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Durham University

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Dr Maria Olkkonen

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Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 43266
Room number: RH012

Contact Dr Maria Olkkonen (email at


I received an M.A. in psychology (minor: philosophy) from the University of Helsinki in 2004, writing my master's thesis on the interaction between brightness and color information in the simultaneous contrast illusion. Working with Dr. Pentti Laurinen on my master's thesis made me realize what a powerful tool psychophysics is to study psychological processes and neural computation. After working in corporate research for a while at the Nokia Research Center, I decided to go back to academia and was offered a PhD studentship with Prof. Karl Gegenfurtner at the University of Giessen. During my time in the lab, I learned a lot about color constancy (and spray-painting fruit), and received my PhD in 2009 together with a swanky Doktorhut. To learn more about color and material constancy, I then moved to Philadelphia to work with Prof. David Brainard at UPenn. We did some nice experiments with a high-dynamic range display, which was a pain to calibrate but was well worth it. While in Philadelphia, I also worked with Prof. Sarah Allred at Rutgers on the relationship between color memory and perception, and finally did a two-year project in Prof. Russell Epstein's lab learning about fMRI adaptation and MVPA methods. I've held an assistant professorship in Durham since September 2015.

Office hours

Thursdays 14-15 (L79)

Research Groups

Department of Psychology

Research Interests

  • Color constancy
  • Color perception
  • Probabilistic inference
  • Visual psychophysics, cognitive neuroscience

Indicators of Esteem

  • 2018: Invited talk at Chiba University:

    I gave an invited talk titled "Is it green or blue? How memory and learning shape color perception" at the Seminar on Color Vision and Shitsukan (material) Perception at the University of Chiba

  • 2018: Nominated to Anneslist : I am now on Anneslist (started by Anne Churchland) that highlights and promotes female systems neuroscientists.
  • 2017: Faculty at the Norwegian Summer Institute on Language and Mind : I was visiting faculty at the 10-day Norwegian Summer Institute on Language and Mind in August 2017.
  • 2017: Invited talk at the Matariki spring school High-level Vision: From mechanisms to perception:

    I gave an invited talk at the Matariki spring school High-level Vision: From mechanisms to perception in April 2017.

  • 2017: Organize symposium at the European Conference on Visual Perception:

    I will organize a symposium at the 2017 ECVP in Berlin on the topic: Perceptual estimation in a noisy world: Novel insights from paradigms integrating perception, learning, and memory

  • 2016: Hector Fellow Academy Speaker award: Best presentation at the Tuebingen Colour in Mind conference 21.-23.9.2016
  • 2016: Invited talk at OSA Fall Vision Meeting (San Jose, CA) :
  • 2016: Invited talk at psychology seminar at Giessen University, Germany:
  • 2016: Keynote at the undergraduate research conference 'Day of Science' at the University of Helsinki:
  • 2015: Academy of Finland fellowship: Five year research fellowship funded by the Academy of Finland

Selected Publications

Chapter in book

  • Olkkonen, M & Ekroll, V (2016). Color constancy and contextual influences on color appearance. In Springer series in Vision Research. Human color constancy. Rigmor Baraas, Jan Kremers & J Marshal Springer.
  • Olkkonen, M., Hansen, T. & Gegenfurtner, K. R. (2012). Higher-level perceptual influences on color appearance. In Visual Experience: Sensation, Cognition, and Constancy. Hatfield, G. & Allred, S. R. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 179-198.

Journal Article

Show all publications

Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • Memory and brain function: Colour perception, colour constancy, visual memory, Bayesian models of perception
  • Perception / attractiveness: Colour perception, colour constancy, visual memory, Bayesian models of perception
  • Vision / eye movement: Colour perception, colour constancy, visual memory, Bayesian models of perception


Selected Grants

  • 2015: Academy of Finland research fellowship (ca. £500 000)