Professor Dylan Jones - OBE BSc (Tech) PhD DSc Wales AcSS


Research group:
Cognitive science
029 208 74868
Tower Building, Park Place

Research summary

Distraction is the price we pay for being able to focus on an event of interest while also gleaning some information from other sources of information. This arrangement has the undoubted advantage of allowing flexibility and adaptability – we can quickly move to new or potentially significant events – but it does mean that extraneous events of no significance can ‘capture’ attention. Distraction from sound is particularly pervasive because we are obliged to process sound – whether we want to or not. Very low levels of sound can be quite damaging to cognitive performance, deficits of 20-30% being commonly found in the laboratory. Distraction seems to be a function of the extent to which the focal task shares type of processing with the obligatory processing of the irrelevant sound.

Short-term memory is commonly regarded as one of the fundamental building blocks of human cognition; a processing primitive on which complex behaviours rely, and limits to whose capacity place constraints on the speed and accuracy of mental skill. This second theme of research seeks to question the ‘processing primitive’ status of short-term memory and instead tries to understand short-term memory behaviour as a product of sensory-perceptual analysis and motor planning behaviour. Key phenomena of short-term memory  -- including the effects of word-length, phonological similarity, modality, irrelevant sound, grouping, word frequency – are reinterpreted in terms of the character of motor planning behaviour and the constraints of mapping perceptual organisation on serial motor plans, as well as the complexity and error-prone nature of motor plans

Selected publications (2014 onwards)


Online publications

Full list of publications



2012-2016 SWEDISH COUCIL FOR WORKING LIFE AND SOCIAL RESEARCH Warning! Investigating factors relating to attention and performance with complex alarms in complex settings.  (Ljungberg, Parmentier, et al. and Jones,  at the University of Umea -- 456,000 Euro).

2012-2016 SWEDISH RESEARCH COUNCIL  An empirical investigation of of distraction by vibratory and auditory stimuli. Swedish Research Council (Ljungberg,  Parmentier, et al. and Jones, at the University of Umea,  372,00 Euro).

2010-2013 ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL RESEARCH COUNCIL. Embodying cognition: A perceptual-gestural account of storage in short-term memory (with Macken & Hughes, £457, 036)

2010-2011 ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL RESEARCH COUNCIL. Resisting attentional capture: The control of auditory distraction (with Hughes, £99,999)

2009-2015 AUTISM CYMRU (AND OTHERS).  Chair and Fellowship in Autism.  (£750,000).

2009-2012 ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL RESEARCH COUNCIL: Auditory distraction during semantic processing: A process-oriented view. (£392, 345).

2007-2009 AUSTRALIAN RESEARCH COUNCIL: ‘Working memory: The binding of spatial and non-spatial features in the retention of visual and auditory information ($A 307,000, at the University of Western Australia, with Maybery, Van Valkenburg, Parmentier, Kubovy).

2006-2009 QINETIQ PLC.  Studentship: Auditory affordance: A link between perception and action. (£103,000, with Macken, Singh).

2006-2009 ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL RESEARCH COUNCIL. ‘Verbal short-term memory: Primitive or parasite?’ (£305,000, with Macken)

2006-2009  ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL RESEARCH COUNCIL. Now, where was I? Cognitive models and support mechanisms for interrupted task performance. (£193,342, with Hodgetts).

2005-2007 WELSH ARTS COUNCIL. MindArt (£45,000 with Halligan).

2006-2011 HIGHER EDUCATION FUNDING CONCIL FOR WALES. ‘Wales Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience’ (£5,190,000 Cardiff co-leader in multicentre bid (with net of £2,000,000 to Cardiff).

2005-2006 ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL RESEARCH COUNCIL. Auditory attentional capture: Stimulus context and task vulnerability (£45,000, with Hughes).

2005-2006 ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL RESEARCH COUNCIL. Attentional selectivity and semantic memory: Studies of auditory distraction.’(£47,000, with Macken & Hughes;  ESRC ref: RES-000-22-1526).

2005 MIMEX CLUSTER PROJECT. Project Bid led byGeneral Dynamics in Phase 2 of DIF DTC. (approx £240,000, plus 27% in kind, over 2.5 years, With Patrick).

