AVA Awards Recipients Report - Jordi Asher - 2018

Geoffrey J. Burton Memorial Award

With support from the AVA Travel Awards, I was able to attend the Vision Science Society (VSS) in St Petes Beach, Florida, from the 18th -24th May 2018 and present my poster on depth perception in anti-correlated stimuli.

My poster was titled “First- and second-order contributions to depth perception in anti-correlated random dot stereograms”.  We conducted a comprehensive behavioural study with nine conditions to identify if and how each condition may affect the perception of depth. In order to analyse the data we employed innovative statistical methods to provide a population level psychometric function across all observers. Our behavioural results indicated there was no reliable percept of reverse depth in any of the anti-correlated conditions.  However, many of the theories predicting the perception of reversed depth focus on first-order mechanisms, while depth perception can depend on multiple mechanisms.  We also investigated how second-order mechanisms would respond to anti-correlated stimuli by computationally modelling the responses of second-order channels to our psychophysical stimuli. We concluded that the inconsistencies found are most likely accounted for by the reliability and interactions between the first- and second-order mechanisms. You can view the poster here (DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.17476.73605). The benefit of presenting a poster is the amount of time you have to engage with people interested in your research.  I was thrilled to be visited by some of the most eminent researchers in the field of depth perception who were genuinely interested in the research and offered a great platform for discussion and the exchange of ideas. 

The format of the conference is ideal for networking, there are many organised social events, an interactive demo night and many satellite events.  I attended the workshop hosted by FoVea (Females of Vision et al) a group that has been created to advance the impact of women in vision sciences. FoVea aims to balance the ratio of women who are under-represented in more senior positions, are nominated less and receive fewer awards than men, and are less likely to be invited to give a conference or symposium talk.  This year Professor Virginia Valian from Hunter College gave a talk titled “Remedying the (Still) Too Slow Advancement of Women”.  The quote of the evening definitely has to be “Men naturally gravitate toward higher paying positions like doctor, lawyer, CEO….; while women naturally gravitate toward lower paying positions, like female doctor, female lawyer, female CEO….”  This engaging talk looked at how our schemas and biases accumulate overtime much like compound interest, so that even a small bias can lead to cumulative advantages for men over women.  While the majority of attendees are women, I hope that in the future there will be a more balanced representation of genders.

Finally, attending VSS also provided me with an opportunity to arrange an informal meeting, with a Principal Investigator looking for a potential post doc.  In this instance we agreed we weren’t what the other was looking for, primarily due to the remit of the position.  However, I am still pleased that I used this time to reach out and connect with a different lab.  The meeting was and more of an opportunity for me to ask questions of them, than it was an interview of me.   For example, I asked questions about the position, the facilities, and the type of person they were seeking.

VSS is undoubtedly the highlight of the year and I took advantage of every possible opportunity.  I would like to sincerely thank the AVA for their support, as without it I would not have been able to attend.