Dr. Pascal Haazebroek (PHD)
Cognitive Psychology
Faculty of Social Sciences
Wassenaarseweg 52
2333 AK Leiden
The Netherlands
Office 2.B14
Phone 071 - 5273654
Group homepage Cognitive Psychology
Affiliation LIBC
Profiles Linkedin

Research Interests

Computers and humans form the main ingredients of my research interests:

  • studying their interaction (Human Computer Interaction, User Experience)
  • understanding the human mind and brain using computers (Cognitive Modelling)
  • applying knowledge of the human mind in creating intelligent systems (Artificial Intelligence, Cognitive Robotics)
  • studying their combined potential (supporting / enhancing cognition using intelligent tools, opportunities and challenges of 'the virtual') both in the lab, and in real life.

Research Projects

In my PHD research I focused on the computational modelling of interaction between perception and action both in humans and robots. Traditionally, humans are thought to first perceive the world, then reason about it, and finally choose and execute an action to achieve their goals. These logical steps often form the basis of cognitive architectures that control robots. However, numerous empirical findings from experimental psychology suggest that this serial view is to simplistic: perception and action in humans not only occur simultaneously, they influence each other as well.

In my studies I aimed at gaining a deeper understanding of this interaction by creating computer models that approximate human behavior in a variety of experimental conditions.

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During my PHD project I have developed HiTEC, a cognitive model that is able to replicate typical experimental psychological phenomena such as stimulus-response compatibility, feature binding, active perception and decision making.

In my studies I used dynamic models of the environment and the agent. The agent is controlled by the HiTEC cognitive model which is constructed using PDP/Connectionist-like network methods. The focus in my simulations is on replicating empirical findings on the cognitive coding of perceptual and action-related features and their mutual interaction.

The (ultimate) practical goal for the cognitive model is to endow cognitive robots with means to control their action and perception in dynamic environments. Additionally, the model can be used in Human Computer Interaction as a human performance model for perceptual and action related tasks in real world and virtual environments.

My PHD research was part of a larger EU funded project, PACO-PLUS. PACO-PLUS aims at the design of a cognitive robot that is able to develop perceptual, behavioral and cognitive categories in a self-emergent and measurable way and communicate and share these with humans and other artificial agents. The main paradigm of PACO-PLUS was that Objects and Actions are inseparably intertwined and that categories are therefore determined (and also limited) by the action an agent can perform and by the attributes of the world it can perceive.

Visual Pop Out
We implemented a computational neurodynamical model of visual attention. In this model, the phenomenon of visual pop-out is replicated by explicitly modeling the ventral and dorsal processing pathways of the brain. At different levels, competition between elements in the visual scene drives the overall dynamics towards convergence. Different visual scenes (e.g., a varying number of distractors) show different courses of activation and response times similar to those found in empirical studies with humans. This suggests that the brain may - functionally - employ such a mechanism of attention.

HCI Claim Explorer
In this project we developed a web application that facilitates the process of usability evaluation. Usability experts typically analyze software and websites on aspects and features that may vary over projects but also show a lot of overlap. This tool lists typical issues for the analyst to check and relates each issue to aspects from cognitive psychology offering the analyst a theoretical basis (at the fingertips) for numerous usability problems. The list of possible issues are the result of an in-depth analysis of a large body of archival reports from a consultancy company (2C / Metrixlab).

Virtual Usability Testing
This novel remote, asynchronous method of usability testing combines the strengths of usability testing with the benefits of modern user behavior logging techniques. Where traditional usability testing focuses on qualitatively assessing the behavior of a small group of test users and where traditional website usage logging focuses on simple statistics of mostly out-of-context bulks of data, our Virtual Usability Testing method combines the strengths of these two worlds: we define a task context for observed behavior and are able to gather moderately large amounts of data without the need for real time behavior monitoring by the evaluator.

