Professor Joel Pearson

Professor Joel Pearson

Professor Joel Pearson

Professor, Director Future Minds Lab, NHMRC fellow, MindX

BFA (Fine Arts), 1999, UNSW College of Fine Arts, Sydney
BA (Psych.), 2003, Macquarie University, Australia
Hon (1st), 2004, The University of Sydney
Ph.D., 2007, The University of Sydney

2007, Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, Vanderbilt University, Nashville TN Department of Psychology

2007-2009,CJ Martin Fellow, (co-appointment) Vanderbilt and Sydney Universities, Departments of Psychology


Contact details

Phone: (02) 9385 3969
Email: Professor Joel Pearson

Office: Future Minds Lab, Lvl 16 Mathews Building

Research Summary

Research Areas: Joel Pearson studies Cognitive Neuroscience, specifically the mechanisms and application of mental imagery, hallucinations, decision-making, the science of intution, memory, metacognition, visual perception, learning, attention, awareness innovation and entrepreneurship, by using behavioural, human brain imaging and brain stimulation techniques.

Joel is the founder and director of the UNSW Futrure Minds Lab. A hands on empirical lab that develops new methods to scientifically study all related aspects of innovation using Psychology and Neuroscience. Many of the qualities or skills thought to be important for innovation: intuition, creativity, resilience, thinking outside the box etc. rely on subjective self-report questionnaires or are considered beyond the scope of science FM lab is changing all that!


Koenig-Robert, R. & Pearson, J. (2020). Decoding non-conscious thought representations during successful thought suppression. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.

Pearson, J. (2020). Reply to: Assessing the causal role of early visual areas in visual mental imagery. Nature Reviews Neuroscience.

Koenig-Robert, R. & Pearson, J. (In Press). Why do imagery and perception look and feel so different? Philosophical Transactions B.

Dawes, A., J., Keogh, R., Andrillon, T., & Pearson, J. (2020). A cognitive profile of multi-sensory imagery, memory and dreaming in aphantasia. Scientific Reports.

Keogh, R., Bergmann, J., & Pearson, J. (2020). Cortical excitability controls the strength of mental imagery. ELife.

Martin, A. Ginns, P., Burns, E.C., Kennett, R., & Pearson, J. (In press). Load Reduction Instruction in Science and Students’ Science Engagement and Science Achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology.

Chang, S. & Pearson J. (2019). The Functional effects of voluntary and involuntary visual phantom color on conscious awareness. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

Martin, A.J., Malmberg, L-E., Kennett, R., Mansour, M., Papworth, B., & Pearson, J. (2019). What happens when students reflect on their self-efficacy during a test? Exploring test experience and test outcome in science. Learning and Individual Differences. 

Pearson J. (2019). The Human Imagination: The cognitive neuroscience of visual mental imagery. Nature Reviews Neuroscience.

Koenig-Robert, R., & Pearson, J. (2019). Decoding the contents and strength of imagery before volitional engagement. Scientific Reports

Kwok, E. L.*, Leys, G.*, Koenig-Robert, R & Pearson, J. (Accepted). Measuring Thought Control Failure: Sensory Mechanisms and Individual Differences. Psychological Science.

Pearson, J. & Keogh, R. (2019). Redefining visual working memory: A cognitive strategy, brain region approach. Current Directions in Psychological Science.

Chiou, R., Rich, A. N., Rogers, S. & Pearson, J. (2018). Exploring the nature of synaesthetic experience: dissociations from colour perception and imagery. Cognition.

Keogh, R., & Pearson, J. (2017). The blind mind: No sensory imagery in aphantasia. Cortex.

 Chang, S., & Pearson, J. (2017). The functional effects of prior motion imagery and motion perception. Cortex.

Vlassova, A. & Pearson, J. (2017). Unconscious decisional learning improves unconscious information processing. Cognition.

Keogh, R., & Pearson, J. (2017). The perceptual and phenomenal capacity of mental imagery. Cognition.

Atasoy, S., Deco, G. Kringelbach, M. L. & Pearson, J. (2017). Harmonic brain modes: a unifying framework for linking space and time in brain dynamics. The Neuroscientist.

