Dennis Proffitt

Proffitt, Dennis R.

Primary Appointment

Commonwealth Professor, Psychology


  • BS, Psychology, Pennsylvania State University
  • MS, Psychology, University of Virginia
  • PhD, Psychology, Pennsylvania State University

Contact Information

Telephone: 924-0655

Research Disciplines

Neuroscience, Psychology

Research Interests

Human Perception & Cognition

Research Description

In our research, we are attempting to gain an understanding of how people perceive and think about space. Within this framework, our goals are to:
Create new knowledge
Build careers
Be useful
Have fun !

Research Areas & Approaches

Perceiving Spatial Layout
Context-Dependent Memory
Intuitive Physics
Human-Computer Interaction
& InfoCockpits
Presence & Virtual Reality
Brain Imaging (fMRI)

UNLEASH (Undergraduate Research)

Our research involves visual perception of the spatial layout and the environment. What people consistently see is not what is really out there. We conduct this research both in our labs and outside, on various hills and flat stretches on UVA grounds. We investigate how the perception of space can be affected by the internal states of the body.

We are interested in topics such as: 1) How effort/energetics can affect how long distances appear, and how steep hills look, 2) How social and emotional factors influence perception and cognition, 3) How we scale distances and sizes of objects to our body, and 4) How expertise, for example, proficiency in a particular sport, interacts with perception and cognition?

We seek fun, motivated RAs to help with various research projects. RAs attend weekly lab meetings, do data entry and analysis, and run experiments that could require the operation of virtual reality equipment, projection screens, and devices that measure physiological potential. Experiments are performed in rooms within Gilmer Hall as well as in outdoor fields around grounds.


Selected Publications