Dr Paul Sowden

Research Interests

Current projects

We are exploring how a variety of factors such as mood, colour, the physical environment and improvisation (e.g. verbal & dance improvisation), affect the creative thinking process. This work is testing our ideas about the mapping between dual process models of cognition and models of creative thinking.

We are exploring how categories in language and thought are formed and how they relate and impact on each other in the domain of colour categorisation. This work is funded by the European Research Council and is in collaboration with Alexandra Clifford at Surrey and led by Anna Franklin at the University of Sussex. A particular focus of the work at Surrey is on the mapping between colour categories, symbolic colour associations and their influence on cognition and behaviour.


Director of ILLUME: The Creativity Research Network

Chartered Psychologist

Associate Fellow British Psychological Society

Fellow Higher Education Academy

International Representative for Division 10 of the American Psychological Society - The Society for the Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts 2012 - date

Editorial Board: Psychological Science 2006 - 2011

Editorial Board: Frontiers in Psychology: Cognitive Science 2011 - date

Member ESRC Peer Review College 2010 - date

External Advisor UG programmes in Psychology, St Mary's University College, Twickenham 2003 - 2006

External Examiner MSc Functional NeuroImaging, Brunel University 2010 - 2015

External Examiner MSc Research Methods in Psychology, University of Hertfordshire 2011 - 2015

Contact Me

Phone: 01483 68 6878

Find me on campus
Room: 15 AD 02

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My office hours

My term time Office Hours for general enquiries are:

Tuesday 2-3pm

Wednesday 2-3pm


Publications in Creativity and Aesthetics

Sowden, P.T., Eves, A., & Raats, M. (in press). A Feast of Creativity. Introduction to the Special Issue on Creativity and Food. Journal of Creative Behavior.

Pringle, A., Sowden, P.T., Deeley, C., & Sharma, S. (in press). Shifting between modes of thought: a domain-general creative thinking skill? In F. K. Reisman (Ed.) Creativity in Arts, Science and Technology.

Sowden, P.T., Clements, L., Redlich, C., & Lewis, C. (2015). Improvisation facilitates divergent thinking and creativity: Realising a benefit of primary school arts education. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts, 9, 128-138. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/aca0000018

Sowden, P. T., Pringle, A., & Gabora, L. (2015). The Shifting Sands of Creative Thinking: Connections to Dual Process Theory. Thinking & Reasoning, 21, 40-60. doi: 10.1080/13546783.2014.885464

Ratcliffe, E., Gatersleben, B., & Sowden, P. T. (2013). Bird sounds and their contributions to perceived attention restoration and stress recovery.  Journal of Environmental Psychology, 36, 221-228.

Sowden, P. T. & Dawson, L. (2011). Creative feelings: The effect of mood on creative ideation and evaluation. ACM: Creativity and Cognition 2011, 393-394.


Publications in Perception, Learning and Training

Wimshurst, Z., Sowden, P.T., & Wright, M. (2016). Expert–Novice Differences in Brain Function of Field Hockey Players. Neuroscience, 315, 31-44. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2015.11.064

Casey, M.C. & Sowden, P.T.  (2012).  Modelling Learned Categorical Perception in Human Vision.  Neural Networks, 33, 114-126. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neunet.2012.05.001

Sowden, P.T. (2012) Psychophysics, in H. Cooper, P. Camic, R. Gonzalez, D. Long, A. Panter and K. Sher (Ed’s) APA Handbook of Research Methods in Psychology.  American Psychological Association. Vol. 1, Chapt. 23.

Wimshurst, Z., Sowden, P.T. & Cardinale, M. (2012) Visual skills and playing positions of Olympic field hockey players.  Perceptual and Motor Skills, 114, 204-216. doi: 10.2466/05.22.24.PMS.114.1.204-216

Jehoel, S., Sowden, P.T., Ungar, S. and Sterr, A. (2009) Tactile elevation perception in blind and sighted participants and its implications for tactile map creation. Human Factors, 51, 208-223.

Myers, A. and Sowden, P.T. (2008) Your hand or mine? The Extrastriate Body Area.  NeuroImage, 42, 1669-1677.

Özgen, E., Payne, H.E., Sowden, P.T. and Schyns, P.G. (2006) Retinotopic sensitisation to spatial scale: evidence for flexible spatial frequency processing in scene perception.  Vision Research, 46, 1108-1119.

Sowden, P.T. and Barrett, P. (2006) Psychophysiological Methods, in G.M. Breakwell, C. Fife-Schaw, S. Hammond and J. Smith (Ed’s) Research Methods in Psychology 3E.  Sage: London.  pp. 146-159

Sowden, P.T. and Schyns, P.G. (2006) Channel surfing in the visual brain. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 10, 538-545.

McCotter, M., Gosselin, F., Sowden, P.T. and Schyns, P.G.  (2005) The use of visual information in natural scenes. Visual Cognition, 12, 938-953.

Notman, L., Sowden, P.T. and Özgen, E. (2005) The nature of learned categorical perception effects: a psychophysical approach. Cognition, 95, B1-B14. 

Özgen, E., Sowden, P.T., Schyns, P. and Daoutis, C. (2005) Top-down attentional modulation of spatial frequency processing in scene perception.  Visual Cognition, 12, 925-937.

Sowden, P.T., Özgen, E., Schyns, P. and Daoutis, C. (2003) Expectancy effects on spatial frequency processing. Vision Research, 43, 2759-2772.

Sowden, P.T., Rose, D. and Davies, I.R.L. (2002) Perceptual learning of luminance contrast detection: specific for spatial frequency and retinal location but not orientation. Vision Research, 42, 1249-1258.

