Hello, and welcome to my website. I’m an associate professor in the Psychology department at New Mexico State University.
My research interests fall under the broad heading of visual cognition, including research into visual attention and memory, and computational models of both. My other research interests include (but are not limited to): development of alternative methods for multidimensional scaling, similarity as a psychological construct, working memory, and spoken word perception.
Here’s a short video about what we do in my lab:
My primary work focuses on memory and attention, with an emphasis on human visual processing. In my research, I employ converging techniques; specifically, I combine standard behavioral measurements (e.g., reaction time, similarity ratings) with more sensitive experimental techniques (e.g., eyetracking, tDCS), physiological indexes (e.g., pupillometry, heart rate), advanced statistical procedures (e.g., multidimensional scaling), virtual reality, and computational modeling.
My immediate goals involve conducting theory-driven experiments that investigate decision-making in visual search, with the long-term aim of establishing computational models of the underlying cognitive processes. This theoretical aim is coupled with more applied goals, in particular learning how to alleviate problems that plague professional visual searchers, such as medical and security screeners, and search and rescue personnel.
As a professor, I balance my time between research, teaching, and service. In my labs, we have a state of the art eye-tracker, several banks of testing computers, and the resources to collect data from undergraduates at NMSU and from members of the public. We also employ touch screen monitors, virtual reality headsets, mobile eye-tracking, and transcranial direct current stimuliation. I currently have six graduate students working with me. My research is highly collaborative; I have collaborations within NMSU (both inside and outside of the Psychology department), in institutions around the US (e.g., Harvard Medical School, Arizona State University, Louisiana State University) and several abroad (e.g., the University of Southampton, the University of Sussex). I regularly publish my work in peer-reviewed journals.
My regular teaching load is divided across undergraduate and graduate classes, and includes courses such as quantitative methods in psychology, research methods, memory, cognition, sensation and perception, history and systems, and others. I also mentor several organizations. I am the Associate Director of the College of Art’s and Sciences Discovery Scholars Program, and faculty mentor to the NMSU chapter of Psi Chi.
I also regularly provide service to the scientific community. I am a journal reviewer for nearly a dozen different scientific peer-reviewed outlets and a consulting editor for twojournals (the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance; the Journal of General Psychology). I am also an associate editor at Attention, Perception & Psychophysics. I contribute to popular science magazines (e.g., Scientific American), I was twice a co-organizer for an international psychology conference (the Object Perception, Attention and Memory meeting), and I make a concerted effort to share my work with other researchers. This involves the creation of databases that can be used in experimental psychology, and the sharing of many of my software programs (all of which can be found on this website).
If you are interested in collaborative research, or in becoming a graduate student or research assistant in my lab, please feel free to contact me via email. My contact information is listed below.
Michael C. Hout, PhD
Department of Psychology
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, NM 88003
PO Box 30001 / MSC 3452
Office: Science Hall 343
Recent news and updates:
- September 20th, 2017: We’ve just gotten word that our posters were accepted to the 2018 Object Perception, Attention, and Memory conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. This is particularly exciting because our posters span both graduate (Jessica Madrid, Rebecca Penn, and Bryan White) and undergraduate (Alexis Torres) members of our lab. Jessica will present a poster entitled “It’s all a blur: Partial visual information triggers logarithmic decision making during object recognition.” Rebecca will present a poster called “Getting a clue: Visual search in open terrain environments.” Congrats, all!
- July 20th, 2017: We’ve just had a pair of posters accepted to the 2018 Annual Meeting of the Psychonomic Society in New Orleans. Jessica Madrid will present our work on strategy use during search in a poster titled “Looking for the one: Passive strategies improve guidance and object recognition in single-target search.” And Collin Scarince will present our modelling work in a poster titled “An update to the Guided Search model using multi-dimensional scaling to capture the features of complex, real-world objects.” Congrats, all!
- July 9th, 2017: I’m thrilled to announce that we have a second PhD student to graduate from our lab this year: Dr. Collin Scarince. Collin successfully defended his dissertation today, titled, “Generalized Guided Search: A computational model of visual search powered by multidimensional scaling.” We’re proud of Collin, and excited for what’s next in his career.
