Visual Cognition Research Lab

Welcome to the Visual Cognition Research Lab



Our latest publication is now online: The Impact of Social Anxiety Disorder on Emotional Expression Recognition: A Meta-analysis
Individuals with Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) may have difficulty recognizing the facial expressions of others. If this is the case, then it could be an important factor in maintaining and exacerbating the condition. However, the literature examining whether this is the case is mixed, with some studies showing no difference between people with and without SAD. In this study, we combined the results of 16 previous studies, using meta-analytic tools, to give the most definitive answer to date. View the article here.  
Congratulations Dr. Justin Chamberland!

On March 20th, VisCoRe member Justin Chamberland successfully defended his PhD thesis, entitled, "Brief Affect Recognition Thresholds: A Systematic Evaluation of The Japanese and Caucasian Brief Affect Recognition Test".  We wish the newly minted Dr. Chamberland all the best in his future endeavours! Good luck with it all, Justin!

Congratulations Megan!

On March 6th, Megan LeBlanc passed her Master's defence with flying colours.  Her thesis was accepted without modifications and nominated for an award. Fantastic work, Megan!  


Welcome to VisCoRe, the Visual Cognition Research Lab (previously known as the "Perception and Cognition Lab"). VisCoRe is part of the School of Psychology at the University of Ottawa. We conduct research on a wide variety of topics having to do with how the eyes and the brain enable us to see. Our primary focus is on face perception, where we examine such questions as how we recognize one another, how we read each others' facial expressions, and how various psychopathologies affect these abilities. We have also done work in navigation, older driver testing, and meta-cognition.

In investigating these complex questions, we take a multi-pronged approach, using a wide variety of methods. These include behavioural and psychophysical methods, as well as electrophysiological techniques such as electroencephalography and electromyography.

The lab is run by Dr. Charles A. Collin, who heads a collegial and motivated team of graduate and undergraduate students, as well as volunteer RAs and USRA students. To find out more, please take a look around at our people, publication and projects pages.


We have been fortunate at the Visual Cognition Research Lab to have been supported by a number of agencies. Our primary source of funding is the Canadian Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC). NSERC has supported us repeatedly since 2002 with operating and equipment grants. Most recently, we were part of a CRD grant awarded to departmental colleague Stuart Fogel for studying drowsy driving, in the amount 499 000$. In addition, most of the graduate students in the lab have received NSERC scholarship support.

We have also been funded by a number of other agencies, including the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. We are grateful for their support, which allows our research to move forward.

In addition to our financial supporters, we are grateful to our many collaborators, who have come from a variety of public, private and academic institutions. Here are some of the folks we've been lucky enough to work with (apologies to those I have forgotten to list): Stephane Rainville, Steve Henderson (Transportation Safety Board), Nicholas Watier (Brandon University), Elizabeth Nelson (Health Canada), and Bozana Meinhardt-Injac (Catholic University of Applied Sciences, Berlin). 

We also collaborate actively with a large number of departmental colleagues, including (among others): Isabelle Boutet, Stuart Fogel, Sylvain Gagnon, Vanessa Taler, Patrick Davidson, Shanna Koussaie, Ken Campbell, and Denis Cousineau.



Collin, Charles PhD

Charles Collin


Room: VNR 3089B
Office: 613-562-5800 ext. 4296
Work E-mail:

Charles A. Collin (Ph.D.) is the head of the Visual Cognition Research Lab (VisCoRe) in the School of Psychology at the University of Ottawa (Ontario, Canada) and has been a member of the faculty there since 2003.

He received a B.A. in Psychology from Concordia University (Montreal, QC), followed by a Ph.D. in Psychology from McGill University (Montreal, QC) in 2001. Prior to joining the faculty at University of Ottawa, he was a research assistant at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, an FCAR post-doctoral fellow in the Psychology Department of Dalhousie University, and an NSERC Visiting Research Fellow at the Canadian National Research Council in Ottawa.

His research interests span the areas of perception and cognition, with particular emphasis on understanding how low level information from early parts of the brain's visual system is used by downstream parts in accomplishing complex tasks such as face and object recognition. He also does work on the effects of aging and various psychopathologies (Social Anxiety, Schizophrenia, PTSD) on these processes. He uses a wide range of tools in his work, including psychophysical methods, electrophysiology (ERP/EEG/EMG), eye-tracking, simulated environments, and meta-analysis. 

