Martin Thirkettle

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Dr Martin Thirkettle

Lecturer in Psychology


As a lecturer, I split my time between teaching and research. I teach on a number of cognitive psychology and research methods modules. My research focuses on cognitive behavioural neuroscience and, broadly, my research interests lie in the way visual information is perceived and then used in cognitive mechanisms to produce behaviour.


After receiving my BA in Psychology from the University of Sussex in 2004, I completed my PhD in 2010 at the University of Bristol. In my PhD I used psychophysics to investigate the visual perception of biological motion - the movement of other people as opposed to that of inanimate objects.

After my PhD I moved to the University of Sheffield where I was a Postdoctoral Research Associate. Here, I employed the experimental methods and stimulus control of psychophysics to allow behavioural responses to test neuroanatomical hypotheses about the contribution of various brain structures to action-outcome learning.

Following this I spent four years at The Open University as a lecturer in the Psychology department, focussing on undergraduate and postgraduate cognitive psychology modules. During this time I became interested in moving my research out of the lab and using online tools or mobile phone apps to study cognitive performance, both in large cohorts and in expert groups.

I joined Sheffield Hallam University in February 2017.


  • Visual Perception
  • Cognition


Department of Psychology, Sociology and Politics

College of Social Sciences and Arts


Journal articles

Havard, C., Breese, E., Thirkettle, M., Kask, K., & Leol, K.-.L. (2023). A background of bias: subtle changes in line up backgrounds increase the own race bias. Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology.

Wilkinson, L.L., Rowe, A.C., Douglas, T., Thirkettle, M., & Nolan, L.J. (2022). Adult attachment anxiety is associated with night eating syndrome in UK and US-based samples: two cross-sectional studies. Appetite, 172, 105968.

Jones, B.C., DeBruine, L.M., Flake, J.K., Liuzza, M.T., Antfolk, J., Arinze, N.C., ... Coles, N.A. (2021). To which world regions does the valence–dominance model of social perception apply? Nature Human Behaviour.

Williams, L., Butler, J., Thirkettle, M., Stafford, T., Quinlivan, B., MacGovern, E., ... Hutchinson, M. (2020). Slowed luminance reaction times in cervical dystonia: disordered superior colliculus processing. Movement Disorders.

Thirkettle, M., Barker, L.-.M., Gallagher, T., Nayeb, N., & Aquili, L. (2019). Dissociable effects of tryptophan supplementation on negative feedback sensitivity and reversal learning. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 13, 127.

Thirkettle, M., Thyoka, M., Fernandes, N., Gopalan, P., Stafford, T., & Offiah, A. (2019). Internet-based measurement of visual assessment skill of trainee radiologists: developing a sensitive tool. The British journal of radiology, 92 (1097), 20180958.

Havard, C., Richter, S., & Thirkettle, M. (2019). Effects of changes in background colour on the identification of own- and other-race faces. i-Perception, 10 (2), 204166951984353.

Thirkettle, M., Lewis, J., Langdridge, D., & Pike, G. (2018). A Mobile App Delivering a Gamified Battery of Cognitive TestsDesigned for Repeated Play (OU Brainwave): App Design andCohort Study. JMIR Serious Games, 6 (4).

Thirkettle, M., Lewis, J., Langdridge, D., & Pike, G. (2018). A Mobile App Delivering a Gamified Battery of Cognitive Tests Designed for Repeated Play (OU Brainwave): App Design and Cohort Study. JMIR Serious Games, 6 (4).

Benton, C.P., Thirkettle, M., & Scott-Samuel, N.E. (2016). Biological movement and the encoding of its motion and orientation. Scientific Reports, 6, 22393.

Walton, T., Thirkettle, M., Redgrave, P., Gurney, K.N., & Stafford, T. (2013). The discovery of novel actions is affected by very brief reinforcement delays and reinforcement modality. Journal of motor behavior, 45 (4), 351-360.

Thirkettle, M., Walton, T., Redgrave, P., Gurney, K., & Stafford, T. (2013). No learning where to go without first knowing where you're coming from: action discovery is trajectory, not endpoint based. Frontiers in Psychology, 4, 638.

