Hello, and welcome to my website. I’m an assistant 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:
And here is a quick “Eye on research” video, produced by NMSU. It gives a brief intro to some of our work, and to eye-tracking technology:
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), 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.
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. I am faculty mentor to the NMSU chapter of Psi Chi, and the faculty mentor to the Organization for Skepticism and Scientific Literacy.
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 three journals (the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance; Attention, Perception & Psychophysics; and the Journal of General Psychology), I will become an associate editor at AP&P in January, 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:
- 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!
- February 9th, 2017: Jessica Madrid and I have just had a poster accepted to this year’s Vision Sciences Society conference in St. Pete Beach, Fl in May. Jessica will present the results of her masters thesis as a poster, entitled, “Use the force: Passive strategies in hybrid visual search impact eye-movements and improve search efficiency.” Congrats, JMad!
- 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!