About me

I'm a postdoc in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL), affiliated with the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I study visual perception, working with Ruth Rosenholtz, studying how we acquire visual information, particularly how we use peripheral vision and eye movements. Much of my postdoctoral work has used driving and driver behavior as a tool to understand vision. I received my Ph.D. in Psychology in 2015 from UC Berkeley, and was advised by David Whitney.

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Ben Wolfe Photo


Peripheral vision

Peripheral vision is the vast majority of vision (more than 99% of your field of view), but most of the time, we focus on where we're looking. What can you perceive from the rest of the visual field, and how do you use this peripheral information? I've shown that peripheral vision provides detailed information about groups, and is an underconsidered but critical element in safe driving, but isn't enough to keep you safe when distracted and looking away from the road.
Intersection with shop

Scene perception

The visual world which won't wait for our visual systems to catch up, so do we get the information we need? How quickly can we detect hazards on the road (like wandering moose)? We can also understand scenes well enough to predict future events with brief views, and are broadly very good at extracting what we need from the changing world and anticipating what is coming.

Eye movements

Peripheral vision and looking at scenes at a glance isn't enough to tell us everything we need to know about the world? How do we plan eye movements to acquire the detail we need, and find what we need to know? We make 2-4 directed eye movements (saccades) per second to bring objects we're interested in from the periphery to the fovea (the highest-resolution area of the retina). How do we plan these eye movements? How do we use peripheral information to inform where we need to look? I've shown that saccades improve identification of objects we can't identify and that object representations in the periphery are remapped prior to saccades.
Eye closeup
Eye closeup

Applied research

My research bridges basic and applied science, and is, essentially, use-inspired basic research: my goal is to look at problems in the world, like driving and legibility, and to use them to better understand vision as a whole. Much of this work has focused on driving, and asks questions about how visual perception impacts how drivers understand their environment and what is going on when they are distracted and looking away from the road. I've also studied age-related changes in the visual system and how they can be assessed and simulated for text legibility, and, in a driving-related area, the impact of using different typefaces on road signs.


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.


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

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