Professor Rob Ellis

Professor Rob Ellis

Emeritus Professor

School of Psychology (Faculty of Health)



Rob graduated in Philosophy and Psychology from the University of Nottingham in 1982 and completed a D.Phil in Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford in 1985. He worked in the School of Psychology at Plymouth from 1985, retiring in 2014 as Emeritus Professor. He led the vision and action group at Plymouth, working on embodied cognition.


1972 BSc Chemical Engineering University of Exeter.

1982 BA Psychology and Philosophy University of Nottingham.

1985 DPhil Experimental Psychology University of Oxford.



Research interests

Rob established and led the work of the Vision and Action Research Group within the School of Psychology. In a variety of projects data was collected which demonstrate the very close integration between the motor and visual systems. This work supports models of embodied cognition in which the brain-body system is adapted to maintain a dynamic equilibrium within an ecological niche. He continues to elaborate these ideas in a series of research monographs.




Key publications:

R. Ellis, D.A. Allport, G.W. Humphreys, and J. Collis (1989). Varieties of object constancy. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 41, 775-796, 1989.

R. Simpson, R. Williams, R. Ellis, and P.F. Culverhouse (1992). Biological pattern recognition by neural networks," Marine Ecology Progress Series, 79, pp303-308.

R. Ellis, R. Simpson, P.F. Culverhouse and T. Parisini (1997). Committees, collectives and individuals: expert visual classification by neural network. Neural Computing and Applications, 5, 99-105.

M. Tucker and R. Ellis (1998). On the relations between seen objects and components of potential actions. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 24, 830-846.

R. Ellis and M.Tucker (2000). Micro-affordance: further evidence for the potentiation of actions by seen objects. British Journal of Psychology, 91, 451-471.

M.Tucker and R.Ellis (2001). Micro-affordance of grasp type in a visual categorisation task. Visual Cognition. 8 (6): 769-800.

M. Tucker, and R. Ellis (2004). Action priming by briefly presented objects. Acta Psychologica, 116, 185-203.

E. Symes, R. Ellis, and M. Tucker (2005). Dissociating object-based and space-based affordances. Visual Cognition, 12, 1337-1361.

N. Derbyshire, R. Ellis and M. Tucker (2006). The potentiation of two components of the reach-to-grasp action during object categorisation in visual memory. Acta Psychologica, 122, 74-98.

L. Vainio, R. Ellis, M. Tucker, and E. Symes (2006). Manual asymmetries in visually primed grasping. Experimental Brain Research, 173, 395-406.

R. Ellis and M. Tucker. (2007). Does selecting one visual object from several require inhibition of the actions associated with non-selected objects? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 33, 670-691.

L. Vainio, R. Ellis, M. Tucker and E. Symes (2007). Local and Global Affordances and Manual Planning. Experimental Brain Research, 179, 583-594.

L. Vainio, M. Tucker and R. Ellis (2007) Precision and power grip priming by observed grasping. Brain and Cognition, 65, 195-207.

E. Symes, M. Tucker, R. Ellis, L. Vainio, L. & G. Ottoboni (2008). Grasp preparation improves change-detection for congruent objects. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 34, 854-871.

L. Vainio, E. Symes, R. Ellis, M. Tucker and G. Ottoboni (2008). On the relations between action planning, object identification and motor representations of observed actions. Cognition, 108, 444-465.

J. Goslin, T. Dixon, M. Fischer, A. Cangelosi, and R. Ellis (2012). Electrophysiological examination of embodiment in vision and action. Psychological Science, 23(2), 152-157.

J.K. Apel, Cangelosi, R. Ellis, J. Goslin, and M. Fischer (2012). Object affordance influences instruction span. Experimental Brain Research, 223, 199-206.

R. Ellis, D. Swabey, J. Bridgeman, B. May, M. Tucker and A. Hyne (2013). Bodies and other visual objects: the dialectics of reaching toward objects. Psychological Research, 77, 31-39.

A. Myachykov, R. Ellis, A. Cangelosi and M.H. Fischer (2013). Visual and linguistic cues to graspable objects. Experimental Brain Research, 229, 545-559.

Bach, P., Allami, B. K., Tucker, M., Ellis, R., (2014). General Planning-Related Motor Processes Underlie Mental Practice and Imitation Learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 143, 1277-1294.

Gonzalez-Perilli, F. and Ellis, R. (2015). I donĀ“t get you: action observation effects inverted by kinematic variation. Acta Psychologica, 157, 114-121.

Myachykov, A. Cangelosi, R. Ellis and M.H. Fischer (2015). The oculomotor resonance effect in spatial-numerical mapping. Acta Pyschologica, 161, 162-169.

Myachykov, A. R. Ellis, A. Cangelosi, and M.H. Fischer (2016). Ocular drift along the number line. Psychological Research, 80, 379-388.

M. Hudson, T. Nicholson, W. Simpson, R. Ellis and P. Bach (2016). One step ahead: the perceived kinematics of others' actions are biased towards expected goals. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 145, 1-7.

M. Hudson, T. Nicholson, R. Ellis and P. Bach (2016). I see what you say: Prior knowledge of other's goals automatically biases the perception of their actions. Cognition, 146, 245-250.

L. Vainio and R. Ellis (1919). The sound of grasp affordances: influence of grasp-related size of categorized objects on vocalisation. Cognitive Science, 43.


R. Ellis and G.W. Humphreys (1999). Connectionist psychology: A text with readings. Psychology Press.

R. Ellis (2018). Bodies and other objects: the sensori-motor foundations of cognition. Cambridge University Press.