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 that he joined the faculty of the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he has worked even since. He is now Research Professor of Psychology. He has been a Fulbright Scholar at the University Of Louvain, Belgium, a National Institutes of Health 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 is 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 the geometry of visual space. 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. (1980). Binocular distance perception. Psychological Review87, 411-434.

Legge, G. E., & Foley, J. M. (1980). Contrast masking in human vision. Journal of Optical Society of America70, 1458-147l.

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

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

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. (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. & 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. & 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.

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