About me

In January 2021, I'll be starting as an Assistant Professor in the Psychology Department at the University of Toronto, Mississauga where I'll be running the Applied Perception and Psychophysics Laboratory with Dr Anna Kosovicheva.

My research interests are broadly use-inspired vision science: recently, I've been interested in what information drivers need to be safe on the road (and what information self-driving cars need to know about their drivers), how we can make text on screens (like this webpage, or a PDF) more readable, how we plan eye movements in dynamic natural scenes and how we use peripheral vision.

Are you interested in how to apply vision science to problems in the world and are thinking about graduate school? Please get in touch - I'm recruiting graduate students to start in Fall, 2021.

Until the end of 2020, I'm a senior postdoctoral associate at MIT in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences in Ruth Rosenholtz's lab. I'm also affiliated with MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab. I received my Ph.D. in Psychology in 2015 from UC Berkeley, and was advised by David Whitney.


Download CV (pdf)
Google Scholar profile

Ben Wolfe Photo

Research

How can driving teach us about vision?

Driving is inherently visual, but what do drivers need to know about the road to stay safe and keep everyone around them safe? Are they aware of changes across the visual field, or just from a tunnel around where they're looking? What happens when they're distracted by their smartphone? How quickly can they understand what has changed in the scene (and notice the moose that just walked into the road)? How well do they represent the richness of their environment, and how do they acquire the information they need before the world (or the moose) catches up to them?
Countryside
Intersection with shop

Eye Movements and Perception

We make saccades (directed eye movements) several times a second; why? Sometimes, it's to overcome the limits of peripheral vision (e.g., when objects in the periphery are crowded and unidentifiable). But we don't notice these shifts of viewpoint much; how do we stitch our percpetual world together into something stable? We use information from peripheral vision acquired before we move our eyes and use it to achieve stability. How, then, do we use eye movements in real-world settings, when we're moving through the world?

Visual Perception and Aging

Our visual systems change as we age (it's inevitable), so how does that impact how we perceive the visual world? Older readers have a harder time with distorted or degraded text, and with some fonts on road signs. Older drivers also have a harder time noticing dangerous changes (like a moose running into the road), which makes understanding perception across the lifespan critical for translating vision science out of the lab and into the world.
Eye closeup
Eye closeup

Peripheral Vision

It's easy to focus on just where we're looking in a scene or a laboratory experiment, but that's only a tiny fraction of the retina. Peripheral vision, the rest of our visual field, is immensely important if we are to understand how we use vision in the world. We use it to understand groups (like a classroom of students) faster than we can look at each individual. We use it to monitor the road, even when we're focused on something else. It's essential to plan eye movements and to alleviate crowding. It's seldom considered in driving, but is probably key to how drivers acquire the information they need.

Publications

Towards a theory of visual information acquisition in driving
Wolfe, B., Sawyer, B.D., Rosenholtz, R.
Human Factors (2020)  • pdf
Glanceable, legible typography over complex backgrounds
Sawyer, B.D., Wolfe, B., Dobres, J., Chahine, N., Reimer, B.
Ergonomics (2020)  • pdf
Rapid Holistic Perception and Evasion of Road Hazards
Wolfe, B., Seppelt, B.D., Mehler, B., Reimer, B., Rosenholtz, R.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General (2019)  • pdf
Road Hazard Stimuli (described in the JEP:General paper) • Available on OSF
Detection of Brake Lights While Distracted: Separating Peripheral Vision from Cognitive Load
Wolfe, B., Sawyer, B.D., Kosovicheva, A., Reimer, B., Rosenholtz, R.
Attention, Perception and Psychophysics (2019)  • pdf
Predicting road scenes from brief views of driving video.
Wolfe, B., Fridman, L., Kosovicheva, A., Seppelt, B., Mehler, B., Reimer, B., Rosenholtz, R.
Journal of Vision (2019)  • pdf
The effects of visual crowding, text size, and positional uncertainty on text legibility at a glance.
Dobres, J., Wolfe, B. A., Chahine, N., Reimer, B.
Applied Ergonomics (2018)  • pdf
Unifying visual space across the right and left hemifields.
Chen, Z.*, Kosovicheva, A.*, Wolfe, B. A., Cavanagh, P., Gorea, A., & Whitney, D.
Psychological Science (2018)  • pdf
More Than the Useful Field: Considering Peripheral Vision in Driving.
Wolfe, B.A., Dobres, J., Rosenholtz, R., & Reimer, B..
Applied Ergonomics (2017) • pdf
Perceiving The Roadway In The Blink Of An Eye – Rapid Perception Of The Road Environment And Prediction Of Events.
Wolfe, B., Fridman, L., Kosovicheva, A., Seppelt, B., Mehler, B., Reimer, B.
Driving Assessment (2017) • pdf
Signs of the Times: An Empirical Assessment of the Legibility of Highway Gothic and Clearview Signage Fonts.
Dobres, J., Chrysler, S. T., Wolfe, B., Chahine, N., & Reimer, B.
Transportation Research Board (2017) • pdf
Age-related differences in the legibility of degraded text.
Wolfe, B., Dobres, J., Kosovicheva, A., Rosenholtz, R., & Reimer, B.
Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications (2016) • pdf
Foveal input is not required for ensemble perception of emotional faces.
Wolfe, B. A., Kosovicheva, A. A., Yamanashi Leib, A., Wood, K. & Whitney, D.
Journal of Vision (2015) • pdf
Saccadic remapping of object-selective information.
Wolfe, B. A., Whitney, D.
Attention, Perception and Psychophysics (2015) • pdf
Facilitating recognition of crowded faces with presaccadic attention.
Wolfe, B. A., Whitney, D.
Frontiers in Human Neuroscience (2014) • pdf
Visual motion shifts saccade targets.
Kosovicheva, A. A., Wolfe, B. A., & Whitney, D.
Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics (2014) • pdf
Coping With Spatial Attention in Real Space: A Low-Cost Portable Testing System for the Investigation of Visuo-Spatial Processing in the Human Brain.
Wolfe, B.A., Rushmore, R.J., Valero-Cabre, A..
Journal of Neuroscience Methods (2010)  • pdf
Multiscale pattern analysis of orientation-selective activity in the primary visual cortex.
Swisher, J.D., Gatenby, J.C., Gore, J.C., Wolfe, B.A., Moon, C.H., Kim, S.G. Tong., F..
Journal of Neuroscience (2010)  • pdf
Note: The pdf reprints are protected by copyright laws, and are available only for personal, research use. Any other use is prohibited.

Press

"Reacting to road hazards."
MIT News (August 7, 2019).

Referencing Holistic detection and evasion of road hazards
(Wolfe, Seppelt, Mehler, Reimer and Rosenholtz, 2019).

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