Action control in the Wii lab
Using a wii-mote and/or Wii balance board we are able to let participant respond in a intuitive way while employing priming strategies in order to assess cognitive coding of action. This allows us to study affordances and a range of priming effects.

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I contributed to the following scientific publications:

Spiekman, M.E., Haazebroek, P., & Neerincx, M.A. (2011). Requirements and Platforms for Social Agents that Alarm and Support Elderly living Alone. Lecture Notes in Computer Science.
Haazebroek, P., van Dantzig, S., & Hommel, B. (2011). A computational model of perception and action for cognitive robotics. Cognitive Processing.
Haazebroek, P., van Dantzig, S., & Hommel, B. (2010). Interaction between Task Oriented and Affective Information Processing in Cognitive Robotics. Lecture Notes of the Institute for Computer Sciences, Social Informatics and Telecommunications Engineering, 2011, Volume 59, 34-41.
Haazebroek, P., van Dantzig, S., & Hommel, B. (2009). Towards a computational account of context mediated affective stimulus-response translation. Proceedings of the 31st Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society
Haazebroek, P., & Hommel, B. (2009). Anticipative control of voluntary action: Towards a computational model. In Pezzulo, G, Butz, M.V., Sigaud, O., & Baldassarre, G. Anticipatory Behavior in Adaptive Learning Systems: From Psychological Theories to Artificial Cognitive Systems, Lecture Notes in Artifical Intelligence, 5499, 31-47.
Haazebroek, P., & Hommel, B. (2009). Towards a Computational Model of Perception and Action in Human Computer Interaction. In V. Duffy, Digital Human Modeling, Lecture Notes in Computer Science (Vol. 5620, pp. 247-256). Springer Berlin / Heidelberg.
Joost Broekens and Pascal Haazebroek (2007). Emotion and reinforcement: Affective facial expressions facilitate robot learning. In Proceedings of the IJCAI Workshop on AI for Human Computing (AI4HC'07, Hyderabad, India) (pp.47-54).
Lacroix, J. P. W., Postma, E., Hommel, B. & Haazebroek, P. (2006). NIM as a brain for a humanoid robot. In Proceedings of the Toward Cognitive Humanoid Robots workshop at the IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots 2006. Genoa, Italy.
Marc de Kamps, Frank van der Velde, Gwendid van der Voort van der Kleij, Pascal Haazebroek (2006). A model of global saliency: Selecting a target object among distractors. CNS 2006. Edinburgh, Scotland

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Psychology Best Teacher Award 2010
"... een jonge docent, die voornamelijk kleinschalig onderwijs geeft gericht op het toepassen van psychologische kennis, en die daarbij als geen ander studenten weet te inspireren om het beste uit hun opleiding en zichzelf naar boven te halen. Vanwege deze prestatie en omdat ons inziens excelleren in relatief kleinschalig onderwijs even waardevol is als excelleren tijdens grote hoorcolleges, is Pascal Haazebroek door de jury voor de psychologie-onderwijsprijs unaniem gekozen als winnaar van de Onderwijsprijs Psychologie 2010."

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I gave the following science related presentations:

Virtual Usability Testing at CHI SPARKS Conference, Arnhem (June, 2011).
Speaker at Awesome IT conference: A computational perspective on the interaction between perception and action planning. (Februari 2011).
Speaker at Human-Robot Personal Relationships conference (session talk; Leiden, June 2010)
Cognitive Robotics. Labyrint Alumni lezing Leiden (February, 2010)
The psychology of an Object Action Complex. Humanoids Conference Paris (December, 2009)
Towards a Computational Account of Context Mediated Affective Stimulus-Response Translation. Cognitive Science Conference, Amsterdam (August, 2009)
Towards a Computational Model of Perception and Action in Human Computer Interaction. Human Computer Interaction International Conference, San Diego (July, 2009)
Kunnen robots denken? Brain Awareness Week, Science Café Leiden (March, 2008)
AIO Cognitieve Psychologie. Psycholoog en Toekomst Perspectief Congres Leiden (November, 2007)
Mastercursus Human Computer Interaction for Psychology Students. Education track, CHI Conference Eindhoven (May, 2007)
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Master's Course: Human Computer Interaction
New technologies provide the means to build wonderful tools to extend our cognitive system into the world, as well as producing the most annoying systems in terms of performance, ergonomic design, and aesthetics.

