Robert Jacobs

Robert A. Jacobs

  • Professor, Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Computer Science, and the Center for Visual Science

PhD, University of Massachusetts, 1990

306 Meliora Hall
(585) 275-0753
Fax: (585) 442-9216

Office Hours: By appointment


Curriculum Vitae

Research Overview

The Computational Cognition and Perception Lab uses experimental and computational methodologies to study human learning, memory, and decision making in cognitive and perceptual domains. How is new information—such as a visual feature distinguishing the appearances of identical twins or a combination of features allowing a person to identify or categorize novel objects—acquired and how does this information become established in memory? How are perceptual learning and memory similar or different from cognitive learning and memory? How is low-level perceptual information abstracted to form the basis of high-level conceptual knowledge? To what extent are people's behaviors consistent with the optimal behaviors of computational models based on Bayesian statistics? Our research lab addresses these and other questions.

Specific areas of study include:

  • Multisensory Perception
  • Visual Short-Term Memory
  • Effective Perceptual Training Procedures
  • Perceptual Expertise
  • Computational Models Known as Ideal Observers and Ideal Actors
  • Cognitive Models and Machine Learning

See our lab website for more information.

Research Interests

  • cognitive and perceptual learning
  • neural computation

Selected Publications

See our lab website for a more complete list of publications.

  • German, J.S., Jacobs, R.A. (2023). Implications of capacity-limited, generative models for human vision. Behav Brain Sci. 2023 Dec 6;46:e391. doi: 10.1017/S0140525X23001772.
  • German, J.S., Cui, G., Xu, C., Jacobs, R.A. (2023). Rapid runtime learning by curating small datasets of high-quality items obtained from memory. PLOS Computational Biology 19(10): e1011445.
  • Sims, C.R., Lerch, R.A., Tarduno, J.A. et al. Conceptual knowledge shapes visual working memory for complex visual information. Sci Rep 12, 8088 (2022).
  • Hu, R. & Jacobs, R. A. (2021). Semantic influence on visual working memory of object identity and location. Cognition, Volume 217, 2021, 104891.
  • Wu M.H., Anderson, A.J., Jacobs, R.A., Raizada, R.D.S (2021). Analogy-Related Information Can be Accessed by Simple Addition and Subtraction of fMRI Activation Patterns, without Participants Performing any Analogy Task. Neurobiology of Language.
  • Bates, C. J. & Jacobs, R. A. (2021). Optimal attentional allocation in the presence of capacity constraints in uncued and cued visual search. Journal of Vision, 21(5):3, 1-23.
  • Wu M.H., Kleinschmidt D., Emberson L., Doko D., Edelman S., Jacobs R., Raizada R. (2020). Cortical Transformation of Stimulus Space in Order to Linearize a Linearly Inseparable Task. J Cogn Neurosci. 32(12):2342-2355. doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_01533.
  • Bates, C. J. & Jacobs, R. A. (2020). Efficient data compression in perception and perceptual memory. Psychological Review, 127, 891-917.
  • Bates, C.J., Sims, C.R., Jacobs, R.A. (2020). The importance of constraints on constraints Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 43, e3
  • German, J.S., Jacobs, R.A. (2020). Can machine learning account for human visual object shape similarity judgments? Vision Research, 167, 87-99. PDF
  • Bates, C. J., Lerch, R. A., Sims, C. R., & Jacobs, R. A. (2019). Adaptive allocation of human visual working memory capacity during statistical and categorical learning. Journal of Vision, 19(2):11, 1-23. PDF
  • Jacobs, R. A. & Bates, C. J. (2019). Comparing the visual representations and performance of human and deep neural networks. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 28, 34-39. PDF
  • Chen, Q., Garcea, F. E., Jacobs, R. A., & Mahon, B. Z. (2018). Abstract representations of object directed action in the left inferior parietal lobule. Cerebral Cortex, 28, 2162-2174. PDF
  • Erdogan, G. & Jacobs, R. A. (2017). Visual shape perception as Bayesian inference of 3D Object-Centered Shape Representations. Psychological Review, 124, 740-761. PDF
  • Overlan, M. C., Jacobs, R. A., & Piantadosi, S. T. (2017). Learning abstract visual concepts via probabilistic program induction in a Language of Thought. Cognition, 168, 320-334. PDF
  • Erdogan, G., Chen, Q., Garcea, F. E., Mahon, B. Z., & Jacobs, R. A. (2016). Multisensory part-based representations of objects in human lateral occipital cortex. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 28, 869-881. PDF
  • Piantadosi, S. T. & Jacobs, R. A. (2016). Four problems solved by the probabilistic language of thought. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 25, 54-59. PDF
  • Erdogan, G., Yildirim, I., & Jacobs, R. A. (2015). From sensory signals to modality-independent conceptual representations: A probabilistic language of thought approach. PLoS Computational Biology, 11(11), e1004610. PDF
  • Orhan, A. E. & Jacobs, R. A. (2014). Toward ecologically realistic theories in visual short-term memory research. Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics 76, 1058-1070. PDF
  • Orhan, A. E., Sims, C. R., Jacobs, R. A., & Knill, D. C. (2014). The adaptive nature of visual working memory. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 23, 164-170. PDF
  • Orhan, A. E. & Jacobs, R. A. (2013). A probabilistic clustering theory of the organization of visual short-term memory. Psychological Review, 120, 297-328. PDF
  • Sims, C. R., Neth, H., Jacobs, R. A., & Gray, W. D. (2013). Melioration as rational choice: Sequential decision making in uncertain environments. Psychological Review, 120, 139-154. PDF
  • Yildirim, I. & Jacobs, R. A. (2013). Transfer of object category knowledge across visual and haptic modalities: Experimental and computational studies. Cognition, 126, 135-148. PDF
  • Evans, K. M., Jacobs, R. A., Tarduno, J. A., & Pelz, J. B. (2012). Collecting and analyzing eye-tracking data in outdoor environments. Journal of Eye Movement Research, 5(2):6, 1-19. PDF
  • Sims, C. R., Jacobs, R. A., & Knill, D. C. (2012). An ideal observer analysis of visual working memory. Psychological Review, 119, 807-830. PDF
  • Yildirim, I. & Jacobs, R. A. (2012). A rational analysis of the acquisition of multisensory representations. Cognitive Science, 36, 305-332. PDF
  • Yakushijin, R. & Jacobs, R. A. (2011). Are people successful at learning sequences of actions on a perceptual matching task? Cognitive Science, 35, 939-962. PDF
  • Sims, C. R., Jacobs, R. A., & Knill, D. C. (2011). Adaptive allocation of vision under competing task demands. Journal of Neuroscience, 31, 928-943. PDF
  • Jacobs, R. A. & Kruschke, J. K. (2011). Bayesian learning theory applied to human cognition. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science, 2, 8-21. PDF
  • Orhan, A. E., Michel, M. M., and Jacobs, R. A. (2010). Visual learning with reliable and unreliable features. Journal of Vision, 10(2):2, 1-15. PDF
  • Jacobs, R. A. and Shams, L. (2010). Visual learning in multisensory environments. Topics in Cognitive Science, 2, 217-225. PDF