- June 14th: I’m very pleased to announce that the first PhD student to graduate from our lab, Dr. Arryn Robbins, will soon be a post-doctoral researcher. She has accepted a position at Carthage College, working with Dr. Anthony Barnhart and Dr. Leslie Cameron. I’m thrilled that she’s on her way to such a great position, and am confident she’ll do great things at Carthage.
- May 24th: 2018: I’ve been invited to be a funded presenter at the 4th Symposium on Visual Search and Selective Attention in Munich, Germany (http://mvss.org/). This is a very prestigious honor for me, as I’ll be speaking alongside an incredibly well-respected and impressive group of academics who all share my research interests. In July, I’ll present the work Jessica Madrid and I have been working on, titled “Passive search strategies improve attentional guidance and object recognition during demanding visual search.” I can’t wait.
- May 24th, 2018: I’ve recently been invited (by the Environmental Neuroscience Laboratory: http://enl.uchicago.edu/) to speak at the University of Chicago. I’m very excited to travel to Chicago to speak with this excellent group of academics about our recent work on strategy use in visual search.
- April 26th, 2018: I just received my official letter stating that I’ve been granted promotion and tenure. As of August 2018, I will be a tenured Associate Professor. I’m very excited to have this milestone behind me, and appreciate all the support I’ve had at NMSU to get me here.
- April 23rd, 2018: This Friday (4/27/2018), Emily Green (an honors thesis student working in our lab) will present our research incidental memory work at the Undergraduate Research and Creative Arts Symposium (URCAS) here on campus. If you’re around on Friday, swing by and see her present! The title of the poster is “Challenging visual search creates better incidental memories for objects and their perceptual features.” Good luck, Emily!
- April 5th, 2018: I’m very pleased to announce that the first PhD to come out of our lab is the wonderful Dr. Arryn Robbins. Arryn successfully defended her dissertation, “The role of context and exemplar variability in shaping the categorical search template.” We’re all quite proud of her, but will be sad to see her go!
- March 20th, 2018: I’ve just gotten word that I will be a panelist at the 2018 NMSU Assessment Conference (Writing to Think). I will be part of a presentation titled, “Writing to learn? It’s not just for writing courses!” Come check out the conference, and learn about ways to improve the writing components of your courses.
- March 13th, 2018: We’ve just had a new paper accepted to the open access journal Sage Open. Our paper is titled “Simulating the fidelity of data for large stimulus set sizes and variable dimension estimation in multidimensional scaling.” Congrats to my co-authors, Corbin Cunningham, Arryn Robbins, and Justin MacDonald!
- March 8th, 2018: We’ve just had a pair of posters accepted to this year’s North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity meeting in Denver, Colorado (in June). Our collaborators include Dr. Phil Post, Dr. Chris Aiken, and Ms. Jessica Madrid. Phil will present our poster titled “Learner-controlled pace of practice in isolation does not yield the self-control effect.” And Chris will present our poster called “Learner-controlled amount of practice with fixed inter-trial interval benefits learning.” Congrats, all!
- March 8th, 2018: Both of my interviews for the Neurotransmission Podcast have been aired. The first is titled, “Cognitive Psychology: Flying Below the Radar.” The second is called, “An Eye for Cognitive Innovation.” You can find the episodes here (Season 2, Episodes 13 and 14). https://www.cengage.com/learn/neurotransmission?channel=eloqua&elq_mid=23794&elq_nm=FD_NeuroTransmission_Podcast_S2E13_HED_408509&elq_cid=111216&utm_medium=email&utm_source=eloqua-batch&utm_campaign=studentengagement&utm_content=408550
- February 18th, 2018: The Las Cruces Sun News ran a story about the Rising Star award I received from the Association for Psychological Science. The full article can be found at: http://www.lcsun-news.com/story/news/education/nmsu/2018/02/17/nmsu-professor-receives-award-advancing-psychology/348314002/
- February 13th, 2018: At this year’s Rocky Mountain Psychological Association meeting in Denver, CO, we’ll have a trio of talks to present. In collaboration with Emily Green, Juan Guevara Pinto, and Dr. Megan Papesh, I’ll be giving a talk called “Challenging visual search creates better incidental memories for objects and their features.” Arryn Robbins will be giving our talk called “Scene context can facilitate search for imprecisely specified targets.” And John Kulpa will present our talk “Evaluating SpAM and multi-trial spatial arrangement methods of estimating subjective similarity” in collaboration with myself and Dr. Dom Simon. Congrats, collaborators!