This course provides an overview of recent approaches towards a scientific as well as a practical understanding of basic issues of usability, representation and coordination that arise in interface design and related areas. The cognitive issues that are involved in designing interactive systems are discussed and the typical real-world life cycle of the development of a software product is presented.

The course features guest speakers sharing their practical expertise, and field trips to state of the art usability labs. In practical assignments students evaluate the usability of actual software products.
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Bachelor's Course: Cognitive Ergonomics
This course focuses on applying cognitive psychology to real world situations. Problems in decision making, design, law and automation are discussed. My lectures are on the design and automation of software, machines, cars and airplanes, providing a basic treatment of the issues and research methods involved in this domain.
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Bachelor's Course: Attention and New Media
In this course students learn about both the fundamentals of human attention and their implications for real life. In the 'New Media' track, students are challenged to put this media psychology knowledge into practice in their proposals of compelling marketing campaigns. In a Dragon's Den-like set up students present their ideas for a board of business men and review each other's presentations using social media.
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Honours Class: The Future of Man and Society in a Virtual World
In this Honours Class we discuss the state of the art in virtuality and study near future developments in different disciplines, such as online health care (self-help, online treatments), work (e.g. virtual offices, 'het nieuwe werken'), education (e.g., virtual universities), skill training (serious gaming) and cyber law.
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Supervised student projects

Randy Lek: Using the Wiimote to investigate affordance perception (Master's Thesis) Annamarie Piederiet: Usability study on Van Dale dictionary (Internship)
Paul de Haas: Study of online banner advertisement effectiveness (Internship and Master's Thesis) Franklin Widjaja: Study of online search behavior (Internship)
Frank Versteegh: Visual clutter in cockpit displays (Internship) Pieter van Leeuwen: Usability study on medical administration software (Internship)
Allard Sierksma: Usability analysis and implementation assessment of patient administration software (Internship) Bonnie van Huik: Study at Consument en Veiligheid on prevention of injuries at sport (Internship)
Arjan Bruin: Usability analysis of timeline-based research tool for accident analysis Kim Walma: Usability analysis of websites and software
Laurens Kalf: Usability analysis of Simgroep's Gemeente Websites (Citizen Self Service) Judith Van Dam: Analysis of EXACT's software focusing on real world HRM processes
Dorien Zevenbergen: User Experience Research Department Aletha Duijveman : Usability analysis of the new Van Dale dictionary software
Marleen Spiekman : Virtual assistants and social robots to support senior adults in their homes Imran Beg: Usability analysis of websites and software
Pasquale Krul : Internship at Cap Gemini Johan Vijlbrief: Usability analysis of Nuon webportal
Pasquale Krul : Master Thesis on Aesthetics and Usability Kerwin Olfers: Recognition of Human Actions in Videos by Human Observers and Nearest Neighbor Models: The Roles of Motion and Form Information.
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Curriculum Vitae

Working experience
2006 - Present PHD position
Course Instructor
Leiden University
Cognitive Psychology
2000 - 2004 Teaching assistant Leiden University
Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Science
1998 - 2004 ICT specialist Fortis Bank

1999 - 2005 Doctoraal (BSc + MSc equivalent)
Cognitive Psychology
Leiden University
1998 - 2004 Doctoraal (BSc + MSc equivalent)
Computer Science
Leiden University
Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Science (LIACS)

2008 - Present Board member

Cognitive Psychology Unit
Leiden University

2010 - Present Member

Institute Council Psychology
Leiden University

2010 - Present Member

Webteam Psychology
Leiden University

2001 - 2002 President of the board Labyrint Student Association
Psychology, Leiden University

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