nl en

Perception, Attention and Decision Making


Entry requirements

Only open to students that are admitted to the Minor Brain and Cognition.

Course objectives

Upon completion of this course, the student:

  • has acquired knowledge of principles of perception, attention and decision making;

  • has learned how these processes are related to each other and how they shape our daily-life experiences;

  • gained insight in how research can help to understand the (neuro)cognitive processes that underlie perception, attention or decision making; and

  • will be able to apply this knowledge to critical reading of primary literature and to form, express and explain opinions on selected topics, as demonstrated by means of writing a popular scientific blog.


In this course, students will be introduced to the basic principles of human and animal perception, attention and decision making. Students will learn how properties of sensory systems and higher cognitive processes determine how we perceive and attend to our environment, and make decisions accordingly. Different scientific views (i.e. psychological, biological, pharmacological, physiological) and research methods will be discussed.

Topics will cover several aspects of each modality. For example, visual and auditory perception, face recognition, selective attention, attentional control, perceptual and value-based decision making and heuristics. These topics will be discussed with respect to daily life experiences as well as to the different research methods that are used to investigate them (e.g. electrophysiological and neuroimaging methods). As such, each lecture will aim to provide insight into the theoretical and methodological perspectives of the different topics that will be discussed.


The timetable for this course will be announced soon.
Always keep an eye on Blackboard and check with your course coordinator for potential changes.


  • Each student will write and hand in an individual scientific blog about a topic related to the course. This blog should be written following the guidelines of the blogs on, additional requirements will be announced during the course.

  • The exam will consist of a combination of multiple choice and open questions.

The final grade will the weighted average score of both the blog (30%) and the exam (70%). Note that, in order to pass the course, students require a minimum score of 5.5 on both grades.

Reading list


  • Ward, J. The Student’s Guide to Cognitive Neuroscience. Psychology Press (Dec. 2009), 2nd Edition or (Jan. 2015), 3rd Edition. Chapter 6, 7, 10, 14

Additional papers & chapters:

  • Purves, Cabezza, Huettel, LaBar, Platt & Woldorff, Principles of Cognitive Neuroscience, Chapter 14

  • Dalton, P., Doolittle, N., Nagata, H., & Breslin, P. A. S. (2000). The merging of the senses: integration of subthreshold taste and smell. Nature neuroscience, 3(5), 431-432.

  • Kadosh, R. C., Sagiv, N., Linden, D. E., Robertson, L. C., Elinger, G., & Henik, A. (2005). When blue is larger than red: Colors influence numerical cognition in synesthesia. Journal of cognitive neuroscience, 17(11), 1766-1773.

  • Chittka L & Niven J 2009: Are Bigger Brains Better? Cur Biol 19, R995-R1008.

  • Jacobs GH 2008: Primate color vision: A comparative perspective. Visual Neuroscience 25, 619-633

  • Reedijk, S. A., Bolders, A., Colzato, L. S., & Hommel, B. (2015). Eliminating the attentional blink through binaural beats: A case for tailored cognitive enhancement. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 6, 82.

  • Colzato, L. S., Sellaro, R., Hulka, L. M., Quednow, B. B., & Hommel, B. (2014). Cognitive control predicted by color vision, and vice versa. Neuropsychologia,62, 55-59.

  • Hommel, B., Ridderinkhof, R. K., & Theeuwes, J. (2002). Cognitive control of attention and action: Issues and trends. Psychological research, 66(4), 215-219.

  • Sellaro, R., van Dijk, W. W., Paccani, C. R., Hommel, B., & Colzato, L. S. (2014). A question of scent: lavender aroma promotes interpersonal trust. Frontiers in psychology, 5.

  • Lippelt, D. P., Hommel, B., & Colzato, L. S. (2014). Focused attention, open monitoring and loving kindness meditation: effects on attention, conflict monitoring, and creativity–A review. Frontiers in psychology, 5.

  • Green, C. S., & Bavelier, D. (2015). Action video game training for cognitive enhancement. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 4, 103-108.

  • Colzato, L. S., van den Wildenberg, W. P., Zmigrod, S., & Hommel, B. (2013). Action video gaming and cognitive control: playing first person shooter games is associated with improvement in working memory but not action inhibition.Psychological research, 77, 234-239.

  • Luck, S. J. (2004). Understanding awareness: one step closer. Nature Neuroscience, 7(3), 208–209

  • Lamme, V. (2003). Why visual attention and awareness are different. Trends in Cognitive Sciences.

  • Chittka L, Skorupski P & Raine NE 2009: Speed-accuracy tradeoffs in animal decision making. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 24, 400-407.

  • Couzin ID 2009: Collective cognition in animal groups. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 13, 36-43

  • Cohen, J. D., McClure, S. M., & Yu, A. J. (2007). Should I stay or should I go? How the human brain manages the trade-off between exploitation and exploration. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 362(1481), 933–942.

  • Steenbergen, L., Sellaro, R., Stock, A. K., Beste, C., & Colzato, L. S. (2015). γ-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) administration improves action selection processes: a randomised controlled trial. Scientific reports, 5.

  • Jongkees, B. J., Hommel, B., Kühn, S., & Colzato, L. S. (2015). Effect of tyrosine supplementation on clinical and healthy populations under stress or cognitive demands—A review. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 70, 50-57.

  • Steenbergen, L., Sellaro, R., & Colzato, L. S. (2014). Tryptophan promotes charitable donating. Frontiers in psychology, 5.

  • Robinson, O. J., Cools, R., Crockett, M. J., & Sahakian, B. J. (2010). Mood state moderates the role of serotonin in cognitive biases. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 24(4), 573-583.

  • Steenbergen, L., Sellaro, R., Hommel, B., & Colzato, L. S. (2015). Tyrosine promotes cognitive flexibility: Evidence from proactive vs. reactive control during task switching performance. Neuropsychologia, 69, 50-55.

Contact information

For questions about enrolment, please contact the coordinator of the minor in Brain and Cognition

For questions about the course, please contact the course coordinator:
Laura Steenbergen