2004-2006 AUSTRALIAN RESEARCH COUNCIL. Binding in working memory ($A135,000, with  Parmentier and Maybery).

2003-2006 MINISTRY OF DEFENCE . Designing integrated displays to support team situation awareness. Funded under the Data and Information Fusion Defence Technology Centre. (£225,000, with Dr. J. Patrick).

2003-2006 DEFENCE TECHNOLOGY CENTRE (General Dynamics and others) (£330, 000 with Dr. Patrick, Howes, Banbury).

2002-2005 ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL RESEARCH COUNCIL. ‘Office noise: Acoustic, cognitive and individual determinants of distraction’. (£132, 291, with Banbury).

2002-2004 EUROCONTROL CARE INNOVATIVE ACTIONS (BY COMPETITION WITH QINETIQ AND NLR). ‘Cognitive streaming and air traffic management’  (£430, 082).

2002 QINETIQ ‘Isolation of further processes that generate task interference based on the cognitive streaming hypothesis’(£25,140, with Macken).

2001-2004 ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL RESEARCH COUNCIL. ‘Organisational factors in serial recall: The role of perceptual organisation and rehearsal’ (£170, 179, with Macken).

2000-2002 AUSTRALIAN RESEARCH COUNCIL INTERNATIONAL RESEARCHER EXCHANGE SCHEME. ‘Spatial and verbal working memory’ ($A26,900 with Maybery and Morrison).

1999. AUSTRALIAN RESEARCH COUNCIL. ‘Working memory: Fundamental processes common to the verbal and spatial modalities?’ ($A 7,000 with Maybery and Cowan).

1999-2001. AUSTRALIAN RESEARCH COUNCIL. ‘Auditory-spatial short-term memory’ ($A 116,000 with Maybery and Morrison).

1999-2001 DEFENCE EVALUATION AND RESEARCH AGENCY ‘Task alternation as workload’ (£96, 497 with Macken).

1999 BRITISH COUNCIL. Travel Grant (Alliance Scheme): £980

1999 BRITISH COUNCIL. Travel Grant (Alliance Scheme: Anglo French Collaboration): £980.

1998-2001 MINISTRY OF DEFENCE CORPORATE RESEARCH FUND. ‘Developing a Cognitive Streaming model of workload’ (£256,600).

1998-2001 ENGINERRING AND PHYSICAL SCIENCES RESEARCH COUNCIL ‘Case studies of direct interaction with virtual humans in immersive design environments’ (£227,231, with Pham).

1998-2001 DEFENCE EVALUATION AND RESEARCH AGENCY. ‘Studies for a cognitive streaming model of workload’ (£140, 000).

1998-2001 DEFENCE EVALUATION AND RESEARCH AGENCY. ‘Human factors aspects of remote workstations’ (£140, 000, with Snowden, Howes).

1997-2000 DEFENCE EVALUATION AND RESEARCH AGENCY. ‘Air human factors’ (£216,000).

1997-1998 ENGINEERING AND PHYSICAL SCIENCES RESEARCH COUNCIL. Navigating discontinuous virtual worlds: The role of cognitive maps and wayfinding aids.  (£58, 000, with Howes, Payne).

1997-1998 DEFENCE EVALUATION AND RESEARCH AGENCY. Model of the performance of environmental stressors on aircrew performance’ (£91, 750).

1996-1999 JOINT INFORMATION SYSEMS COMMITTEE OF THE RESEARCH COUNCILS ‘A networked virtual laboratory for experimental psychology’ (£288, 000 with Howes).

1995-1998 ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL RESEARCH COUNCIL. ‘Irrelevant speech and cognitive efficiency’ (£84, 000).

1995-1996 HIGHER EDUCATION FUNDING COUNCIL FOR WALES. ‘Virtual environment laboratory’, (£60,000).

1995 THE BRITISH COUNCIL. ‘The irrelevant speech effect: Working memory and noise effects upon performance’ (£2,000).

1994-1995: DEFENCE RESEARCH AGENCY. ‘Optimisation of connected word speech recognition with the crew station demonstrator facility’, (£14,100).