Graduate Students

Lacombe, Corina B.A. (honours)

Doctoral Student, Clinical Psychology

Room: VNR 5061

Work E-mail:

 FRQS – Vision Health Research Network (VHRN) Student Award, 2017. 
SSHRC CGS-M, 2019.
VHRN Annual Meeting Excellence Award, 2019.
FRQSC Masters Scholarship 2019
OGS Scholarship 2019
CGS-D SSHRC Scholarship 2020.

B.A. Honours Psychology, Concordia University
Doctoral Student in Clinical Psychology, 2019–present.

Corina has been involved in diverse research projects, including investigating the stigma related to assistive devices in visually impaired individuals, the impact of sexual arousal on decision making, the relation between scene perception and psychophysiological arousal, and social anxiety. Currently, her main area of interest is emotion processing in individuals with social anxiety disorder. Within this context, she hopes to examine the behavioural and physiological consequences of this psychopathology on facial emotion expression identification. 

Leblanc, Megan

Doctoral Student, Experimental Psychology

Room: VNR 5061

Work E-mail:

Megan began her work as a PhD student in the lab in September 2020. Before that she was an honours student under the supervision of our frequent collaborator, Isabelle Boutet. Megan's research program concerns the effectiveness of emoji as transmitters of emotional information. How effective are these little symbols that we are coming to rely on? Do they really get our emotional messages across?

MacNeil, Sarah B.Sc.

Doctoral Student, Clinical Program

Work E-mail:

Sarah began her PhD work here in 2022. Her research interests concern the effects of schizophrenia on facial expression processing. 

Speck, Martina B.Sc., M.Sc.

Martina Speck

Doctoral Student, Experimental Program

Work E-mail:

Martina began her doctoral work in the lab in 2022. Her primary research interests concern the role of semantic information in creating durable and robust long-term memories of people's faces.

Honours Students

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Undergraduate Researchers

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Adema, Juliana B.A. (honours)

Juliana was an honours student at VisCoRe (co-supervised by Sylvain Gagnon in the Driving Lab) in 2017-2018. She completed a project on distracted driving. She is currently pursuing graduate studies in Philosophy.

Brown, Olivier B.A. (honours)

Olivier completed his Honours thesis here in 2018. His work concerned the effects of facial expression on face recognition. He is currently a psychometrician.

Chahnour, Houssein

Houssein was an honours student in the lab in 2020-2021. He helped graduate student Justin Chamberland as they explored the timecourse of facial expression recognition, with the ultimate goal of better understanding the phenomenon of micro-expressions.

Chamberland, Justin B.Sc.

Justin Chamberland

Doctoral Candidate, Experimental Psychology

Room: VNR 5061

Work E-mail:

Justin began his doctoral work in the lab in 2018. His primary research interests concern micro-expressions, which are small, quick facial expressions that purportedly reflect a person's true feelings when they are trying to mask them. In examining micro-expressions, Justin has done rigorous work examining the amount of time needed to see a facial expression, finding that some of them can be detected reliably in as little as 5 milliseconds.  

Denis, Chelsea B.A. (honours)

Chelsea completed her Honours B.A. in psychology here in 2018. Her work concerned bistable perception in overlapped faces. 

Dymarski, Maegan B.Sc. (honours)

Maegan completed her honours degree in the lab in 2022-2023. Her work examined the effects of emotional expression on facial identification.

Horic-Asselin, David PhD

David began his work in the lab in 2018 and completed his PhD in 2021. His research interests primarily centred around how we perceive the genuineness of smiles. In his thesis work, he explored the effects of shortening or lengthening various stages of smiles--onset, maintenance, offset--to see which of these most affects how genuine the smile appears.

Lemieux, Chantal PhD

Chantal Lemieux completed her doctorate here in 2018. Her research interests span a number of areas within the general domain of perception and cognition. These areas include gender differences in metacognition, navigation, older driver testing, and face perception. She is currently completing a post-doc with Carleton University and is seeking an academic position for Fall 2020.

MacKay, Katherine

Katherine was an honours thesis student in the lab in 2020-2021. She helped graduate student Corina Lacombe study the effects of Social Anxiety Disorder on facial expression recognition.

