Dr Phil Morgan

Senior Lecturer

Research group:
Cognitive science
029 225 10784
Tower Building, Park Place

Research summary

My research interests span the often complimentary areas of cognitive experimental psychology and human factors. I am particularly motivated by research within these areas that speaks to real world research questions and problems involving human performance, with the goal of identifying effective, feasible and applicable solutions. Thus, as well as conducting lots of experiments with university students, I also test people who work within workplace settings such as, defence and security, emergency services, and healthcare. I also conduct research with older adults and individuals with cognitive and/or mobility impairments.

A key cognitive experimental interest involves examining the effects of visual and auditory interruption and distraction on performance of a range of laboratory and workplace primary tasks involving attention, short-term memory and problem solving. Some of my past work in this area has involved unpicking the effects of interruption on goal-directed memory, and, adapting features of computer interfaces to encourage deeper cognitive processing of key information and thereafter protect against negative effects of interruption. More recently, I am exploring (with colleagues and a PhD student) the efficacy of this and other methods within e.g., emergency and critical care hospital settings. I am also interested in the features of interrupting tasks and distracting stimuli (such as background speech and sound) that exacerbate the degree of disruption caused, such as complexity, duration, meaning (including emotivity), and content (including cues to potential malevolence).

Human factors is a discipline concerned with understanding human – system (such as computers, modes of transport) interaction and is heavily informed by psychological theory and cross-disciplinary experimental methods to find solutions that improve and ideally optimise human performance and well-being. My main human factors research interests are related to transportation (including driving and aviation) and in particular the design and use of autonomous vehicles (AVs) and AV dashboard interfaces. Recent funded multi-collaborator projects include ‘Venturer Autonomous Vehicles for UK Roads’ (http://www.venturer-cars.com/) and ‘Flourish Connected Autonomous Vehicles’ (http://www.flourishmobility.com/). Within these projects, we are exploring factors such as handover and handback of manual controls within highly automated vehicles (Venturer), designing human-machine interfaces for fully autonomous vehicles developed for e.g., older adults (Flourish), and, trust in automated vehicles when negotiating junctions, other traffic, pedestrians and cyclists (Venturer).

Primarily I use behavioural experimental and human factors techniques and methods (including driving simulators, eye tracking) with some recent work involving the use of high density EEG kit. Some of my studies also involve testing people in fully autonomous road vehicles.

Teaching summary

I teach across most levels of the undergraduate curriculum. At Level 1, I conduct academic tutorials aimed at developing critical thinking and analytic skills. At Level 3, I lead the Human Factors Psychology (PS3118) module and deliver all lectures and workshops. I also supervise final year projects (Level 3 PS3000) on various topics related to my research areas of expertise including: task interruption and distraction, cyber security, emotion and cognition, cognitive strategy adaptation, problem solving, and driving (including driverless cars).

Selected publications (2014 onwards)


Full list of publications


Media activities

My human factors research tends to attract a lot of media attention. One example is human factors and autonomous driving:

Autonomous vehicles: 'handover' process crucial say researchers:

Planned handover key to driverless cars say VENTURER researchers

Handover process the key to connected autonomous vehicle development: https://www.ice.org.uk/news-and-insight/ice-thinks/infrastructure-transformation/handover-process-the-key-to-connected-av-develop

Handover process is a key issue for CAV development:

UK engineers trial autonomous driving “handover” technology: https://www.theengineer.co.uk/uk-engineers-trial-autonomous-driving-handover-technology/

Research topics and related papers

Human Factors of Autonomous Driving Examples

Flourish Connected Autonomous Vehicles (2016-19)

Above left: Transport Systems Catapult (TSC) Lutz Pod Autonomous Vehicle
Abive right: Testing of dashboard interface for a fully autonomous vehicle with the requirments of older adults incorporated into the design

Venturer Autonomous Vehicles for UK Roads (2015-18)


Above left: Venturer Land Rover Evoque Autonomous Driving Simulator (Williams F1 Advanced Engineering with input from Bristol Robotics Laboratory)

Above right: Venturer Bowler Wildcat Autonomous Vehicle (BAE Systems with modifications made by Bristol Robotics Laboratory and Fusion Processing).

Task Interruption and Distraction Examples
Williams, E., Morgan, P. L., & Joinson, A. (2017). Press accept to update now: Individual differences in susceptibility to malevolent interruptions. Decision Support Systems, 96, 119-129.
Not only were participants more likely to ‘accept’ potentially fradulant pop-up messages occurring as interruptions during a memory-intensive primary task (serial recall phase) vs a non-time pressure questionniare phase (Table 1), the pop-ups universally impaired serial recall memory (more so when low authority) even after an average time of only 6-seconds spent viewing them before returing to the primary task (Fig 4).

