Dr. Alice O’Toole
Professor in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences
Aage and Margareta Møller Professor
O’Toole’s research focuses on perception, memory and cognition, with a special focus on recognition of faces. Her recent work is aimed at understanding how people recognize other individuals, both from moving videos and from static images. Her team also is comparing human performance on face recognition tasks to the performance of state-of-the-art face recognition software algorithms.
Other projects in O’Toole’s laboratory focus on functional neuroimaging of high-level vision, with an emphasis on the use of pattern-based classifiers to analyze neural activation patterns elicited in response to different categories of visual stimuli. Her work has received funding from a variety of sources, including the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Department of Defense.
O’Toole is leading a team that is examining where facial-recognition algorithms succeed and where they come up short. The studies in the Face Perception and Research Laboratories are funded by the U.S. Department of Defense. The agency is seeking the most accurate and cost-effective way to recognize individuals who might pose a security risk to the nation.
She received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from The Catholic University of America and a master’s and doctorate in experimental psychology from Brown University. O’Toole came to UT Dallas in 1989. In 1994, she was awarded an Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship to collaborate on research projects with the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Germany aimed at modeling the perceptual information in three-dimensional laser scans of human heads and relating this information to human memory for faces. O’Toole also serves as associate editor of two leading research journals in psychology, The British Journal of Psychology and Psychological Science.
UT Dallas Professor Aage R. Møller and his wife, Dr. Margareta Møller, established the professorship in November 2007 to support the research activities of a faculty member in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences. O’Toole has held this position since September 2008.
A research team led by O’Toole is evaluating how well complex facial-recognition software works by comparing the rates of success for the software to the rates for non-technological but presumably “expert” human evaluation.
“The work we have done over the years represents a collaboration of many minds and ideas. The students in my lab, both graduates and undergraduates, as well as our local, national and international colleagues, are part of a single effort with many vital parts. We are enormously grateful for support from our donors. The kindness and generosity of Aage and Margareta Møller in support of the endowed professorship I hold, and the active interest and research funding from federal funding agencies over the years, have made our work possible.”