Nelson, Elizabeth PhD

Beth completed her doctorate in experimental psychology here at VisCoRe in 2018. Her research focused on holistic processes in face recognition. She is currently a research officer with Health Canada. 

Ranger, Anna

Anna Ranger is currently completing her final year pursuing a B.A. with Honours in Psychology with a Minor in Criminology from the University of Ottawa. Her Honours Thesis project focuses on emotional expression processing as it pertains to facial recognition across the lifespan.

Her research interests include examining the effects that having a parent with mental illness can have on families through the lens of mental health and wellness. In the future, she hopes to pursue a career providing therapy in Clinical Psychology, Victimology, or Social Work.

Shah, Dhrasti PhD

Dhrasti Shah completed her doctoral degree in clinical psychology here in 2018. Her work concerned the difficulties that people with schizophrenia sometimes experience in reading others' facial expressions. She is currently a clinical psychologist in private practice. 

Sirois, Florence

Work E-mail:

Florence is currently completing he honours thesis in the lab. Her work concerns how emojis affect the perception of emotional tone and message complexity in text messages.

Sunderland, Rebecca

Rebecca first worked with us under the auspices of the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program and later did her honours thesis in the lab. She helped graduate student Megan Leblanc on work regarding how effective Emoji are at transmitting emotional information.

Watier, Nicholas Dr.

Nicholas Watier, now a professor at Brandon University, completed his PhD here in 2012. His research interests include face processing and pedagogical research. He is also a rap composer.

Woods-Fry, Heather PhD

Heather Woods-Fry completed her doctorate here in 2017. She currently works as a Research Scientist for the Traffic Injury Research Foundation, a charitable organization devoted to making our roads safer.  

Zhong, Jasmine

Jasmine Zhong

Work E-mail:

Jasmine is currently completing her honours thesis project in the lab. Her work concerns how mood affects facial expression processing in individuals with Social Anxiety Disorder. 

Ziebel, Laura

NSERC Summer student, 2006. Special project student, 2007. B.Sc. Biomedical Sciences, University of Ottawa. M.Sc. Behavioural Neuroscience, Carleton University. Ph.D. Intern in Clinical Psychology, 2013-2021 Laura was involved in research in a variety of settings, such as Ekos Research Associates, The Elisabeth Bruyère Research Institute, CHEO's Rehab & Inpatient Mental Health Unit, and The Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health, before she began her doctoral work in the lab in 2013. Her main area of interest in research involved emotion processing in people who engage inNon-Suicidal Self-Injury.In this context, she examined identification of facial emotion expressions, as well as reflexive emotional mimicry via facial electromyography.

Research Projects

Facial Emotion Recognition Across the Schizophrenia Spectrum

Led by doctoral student Sarah MacNeil, this meta-analysis explores whether there are deficits in the accuracy and reaction time of people with disorders on the schizophrenia spectrum when they engage in emotional expression recognition tasks. It is well known that people with schizophrenia are worse at recognizing the emotions of others, however, less is known about the emotion recognition abilities of people with other disorders on the schizophrenia spectrum (i.e., schizoaffective disorder, psychotic disorder). Although disorders on the schizophrenia spectrum are similar in their symptoms, they have key diagnostic criteria that differentiate them, so it is important to understand whether changes in social functioning arise from such differences. The findings of this project will provide a better understanding of the kinds of things people on the schizophrenia spectrum have difficulty with, which in turn will help us to develop treatments to improve social functioning across the schizophrenia spectrum. 

Do Emoji Really Emote? Examining the Effectiveness of Non-textual Symbols in Transmitting Emotional and Social Information

This collaboration with colleague Isabelle Boutet examines the degree to which Emoji can function as a stand-in for non-verbal communication in face-to-face interactions. When people interact in person, their spoken words are supplemented by a wide range of information from their facial expressions, tone of voice, speech cadence, and body language, among other things. In text-based interactions, such as via SMS, Twitter, and other social media, these cues are lacking. It has been suggested that an over-reliance on these low bandwidth forms of communication may harm emotional intelligence and social connectivity, leading to isolation and anti-social behaviour. It is thought that emoji may be able to compensate here, filling the gap left by non-verbal cues, but very few studies to date have examined how effective they are. In this series of studies, which is only just beginning, we aim to find out to what degree emoji are successful in transmitting socially important information that is normally carried by non-verbal cues in face-to-face interactions. 

