Dr Helen Keyes

Principal Lecturer in Psychology

Faculty:Faculty of Science and Engineering

School:Psychology and Sport Science

Location: Cambridge

Areas of Expertise: Brain & Cognition

Research Supervision:Yes

Helen researches how drivers process the road environment, and how the brain processes familiar faces.



Helen is a cognitive psychologist specialising in driving and cycling research and face perception research. She uses experimental psychology (psychophysics, EEG, questionnaires) to discover what lies behind behavioural differences in drivers, as well as motorcyclists and cyclists, and how changes to the road scene environment can improve road safety. Helen has produced a large body of research on how our own face and the faces of personally familiar others are processed as 'special' in the brain.

Research interests

  • Experienced vs novice drivers’ perception of road scenes
  • Improving driver perception of motorcyclists
  • GPS and road sign driving cues
  • Cyclist road scene perception and cycling behaviour
  • Self-face perception
  • Personally familiar face perception

Helen is a member of our Societies Research Area which forms part of our ARU Centre for Societies and Groups. Her research also comes under our Cognition Group, which is part of our ARU Centre for Mind and Behaviour.

Areas of research supervision

Dr Keyes is happy to supervise research in most areas of visual and aural perception, particularly in the areas of:

  • Driver perception and behaviour
  • Cyclist perception and behaviour
  • Face perception

Find out more about our Psychology PhD.


Helen is module leader for Research in Action: Statistical Thinking (Level 5), and delivers the Perception teaching for Learning, Memory and Perception (Level 5) and Fundamentals of Cognitive Psychology (Level 4).


  • PhD Psychology, UCD Dublin
  • BSc (Hons) Psychology, First Class Honours, UCD, Dublin
  • PGCert Learning and Teaching, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge

Memberships, editorial boards

  • Associate Fellow, British Psychological Society
  • Senior Fellow , the Higher Education Academy
  • Founding Committee Member of the BPS East of England Branch

Research grants, consultancy, knowledge exchange

  • Consultant for the Children’s Traffic Club, 2019
  • Cambridgeshire County Council funding, 2017: Improving driver perception of oncoming motorcycles
  • BA/Leverhulme Small Research Grant, 2015: Preparing drivers to respond to road turns safely: What neural mechanism drives differences between experienced and novice drivers?

Selected recent publications

Driving Research

Keyes, H., Whitmore, A., Naneva, S., & McDermott, D, 2018. The Priming Function of In-Car Audio Instruction. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. doi: 10.1177/1747021818773293.

Audio cues improve driver safety, The Naked Scientists podcast interview

Face Perception Research

Keyes, H. and Zalicks, C., 2016. Socially Important Faces Are Processed Preferentially to Other Familiar and Unfamiliar Faces in a Priming Task across a Range of Viewpoints. PLoS ONE 11(5): e0156350. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0156350.

Keyes, H. and Dlugokencka, A., 2014. Do I Have My Attention? Speed of Processing Advantages for the Self-Face Are Not Driven by Automatic Attention Capture. PLoS ONE, 9(10), e110792. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0110792.

Keyes, H., 2012. Categorical perception effects for facial identity in robustly represented familiar and self-faces: The role of configural and featural information. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 65(4), pp.760-762. doi:10.1080/17470218.2011.636822.

Rooney B., Keyes, H. and Brady, N., 2012. Shared or separate mechanisms for self-face and other-face processing? Evidence from adaptation. Frontiers in Perception Science, 3(66), doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00066.

Keyes, H. and Brady, N., 2010. Self-face recognition is characterised by faster, more accurate performance, which persists when faces are inverted. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 63(5), 840-847, doi: 10.1080/17470211003611264.

Keyes, H., Brady, N., Reilly, R. B. and Foxe, J.J., 2010. My face or yours? Event-related potential correlates of self-face processing. Brain and Cognition, 72(2), pp.244-254, doi: 10.1016/jbandc.2009.09.006.

Education Research

Harvey, A. J., & Keyes, H., 2019. How do I compare thee? An evidence-based approach to the presentation of class comparison information to students using Dashboard. Innovations in Education and Teaching International. Doi: 10.1080/14703297.2019.1593213.

Recent presentations and conferences

Keyes, H., Staton, M., Green, F., & Compton, C., 2018. Look-but-fail-to-see errors. The National Road Safety Conference. Brighton, UK.

Keyes, H., & Ray, P., 2017. Fast friends: Speeded processing for personally familiar faces compared to other highly familiar and unfamiliar faces. British Psychological Society Cognitive Section Conference. Newcastle, UK.

Keyes, H. and Zalicks, C., 2016. The social importance of a face affects recognition speed across a range of viewpoints. British Psychological Society Annual Conference, Nottingham, UK.

Keyes, H., Whitmore, A. and Naneva, S., 2016. The use of visual and audio primes while driving. British Psychological Society Annual Conference, Nottingham, UK. 

Keyes, H., Dlugokencka, A. and Tacel, G., 2013. Do I have my attention? Our own face may be special, but it does not grab our attention more than other faces. European Conference on Visual Perception, Bremen, Germany. Perception, 42, ECVP Abstract Supplement. doi:10.1068/v130176.

Keyes, H. and Dlugokencka, A., 2013. Don't mind me: Speed of processing advantages for self-referential material are not due to attention-grabbing properties of those stimuli. British Psychological Society Annual Conference, Harrogate, UK.

Keyes, H., 2010. Categorical perception effects for familiar face processing persist for inverted self-faces. British Psychological Society Annual Conference, Stratford-Upon-Avon, UK.

Keyes, H. and Brady, N., 2009. Self-face processing advantages persist when faces are inverted. British Psychological Society Annual Conference, Brighton, UK.

Keyes, H. and Brady, N., 2007. My face or yours? Early and late ERP correlates of self-face perception. European Conference on Visual Perception, Arezzo, Italy. Perception, 36, ECVP Abstract Supplement. doi:10.1068/v070367.

Keyes, H., Brady, N. & Rooney, B., 2007. 'Natural Categories' in self/other face perception? British Psychological Society: The XXIV Annual Cognitive Section Conference, University of Aberdeen, UK.

Keyes, H., Brady, N. and Reilly, R., 2006. Neurophysiological correlates of self-face recognition. British Psychological Society Annual Conference: Student Section, Cardiff, UK.

Keyes, H., Brady, N., Maguire, A. and Reilly, R., 2005. Neurophysiological correlates of self-face recognition. European Brain and Behaviour Society 37th Annual General Conference, Dublin, Ireland.