Barrett, P and Sowden, P.T. (2000) Psychophysiological Methods, in G.M. Breakwell, S. Hammond and C. Fife-Schaw (Ed’s) Research Methods in Psychology 2E.  Sage: London.  pp. 211-223.

Sowden, P.T., Davies, I.R.L. and Roling, P. (2000). Perceptual learning of the detection of features in X-ray images: a functional role for improvements in adults’ visual sensitivity? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 26, 379-390.

Sowden, P.T. (1999).  Expert perceivers and perceptual learning. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 22, 396-397 (commentary).

Sowden, P.T. and Watt, S. J. (1998).  A Jittered Squares illusion and a proposed mechanism. Perception, 27, 439-454.

Pauli, R. and Sowden, P.T.  (1997). The role of feedback in learning screening mammography. Proceedings of The International Society for Optical Engineering, 3036, 205-211.

Roling, P., Sowden, P.T., Davies, I.R.L., Özgen, E. and Lawler, M. (1997).  Perceptual learning in inspection tasks, in D. Harris (Ed.) Engineering Psychology and Cognitive Ergonomics Volume Two: Job Design and Product Design, Ashgate: Aldershot.  pp. 121-128.

Sowden, P.T., Davies, I.R.L., Roling, P. and Watt, S.J. (1997).  Acquiring skill at medical image inspection: learning localised in early visual processes. Proceedings of the International Society for Optical Engineering, 3036, 273-280.

Davies, I.R.L., Roling, P., Sowden, P., Hammond, S. and Chivers, R. (1996).  Design of training schedules for medical image readers: the effects of variability and difficulty levels of the training stimuli. Proceedings of the International Society for Optical Engineering, 2712, 169-179.

Hammond, S., Davies, I.R.L., Sowden, P.T. and Davies, J. (1996).  Statistical decision support in screening mammography. Proceedings of the International Society for Optical Engineering, 2712, 164-168.

Sowden, P.T., Davies, I.R.L., Lawler, M., Curry, B. and Hammond, S. (1996).  Expertise at X-ray film reading: the role of attention, and identification training, in S.A. Robertson (Ed.) Contemporary Ergonomics 1996.  Taylor and Francis: London. pp. 246-251.

Sowden, P.T., Davies, I.R.L., Rose, D and Kaye, M. (1996).  Perceptual learning of stereoacuity.  Perception, 25, 1043-1052.

Sowden, P.T., Pauli, R., Roling, P., Davies, I.R.L. and Hammond, S. (1996).  Improvement in screening performance: the importance of appropriate feedback in screening mammography. Proceedings of the International Society for Optical Engineering, 2712, 180-188.

Sowden, P.T. and Davies, I.R.L. (1995).  The nature of perceptual skills in screening mammography: Implications for training approaches. Proceedings of the International Society for Optical Engineering, 2436, 143-154.

Davies, I.R.L., Sowden, P.T., Hammond, S. and Ansell, J. (1994).  Expertise at mammography: A perceptual or conceptual skill? Proceedings of the International Society for Optical Engineering, 2166, 86-94.

Sowden, P.T. and Stevenson, J. (1994).  Beginning reading strategies in children experiencing contrasting teaching methods.  Reading and Writing, 6, 109-123.


Publications in Colour Perception

Grandison, A., Davies, I.R.L., and Sowden, P.T. (2014). The Evolution of GRUE: Evidence for a new colour term in the language of the Himba. In W. Anderson, C. P. Biggam, C. Hough and C. Kay. Colour Studies: A broad spectrum.  Amsterdam, NL: Benjamins, pp. 53-66.

Franklin, A. and Sowden, P.T. (2011) Colour and Autism Spectrum Disorders.  In C. Bigham, C. Hough, D. Simmons and C. Kay (Ed’s) New Directions in Colour Studies.  Amsterdam, NL: Benjamins, pp. 281-292.

Sowden, P.T., Davies, I.R.L., Notman, L.A., Alexander, I. and Özgen, E. (2011) Chromatic Perceptual Learning.  In C. Bigham, C. Hough, D. Simmons and C. Kay (Ed’s) New Directions in Colour Studies.  Amsterdam, NL:Benjamins, pp. 433-444.

Franklin, A., Sowden, P.T., Notman, L., West, D., Gonzales-Dixon, M., Alexander, I., Loveday, S., White, A.  (2010) Reduced Chromatic Discrimination in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.  Developmental Science, 13, 188-200.

Franklin, A., Sowden, P.T., Burley, R., Notman, L. and Alder, E. (2008) Color perception in children with autism.  Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 38, 1837-1847.

Davies, I.R.L., Sowden, P.T., Jerret, D.T., Jerret, T. and Corbett, G.G. (1998).  A cross cultural study of English and Setswana speakers on a colour triads task: a test of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.  British Journal of Psychology, 89, 1-15.

Rollinson, J. and Sowden, P.T. (1997).  The effect of colour on the recall of computer presented information, in S.A. Robertson (Ed.) Contemporary Ergonomics 1997.  Taylor and Francis: London. pp. 522-527.

Davies, I.R.L., Corbett, G.G., Mtnje, A. and Sowden, P.T. (1995).  The basic colour terms of Chichewa.  Lingua, 95, 259-278.

Davies, I.R.L., MacDermid, C., Corbett, G.C., McGurk, H.C., Jerret. D., Jerret, T. and Sowden, P.T. (1992).  Colour terms in Setswana: A linguistic and perceptual approach. Linguistics, 30, 1065-1103.

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