Effects of Social Anxiety Disorder on Understanding Facial Expressions

Led by doctoral student Corina Lacombe, this project examines whether social anxiety disorder (SAD) is associated with a negative cognitive and attentional bias to various emotional facial expressions. Some research suggests that ambiguous facial cues, such as neutral emotional expressions, are perceived negatively by people with anxiety. Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that these perceptual biases contribute to the maintenance of the disorder. However, inconsistent findings in the literature have led Corina to conduct a meta-analysis investigating whether individuals with SAD are able to correctly identify and categorize various emotional facial expressions. The findings of this project will help us better understand some of the maintaining factors associated with social anxiety disorder.

Micro-Expressions: Can I Really Tell Your True Feelings From Your Subtle Unconscious Emotional Expressions?

It has been suggested that humans engage in micro-expressions, which are subtle short-duration expressions of emotions such as anger, joy and fear. It has been further suggested that people can be trained to read these subtle cues and thus gain insight into the true feelings of others by seeing through fake smiles or forced neutral expressions.  But little work has examined whether the human visual system is even fast enough to pick up these cues. Led by doctoral candidate Justin Chamberland, this project examines the speed with which individuals can read briefly-presented emotional expressions.  Our results show that humans can detect certain emotional expressions, such as happiness, in as little as 5 milliseconds.  This opens the door to the possibility that micro-expressions can indeed be read. However, to date our stimuli have been high-intensity full-face expressions, not the subtler partial ones that are typical of real-world micro-expressions. So more work remains to me be done.  Stay tuned...

Interactions Between Facial Expressions and Facial Identity Processing In Younger and Older Adults

The emotional enhancement of memory (EEM) effect refers to the phenomenon by which people tend to remember emotionally-charged stimuli better than emotionally neutral ones. In this project, we examine the extent to which the EEM effect applies to facial recognition. We are testing this using a diverse sample of face stimuli from across the age spectrum, courtesy of the FACES Database. Additionally, using eye-tracker technology (EyeLink 1000), we aim to uncover how eye movements correlate with facial recognition. The present study is part of a larger ongoing research project that will examine age effects by testing elderly participants. However, initial testing will be conducted on a sample composed of young people, who have been shown in the literature to display a negativity bias when exposed to facial stimuli portraying emotional expressions. Therefore, we expect angry faces to be better remembered than either happy or neutral ones among this population. Past research in facial recognition has tended to focus on either facial identity or emotional expression processing. The present study aims to provide a significant contribution to existing research by combining both elements in order to examine their interaction.

Non-Suicidal Self-Injury is Associated with Greater Sensitivity to Facial Emotion Recognition Despite Decreased Mimicry

Non-Suicidal Self-Injury, commonly known as "cutting", refers to the intentional self-inflicted damaging of one's body without the intent to die. It is a pathological behaviour with an increasing and high prevalence among teens and young adults. This behaviour appears under the category of “conditions for further study” within the DSM-5, which encourages further research into the condition. Within her current research, doctoral candidate Laura Ziebell examines whether this condition is associated with differences in recognizing and correctly categorizing facial expressions of emotion, which some theories of its etiology suggest should be the case. Our findings (Ziebell et al., 2018) show that people with a history of NSSI are better able to recognize facial expressions, in that they can correctly categorize more subtle expressions. This is despite the fact that they seem to have less of a tendency to reflexively mimic others' positive and negative emotions, which is known to be helpful in emotion recognition and can promote social relationships (Ziebell et al., in press). The findings of this study help us better understand a common and troubling behaviour that disproportionately affects young people, and which is a risk factor for a number of negative outcomes, including suicide. Ultimately, it may lead to an increased understanding of this condition and improvements in therapeutic interventions used to target this population.


Here are some of our most recent publications. Names in bold are students at VisCoRe.
Recent publications

Lacombe, C., Simoneau, K., Elalouf, K., & Collin, C. (2023). The impact of social anxiety disorder on emotional expression recognition: A meta-analysisCognitive Therapy and Research.

Chamberland, J., & Collin, C. (2023). Effects of Forward Mask Duration Variability on the Temporal Dynamics of Brief Facial Expression Categorization. iPerception, 14(2), 1-14.

