Joseph Thompson

Position: Instructor

Department: Psychology/Social Science

Faculty: Humanities and Social Sciences

Office: NW N3427

Office Phone: (604) 527-5865


Education and Credentials

  • Ph.D., Simon Fraser University
  • M.A., Simon Fraser University
  • B.A., Simon Fraser University, honours

Academic and Professional Profile

Joe’s graduate career began in analytic philosophy where he hoped to demonstrate the relevance of empirical research to philosophical problems. At some point, Joe’s growing interest in empirical research outpaced his interest in the philosophy of language, science, and mind. Joe subsequently began a PhD in psychology at Simon Fraser University, where he hoped to demonstrate the relevance of philosophy to empirical research. This project initially took the form of theoretical papers on research methods in developmental psychology. Reflections on research methods, and the fortune of living in an era with excellent video games, eventually led Joe to conduct research on expert performance using large datasets of gamer behaviour.

At some point in his intellectual development, Joe attempted to apply his peculiar background to teaching, and this has since become Joe’s primary interest. His background in philosophy helps him teach scientific logic, his background in child developmental has shaped his larger teaching philosophy, and his research on skill learning affords him a unique vantage from which to advise students on how to become really really good at stuff.

Teaching Concentrations


  • PSYC 1200
  • PSYC 2301
  • PSYC 3320

Research/Clinical Activities

Joe has pursued two independent but loosely related avenues of research. His primary area of research revolves around the use of Big Data methods to improve our understanding of skill learning. Joe helped to pioneer a research program involving the analysis of digital records from a highly competitive and internationally played video game, StarCraft 2. These records are left behind whenever someone plays a game of StarCraft 2, and contain a timestamped record of every action performed by players. These new data sources allow Joe to ask research questions such as the following:

  • What variables distinguish experts and novices?
  • Do older players differ from younger ones in this particular domain of skill?
  • How might older experts retain their skills in a game of speed such as StarCraft 2?
  • Theories of skilled laboratory performance predict X. Can these predictions be confirmed outside of the lab?

Joe has also been known to pursue research in theoretical psychology, where has examined research methods. Joe’s theoretical papers tend to take on one of the following themes:

  • Psychologists frequently use research method X. What are the unrecognized assumptions underlying this method?
  • Influential psychologists refer to philosophy Y in their writings. Might this philosophy be shaping their research methods in unexpected or unacknowledged ways?

Open to Supervising Honours Students for 2021-22: YES

Hobbies and Interests

Sport fencing and video games that have virtually nothing to do with skill.

Selected Refereed Publications:

McColeman, C., Thompson, J., Anvari, N., Azmand, S. J., Barnes, J., Barrett, R. C., Byliris, R., Chen, Y., Dolguikh, K., Fischler, K., Harrison, S., Hayre, R.S., Poe, R., Swanson, L., Tracey, T., Volkanov, A., Woodruff, C., Zhang, R., & Blair, M. (2020). Digit eyes: Learning-related changes in information access in a computer game parallel those of oculomotor attention in laboratory studies. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 82, 2434-2447.

Thompson, J. J., McColeman, C. M., Blair, M. R., & Henrey, A. J. (2019). Classic motor chunking theory fails to account for behavioural diversity and speed in a complex naturalistic task. PLoS ONE, 14(6), e0218251.

Thompson, J.J., Leung, B.H.M., Blair, M.R., Taboada, M (2017). Sentiment Analysis of player chat messaging in the video game StarCraft2: Extending a lexicon-based model. Knowledge Based Systems, 131, 149-162.

Thompson, J. J., McColeman, C. M., Stepanova, E. R., & Blair, M. R. (2017). Using Video Game Telemetry Data to Research Motor Chunking, Action Latencies, and Complex Cognitive‐Motor Skill Learning. Topics in Cognitive Science, 9(2), 467-484.

Thompson, J.J., Sameen, N., & Racine, T.P. (2016). Methodological Consequences of Weak Embodied Cognition and Shared Intentionality. New Ideas in Psychology, 43, 28-38.

Thompson J. J., Blair MR, Henrey AJ (2014) Over the Hill at 24: Persistent Age-Related Cognitive-Motor Decline in Reaction Times in an Ecologically Valid Video Game Task Begins in Early Adulthood. PLoS ONE 9(4): e94215. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0094215

Tafreshi, D., Thompson, J. J., & Racine, T.P. (2014). An analysis of the conceptual foundations of the infant preferential looking paradigm. Human Development, 57. 222-240. 10.1159/000363487.

Thompson J.J., Blair M.R., Chen L, Henrey, A.J. (2013). Video Game Telemetry as a Critical Tool in the Study of Complex Skill Learning. PLoS ONE 8(9): e75129. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0075129

Thompson, J., Sameen, N., Bibok, M., & Racine, T.P. (2013). Agnosticism gone awry: Why developmental robotics must commit to an understanding of embodiment and shared intentionality. New Ideas In Psychology, 31(3). 184-193.