Feature

As James Enns, PhD, takes over this month as editor of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, he’d like to hark back to a time before the Internet flooded the field with new journals, when JEP:HPP was king.

"This journal historically has been the premier journal in the field of perception and action — it’s seen with great gravitas and regard," says Enns, a perceptual psychologist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. "But there have been a lot of changes in the publishing world — new journals, rapid online publication — and so the objective status of JEP, I thought, has slipped in regard to its reputation. I want to restore that reputation."

Enns believes he’s in a good position to do so, having been steeped in perceptual research since he was an undergrad at Princeton University fascinated with visual illusions. The first paper he ever submitted was to JEP:HPP ("It was rejected," he says). He likes that the field is still so new that young researchers can contribute significantly. That’s important because perceptual and performance researchers are rapidly taking advantage of emerging technologies and collaborations with other disciplines that older researchers are hesitant to embrace, he says.

"Twenty-five years ago within the cognitive sciences, and especially in visual cognition, the idea was that you could understand vision and cognition with careful computational task analyses," Enns says. Researchers were less concerned about specialization and structure within the brain. Now those concepts are central to cognitive science, he says.

Enns also hopes to publish articles that make stronger connections to real-life perception, not just abstract lab research, such as work that examines study participants’ real-world eye movements as they walk to get coffee at the student union, rather than only studying where they look on a computer screen. "It’s sort of a move from lab to life," he says.

He also wants the journal to:

  • Feature high-quality short reports at the beginning of each issue. "The culture demands shorter reports and rapid publication," he says. "We want to create a venue for that."

  • Streamline the reviewing process by rejecting articles more quickly and not tinkering too much with articles that are pretty good already.

  • Diversify the research featured in the journal so that it includes a broader definition of visual and perceptual cognition.

  • Encourage plain and accessible writing.

He’ll be assisted by a young team of associate editors eager to expand the journal’s scope and prestige. "They’re steeped in the tradition of brain imaging, rapid online publication and knocking down the disciplinary walls and silos," Enns says.