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Paul Atchley

Director, Cognitive Psychology Program

Ph.D., 1996, University of California, Riverside
Research Areas: Cognitive Psychology

Related Links
Cognitive Psychology Program

Research Interests

I started my career in psychology conducting research at the US Army Aeroflightdynamics Directorate Crew Station Research and Development Facility at NASA-Ames, Moffet Field, California. My early work examined simulator sickness and how visual abilities interact with the perception of self-motion. My early work research focused on issues related perceiving motion, especially as related to dynamic tasks such as control of locomotion and driving. Current research focuses on the interaction of attention and perception. I am particularly interested in how these two aspects of cognition are influenced by of dual-tasking. The problem of dual-tasking while interacting with the world is best understood within the context of distracted driving, so much of our current work is focused on this important issue. I am trying to not only understand how dual-tasking changes how we attend, but also if dual-tasking can be beneficial in some circumstances. This work takes place in both our driving simulator, as well as in our lab using a battery of cognitive tasks. I am also very interested in why people choose to dual task, even when they know it is dangerous. Recent work has concentrated on how our perception of risk changes as a function of choices about dual-tasking. Other areas of research I have worked on include visual marking, object-based attention, and illusory conjunctions in memory. I have also been working on data-based approaches to undergraduate curriculum development.

Selected Publications

Driving, Distraction, and Multitasking

Atchley, P., Hadlock, C. & Lane, S. Stuck in the 70s: The role of social norms in distracted driving.  Accident Analysis & Prevention. In press.

Atchley, P. Smart phones and dumb drivers: The limits of cognitive ergonomics. (Editorial). Journal of Ergonomics. In press.

Atchley, P., Dressel, J., Jones, T.C., Burson, R. & Marshall, D. (2011). Talking and driving: Applications of crossmodal action reveal a special role for spatial language. Psychological Research, 75, 525-534.

Shi, J., Bai, Y., Tao, L. & Atchley, P. (2011). A model of Chinese drivers’ scrambling behaviors. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 43. 1540-1546.

Atchley, P. & Chan, M. (2011). Potential benefits and costs of concurrent task engagement to maintain vigilance: A driving simulator investigation. Human Factors, 53, 3-12.

Atchley, P., Atwood, S. & Boulton, A. (2011).  The choice to text and drive in younger drivers: How attitudes may shape behavior.  Accident Analysis & Prevention, 43. 134-142.

Shi, J., Bai, Y., Ying, X., & Atchley, P.  (2010). Aberrant driving behaviors: a study of drivers in Beijing. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 42, 1031-1040.

Nelson, E., Atchley, P., & Little, T. (2009). The effects of perception of risk and importance of answering and initiating a cellular phone call while driving.  Accident Analysis and Prevention, 41, 438-444.

Dressel, J. & Atchley, P. (2008). Cellular phone use while driving: A methodological checklist for investigating dual-task costs. Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behavior, 11, 347-361.

Hoffman, L., McDowd, J., Atchley, P., & Dubinsky, R. (2005). The role of visual attention in predicting driving impairment in older adults. Psychology & Aging, 20, 610-622.

Atchley, P. & Dressel, J. (2004).  Conversation limits the functional field of view. Human Factors, 46, 664-673.

Attentional Processes

Ho, M. & Atchley, P.  (2009). The effect of perceptual load on object-based attention. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance, 35, 1661-1669.

Young, K.M., Atchley R.A., & Atchley, P. (2009). Offset masking in a divided visual field study. Laterality, 14, 473-494.

Atchley, P. (2005). The allocation of attention in 3-D space.  In The Neurobiology of Attention, I. Rees and J. Tsotso, Eds., Academic Press.

Atchley, P. & Hoffman, L. (2004). Aging and visual masking: An interaction of sensory and attentional effects. Psychology & Aging. 19, 57-67.

Atchley, P., Jones, S. & Hoffman, L. (2003). Visual marking: A Convergence of goal and stimulus driven processes during visual search. Perception & Psychophysics, 65, 667-677.

Atchley, P., Grobe, J., & Fields, L.  (2002). The effect of smoking on perceptual and cognitive masking. Perception & Psychophysics. 64, 328-336.

Atchley, P. & Kramer, A.F. (2001). Object-based attentional selection in three-dimensional space. Visual Cognition, 8, 1-32.

Theeuwes, J., Kramer, A.F. & Atchley, P. (2001) Spatial attention in early vision. Acta Psychologica, 108, 1-20.

Atchley, P., Kramer, A.F., & Hillstrom, A. (2000). Contingent capture for non-onsets: Attentional set for perceptual transients.  Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance, 26, 594-606.

