John Foley

John Foley

Professor Emeritus/Research Professor

Advisor Status:
Not accepting graduate applications

Research Area

Cognition, Perception, and Cognitive Neuroscience


John Foley was an undergraduate at the University of Notre Dame, where he majored in physics. He did graduate study at Columbia University, where he received a Ph. D. in psychology with a specialty in visual perception. Shortly after, he joined the faculty of the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is now Research Professor of Psychology. He has been a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Louvain, Belgium, a NIH Senior Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a James McKeen Cattell Fellow at the University of Cambridge in England, a visiting Lecturer at the University of Tokyo, and a Hoffman-LaRoche Fellow at the Institute for Biophysics at the University of Freiburg in Germany. His research work has been supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation and a contract with Philips Research in The Netherlands.


Dr. Foley works on the experimental and theoretical analysis of visual perception, information processing, and visual-motor control. He has an applied research interest in improving the quality of video imagery. He has pursued a variety of research problems ranging from the detection of visual patterns to control of action. In pattern vision, he is working on pattern detection, masking of one pattern by another, pattern adaptation, and spatial context effects on pattern detection and appearance, and attentional effects. These studies are designed to test and further develop a computational model of human pattern vision that he has proposed. In space perception, his interests include stereopsis, integration of distance information, size perception, and geometrical theories of space perception. Humans often make systematic errors in indicating the positions of objects in space and the sizes of objects and extents between them. Nevertheless, they are able to perform accurately in spatial tasks. Studies of visual-motor coordination focus on these errors and how they are corrected by learning with error feedback. The image quality studies are concerned with defects that are introduced into video images when they are compressed and how the impact of these defects on perceived image quality can be minimized.

Selected Publications

Foley, J. M. (2021). Visually directed action. Journal of Vision, 21(5):25, 1–19.

Foley, J. M. (2019). Lateral effects in pattern vision. Journal of Vision, 19(9): 8, 1–35.

Foley, J. M. (2009). Forward–backward masking of contrast patterns: The role of transients. Journal of Vision, (2011) 11(9):15, 1–24.

Koh, C. C., Foley, J. M. & Mitra, S. K. (2007) Color Preference, Color Naturalness, and Annoyance of Compressed and Color Scaled Digital Videos. Proceedings of SPIE-IS&T Electronic Imaging, SPIE Vol. 6492.

Foley, J. M., Ribeiro-Filho, N. P., & Da Silva, J. A. (2004). Visual perception of extent and the geometry of visual space. Vision Research44, 147-156.

Moore, M. S., Foley, J. M., & Mitra, S. K. (2004). Video defect visibility and content importance: Effects on perceived impairment. Signal Processing: Image Communication19, 185-203.

Foley, J. M. & Chen, C. C. (1999). Pattern detection in the presence of maskers that differ in spatial phase and temporal offset: threshold measurements and a model. Vision Research39, 3855-3872.

Foley, J. M. & Schwarz, W. (1998). Spatial attention: The effect of position uncertainty and number of distractor patterns on the threshold versus contrast function for contrast discrimination. Journal of the Optical Society of America A15, 1036-1047.

Foley, J.M. (1994). Human luminance pattern vision mechanisms: Masking experiments require a new model. Journal of the Optical Society of America A11, 1710-1719.

Foley, J. M. (1991). Binocular space perception. In Cronly-Dillon (gen. ed.) Vision and Visual Dysfunction, Vol. 9, Regan, D. (ed.) Binocular Vision, London: Macmillan, 75-92.

Foley, J. M. (1985). Binocular distance perception: Egocentric distance tasks. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance11, 133-148.

Foley, J. M., & Legge, G. E. (1981). Contrast detection and near-threshold discrimination in human vision. Vision Research21, l04l-l053.

Legge, G. E., & Foley, J. M. (1980). Contrast masking in human vision. Journal of Optical Society of America70, 1458-1471.

Foley, J. M. (1980). Binocular distance perception. Psychological Review87, 411-434.

Foley, J. M.  (1972) Visual space:  The size-distance relation and intrinsic geometry.  Vision Research, 2, 323-332.

Foley, J. M. (1964) Desarguesian property in visual space.  Journal of the Optical Society of America, 54, 684-692.