2017 Winner of the Capstone Editing Conference Travel Grant for Postgraduate Research Students

We are very proud to announce that Ms Laura Engfors is the 2017 recipient of the Capstone Editing Conference Travel Grant for Postgraduate Research Students. Laura will use her award to deliver a presentation at the 2018 Vision Sciences Society (VSS) Annual Conference in May in Florida, USA—the most prestigious conference in Laura’s field, attracting over 1,000 emerging and established vision scientists from around the world.

Laura is undertaking her PhD in the field of person perception in the School of Psychological Science at the University of Western Australia, under the supervision of Associate Professor Romina Palermo and Dr Linda Jeffery. Laura’s PhD topic focuses on why some people are better at recognising faces than others. Face recognition skills vary across a continuum in the general population, ranging from those who have an extraordinary ability to recognise the faces of even the shallowest of acquaintances to those who have great difficulty recognising the faces of even their closest friends and family members.

As face recognition is such an important social skill, people with difficulties can find everyday social situations extremely challenging. Therefore, an important area of research in person perception is determining what factors contribute to variation in this ability. One factor that Laura has investigated is the relative contribution of two face-coding mechanisms, holistic coding and adaptive norm-based coding. Laura found that both mechanisms made an important and unique contribution to face recognition ability, together accounting for 25 per cent of the variation in face recognition ability. This work was published as a journal article (Engfors, Jeffery, Gignac & Palermo, 2016).

Another factor that Laura’s PhD research has recently investigated is the link between social experience and successful face recognition. Research shows that people who may avoid social situations can have poor face recognition skills. However, little is known about whether this indicates a more general relationship between social experience and face recognition ability.

Laura’s most recent study shows that the quality of one’s social network is more important to variation in face recognition ability than the size of the social network. This novel finding is the first to demonstrate a clear link between face recognition skill and people’s everyday social experience in the general population. These findings not only enhance the understanding of the social challenges (or indeed, social advantages) that people are experiencing, but also highlights—for the first time—the important association face recognition skill has with people’s sense of feeling socially connected.

Capstone Editing Conference Travel Grant for Postgraduate Research Students will allow Laura to present this work at the Vision Sciences Society Annual Conference in the USA, where we are confident it will be met with great interest.

Laura is an ambitious, dedicated and insightful young scientist with a promising future research career. She is the previous recipient of an Australian Psychological Society prize for highest ranked honours student at the University of South Australia (2012) and recently, she received a student award for an outstanding 2016 publication from the ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders. Laura has balanced these achievements with raising her three children, aged one, six and eighteen.

Attending the Vision Sciences Society Annual Conference, with the support of Capstone Editing, will enable Laura the opportunity to gain feedback from leading researchers about her work and establish important connections with other researchers in her field. This opportunity will greatly assist Laura in her goal of pursuing a research career after the completion of her PhD.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *