Cognitive and affective psychology

How a person perceives and processes the world around them - this has long been one of the central themes in our institute's research. Keep reading about the questions our researchers are trying to answer in this field.

Visual perception 

The main mechanisms of vision: recognition of objects, differentiation of visual features, visual search, crowding, attention. Evaluation of the statistical properties of the image (number of objects, average size, etc.). Vision models (psychophysical, computational and neural networks).  

Researchers: Jüri Allik, Aire Raidvee, Kairi Kreegipuu, Nele Põldver, Kristiina Averin, Iiris Tuvi, Talis Bachmann, Endel Põder 

A selection of publications:

  • Allik, J., Toom, M., Raidvee, A., Averin, K., & Kreegipuu, K. (2013). An almost general theory of mean size perception. Vision research, 83, 25-39.
  • Põder; E. (2020). Crowding and attention in a framework of neural network model. Journal of Vision, 20(13):19. 
  • Bachmann, T., & Francis, G. (2014). Visual masking: studying perception, attention, and consciousness. Elsevier / Academic Press. ISBN: 978-0-12-800250-6 

Auditory and language perception 


  • We try to identify automatic language-specific indexes of the processing in the brain that were applicable to the assessment of acquisition of the mother and foreign language  
  • Effect of linguistic and musical experience on the processing of language in the brain 
  • Neurocognitive mechanisms of receptive language deficit in Estonian preschool age children 
  • Language and auditory brain: studies on central sound representation in auditory cortex (BerTa-LAB) 

Researchers: Kairi Kreegipuu, Nele Põldver, Liis Kask, Siqi Lyu, Liis Themas

A selection of publications: 

Attention and cognitive control 

A lot of information possibly influencing behaviour is processed pre-attentively, but can be accessed by modern cognitive neuroscience, for example by registering the brain’s automatic responses to deviance (mismatch negativity, MMN). MMN deteriorates in many clinical conditions but it is unknown whether the decrease is general or construct-specific. We ask how the automatic information processing is related to trait and state variables, and whether the relationship is general or specific.

Researchers: Kairi Kreegipuu, Nele Põldver, Jüri Allik, Aire Raidvee, Annika Kask, Liis Kask, Liina Juuse, Mai-Liis Liiser, Iiris Tuvi, Talis Bachmann, Richard Naar, Andero Uusberg, Uku Vainik

A selection of publications:

Autobiographical memory and knowledge accumulation

Autobiographical memory development and outcomes are related to personal, socio-cultural, and situational factors. We focus on all three aspects to provide a better understanding of autobiographical memory, about its development and place in everyday knowledge accumulation. In particular, we try to understand: (1) how are values related to first memories throughout the timespan (socio-cultural level; (2) how are other cognitive abilities and genes related to autobiographical memory in middle childhood (personal level); (3) how can the context (e.g., the informal learning environment) best support memory for the experience and knowledge accumulation (situational level). 

Researchers: Pirko Tõugu, Tiia Tulviste 

A selection of publications:

Affective representations 

Two types of interrelated representational representations are central to behaviour: goals and appraisals. We are interested in how these representations arise and how they affect emotions, motivation, and cognition. We approach these questions assuming that the mind is a cybernetic predictive system. In our empirical work we use behavioural web experiments, psychophysiological laboratory experiments as well as computational modelling of their results.  

Researchers: Andero Uusberg, Alan Voodla, Richard Naar, Martin Kolnes 

A selection of publications: 

Affective influence on cognition 

Thoughts and feelings are not separate phenomena but integrated parts of the mind. We use behavioural and psychophysiological experiments to understand how affective states such as emotions and mood shape various aspects of cognition from attention to decisions. Among other questions, we are interested in which components of affective states cause cognitive changes and how different cognitive changes driven by affect relate to each other. 

Researchers: Kairi Kreegipuu, Nele Põldver, Annika Kask, Liina Juuse, Andero Uusberg, Martin Kolnes, Richard Naar 

A selection of publications: 


According to the prevailing scientific view, consciousness is a function or a corollary effect of the living brain. However, up to the present day it is unclear precisely how the brain brings about our conscious experience. The main methodological approach in respective research capitalizes on combining experimental paradigms of psychology (including specific experimental phenomena of consciousness) with methods and knowledge from brain research. We continue our experimental and theoretical studies in this domain. 

Researchers: Talis Bachmann 

A selection of publications: 

  • Bachmann, T. (2000) Microgenetic approach to the conscious mind. Amsterdam/ Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 
  • Aru, J., Bachmann, T., Singer, W., & Melloni, L. (2012). Distilling the neural correlates of consciousness. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 36(2), 737-746. 
  • Aru, J., Suzuki, M., Rutiku, R., Larkum, M. E., & Bachmann, T. (2019). Coupling the State and Contents of Consciousness. Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience, 13:43. (1-9) 
  • Bachmann, T. (2021). Representational ‘touch’ and modulatory ‘retouch’ – two necessary neurobiological processes in thalamocortical interaction for conscious experience. Neuroscience of Consciousness, Volume 2021, Issue 2, 2021, niab045, 1-18. 

Additional reading: Journal "Consciousness and Cognition"

Cognition in jurisprudence

Research of cognitive processes of deception using behavioural experiment method and neurobiological markers method. Research of deception indicators, what aspects influence deceptive behaviour so that deception identification becomes more precise. Eyewitness identification in police investigations. Investigative interviewing of witnesses (also underage witnesses) and suspects in police investigation and in courts. 

Researchers: Annegrete Palu, Iiris Tuvi, Talis Bachmann

A selection of publications:


See all of our employees' publications here!


Health and well-being

Cognitive and affective psychology

Personality psychology

Developmental and social psychology


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