Ben Dyson, PhD, MSc, BSc (Hons)

Associate Professor, Faculty of Arts - Psychology Dept

Pronouns: he / him


Associate Professor, Faculty of Arts - Psychology Dept


Area of Study / Keywords

decision-making games electrophysiology


I graduated from York University, UK, in 2002 after completing my thesis on auditory cognition and went on to a postdoctoral fellowship position at the Rotman Research Institute, Canada (2002-2004) to learn about event-related potentials (ERPs). My first academic position was at the (then) Department of Psychology at the University of Sussex, UK (2005-2008). I returned to Canada to work at Ryerson University, Toronto for six years (2008-2014). I then returned to the (now) School of Psychology at the University of Sussex, UK (2015-2018), only to come back to Canada to work at the University of Alberta in Summer 2018.


There are a number of serious and playful situations where an organism must repeatedly compete with others for mutually-exclusive outcomes: there will be only one Prime Minister or President, only one winner at Blackjack, only one bird able to forage nectar from any given flower. Across these difference domains, there will be differing proportions of skill and luck that should determine the extent to which we take responsibility for the outcomes we experience: in a strategic environment we must know when our losses were due to lack of knowledge about our opponent and know to do better; in a random environment we must know when our wins were due to luck and know not to make too much of it. My research examined how competitive states are represented in the brain, and how these initial states serve as a catalyst in determining future behaviour. Many of our studies involve individuals playing simple competitive games against different kinds of opponents, as a controlled way to study these mechanisms. Outside of the laboratory, we think about the implications of this research for individuals exhibiting problem gambling and the ownership of negative thoughts that are often at the heart of generalized anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. 

Visit the Re:Cognition Lab web site here


Fall 2018 – current PSYCO 258 X01 (Cognitive Psychology)

Winter 2019 – current PSYCO 104 B2 (Basic Psychological Processes) 

Featured Publications

Switching competitors reduces win-stay but not lose-shift behaviour: The role of outcome-action association strength on reinforcement learning.

Srihaput, V., Craplewe, K. & Dyson, B. J.

Games. 2021 January; 11

Variability in competitive decision-making speed and quality against exploiting and exploitable opponents

Dyson, B. J.

Scientific Reports. 2021 January; 11

A micro-genesis account of longer-form reinforcement learning under structured and unstructured environments

Dyson, B. J. & Asad, A.

Science of Learning. 2021 January; 6

Behavioural and neural limits in competitive decision making: The roles of outcome, opponency and observation

Dyson, B. J., Steward, B. A., Meneghetti, T. & Forder, L

Biological Psychology. 2020 January; 149

Behavioural and neural interactions between objective and subjective performance in a Matching Pennies game

Dyson, B. J., Musgrave, C. Rowe, C. & Sandhur, R

. International Journal of Psychophysiology. 2020 January; 147

Behavioural isomorphism, cognitive economy and recursive thought in non-transitive game strategy

Dyson, B. J.

Games. 2019 January; 10

Failure generates impulsivity only when outcomes cannot be controlled

Dyson, B. J., Sundvall, J., Forder, L. & Douglas, S.

Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance. 2018 January; 44

Wilbiks, J. M. P. & Dyson, B. J.

Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance. 2018 January; 44

Does the brain’s reward response occur even without actual reward? A response to Fielding, Fu & Franz (2017).

Dyson, B. J., Forder, L. & Sundvall, J.

Journal of Gambling Studies. 2018 January; 34

Dyson, B. J.

Trends in Cognitive Science. 2017 January; 21

Forder, L. & Dyson, B. J.

Scientific Reports. 2016 January; 6

Dyson, B. J., Wilbiks, J. M. P., Sandhu, R., Papanicolaou, G. & Lintag, J.

Scientific Reports. 2016 January; 6