Faculty Profile

Jeremy M. Wolfe, PhD

Professor of Ophthalmology, Harvard Medical School
Director: Visual Attention Lab, Visual Attention Lab, Department of Surgery, Brigham and Women's Hospital

Other Affiliation(s)

Senior Lecturer, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

See publications


Visual Attention Lab
64 Sidney Street, Suite 170
Cambridge, MA 02139

Inter-office Mail Address

Visual Attention Lab, Suite 170
64 Sidney St, Cambridge, MA

Phone 617-768-8818
Fax 617-768-8816

Email wolfe@search.bwh.harvard.edu

Society Memberships

Psychonomic Society
American Psychological Association (fellow - Divisions 1, 3, 6)
American Psychological Society (fellow as of 2002)
Eastern Psychological Association
Society for Experimental Psychology
American Association for the Advancement of Science (Fellow as of 2002)

Research Unit(s)

Research Interests

Work in the laboratory can be broken into five major areas.

Basic Research
1. Preattentive vision - Studies of the processing of visual stimuli before they are selected by attention for further, more complete analysis.

2. Attentional deployment - Studies of the mechanisms by which attention selects specific items including studies of how to terminate searches without finding the target.

3. Post-Attentive vision - Studies of the consequences of attention. Once attention has been deployed to an item and has been removed, what are the persistent effects of that act of attention?

Clinical and Applied Research
4. Effect of circadian phase and sleep deprivation on attention - In collaboration with the lab of Dr. Charles Czeisler (Harvard / BWH), as series of studies of the interaction of attention with sleep and circadian factors.

5. Studies of visual search as they apply to Airport Security and Medical Screening. Our particular interest is in the impact of target prevalence. How does search performance change if targets are very rare (as in screening tasks)


Post-doctoral Students:
Trafton Drew, 2010-present
Melissa Vo, 2009-present
Michelle Greene, 2009-present
Yair Pinto, 2008-present
Ester Reijnen, 2008–2009
Karla Evans, 2007-present
Ricardo Pedersini, 2007–2010
Piers Howe, 2007-present
Anina Rich, 2005-2007, Asst. Prof., MACCS, Maquarie U, Sydney, NSW, Australia
Evan Palmer, 2003-2007, Asst. Prof, Wichita State, Kansas
David Fencsik, 2003-2007, Asst. Prof, Cal. State East Bay
Melina Kunar, 2003-2006, Lecturer in Psychology, Warwick, UK
Nayantara Santhi, 2000-2002, University of Surrey, Guilford, UK
Aude Oliva, 2000-2002, Now Associate Proffessor at MIT
Peter Brawn, 1998-2000, Access Testing Centre, Sydney, Australia

Research Funding

Dept of Homeland Security (02-G-010) Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate (previously US Dept of Transportation, FAA)
Self-regulation of visual search behavior
Role: PI

R01 MH065576   (PI: Horowitz) NIH-NIMH
Control of Dynamic Attention

4/07 - present
RO1 EY17001 (PI: Wolfe) NIH-NEI
Prevalence effects in visual search: Theoretical and practical implications
Role: PI

10/09 – 9/11
3R01EY017001-03S1 NIH-NEI
ARRA supplement to “Prevalence effects in visual search: Theoretical and practical implications”
Role: Investigator

6/09 – present
2009p001253 Office of Naval Research (PI: Neibur, Johns Hopkins)  
Figure-Ground Processing Saliency and Guided Attention for Analysis of Large Natural Scenes Current
Role: Subcontract PI

Current NIH Post-doctoral fellowships for Karla Evans & Michelle


Introductory Psychology at MIT and Harvard
Psychology and Literature at MIT

Selected Publications

Wolfe JM, Van Wert MJ. Varying target prevalence reveals two dissociable
decision criteria in visual search.
Curr Biol. 2010 Jan 26;20(2):121-4. Epub 2010 Jan 14. [PMID: 20079642]

Joseph RM, Keehn B, Connolly C, Wolfe JM, Horowitz TS. Why is visual search superior in autism spectrum disorder?
Dev Sci. 2009 Nov;12(6):1083-96. [PMID: 19840062]

Horowitz TS, Wolfe JM, Alvarez GA, Cohen MA, Kuzmova YI. The speed of free will.
Q J Exp Psychol (Colchester). 2009 Nov;62(11):2262-88. Epub 2009 Mar 2. [PMID: 19255946]

Cohen MA, Horowitz TS, Wolfe JM. Auditory recognition memory is inferior to visual recognition memory.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Apr 7;106(14):6008-10. Epub 2009 Mar 23. [PMID: 19307569]

Van Wert MJ, Horowitz TS, Wolfe JM. Even in correctable search, some types of rare targets are frequently missed.
Atten Percept Psychophys. 2009 Apr;71(3):541-53. [PMID: 19304645]

