWG. (2018). Adaptation to other people’s eye gaze reflects habituation of high-level perceptual representationsCognition, 180, 82–90.

Palmer, CJ*, Lawson, RP*, Shankar, S, Clifford, CWG, & Rees, G. (2018). Autistic adults show preserved normalisation of sensory responses in gaze processingCortex, 103, 13–23. *Joint authorship.

Alais, D, Kong, G, Palmer, CJ, & Clifford, CWG. (2018). Eye gaze direction shows a positive serial dependencyJournal of Vision, 18(4):11, 1–12.

Nguyen, ATT, Palmer, CJ, Otsuka, Y, Clifford, CWG. (2018). Biases in perceiving gaze vergenceJournal of Experimental Psychology: General, 147(8), 1125–1133.

Palmer, CJ, & Clifford, CWG. (2017). The visual system encodes others’ direction of gaze in a first-person frame of referenceCognition, 168, 256-266.

Palmer, CJ, & Clifford, CWG. (2017). Perceived object trajectory is influenced by others' tracking movementsCurrent Biology, 27, 2169–2176.

Palmer, CJ, & Clifford, CWG. (2017). Functional mechanisms encoding others’ direction of gaze in the human nervous systemJournal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 29(10):1725-1738.

Ding, C, Palmer, CJ, Hohwy, J, Youssef, GJ, Paton, P, Tsuchiya, N, Stout, J, Thyagarajan, D. (2017). Parkinson’s disease alters multisensory perception: insights from the Rubber Hand IllusionNeuropsychologia, 97, 38–45.

Palmer, CJ, Lawson, RP, Hohwy, J. (2017). Bayesian approaches to autism: towards volatility, action, and behaviourPsychological Bulletin, 143(5), 521–542.

Hohwy, J, Paton, B, Palmer, CJ. (2016). Distrusting the Present. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 15, 315–335.

Palmer, CJ, Paton, B, Kirkovski, M, Enticott, PG, Hohwy, J. (2015). Context sensitivity in action decreases along the autism spectrum: a predictive processing perspective. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 282(1802).

Palmer, CJ, Seth, A, Hohwy, J. (2015). The felt presence of other minds: predictive processing, counterfactual predictions, and mentalising in autismConsciousness & Cognition, 36, 376–389.

Palmer, CJ, Paton, B, Enticott, P, Hohwy, J. (2015). ‘Subtypes’ in the presentation of autistic traits in the general adult population. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 45(5), 1291–1301.

Palmer, CJ, Paton, B, Hohwy, J, Enticott, P. (2013). Movement under uncertainty: The effects of the rubber-hand illusion vary along the nonclinical autism spectrum. Neuropsychologia, 51(10), 1942–1951.

Palmer, CJ, Paton, B, Barclay, L, Hohwy, J. (2013). Equality, efficiency, and sufficiency: Responding to multiple parameters of distributive justice during charitable distribution. The Review of Philosophy and Psychology, 4(4), 659–674.

Palmer, CJ, Paton, B, Ngo, TT, Thomson, RH, Hohwy, J, Miller, SM. (2013). Individual differences in moral behavior: A role for response to risk and uncertainty? Neuroethics, 6(1), 97–103.

Palmer CJ, Ellis KA, O’Neill, BV, Croft, RJ, Leung, S, Oliver, C, Wesnes, KA, Nathan, PJ. (2008). The cognitive effects of modulating the glycine site of the NMDA receptor with high-dose glycine in healthy controls. Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental, 23(2), 151–159.

Book Chapters:

Hohwy, J, Palmer, CJ. (2014). Social cognition as causal inference: Implications for common knowledge and autism. In Mattia Gallotti and John Michael (Eds.), Perspectives on Social Ontology and Social Cognition. Springer


ARC Discovery Project, 2020-2022. CJ Palmer & CWG Clifford. Extracting meaning from motion. $492,000.

ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award, 2019-2021. Human sensitivity to the dynamics of other people's eye movements. $356,000.

Experimental Psychology Society, Study Visit Grant, 2017. Testing computational theories of autism spectrum disorder in the social domain. £2,580.


Emerging Investigator Award, Australasian Cognitive Neuroscience Society, 2017

Postdoctoral presentation award, Australasian Cognitive Neuroscience Society, 2016

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