- February 12th, 2018: This year, we’ll be presenting a poster for the first time at the Annual Convention of the Association for Psychological Science. John Kulpa will be presenting our poster, titled, “Evaluating SpAM and multi-trial spatial arrangement methods of estimating subjective similarity.” Congrats to John and our co-author, Dr. Dom Simon!
- February 10th, 2018: We’ve just had a poster accepted to this year’s Vision Sciences Society meeting in Florida. Arryn Robbins will be presenting our poster, titled “Scene context influences expectations about imprecisely specified search targets.” Congrats, Arryn!
- January 8th, 2018: I’m happy to say that I’ve started consulting for Major League Baseball, as part of their Umpire Training Program. Over the next year, I will consult with the MLB regarding a variety of training programs aimed at increasing the perceptual skills of MLB umpires.
- December 29th, 2017: I’m very pleased and proud to announce that I’ve been selected by the Association for Psychological Science as a 2017 Rising Star. This award is for early career scientists, and I’m quite honored to have received it! http://www.psychologicalscience.org/redesign/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/2017-Rising-Stars.pdf
- September 28th, 2017: Collin just had his first first-author paper accepted to The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. Our paper is titled, “Cutting through the MADness: Expectations about what a target is doing impacts how likely it is to be found in dynamic visual displays.” Congrats, Collin!
- August 29th,, 2017: We’ve just had a talk and a poster accepted to this year’s Object Perception, Attention, and Memory conference in Vancouver, Canada. Collin Scarince will be presenting our talk, entitled, “How to find the green ketchup bottle: How non-defining features impact visual search.” And John DesGeorges will be presenting our poster, entitled, “Is the internet really a crutch?: An utter failure (and new attempts) to replicate the Google Effect.” This will be Collin’s first OPAM talk, and John’s first time presenting at an external conference. Congrats, Collin and John!
- July 31st, 2017: We’ve just had a poster accepted to this year’s meeting of the Psychonomic Society in Vancouver, Canada. Jessica Madrid will present our poster, entitled, “Use the force: Passive strategies in hybrid visual search impact eye-movements and improve search efficiency.” Congrats, Jessica!
- July 26th, 2017: Our work was featured in a Psychonomic Society blog post by Dr. Gary Lupyan. Gary discussed our recent article in Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics. The blog can be found HERE.
- May 25th, 2017: We’ve just had a paper accepted to Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics. On this one, I’m lead author on the paper, entitled, “Categorical templates are more useful when features are consistent: Evidence from eye-movements during search for societally important vehicles.” Congrats to my co-authors, Arryn Robbins, Hayward Godwin, Gemma Fitzsimmons, and Collin Scarince.
- May 16th, 2017: We’ve just had a paper accepted to the 19th European Conference on Eye Movements in Wuppertal, Germany. Stephen Walenchok will be presenting our talk (in collaboration with Stephen D. Goldinger and myself) entitled, “Your attention seeks confirmation: Visual confirmation bias overshadows prevalence effects in visual attention.” Congratulations, Steves!
- April 27th, 2017: Our lab is growing by yet another undergraduate scholar. Ms. Emily Green was just had her project accepted into the Honors College Capstone Thesis program. Starting this summer, she’ll begin work on her honors thesis in our lab. Welcome, Emily!
