Congratulations to Dr. Effie Pereira, Waterloo’s 2022 Banting Postdoctoral Researcher, announced this week by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada and the Tri-Council funding bodies. Pereira is a cognitive scientist whose current research examines changing states of attention and its relation to cognitive performance and functioning.
Now her two-year Banting research program is measuring and identifying individual patterns of attention as a new way to predict behaviour. “Our minds are never considered to be at rest,” explains Pereira. “Whether we are waiting in line at a grocery store or conversing with a friend at a café, our thoughts can shift and oscillate from our current activity to our future plans with relative ease. These changing states of attention, which range from present-minded attentive states to internally-focused mind wandering states, play a vital role in performance and functioning across all activities within our daily lives.”
Focusing on an understudied area of cognitive science, she is looking at how shifts in attention between attentive and mind wandering states impacts real-world behaviour.
“My recent work has uncovered that individuals differ vastly from one to another in how their attention shifts. Some people continuously and rapidly shift between attentive and wandering states, while others have long periods of each. And interestingly, these shifts are relatively stable for each individual, meaning that there is a predictability to these patterns.”
As a Banting Postdoctoral Researcher, Pereira will investigate how unique fluctuating patterns between attentive and mind wandering states lead to individual differences in cognitive performance and functioning. “The Banting Fellowship will allow me to uncover the degree to which these individual patterns of attention are rigid or flexible across situations, whether these patterns differ within the real world, and how these patterns are represented within the brain.”
The long-term goal of Pereira’s work is to uncover the key components that drive human behaviour, a goal which has far-reaching implications within educational, service-related, and safety-critical environments. “There is no better scientific setting for me to pursue this cutting-edge work than with Dr. Daniel Smilek and his laboratory group in the Department of Psychology at Waterloo," she says. "My access to a network of top-tier researchers and collaborators, industrial partnerships, and computational infrastructure made Waterloo the clear choice for me to continue my postdoctoral career and extend the impact of my work across disciplines." To learn more, visit Dr. Pereira's research website.