Thirkettle, M., Walton, T., Shah, A., Gurney, K., Redgrave, P., & Stafford, T. (2013). The path to learning: action acquisition is impaired when visual reinforcement signals must first access cortex. Behavioural brain research, 243, 267-272.

Stafford, T., Thirkettle, M., Walton, T., Vautrelle, N., Hetherington, L., Port, M., ... Redgrave, P. (2012). A novel task for the investigation of action acquisition. PLoS ONE, 7 (6), e37749.

Thirkettle, M., Scott-Samuel, N.E., & Benton, C.P. (2010). Form overshadows 'opponent motion' information in processing of biological motion from point light walker stimuli. Vision Research, 50 (1), 118-126.

Thirkettle, M., Benton, C.P., & Scott-Samuel, N.E. (2009). Contributions of form, motion and task to biological motion perception. Journal of vision, 9 (3), 28.

Thirkettle, M. (2007). Foundations of perception. PERCEPTION, 36 (2), 318-320.

Conference papers

Thirkettle, M., Havard, C., & Richter, S. (2016). Variability of background colour in suspect line-ups and identification accuracy. In European Association of Psychology and Law 2016, University of Toulouse, Toulouse, 5 July 2016 - 8 July 2016.

Williams, L., Butler, J.S., Quinlivan, B., Molloy, A., McGovern, E., Beiser, I., ... Hutchinson, M. (2016). Impaired response times to luminance stimuli in dystonia patients indicate disordered superior colliculus processing. Movement Disorders, 31, S536.

Havard, C., Thirkettle, M., Barrett, D., & Ritcher, S. (2015). How does image background colour influence facial identification? PERCEPTION, 44, 282.

Thirkettle, M., Stafford, T., & Offiah, A. (2015). Internet Based Measurement of Visual Expertise in Radiological Skill. Perception, 44, 44-45.

Benton, C., Thirkettle, M., & Scott-Samuel, N. (2014). Biological movement and the encoding of approach. Journal of Vision, 14 (10).

Thirkettle, M., & Stafford, T. (2013). Linking total movement history to action learning. In Reinforcement Learning and Decision Making, 25 October 2013 - 27 October 2013.

Thirkettle, M., Redgrave, P., Gurney, K., Walton, T., Shah, A., & Stafford, T. (2012). Cortical masking and action learning. PERCEPTION, 41, 100.

Thirkettle, M., Scott-Samuel, N., & Benton, C. (2010). Form information in the perception of biological-motion heading. PERCEPTION, 39 (2), 281.

Thirkettle, M., Scott-Samuel, N.E., & Benton, C.P. (2009). Dances with Gabors: Contour integration and form in biological motion (Abstract Only). Journal of Vision, 9 (8).

Thirkettle, M., Benton, C.P., & Scott-Samuel, N.E. (2008). True to form: a reduced role for motion in biological motion. PERCEPTION, 37, 41.

Rojas-Anaya, H., Thirkettle, M., & Nijhawan, R. (2005). Flash-lag anisotropy for movement in three domains. PERCEPTION, 34, 219-220.

Wallis, G.M., & Bülthoff, H.H. (1997). Temporal Correlations in Presentation Order during Learning Affects Human Object Recognition. Perception, 26 (1_suppl), 33.

Book chapters

Redgrave, P., Gurney, K., Stafford, T., Thirkettle, M., & Lewis, J. (2013). The Role of the Basal Ganglia in Discovering Novel Actions. In Intrinsically Motivated Learning in Natural and Artificial Systems. (pp. 129-150). Springer Berlin Heidelberg:

Stafford, T., Walton, T., Hetherington, L., Thirkettle, M., Gurney, K., & Redgrave, P. (2013). A Novel Behavioural Task for Researching Intrinsic Motivations. In Intrinsically Motivated Learning in Natural and Artificial Systems. (pp. 395-410). Springer Berlin Heidelberg:


Raleva, G., Thirkettle, M., Gao, J., & Stafford, T. (2017). No contribution of object category information in perceptual thresholds : evidence from Candy Crush. Presented at: AVA Christmas Meeting, Queen Mary University of London, 2017

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