- April 19th, 2017: Very soon, John DesGeorges (an undergraduate Discovery Scholar working in our lab) will be presenting his first research poster. John will present our work, entitled, “Help me Google?: A complete failure to replicate a prominent Science article” at the New Mexico State University, College of Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Research and Creative Arts Symposium (URCAS). Congrats, John!
- April 13th, 2017: We’ve just had a paper accepted to Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics. Ileana Ratiu is the lead author on our paper, entitled, “Bilingual search advantage: Comparing visual search and eye movements in bilinguals and monolinguals.” Congrats to my co-authors, Steve Walenchok, Tamiko Azuma, and Steve Goldinger!
- April 4th, 2017: The Las Cruces Sun News ran a story on the Discovery Scholars Program, of which I am the associate director. Link to the online story: http://www.lcsun-news.com/story/news/2017/03/25/nmsus-discovery-scholars-program-gives-students-paid-research-experience/99603844/
- March 26th, 2017: We’ve just had a poster accepted to this year’s International Society for Anthrozoology meeting, in Irvine, California. In June, Gaylene Fasenko will be presenting our poster (in collaboration with Christabel Castro, myself, and Claren Wilson), entitled, “Are dog owners able to correctly identify primary and secondary emotions in their canine companions based on dog vocalization and body language?” Congrats, team!
- February 13th, 2017: I’m excited to announce that our lab will be growing by one member next year. Rebecca Penn will be joining us in the fall to begin researching spatial cognition, disorientation, and visual search (with a particular interest in potential applications for search and rescue operations). Welcome to the lab, Rebecca!
- January 19th, 2017: Justin MacDonald has just been awarded a 4-year long SC1 grant (from the National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders) on which I am a collaborator. The project is titled, “Attention-guided speech enhancement for hearing impaired listeners.” I look forward to getting started on the grant, and working alongside Justin and our other collaborators, Charles Creusere and Moumita Choudhury!
- January 16th, 2017: I’m currently preparing to head to Tucson, Arizona to give an invited talk at the University of Arizona. In early February I’ll be giving a talk entitled, “Becoming an expert at difficult visual search: Experience fine-tunes mental representations of target categories” to the Psychology department. I’m looking forward to it!
- December 9th, 2016: I’m very proud to announce that I’ve just been awarded (by the Provost’s Office at New Mexico State University) the Donald C. Roush Award for Teaching Excellence. I’m extremely honored to receive this award!
- December 9th, 2016: Next year, at the upcoming Southwestern Psychological Association meeting (in San Antonio, Texas), I’ll be a part of two spoken presentations. First, I’ve been invited to give a colloquium talk, which I’m tentatively calling “Using multi-dimensional scaling to conduct better experiments in cognitive science.” Second, Mr. Stephen Walenchok will be presenting a research talk (in collaboration with Stephen D. Goldinger and myself) entitled, “Examining confirmatory strategies in visual search: Prevalence learning counteracts confirmation bias.” I’m excited to have so much good work to talk about at SWPA!
- November 1st, 2016: I am very happy to announce that I’ve officially accepted a position as Associate Editor for Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics. I am extremely proud, and am very much looking forward to working at the journal starting this January. This journal was home to my first publication (and many since), so I am very happy to try to contribute to its future success.
- October 31st, 2016: Ms. Jessica Madrid successfully passed her master’s thesis defense today. Her project was titled “Use the force: Examining the effect of passive and active search strategies on search behavior in hybrid visual memory search.” Congratulations, Jessica!
- October 17th, 2016: I’ve been invited to speak to the Psychology Department at Louisiana State University. On November 15th, I’ll give a workshop entitled “An introductory workshop on multidimensional scaling: What it is, what it can do for you, and how to use it properly.”
- October 3rd, 2016: Congratulations to Mr. Collin Scarince for successfully passing his comprehensive exams today! Great job, Collin. Now on to the PhD.
- In the spring of 2016, I was awarded the Early Career Award for Exceptional Achievements in Creative Scholarly Activity by the Sixteenth Annual University Research Council at New Mexico State University. The award was handed out at the fall 2016 convocation ceremony. Here I am with various other university award winners, Provost Howard (far left) and Chancellor Carruthers (far right). Link to online story: HERE.
