Ron Rensink

Associate Professor
Department of Psychology
Department of Computer Science

Phone: 604 822-2579

Web pages: Lab webpage



  • PDF Harvard University, Psychology
  • PhD University of British Columbia


  • Human vision
  • Computational vision
  • Information visualization

Research Interests

I am interested in vision—the various ways that humans, animals, and computers use light to see.  I believe that vision involves constraints that apply to any  system, and that the most successful visual systems are based on very general information-processing strategies.  As such, my approach is to examine biological systems (including humans) to see how they operate, and then to look at these mechanisms from a computational point of view to see if they embody more general principles.  Among other things, these more general principles can provide a scientific basis for the design of visual interfaces that can interact with human visual systems in an optimal way.

My research interests include:

1. Human vision

  • what is attention, and how does it operate?
  • what is space, and how do we represent it?
  • what are objects, and how do we represent them?
  • how are scenes represented?

2. Computational vision

  • how do "quick and dirty" processes reduce time requirements?
  • what are the trade-offs for various kinds of representations?
  • what are the physical limits of visual perception?
  • are there universal principles for all vision systems?

3. Information visualization

  • what is the basis of effective design in visual displays?
  • how can visual interfaces be designed so as to be "transparent" to the user?
  • how can data be represented so that our visual intelligence can pick out interesting patterns?
  • how can visual analytics systems be designed to allow the user to easily analyze immense amounts of data?

Selected Publications

Kuhn G, Amlani AA, and Rensink RA (2008). Towards a science of magic. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 12: 349-354.

Rensink RA (2004). Visual sensing without seeing. Psychological Science, 15:27-32.

Rensink RA (2002). Change Detection. Annual Review of Psychology,53:245-277.

Rensink RA (2002). Internal vs. External Information in Visual Perception. Proceedings of the Second International Symposium on Smart Graphics: 63-70. [Smart Graphics 2; Hawthorne, NY, USA.]

Rensink RA (2000). The Dynamic Representation of Scenes. Visual Cognition,7:17-42.

Rensink RA, and Enns JT (1998). Early Completion of Occluded Objects. Vision Research, 38:2489-2505.

Rensink RA, O'Regan JK, and Clark JJ (1997). To See or Not to See: The Need for Attention to Perceive Changes in Scenes. Psychological Science, 8:368-373.


Courses Taught

COGS 200 Introduction to Cognitive Systems, COGS 400 Special Topics in Cognitive Systems, CPSC 532E, PSYC 260 Experimental & Laboratory

Other Interests

  • History and philosophy of science
  • Hiking, camping, skiing, and scuba diving