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I am a Lecturer at the University of Essex. Previously, I have worked at the University of Exeter and University College London. I completed my PhD at the University of Cambridge with David Tolhurst and Martin Stevens.

Please feel free to get in touch to find out more about the work done in the lab or opportunities to take part in our research.


Staff 2020-02-26 H&S 195.JPG
About me


I am interested in how humans and other animals perceive the world and how they use this information to make decisions.

Motion dazzle

My PhD research was on how camouflage patterns interfere with motion perception, and in particular whether certain types of high contrast patterning (such as stripes or zigzags) can affect speed or direction perception. This idea has been termed ‘motion dazzle’ and it has been hypothesised that it may explain some of the striking patterning seen in many animals, including zebras and many snakes, fish and insects.

In collaboration with Dr Laura Kelley and Then Try This, I have been involved in setting up The Dazzle Bug Game, an online citizen science game aimed at finding out what makes a moving target difficult to catch.



During my postdoc in the Sensory Ecology group, I carried out work looking at how camouflage should be optimised when an animal can be viewed on multiple different habitats - should it specialise to match one particular background, or should it evolve a form of generalist, compromise camouflage that offers imperfect protection on multiple backgrounds?



Avian parasitism

In collaboration with colleagues at the Czech Institute of Vertebrate Biology, we have been working on questions about the visual ecology of avian obligate brood parasites (common cuckoos) and their hosts and conspecific brood parasites (barn swallows). Questions we are interested in include whether hosts can recognise foreign eggs, how good parasitic egg mimicry is and whether egg appearance can act as a 'fingerprint' to identify an individual.


Photo credit: Michal Šulc



Šulc M., Hughes A.E., Mari L., Troscianko J., Tomášek O., Albrecht T., Jelínek V. 2022. Nest sanitation as an effective defence against brood parasitism. Animal Cognition.


Clarke A.D.F, Hunt A.R., Hughes A.E. 2022. Foraging as sampling without replacement: A Bayesian statistical model for estimating biases in target selection. PLOS Computational Biology.


Šulc M., Hughes A.E., Troscianko J., Štětková  G., Procházka P., Požgayová M., Piálek L., Piálková R., Brlík V., Honza M. 2021. Automatic identification of bird females using egg phenotype. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. 


Briolat E.S, Arenas L.M., Hughes A.E., Liggins E., Stevens M. 2021. Generalist camouflage can be more successful than microhabitat specialisation in natural environments. BMC Ecology and Evolution.


Koleček J., Piálková R., Piálek L., Šulc M., Hughes A.E., Brlík V., Procházka P., Požgayová M., Capek M., Sosnovcová K., Štětková  G., Valterová R., Honza M. 2021. Spatiotemporal patterns of egg laying in the common cuckoo. Animal Behaviour.


Hughes, A.E., Griffiths, D., Troscianko J., & Kelley L.A. 2021. The evolution of patterning during movement in a large-scale citizen science game. Proceedings of the Royal Society B.


Šulc M.Štětková G.Jelínek V.Czyż B. Dyrcz A. Karpińska O.Kamionka-Kanclerska K.Rowiński P.Maziarz M.Gruszczyński A.Hughes A.E., Honza M. 2020. Killing behaviour of adult brood parasites. Behaviour.

Šulc M., Troscianko J., Štětková G., Hughes, A.E., Jelínek, V., Capek, M., Honza M. 2019. Mimicry cannot explain rejection type in a host- brood parasite system. Animal Behaviour. 155:111-118. (Available here).

Hughes, A.E., Liggins, E., Stevens, M. 2019. Imperfect camouflage: how to hide in a variable world? Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 286:1902.

Griffiths, A.G.F., Modinou, I., Heslop, C., Brand, C., Weatherill, A., Baker, K., Hughes, A.E., Lewis, J., de Mora, L., Mynott, S., Roberts, K.E., Griffiths, D.J. 2019. AccessLab: Workshops to broaden access to scientific research. PLOS Biology. 17(5): e3000258. 


Hughes, A.E., Greenwood, J.A., Finlayson, N.J. & Schwarzkopf, D.S. 2019. Population receptive field estimates for motion defined stimuli. NeuroImage.199: 245-260. (Data available here).  


Hughes, A.E. 2018. Dissociation between perception and smooth pursuit eye movements in speed judgments of moving Gabor targets. Journal of Vision. 18:4. (Data available here).


Hughes, A.E., Jones, C. Joshi, K. & Tolhurst, DJ. 2017. Diverted by dazzle: perceived movement direction is biased by target pattern orientation. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 284:1850. (Data in supplementary material).


Hughes, A.E*., Southwell, R.V*., Gilchrist, I.D. & Tolhurst, D.J. 2016. Quantifying peripheral and foveal perceived differences in natural image patches to predict visual search performance. Journal of Vision. 16:18.


Hughes, A.E., Magor-Elliott, R.S., & Stevens M. 2015. The role of stripe orientation in target capture success. Frontiers in Zoology. 12:17.

Hughes, A.E. Troscianko, J. & Stevens, M. 2014. Motion dazzle and the effects of target patterning on capture success. BMC Evolutionary Biology. 14:201.

Troscianko, J., Lown, A.E., Hughes, A.E. & Stevens, M. 2013. Defeating crypsis: detection and learning of camouflage strategies. PLoS ONE. 8: e73733.



Edited Image 2016-06-07 09-34-56
Contact me


Email: anna dot hughes at essex dot ac dot uk

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I currently teach statistics and R to Masters students and Coding for Behavioural Scientists at the University of Essex.


I have also been known to teach (both to students and the wider public!) about visual perception, sensory ecology and experimental design in psychology.


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