Wolfe JM, Reijnen E, Van Wert MJ, Kuzmova Y. In visual search, guidance by surface type is different than classic guidance.
Vision Res. 2009 Mar;49(7):765-73. Epub 2009 Feb 21. [PMID: 19236891]

Rich AN, Kunar MA, Van Wert MJ, Hidalgo-Sotelo B, Horowitz TS, Wolfe JM. Why do we miss rare targets? Exploring the boundaries of the low prevalence effect.
J Vis. 2008 Nov 24;8(15):15.1-17. [PMID: 19146299]

Intraub H, Daniels KK, Horowitz TS, Wolfe JM. Looking at scenes while searching for numbers: dividing attention multiplies space.
Percept Psychophys. 2008 Oct;70(7):1337-49. [PMID: 18927017]

Howe PD, Horowitz TS, Wolfe JM. Transient signals per se do not disrupt the flash-lag effect.
Behav Brain Sci. 2008 Apr;31(2):206. [PMID: 19779598]

Li X, Cave KR, Wolfe JM. Kanizsa-type subjective contours do not guide attentional deployment in visual search but line termination contours do.
Percept Psychophys. 2008 Apr;70(3):477-88. [PMID: 18459258]

Kunar MA, Flusberg S, Wolfe JM. The role of memory and restricted context in repeated visual search.
Percept Psychophys. 2008 Feb;70(2):314-28. [PMID: 18372752]

Kunar MA, Flusberg SJ, Wolfe JM. Time to Guide: Evidence for Delayed Attentional Guidance in Contextual Cueing.
Vis cogn. 2008;16(6):804-825. [PMID: 18846248]

Wolfe JM, Horowitz TS, Van Wert MJ, Kenner NM, Place SS, Kibbi N. Low target prevalence is a stubborn source of errors in visual search tasks.
J Exp Psychol Gen. 2007 Nov;136(4):623-38. [PMID: 17999575]

Kunar MA, Flusberg S, Horowitz TS, Wolfe JM. Does contextual cuing guide the deployment of attention?
J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 2007 Aug;33(4):816-28. [PMID: 17683230]

Horowitz TS, Fine EM, Fencsik DE, Yurgenson S, Wolfe JM. Fixational eye movements are not an index of covert attention.
Psychol Sci. 2007 Apr;18(4):356-63. [PMID: 17470262]

Wolfe JM, Place SS, Horowitz TS. Multiple object juggling: changing what is tracked during extended multiple object tracking.
Psychon Bull Rev. 2007 Apr;14(2):344-9. [PMID: 17694924]

Wolfe JM, Horowitz TS, Michod KO. Is visual attention required for robust picture memory?
Vision Res. 2007 Mar;47(7):955-64. Epub 2007 Feb 16. [PMID: 17306854]

Horowitz TS, Klieger SB, Fencsik DE, Yang KK, Alvarez GA, Wolfe JM. Tracking unique objects.
Percept Psychophys. 2007 Feb;69(2):172-84. [PMID: 17557588]

Horowitz TS, Wolfe JM, DiMase JS, Klieger SB. Visual search for type of motion is based on simple motion primitives.
Perception. 2007;36(11):1624-34. [PMID: 18265843]

Kunar MA, Flusberg SJ, Wolfe JM. Contextual cuing by global features.
Percept Psychophys. 2006 Oct;68(7):1204-16. [PMID: 17355043]

Wolfe JM. Neurons that know when to quit.
Nat Neurosci. 2006 Aug;9(8):984-5. [PMID: 16871161]

Horowitz TS, Birnkrant RS, Fencsik DE, Tran L, Wolfe JM. How do we track invisible objects?
Psychon Bull Rev. 2006 Jun;13(3):516-23. [PMID: 17048740]

Wolfe JM, Reinecke A, Brawn P. Why don't we see changes?: The role of attentional bottlenecks and limited visual memory.
Vis cogn. 2006;14(4-8):749-780. [PMID: 18974792]

Wolfe JM, Alvarez GA, Horowitz TS. Attention is fast but volition is slow.
Nature. 2000 Aug 17;406(6797):691. [PMID: 10963584]

Wolfe JM, Klempen N, Dahlen K. Postattentive vision.
J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 2000 Apr;26(2):693-716. [PMID: 10811170]

Horowitz TS, Wolfe JM. Visual search has no memory.
Nature. 1998 Aug 6;394(6693):575-7. [PMID: 9707117]


Wolfe JM, Horowitz TS. What attributes guide the deployment of visual attention and how do they do it?
Nat Rev Neurosci. 2004 Jun;5(6):495-501. Review. [PMID: 15152199]

Wolfe, J. M. 1994 Guided Search 2.0: A revised model of visual search.
Psychonomic Bulletin and Review. 1994 1(2): 202-238.

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