Keogh, R., Bergmann, J., & Pearson, J. (2016). Cortical excitability controls the strength of mental imagery. bioRxiv.

Koenig-Robert, R., & Pearson, J. (2016). Decoding the nonconscious dynamics of thought generation. bioRxiv.

Pearson, J., Chiou, R., Rogers, R., Wicken, M., Heitmann, S., & Ermentrout, B. (2016). Sensory dynamics of visual hallucinations in the normal population. eLife 2016;5:e17072 [Business Insider] [LiveScience] [Science alert] [Daily Mail] - watch Joel Pearson talking about this research here.

Payzan-LeNestour, E., Balleine, B. Berrada,T & Pearson, J. (2016). Variance after-effects distort risk perception in humans. Current Biology.

Lulfityanto, G., Donkin, C. & Pearson, J. (2016). Measuring Intuition: Non-conscious Emotional Information Boosts Decision Accuracy and Confidence. Psychological Science.

Atasoy, S. Donnelly, I. & Pearson, J.(2016). Human brain networks function in connectome specific harmonic waves. Nature Communications.

Bergmann, J., Pilatus, U., Genç, E., Kohler, A., Singer, W. & Pearson, J. (2015). V1 surface size predicts GABA concentration in medial occipital cortex. NeuroImage.

Pearson, J., Naselaris, T., Holmes E.A., & Kosslyn S. M., (2015). Mental imagery: Functional mechanisms and clinical applications. Trends in Cognitive Sciences.

Bergmann, J., Genç, E., Kohler, A., Singer, W. & Pearson, J. (2015).  Smaller primary visual cortex is associated with stronger, but less precise mental imagery. Cerebral Cortex. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhv186

Pearson, J. & Kosslyn S.M. (2015). The Heterogeneity of Mental Representation: Ending the Imagery Debate. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Dieter, K.C., Tadin, D. & Pearson, J. (2015). Motion-induced blindness continues outside visual awareness and without attention. Scientific Reports.5, 11841.

Pearson, J & Westbrook, F. (2015). Phantom perception: voluntary and involuntary non-retinal vision. Trends in Cognitive Sciences. 19(5), 278–284. 

Wassell, J. Rogers, S. Felmingam, K.L. Bryant, R.A. & Pearson, J. (2015). Sex hormones predict the sensory strength and vividness of mental imagery. Biological Psychology. 107, 61–68.

Shine J., Keogh, R., O’Callaghan, C. Muller, A., Lewis, S. Pearson, J. (2014). Imagine that: Elevated sensory mental imagery in individuals with Parkinson’s disease and visual hallucinations. Proceedings of Royal Society: B. 282: 20142047.

Vlassova, A., Donkin, C. & Pearson, J. (2014). Unconscious information changes decision accuracy but not confidence. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Wassell, J. Rogers, S. Felmingam, K.L. Pearson, J. & Bryant, R.A. (2014). Progesterone and Mental Imagery Interactively Predict Emotional Memories. Psychoneuroendocrinology.

Keogh, R. & Pearson, J. (2014). The sensory strength of voluntary visual imagery predicts visual working memory capacity. Journal of Vision. 14 (12):7, 1-13.

Bergmann, J., Genç, E., Kohler, A., Singer, W.A.  & Pearson, J. (2014).Neural anatomy of primary visual cortex limits individual visual working memory. Cerebral Cortex.

Pearson, J. (2014). New directions in mental imagery research: the binocular rivalry technique and decoding fMRI patterns. Current Directions in Psychological Science. 23(3), 178-183.

De Zilva*, D., Vu*,L., Newell, B.R. & Pearson, J. (2013). Exposure is not enough: Suppressing stimuli from awareness can abolish the mere exposure effect.PloS One.

Chang, S. Lewis,D.E. & Pearson, J. (2013). The Functional Effects of Colour Perception and Colour Imagery. Journal of Vision.13(10):4,1-10.

Vlassova, A. & Pearson, J. (2013). Look before you leap: sensory memory improves decision-making. Psychological Science. 24(9), 1635-1643.