Morgan, P. L, Williams, C., Ings, F., & Hughes, N. (2017). Effects of valent image-based secondary tasks on verbal working memory. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology.

Exposure to both negative and positive emotive images introduced as interruptions impaired performance on a free recall verbal memory task; moreso for negative images introduced at a high working memory load task point. These findings have implications for research and theory on task interruption and attentional narrowing and literature relating to the effects of emotive stimuli on cognition. There may also be implications for workplace settings in which emotive events regularly occur such as hospitals, defence settings, and emergency services. These are current areas of investigation.


Research Projects
2016-19: Flourish Connected Autonomous Vehicles. Co-investigator. Multi-partner project funded by Innovate UK. Total grant value ~£5.4M. ~£520, 000 for work that I am involved in. http://www.flourishmobility.com/
2015-18: Venturer Autonomous Vehicles for UK Roads. Co-investigator. Multi-partner project funded by Innovate UK. Total grant value ~£5.0M. ~£600, 000 for work that I am involved in. http://www.venturer-cars.com/  
2016-17: Measuring Executive Functioning Predictive of Real World Behaviours in Older Adults. Co-Investigator. Funded by BRACE. £14, 500.
2015-17: Effects of emotive interruptions and distractions on cognition. Principal Investigator. Funded internally by UWE-Bristol. £18, 000.
2016-17: Developing an emotive stimuli battery for research within emotive occupations. Principal Investigator. Funded internally by UWE-Bristol – Research Career Development Scheme. £15, 000.
2014: Bridging the Gaps in Aerospace, Defence and Security. Lead Research Consultant. Led by Cardiff University (Profs John Patrick & Alun Preece). EPSRC. £8, 000.
2012-14: Three researcher development grants at University of South Wales. Principal Investigator. £12, 000.

PGR Studentships & Related
2017-20: F/T PhD Studentship – Intelligent data processing to support self-management and responsive care. Cross University and Faculty. Competition funded by UWE-Bristol & Coventry University. ~£80, 000. 
2017-20: F/T PhD studentship – Remote physiological monitoring solutions for vulnerable users of autonomous vehicles. Competition funded by Airbus & UWE-Bristol. ~£80, 000.
2017-20: F/T PhD studentship – Adapting interfaces to protect against the negative effects of interruptions within emergency and critical care hospital settings. Competition funded by UWE-Bristol. ~£80, 000.
2014-17: F/T PhD studentship – The influence of the built environment on affective walking experience. Competition funded by UWE-Bristol. ~£75, 000.
2014-19: P/T PhD studentship – Gender differences in mental rotation: Training in strategies to overcome differences. University of South Wales fee-funded studentship (competition) + GTA funds. ~£20, 000.
2013-18: P/T PhD studentship – Individual differences in spatial abilities and strategies. University of South Wales and UWE-Bristol fee-funded. ~£10, 000.
My PhD (supervised by Prof Dylan M Jones) and PGDip Social Science Research Methods (both at Cardiff University – 2001-04) were funded by ESRC (competition).

Research group

Cognitive Science

Research collaborators

Prof Bill Macken (distraction and interruption)
Prof Dylan M Jones (distraction and interruption)

Prof Tony Pipe (Bristol Robotics Laboratory; autonomous driving)
Dr Praminda Caleb-Solly (Bristol Robotics Laboratory; autonomous driving)
Prof Graham Parkhurst (UWE-Bristol; autonomous driving)
Dr Chris Alford (UWE-Bristol; autonomous driving)
Dr Alexandra Voinescu (UWE-Bristol; autonomous driving)
Prof John Parkin (UWE-Bristol; autonomous driving)
Dr Emma Williams (University of Bristol; cyber security)
Prof Adam Joinson (University of Bath; cyber security)
Dr Nancy Zook (UWE-Bristol; ageing and executive functioning)
Dr Gary Christopher (UWE-Bristol; ageing and executive functioning)

Postgraduate research interests

My main research interests at the moment are:

  • Exploring features of visual and verbal ‘secondary task’ interruptions and distractions (including background speech and sound) that markedly impair ‘primary task’ performance, and, testing and developing methods and interventions to mitigate the disruption caused. Examples include emotive interruptions and distractions and computer-based interruptions (e.g., pop-ups, emails) with potentially malevolent content;
  • Individual differences in e.g., cognitive ability, that can predict (to an extent) the degree of disruption caused by different types of interrupting tasks and distracting stimuli;
  • Human interaction with and trust of autonomous vehicles. In collaboration with colleagues at Bristol Robotics Laboratory and UWE-Bristol and using a range of driving simulators (e.g., STISIM, Williams F1 Advanced Engineering) and automated road vehicles (e.g., BAE Systems Bowler Wildcat, TSC Lutz Pod).