1994-1995 DEFENCE RESEARCH AGENCY. ‘Stereopsis and colour in HMD and HUD systems’ (£97,100 and £34,600, with Snowden).

1994-1995 DEFENCE RESEARCH AGENCY ‘Studies of the factor structure of workload’, (£133,700 and £8,400 with Tattersall).

1993-1995: ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL RESEARCH COUNCIL.  ‘Cognitive aspects of auditory distraction’, (£58,100).

1993-1995: DEFENCE RESEARCH AGENCY (Royal Aerospace Establishment, Farnborough) ‘Multiple task performance and the prediction of workload’, (£63,872 Tattersall).

1992-1995: MINISTRY OF DEFENCE (Army Personnel Research Establishment). 'Cognitive processes in planning, plan behaviour and monitoring', (£169,748, with Tattersall, Payne).

1992-1993: DEFENCE RESEARCH AGENCY (Royal Aerospace Establishment, Farnborough) 'Task combination, workload and the assessment of task interference', (£26,700, with Tattersall).

1991-1994: MINISTRY OF DEFENCE. ‘Speech recognition — Feedback and dialogue design’, (£116,000).

1990-1992: ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL RESEARCH COUNCIL. 'Multi-modal person identification: Interaction effects of face, name and voice recognition', (£41,470, with Ellis).

1990-1992: ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL RESEARCH COUNCIL. 'Cross-modal interference by speech: Factors affecting privileged access to memory', (£29,000).

1990-1992: DIGITAL EQUIPMENT CORPORATION. 'Human factors in auditory interfaces', (£225,000).

1989-1992: DIGITAL EQUIPMENT CORPORATION. 'Human factors of voice annotation', (Studentship and equipment donation) (£45,000).

1989-1991:  MINISTRY OF DEFENCE. 'Human factors in multi-modal dialogues', (£62,000).

1988-1991:  MINISTRY OF DEFENCE.  'Human factors in the design of command and control systems', (£283,000).

1988-1990:  DIGITAL EQUIPMENT CORPORATION (UK).  'Human factors of mixed modality', (£62,000, with  Miles).

1988-1989: The Trade Union APEX. 'Computers in the workplace: A human factors analysis', (£16,900).

1986-1989:  SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING RESEARCH COUNCIL.  'Human factors in the design of speech systems interfaces'. (£456,000).

1986-1989:  ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL RESEARCH COUNCIL. 'Interference of proofreading and short-term memory by irrelevant speech', (£31,006, with Miles).

1985-1988:  MINISTRY OF DEFENCE.  'Human information processing under high work-load' (£157,124).

1985-1986:  THE EUROPEAN FOUNDATION. 'Impact of new technology in the health services', (£19,376).

1984-1987:  THE POST OFFICE.  'Human factors in coding desk operation', (£116,000).

1982-1986:  MAY AND BAKER LTD.  'Effects of beta blockers on performance and mood', (£25,000).

1982-1983:  THE EUROPEAN FOUNDATION.  'Stress of new technology in posts and telecommunications', (£11,950).

1980-1983:  DHSS. 'Subjective tinnitus and the effectiveness of tailored masking', (£35,000, with Slater).

1978-1980:  SOCIAL SCIENCE RESEARCH COUNCIL. 'Social aspects and after-effects of performance in loud noise', (£9,986, with Chapman).

Research group

Helen Hodgett
Bill Macken
David Maidment

Research collaborators

Sebastien Tremblay , University of Laval, Quebec, Canada
Fabrice Parmentier, University of the Balearics, Majorca, Spain
Phillip Beaman, University of Reading
Murray Maybery, University of Western Australia 
Patrik Sörqvist, Centre for Built Environment, University of Gävle, Gävle, Sweden

Postgraduate research interests

1) Auditory distraction and attentional capture, especially the effects of perceptual organizational processes on cognition, particularly short-term memory.
2) Serial short-term memory, particularly distinctions between spatial and verbal memory. 
3) The role of auditory perceptual organization in phenomena ordinarily ascribed to auditory buffer storage.

If you are interested in applying for a PhD, or for further information regarding my postgraduate research, please contact me directly (contact details available on the 'Overview' page), or submit a formal application here.