- September 18th, 2016: I have just been named Associate Director of the NMSU College of Art’s and Sciences Discovery Scholars Program (working with the Director, Dr. Nancy McMillan). This program is a college-wide interdisciplinary program. Started in Fall, 2014, DSP is a mentorship program in which undergraduate students engage in research/creative activity with faculty mentors. The goal of the program is to support student research/creative activity and encourage students to apply for and successfully complete a Master’s degree, perhaps even a Ph.D. I am very happy to be able to give back to this program, and help steer it moving forward.
- August 24th, 2016: I’m happy to report that much of the research we’re presenting in Boston this fall (at the Psychonomics Society meeting and the Object Perception, Attention, and Memory conference, both in Boston, MA) will also be presented in September at the 2016 ARMADILLO Cognition Conference hosted by the University of Texas, El Paso. I’ll be giving a talk, and there will be posters presented by Arryn Robbins, Alexis Lopez, Collin Scarince, Jessica Madrid, and Steve Walenchok (from Arizona State). Congrats to the presenters, and our other collaborators (Megan Papesh, Corbin Cunningham, Justin MacDonald, and Stephen D. Goldinger)!
- August 11th, 2016: We got a paper accepted to this year’s Object Perception, Attention, and Memory conference in Boston. Steve Walenchok will present our paper, called, “Is this object “yellow” or is this object “Not yellow”: Disconfirmatory strategies influence object identification during visual search.” Congrats to our co-authors, Joseph Houpt, Hayward Godwin, and Stephen D. Goldinger!
- August 11th, 2016: We also had three posters accepted to this year’s Object Perception, Attention, and Memory conference in Boston. Collin Scarince will present one called “Finding the green ketchup bottle: Investigating how non-essential features sometimes aid in search.”. Jessica Madrid will present a poster called “All targets are not created equal: Some targets are often missed in hybrid visual search tasks.” And our former undergraduate (now a recent college grad), Alexis Lopez, will present work called “Working with a partner may help protect against frequency effects in difficult visual search.” Congrats to our collaborators, Hayward Godwin, Corbin Cunningham, and Arryn Robbins!
- July 21st, 2016: We’ve just had an article accepted to Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics. In collaboration with myself and Stephen D. Goldinger, Stephen Walenchok has published his first peer-reviewed journal article as a first-author. The article is titled, “Implicit object naming in visual search: Evidence from phonological competition.” Congratulations, Steves!
- July 12th, 2016: We’ve had a paper accepted to this year’s Psychonomics Society meeting in Boston, MA. Hayward Godwin will present a talk called “Knowing when to quit searching for information” on behalf of Gemma Fitzsimmons, Mark Weal, Simon Liversedge, Tammy Menneer, and myself. Congrats, folks!
- July 12th: 2016: We’ve had 3 posters accepted to the Psychonomics Society meeting this year in Boston, MA. I’ll present a poster called “Expertise fine-tunes mental representations of targets during challenging visual search.” Arryn Robbins will present a poster called “Strength in numbers: Testing the fidelity of multidimensional scaling for large datasets”. And Steve Walenchok will present one called “The low-prevalence effect counteracts confirmatory bias in visual search.” Congratulations to my collaborators, Alexis Lopez, Megan Papesh, Corbin Cunningham, Justin MacDonald, and Stephen D. Goldinger!
- June 13th, 2016: Our article was just published in a special issue of Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, called “Arguments about the nature of concepts: Symbols, embodiment, and beyond.” The issue was covered in a blog post for the Psychonomic Society by Dr. Stephan Lewandowsky. The full article can be found: HERE!
- May 5th, 2016: I have just been awarded the Early Career Award for Exceptional Achievements in Scholarly Activity by the Sixteenth Annual University Research Council, here at New Mexico State University. I am incredibly honored and excited to receive this award, and am looking forward to receiving it officially at the Fall convocation!