Atchley, P. & Kramer, A.F. (2000). Age-related changes in the control of attention in depth. Psychology & Aging. 15, 78–87.

Perceptual and Memory Processes

Jones, T. & Atchley, P. (2008). Decreasing conjunction error rates across lags on a continuous recognition test: A robust pattern. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 61, 1726-1740.

Jones, T.C., Brown, A.S. & Atchley, P. (2007). Feature and conjunction effects in recognition memory: Toward specifying familiarity for compound words. Memory & Cognition, 35, 984-998.

Jones, T.C. & Atchley, P. (2006). Conjunction errors, recollection-based rejections, and forgetting in a continuous recognition task.  Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition, 32, 70-78.

Jones, T. & Atchley, P. (2002). Conjunction error rates on a continuous recognition memory test: Little evidence for recollection. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition. 28, 374-379.

Atchley, P. & Andersen, G.J. (1999). The detection of heading from optic flow is not retinally invariant. Perception & Psychophysics, 61, 387-396.

Atchley, P., Andersen, G.J., & Wuestefeld, A.P. (1998). Cooperativity and 3D surface detection from optic flow. Perception & Psychophysics, 60, 981-992.

Atchley, P. & Andersen, G.J. (1998). The effect of age, retinal eccentricity and speed on the detection of optic flow components. Psychology & Aging, 13, 297-308.

Higher education

Atchley, P., Hooker, E.,  Kroska, E. & Gilmour, A. Validation of an online orientation seminar to improve career and major preparedness. Teaching of Psychology.  In press.

Atchley, P. (2011). Making students collaborators in their own success. Teaching Matters (Newsletter of KU CTE), 14, 4-5.

Atchley, P. (2004). Content without context: Goals in higher education. Reflections from the Classroom, 6, 1- 4.

Selected invited talks

Atchley, P. (2011).  The distracted agent: Attention from the field to the desk.  Presented at the FBI Academy, Quantico, VA, May 27th.

Atchley, P. (2011). Understanding the distracted driving epidemic.  Presented at the Illinois Distracted Driving Summit, Chicago, IL, April 21st. (Sponsored by the National Safety Council)

Atchley, P. (2010). This is your brain on technology (Keynote address). Information Overload Awareness Day.  International web conference hosted by Basex, October 20th.

Atchley, P. (2010). Dual-task studies of attention and language reveal shared neurophysiological resources. Presented at the Crossmodal Action Workshop, RWTH Aachen University (Germany), October 1st.

Atchley, P. (2009). Top transportation & energy issues facing the nation. Panelist, press conference at the  88th annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board, Washington, D.C., January 13th.

Atchley, P. (2008). Hang up and drive!  Why does a cell phone make the younger driver attend like an eighty-five year old?  Presented at the Contance-Lethbridge Rehabilitation Centre, Montreal, Canada, April 17th.

Selected media appearances

Regular writer for the Car Talk Distracted Driving Blog (

2011 (Dec. 17). New York Times, “Reframing the Debate Over Using Phones While Driving”, interviewee.

2011 (Dec. 5). Chicago Daily Herald. “Scientists: Our brains can’t safely juggle driving and cellphones, even hands-free”, interviewee

2011 (Nov. 8). Men’s Health. “Upgrade Your A.M. Commute”, interviewee

2011 (Oct. 17). Le Mars (IA) Daily Sentinel.  “Iowa's texting and driving ban: Why isn't it working?”, interviewee

2011 (Aug. 30, Sept. 2). Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (Calgary (Aug.); Edmonton (Sept.)) (radio). “Distracted driving laws”, interviewee

2011 (May 28). Youtube ( and APS Convention website. “APS Convention Video Blog: The Need to Text Now.”

 2011 (Feb 16).  BBC (radio, Glasgow), BBC (radio, London). “Can talking on a phone help you drive?”, interviewee

Atchley, P. (2010, Dec. 21). You can’t multitask, so stop trying.  Harvard Business Review, The Conversation, invited blog submission.  (Reposted in Business Week and others.)

2010 (Nov 29.). Discovery (Channel) News. “Government Considers Disabling Cell Phones in Cars.”, interviewee 

2010 (Sept. 19). New York Times. “Texts From the Lifeguard Chair Are Raising Concerns Over Safety.”, interviewee

2010 (Sept. 4). Washington Post. “Housewatch: Doctors prescribe a daily dose of nature.”, interviewee

2010 (August 19). Fox News TV (national). “Your brain and technology.”, interviewee

2010 (August 15). New York Times. “Your brain on computers - studying the brain off the grid”, interviewee

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