Current students

A. St John (secondary supervision)

Previous students

R. Thomas, SERC, PhD 1983 - Director, Fire Research Program, National Research Council, Canada
C. Miles, University, PhD 1983 now Senior Lecturer Cardiff University
J. Williams, ESRC, PhD 1987  now Professor Cardiff University
A. Kechroud, Algerian Govt., PhD 1986  now Professor Saudi Arabia
T. C. Auburn, Research Staff, PhD 1987 now Principal Lecturer Plymouth University
S. Kilminster, May and Baker Ltd, PhD 1987 now Company Director Pharmacology Research
D. Clark, SERC, PhD 1989 now Industry Programme Manager, European Bioinformatics Unit, Cambridge
C. Madden, Research Staff, MPhil 1989
K. Coyle, NI DoE, PhD 1990 now lecturer University of Ulster
J. Bradshaw, ESRC, PhD 1991
G. Chamberlain, MPhil 1992 - Head of Human Factors Research, Post Office Research, Swindon – now retired
J. Pollock, CASE, PhD 1993
P. Tucker, Digital Ltd, PhD 1993  now Senior Lecturer, University of Swansea
G. Stuart, SERC, PhD 1995 now Senior Lecturer York St John University
A. Murray, Research Staff, PhD 1995 now Principal Lecturer, UWIC
P. Farrand, University of Wales, PhD 1996 now Senior Teaching Fellow, University of Exeter
A. Bridges, ESRC, PhD 1997 now Professor and Dean Central Queensland University
P. Brawn, SERC, PhD 1998 now Director 'Eyetracker' Sydney Australia
P. Beaman, University of Wales, PhD 1998 now Senior Lecturer, University of Reading
W. Macken, Research Staff, PhD 1998 now Reader, Cardiff University
N. Mosdell, Research Staff, MPhil 1998* now Senior Lecturer Cardiff University
R. Ruddle, Research Staff, PhD 1998 now Senior Lecturer University of Leeds
G. Rogers, British Aerospace, MPhil 1998 now consultant Kaisen Consulting
C. Cowley, Research Staff, PhD 1999 now Senior Lecturer University of Bournemouth
M. Doyle, CASE, PhD1998 * Royal Holloway and Bedford College, University of London
S. Tremblay, ORS, PhD 1999 now Professor University of Laval
D. Alford, BBSRC CASE, PhD 1999 now freelance researcher
F. Parmentier, ESRC, PhD 2000 now Professor University of Ballearics
A. Nicholls, BBSRC, PhD 2001 - Research Manager Nite-Works and Qinetic plc
R. Houghton, EPSRC CASE PhD 2002* now Research Fellow University of Manchester
R. Hughes, ESRC Competition, PhD 2003  now Lecturer Cardiff University
H. Hodgetts, Cardiff University, PhD 2005 now Researcher University of Laval
P. Morgan, ESRC Competition Award, PhD 2005 now Senior Lecturer University of Newport
G. Green, BBSRC CASE PhD 2005* now researcher Cardiff University
A Woodward, Cardiff University staff, PhD 2006* now Research Associate Cardiff University
G. Lloyd, Cardiff University, MSc 2006*
J. Marsh, Cardiff University, PhD 2006 now Research Associate Cardiff University
J. Burton, Cardiff University, PhD 2011
M. Kozlov (secondary supervision)

Undergraduate education

BSc (Tech) Occupational Psychology, UWIST Cardiff

Postgraduate education

PhD UWIST Cardiff

Awards/External Committees

Member, Order of the British Empire (OBE)

Fellow of the British Psychological Society (FBPS)

Academician Academy of Social Science (AcSS)

Adjunct Professor, University of Western Australia


1974-1976:  University of Oxford, Research Assistant

1976-1982:  Lecturer, Department of Applied Psychology, UWIST

1982-1988:  Senior Lecturer, Applied Psychology, UWIST

1988-1992:  Reader, University of Wales College of Cardiff

2003-2012:  Head of School of Psychology, Cardiff University

1992-present:  Professor (Personal Chair), Cardiff University