For more information on my research in all of these areas, please see my publications or research pages.

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

Janet Mundy (Cardiff University). Janet’s PhD fees are part funded by REET and the School of Psychology at Cardiff University. Janet is examining individual differences in spatial ability and task strategy with a focus on measures used to assess mental rotation abilities amongst university students studying STEM and non-STEM subjects. Janet hopes to inform the design of tests to measure mental rotation ability for selection (e.g., employment) purposes. 

Anna Bornioli (UWE-Bristol). Anna has a UWE-Bristol fully funded PhD studentship and is examining the influence of the built environment on affective walking experience by drawing upon research within the fields of environmental psychology and geography. Her research has implications for policy and design of urban environments with an overarching health and well-being theme promoted through stress recovery and restoration.

Craig Williams (UWE-Bristol). Craig has a UWE-Bristol fully funded PhD studentship and is examining the effects of task interruption and distraction within emergency and critical care healthcare settings. Another goal of Craig’s PhD is to develop methods to adapt computer interfaces within emergency and critical care healthcare settings to influence cognitive strategy and mitigate negative effects of interruptions. 

Nicola Leach (University of South Wales). Nicola’s MPhil/PhD fees are funded through her other role as a Psychology Student Engagement Officer within the Faculty of Life Sciences and Education at USW. Nicola’s research focusses on individual differences in mental rotation abilities and training interventions to improve these especially among populations such as primary and secondary school children.

Fay Ings (University of South Wales). Fay is a self-funding MPhil/PhD student. Her research focuses on the effects of emotive interrupting visual images on verbal short-term memory, including free recall and tasks involving remembering procedural steps. Fay aims to extend this research to populations frequently exposed to highly emotive stimuli and events, such as military and/or emergency service personnel.

Undergraduate education

2001: BSc (Hons) Psychology – School of Psychology, Cardiff University

Postgraduate education

2002: PGDip Research Methods – School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University
2005: PhD ‘Now, where was I?’ A cognitive experimental analysis of the influence of interruption on goal-directed behaviour’ – School of Psychology, Cardiff University
2012: PGCHE – School of Education, University of Wales Newport

Awards/external committees

Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society (AFBPS)
Member of the Experimental Psychology Society (EPS)
Associate Fellow of the Association of Learning Technology (AFALT)
Fellow of the HEA (FHEA)

PhD examiner at University College London, University of Gloucestershire, University of South Wales, and University of the West of England – Bristol

External validation panel advisor: University of Wales, Trinity St David

Ad hoc peer reviewer for: Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied;
Human-Computer Interaction; Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology; Acta Psychologica; La Travail Humain; Memory and Cognition; Theoretical Issues in Ergonomics Science; Human Factors (Conference Proceedings)

2011-14: Winner of 18 student awards at University of South Wales (Outstanding Lecturer, Inspirational Lecturer, Innovative Teaching & Assessment, Outstanding Personal Tutor, Extra Mile Award);
2012: Vice Chancellor’s Award - outstanding contribution to the life, work, and student experience at the University of Wales - Newport;

2004: Royal Garden Party Invitation for outstanding research achievement and potential within an academic field at Cardiff University for a PGR student under the age of 25.


Sep 2017-present: Senior Lecturer in Cognitive Science and Human Factors, School of Psychology, Cardiff University
Jan 2015-Aug 2017: Senior Lecturer in Cognitive and Human Factors Psychology, Department of Health and Social Sciences - Psychology, UWE-Bristol
Sep 2013-Jan 2015: Senior Lecturer in Cognitive Psychology, University of South Wales
May 2011-Aug 2013: Senior Lecturer in Cognitive Psychology, University of Wales, Newport
Dec 2010-Jan 2011: Part-time Visiting Lecturer in Cognitive Psychology, University of Wales, Newport    
Jun 2005-May 2011: Research Associate, School of Psychology, Cardiff University
Jan 2005-May 2005: Research Assistant, School of Psychology, Cardiff University
Oct 2004-Dec 2004: Research Technician, School of Psychology, Cardiff University
Oct 2002-Sep 2004: Research and Statistics Advisor, School of Psychology, Cardiff University