Lewis, D. O’reilly, M, Khuu, S. & Pearson, J. (2013). Conditioning the mind’s eye: Associative learning with voluntary mental imagery. Clinical Psychological Science. 1(4) 390-400.Lewis, D.E., Pearson J., Khuu S.K. (2013) The Color “Fruit”: Object Memories Defined by Color. PLoS ONE 8(5): e64960

Pearson J., & Kosslyn, S.M.  (2013). Mental Imagery. Frontiers Perception science and Frontiers In Neuroscience. 4:198.

Bradley, C. & Pearson, J. (2012). The sensory components of high-capacity iconic memory and visual working memory. Front. Psychology3:355.

Ashley, S. & Pearson, J. (2012). When more equals less: overtraining inhibits perceptual learning owing to lack of wakeful consolidation. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. Sydney Morning Herald press                  

Rademaker, R. & Pearson, J. (2012). Training visual imagery: Improvements of metacognition, but not imagery strength. Frontiers in Perception Science.       

Pearson J. (2012). Associative learning: Pavlovian conditioning without awareness. Current Biology, 22(12), R495-R496.                                                              

Keogh R., Pearson J. (2011). Mental imagery and visual working memory. PLoS ONE, 6(12).                                                                            

Pearson J., Rademaker R.L., Tong F. (2011). Evaluating the mind's eye: The metacognition of visual imagery. Psychological Science, 22(12), 1535-1542. doi:10.1177/0956797611417134

Knapen T., Brascamp J., Pearson J., van Ee R., Blake R. (2011). The role of frontal and parietal brain areas in bistable perception. Journal of Neuroscience, 31(28), 10293-10301. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1727-11.2011

Sherwood R., Pearson J. (2010). Closing the mind's eye: Incoming luminance signals disrupt visual imagery. PLoS ONE, 5(12), art. no. e15217. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0015217

Pearson J. (2010). Inner vision: Seeing the mind's eye. Psyche, 16(1), 1-8.

Ling S., Pearson J., Blake R. (2009). Dissociation of Neural Mechanisms Underlying Orientation Processing in Humans. Current Biology, 19(17), 1458-1462. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2009.06.069

Brascamp J.W., Pearson J., Blake R., van den Berg A.V. (2009). Intermittent ambiguous stimuli: Implicit memory causes periodic perceptual alternations. Journal of Vision, 9(3). doi:10.1167/9.3.3

Pearson J., Brascamp J. (2008). Sensory memory for ambiguous vision. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 12(9), 334-341. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2008.05.006

Pearson J., Clifford C.W.G., Tong F. (2008). The Functional Impact of Mental Imagery on Conscious Perception. Current Biology, 18(13), 982-986. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2008.05.048

Pearson J., Tadin D., Blake R. (2007). The effects of transcranial magnetic stimulation on visual rivalry. Journal of Vision, 7(7). doi:10.1167/7.7.2

Tong, F. & Pearson, J. (2007). Vision. In B. Baars (Ed.) Cognition, Brain and Consciousness. Elsevier press.

Pearson J., Clifford C.W.G. (2005). Suppressed patterns alter vision during binocular rivalry. Current Biology, 15(23), 2142-2148. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2005.10.066

Pearson J., Clifford C.W.G. (2005). When your brain decides what you see: Grouping across monocular, binocular, and stimulus rivalry. Psychological Science, 16(7), 516-519. doi:10.1111/j.0956-7976.2005.01566.x

Pearson J., Clifford C.W.G. (2005). Mechanisms selectively engaged in rivalry: Normal vision habituates, rivalrous vision primes. Vision Research, 45(6), 707-714. doi:10.1016/j.visres.2004.09.040

Watson, T.L. Pearson, J. & Clifford, C. W. G. (2004). Perceptual grouping of biological motion promotes binocular rivalry. Current Biology. 14, 1670-1674.

Clifford, C.W.G., Holcombe, A. & Pearson, J. (2004). Dynamics of binding Global form. Journal of Vision. 4(12), 1090-1101,, doi:10.1167/4.12.8.

Pearson, J. & Clifford C.W.G. (2004). Determinants of visual awareness following interruptions during rivalry. Journal of Vision, 4(3), 196-202,, doi:10.1167/4.3.6.

Clifford, C.W.G., Spehar, B. & Pearson, J. (2004). Motion Transparency Promotes Synchronous Perceptual Binding. Vision Research. 44, 3073-3080.

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