Boutet, I., Guay, J., Chamberland, J., Cousineau, D., & Collin, C.A. (2023). Emojis that work! Incorporating visual cues from facial expressions in emojis can reduce ambiguous interpretations. Computers in Human Behaviour, 9, 100251.

Collin, C.A., Chamberland, J., LeBlanc, M., Ranger, A., Boutet, I. (2022). Effects of emotional expression on face recognition may be accounted for by image similarity. Social Cognition.

Gibbings, A., Ray, L. B., Gagnon, S., Collin, C. A., Robillard, R., & Fogel, S. M., (2022). The EEG correlates and dangerous behavioural consequences of drowsy driving after a single night of mild sleep deprivation. Clinical Neurophysiology. 

Boutet, I., Nelson, E. A., Watier, N., Cousineau, D., Béland, S., & Collin, C. A. (2021). Different measures of holistic face processing tap into distinct but partially overlapping mechanismsAttention, Perception, & Psychophysics83(7), 2905-2923.

Boutet, I., Leblanc, M., Chamberland, J., Collin, C. (2021) Emojis influence emotional communication, social attributions, and information processing. Computers in Human Behavior, 119, 106722.

Ziebell, L., Collin, C., Mazalu, M., Rainville, S., Weippert, M., & Sokolov, M. (2020). Electromyographic evidence of reduced emotion mimicry in individuals with a history of non-suicidal self-injury. PLoS One15(12), e0243860.

Horic-Asselin, D., Brosseau-Liard, P., Gosselin, P., & Collin, C. A. (2020). Effects of temporal dynamics on perceived authenticity of smiles. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics82(7), 3648-3657.

Ziebell L., Collin C., Rainville S., Mazalu M., Weippert M.(2020). Using an ideal observer analysis to investigate the visual perceptual efficiency of individuals with a history of non-suicidal self-injury when identifying emotional expressions. PLoS ONE, 15(2): e0227019.

Boutet, I. Shah, D.K., Collin, C.A., Berti, S., Persike, M. & Meinhardt-Injac, B. (2020). Age-related changes in amplitude, latency and specialization of ERP responses to faces and watches. Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition.

Lemieux, C. L., Collin, C. A., & Watier, N. N. (2019). Gender differences in metacognitive judgments and performance on a goal-directed wayfinding task. Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 31(4), 453-466.

Shah, D.Collin, C.A., et al (2019). Investigation of emotional expression processing following cognitive behavioural therapy for patients with schizophrenia: an event-related potentials study. Applied and Clinical Neuropsychology.

Boutet, I., Dawod, K., Chiasson, F., Brown, O., & Collin, C. (2019). Perceptual Factors Can Drive Age-Related Elevation Of False Recognition. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 743.

Shah, D., Knott, V., Baddeley, A., Bowers, H., Wright, N., Labelle, A., ... & Collin, C. (2018). Impairments of emotional face processing in schizophrenia patients: Evidence from P100, N170 and P300 ERP components in a sample of auditory hallucinators. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 134, 120-134.

Davidson, P. S., Vidjen, P., Trincao-Batra, S., & Collin, C. A. (2018). Older Adults’ Lure Discrimination Difficulties on the Mnemonic Similarity Task Are Significantly Correlated With Their Visual Perception. The Journals of Gerontology: Series B.

Boutet, I., Collin, C.A., MacLeod, L.S., Messier, C., Holahan, M.R., Berry-Kravis, E. Gandhi, R.M., & Kogan, C.S., (2018). Utility of the hebb-williams maze paradigm for translational research in fragile x syndrome: a direct comparison of mice and humans. Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience.

Plowright, C.M.S., Bridger, J.J.M., Xu, V., Herlehy, R.A., Collin, C.A. (2017). Floral guidance of learning of a preference for symmetry by bumblebees. Animal Cognition, 20(6), 1115-1127.

Boutet, I., Lemieux, C.L., Goulet, M-A., Collin, C.A. (2017). Faces elicit different scanning patterns depending on task demands. Attention, Perception & Psychophysics, 79(4), 1050-1063. 

Ziebell, L., Collin, C.A., Weippert, M., Sokolov, M.(2017). Categorization of emotional facial expressions in humans with a history of non-suicidal self-injury. International Journal of Comparative Psychology, 30, 1-16.