Dr. Wieske van Zoest

Dr. Wieske van Zoest

School of Psychology
Assistant Professor
Director of Postgraduate Programmes

Wieske van Zoest uses eye movements and manual responses (and occasionally EEG/ MEG)  to investigate how observers process and respond to the plethora of visual information in the world.

For more information: https://sites.google.com/site/wieskevanzoest


  • Bsc & Msc, Maastricht University, the Netherlands
  • Phd, VU University Amsterdam, the Netherlands


Wieske van Zoest completed her Bsc and Msc degree in Psychology at Maastricht University in the Netherlands; her Msc thesis was completed at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.

From 2001- 2005 she worked on a PhD with Mieke Donk and Jan Theeuwes at the VU University in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Supported by post-doctoral fellowships of NWO (Rubicon) and Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research she spent three years at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver Canada working with Alan Kingstone, Jim Enns and Jason Barton. In 2008 she was awarded a NWO veni grant and returned to the VU University Amsterdam.

In 2011 Wieske moved to Italy to the University of Trento to work as an assistant professor at the Center for Mind/ Brain Sciences. In September 2018 Wieske started a position as lecturer at the School of Psychology at the University of Birmingham.


Module coordinator for ‘Introduction to Neuroscientific Methods’ for master students.

Postgraduate supervision

Wieske is currently working with Claudia Bonmassar (phd-student) at the Center for Mind/ Brain Sciences at the University of Trento.

Wieske is always interested in talking to potential students (masters or phds) and postdoctoral fellows. Please do not hesitate to contact her via w.vanzoest@bham.ac.uk.

For more information see https://sites.google.com/site/wieskevanzoest


A main question in Wieske’s work is how people select those things in the environment that they want to select and why is it that sometimes certain things and objects automatically draw attention and eyes. Using a modified visual search paradigm and eye movement recordings, Wieske has demonstrated an important role for time in determining how much control observers have available. For example, when observers respond quickly, salient stimuli are prioritized in processing regardless of their task relevance. However, as time passes salience degrades and the representation changes. It becomes more sophisticated as other information, such as prior knowledge and observer goals, is integrated.

In her work, Wieske has discovered that search and selection performance 1) depends on the amount of time observers take to deploy attention and move their eye movements to a location; 2) does not always depend on observers’ awareness; 3) depends on whether there is a relation of symmetry between a target and surrounding elements; 4) benefits from a short-term visual memory representation, and 5) is automatically modulated by random reward feedback.

Other interests of Wieske include visual search, spatial cueing of attention via gaze-direction or arrows, eye movements and reward, shared task representation in joint attention, and individual differences looking at how special populations such as hearing-impaired and deaf individuals process incoming visual information.

ORCID: 0000-0001-6760-2346


Recent publications


Lu, Z & van Zoest, W 2023, 'Combining social cues in attention: Looking at gaze, head, and pointing cues', Attention, perception & psychophysics. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13414-023-02669-6

van Heusden, E, van Zoest, W, Donk, M & Olivers, CNL 2022, 'An attentional limbo: Saccades become momentarily non-selective in between saliency-driven and relevance-driven selection', Psychonomic Bulletin and Review. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13423-022-02091-3

Bonmassar, C, Pavani, F, Spinella, D, Frau, GN & Zoest, WV 2022, 'Does age-related hearing loss deteriorate attentional resources?', Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition. https://doi.org/10.1080/13825585.2022.2067319

Pimpini, L, Kochs, S, Zoest, WV, Jansen, A & Roefs, A 2022, 'Food captures attention, but not the eyes: an eye-tracking study on mindset and BMI’s impact on attentional capture by high-caloric visual food stimuli', Journal of Cognition, vol. 5, no. 1, 210. https://doi.org/10.5334/joc.210

Heinke, D, Wachman, P, van Zoest, W & Leek, EC 2021, 'A failure to learn object shape geometry: implications for convolutional neural networks as plausible models of biological vision', Vision Research, vol. 189, pp. 81-92. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.visres.2021.09.004

Bonmassar, C, Pavani, F, Renzo, AD, Caselli, MC & Zoest, WV 2021, 'Eye-movement patterns to social and non-social cues in early deaf adults', Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, vol. 74, no. 6, pp. 1021-1036. https://doi.org/10.1177/1747021821998511

Hickey, C & van Zoest, W 2021, 'Foxes, hedgehogs, and attentional capture', Visual Cognition, vol. 29, no. 9, pp. 596-599. https://doi.org/10.1080/13506285.2021.1918812

Van Zoest, W, Huber-Huber, C, Weaver, MD & Hickey, C 2021, 'Strategic distractor suppression improves selective control in human vision', Journal of Neuroscience, vol. 41, no. 33, pp. 7120-7135. https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0553-21.2021

Donofry, SD, van Zoest, W, Moonen, A, Sacchetti, S, Nederkoorn, C & Roefs, A 2019, 'Effect of dietary restraint and mood state on attentional processing of food cues', Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, vol. 62, pp. 117-124. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbtep.2018.10.002

Pavani, F, Venturini, M, Baruffaldi, F, Caselli, MC & van Zoest, W 2019, 'Environmental learning of social cues: evidence from enhanced gaze cueing in deaf children', Child Development, vol. 90, no. 5, pp. 1525-1534. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdev.13284

Notaro, G, van Zoest, W, Altman, M, Melcher, D & Hasson, U 2019, 'Predictions as a window into learning: Anticipatory fixation offsets carry more information about environmental statistics than reactive stimulus-responses', Journal of Vision, vol. 19, no. 2, 8, pp. 1-22. https://doi.org/10.1167/19.2.8

Paoletti, D, Braun, C, Vargo, EJ & van Zoest, W 2019, 'Spontaneous pre-stimulus oscillatory activity shapes the way we look: a concurrent imaging and eye-movement study', European Journal of Neuroscience, vol. 49, no. 1, pp. 137-149. https://doi.org/10.1111/ejn.14285

Bonmassar, C, Pavani, F & van Zoest, W 2019, 'The role of eye movements in manual responses to social and nonsocial cues', Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics, vol. 81, no. 5, pp. 1236-1252. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13414-019-01669-9

Weaver, MD, van Zoest, W & Hickey, C 2017, 'A temporal dependency account of attentional inhibition in oculomotor control', NeuroImage, vol. 147, pp. 880-894. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2016.11.004

Entry for encyclopedia/dictionary

Deakin, JT, Porat, L, van Zoest, W & Heinke, D 2021, Behavioral research, overt performance. in Reference Module in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Psychology. vol. 1-3, Elsevier, pp. 197-203. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-819641-0.00162-6

View all publications in research portal