- April 14th, 2016: I just found out that I have been accepted as a Fellow at the Psychonomics Society in recognition of “significant psychological research publications beyond [my] doctoral dissertation in experimental psychology.” I’m very excited to have moved up the ranks at this prestigious society!
- April 13th, 2016: I’ve just had a micro-talk accepted to the Individual Differences Brownbag satellite event at this year’s Vision Sciences Society meeting. Along with Arryn Robbins, I’ll present a talk entitled, “Individual differences in the perception of category typicality predict the usefulness of target templates during word-cued search.” I’m looking forward to such a fun event!
- February 12th, 2016: I’ve been invited to give a talk at the New Mexico State University, Salon Discovery Series. On March 24th, I’ll be giving a TED style talk, entitled, “Watching your eyes: How gaze-tracking technology lets us control gadgets, diagnose disease, and much more.” If you’re in the Las Cruces area in March, please come join us. It’s open to the public!
- February 12th, 2016: We’ve just had a talk accepted to the 2016 Rocky Mountain Psychological Association meeting. Collin Scarince will be presenting his first talk, entitled, “Coping with a MAD World: Visual search strategies in dynamic environments.” Congratulations, Collin!
- February 10th, 2016: I’ve had a poster accepted to the Vision Sciences Society meeting in St. Pete in May. I’ll be presenting a poster, entitled, “Object categorization performance modeled using multidimensional scaling and category-consistent features.” Congratulations to my co-authors, Arryn Robbins, Justin Maxfield, and Greg Zelinsky!
- February 10th, 2016: Two undergraduates from my lab will be presenting at this year’s Vision Sciences Society meeting in St. Pete in May. Congratulations to Alexis Lopez, who will be presenting a poster titled “Find one fast, or find them all slow: Do collaborative visual searchers search more quickly or more thoroughly?” And congratulations to Maggie Sabik, who will give a poster called “Rare targets induce less “perceptual readiness: Evidence from pupillometry.” And, of course, thanks to our co-authors on these projects, Garrett Bennett (a recent NMSU graduate), Arryn Robbins, Hayward Godwin, Collin Scarince, Megan Papesh, and Stephen D. Goldinger!
- February 10th, 2016: Lots of graduate students from my lab (and elsewhere) will be presenting at this year’s Vision Sciences Society meeting in St. Pete in May. Congrats to Arryn Robbins, for her poster, “Typicality effects in categorical visual search investigated using the pupillary reflex.” Congrats to Carrie Melia, for her poster, “Perceptual challenges for inverted icons: The Face Inversion Effect does not extend to complex objects.” Congrats to Collin Scarince, for his poster,“Investigating dynamic feature prevalence and quitting thresholds in Multi-element Asynchronous Dynamic (MAD) search.” Congrats to Jessica Madrid, for her poster, “Exploring the nature of mental representations in hybrid visual and memory search.” And congrats to Steve Walenchok, for his poster, “Examining confirmatory strategies in visual search: People are more flexible than you think.” And thanks as well, of course, to all our co-authors: Corbin Cunningham, Hayward Godwin, Jeremy Wolfe, and Stephen D. Goldinger.
- December 17th, 2015: Today, our work got discussed by The Psychonomic Society in a blog by Dr. Melissa Le-Hoa Vo. Melissa discussed our recent article in Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics entitled, “Using multidimensional scaling to quantify similarity in visual search and beyond.” Check it out: HERE!
- December 16th, 2015: We’ve just had another article accepted to the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. In a collaboration with Stephen D. Goldinger I have had an article accepted entitled, “SpAM is convenient, but also satisfying: Reply to Verheyen et al. (2016).” Congratulations, Steve!
- Our new article has just come out in The Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. It is titled, “Eye movements reveal fast, voice-specific priming.” We are thrilled to have this work come out in such a high-caliber journal. Congratulations to my co-authors, Megan Papesh and Stephen D. Goldinger!
- On January 3rd, 2015, an article came out in the Las Cruces Sun News discussing our research on collaborative visual search, and our budding work on eye-movements and expertise. The full article can be found: HERE!