Professor Tim J Smith (Birkbeck university, Centre of Brain and Cognitive Development)
Professor Atsushi Senju (Hamamatsu University, School of Medicine)
I am interested in how interactive environments (both real-world and virtual), and people’s beliefs about them, affect cognition and behaviour, and what underlying neural mechanisms are engaged in these effects. During testing, I use naturalistic environments and apply methods such as online video interaction, interactive immersive virtual (VR) environments and scripted real-world interaction scenarios.
My PhD research focused on cognitive impacts of social virtual reality, entertaining the idea of wellbeing focused inclusive technologies. The PhD experiments tested how the subjective beliefs about virtual companion’s agency, such as whether the companion is a human or an AI, and the self-exposure of use to the virtual companion, impacts behaviour and cognitive performance in remote online and immersive virtual environments. The research focused on neurotypical adult population, with consideration for individual differences, for example, non-clinical social anxiety and autistic traits. The PhD question is currently expanded onto clinical populations. My masters (MSc) project investigated immersive co-presence implementations in remote education, piloting an experiment on performance changes during immersive virtual co-presence, and undergraduate (BSc) research tested memory retention and retrieval in real-world versus immersive virtual reality.
The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasised the importance of being able to socially interact with others. However, the shift to remote social interaction and the resulting inability to physically share experiences has caused people to feel less connected and more exhausted after the long virtual interactions (“Zoom Fatigue”). As the social impact reasons are still debated, the current social interactions are becoming more complex and augmented, with communication expanding from other people towards AI-companions. Through research we aim to improve understanding of how our brain processes social information and how social technology impacts our cognition, hopefully paving the way to more wellbeing focused and inclusive social technology and interactive environments.
PhD Student, Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, Birkbeck (2018 –2022)
MSc Educational Neuroscience (Distinction), Birkbeck and UCL Institute of Education (2017-2018)
BSc Hons Psychology, Neuroscience Pathway (First Class), Birkbeck College, University of London (2013-2017)
Sutskova, O., Senju, A., & Smith, T. J. (2022). Impact of Video-Mediated Online Social Presence and Observance on Cognitive Performance. Technology, Mind, and Behavior, 3(2), p 1- 15. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037/tmb0000023
Conference Talks and Presentations
Sutskova, O. (2022, April 4-5). Cognitive Impact Differences during Videoconference-based Interaction: Contrasting the Presence of Real-Human, Avatar, and AI-Agent Companions. Face2Face: Advancing Science of Social Interaction, Science Meeting: The Royal Society. London: UK. DOI: https://royalsociety.org/science-events-and-lectures/2022/04/social-interaction/
Sutskova, O. (2021, June). Social VR and Second-Person Cognition: The Impact of Virtual Social Presence on Cognitive Performance. CBCD Seminar Series 2021, Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development: London, United Kingdom
Other Public Engagement
Science Week, Birkbeck University of London: Psychology Panel Discussion (March 29, 2022)
Co-Organising CBCD Seminar Series (October 2020 - October 2021): www.cbcd.bbk.ac.uk/events
Grants and Awards
2022- Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) – 4 months, post-doctoral funding. International fellowships for research in Japan for the promotion of science
2021- Birkbeck’s Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund (ISSF) – 6 months, post-doctoral funding. Institutional award for research dissemination activities for PhD graduates in biomedicine or medical humanities
2017- The UCL, Bloomsbury and East London Doctoral Training Partnership (UBEL-DTP) – 1+ 3 years, MSc + PhD funding. Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funded studentship for doctoral training in interdisciplinary research
2017 - Elaine Gladstone Prize – Departmental prize for superior academic achievement in the final year of Bachelor of Science (BSc) studies, issued by Birkbeck University of London