Jon May

Jon May

Professor in Psychology

School of Psychology (Faculty of Health & Human Sciences)


Professor in Psychology


  • PhD Psychology: ‘A Cognitive Analysis of Flexible Thinking’, University of Exeter, 1987
  • BSc (Hons) Psychology, University of Exeter, 1983

Professional membership

  • AFBPsyS (Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society)
  • SFHEA (Senior Fellow Higher Education Academy)

Roles on external bodies

  • Grant Reviewer for the EPSRC, ESRC, and BBSRC; 
  • on the Peer Review Colleges of the EPSRC and BBSRC.

  • Referee for :
  • Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
  • Journal Of Experimental Psychology: Applied
  • Memory & Cognition
  • British Journal of Psychology
  • Cognition and Emotion
  • Addictive Behaviors
  • ERAB: Foundation for Addiction research
  • British Journal of Medical Psychology
  • British Journal of Anaesthesia
  • Journal of Neuroscience Methods
  • International Journal of Human-Computer Studies
  • Human Computer Interaction
  • ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction
  • Interacting with Computers
  • Behaviour and Information Technology
  • Information Science Review
  • and several international HCI conferences.

Teaching interests

  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognition and Emotion
  • Applied Psychology

Research interests

  • Cognition and Emotion
  • Human Computer Interaction
  • Craving, Desire and Addiction
  • Causal Inference
  • Working memory, executive function and higher level cognition

Research degrees awarded to supervised students

  • Dr. Nicandro Cruz-Ramirez: (Oct 98-Jan 02) Building Bayesian Networks from Data: a Constraint based Approach
  • Mark Irwin MPhil: (Oct 00-Jan 02) Interference in memory from pre-existing associates
  • Dr. Stuart Booth: (Feb 98-Mar 02 PT) Multi-sensory theory for interface design
  • Dr. Marc Bühner: (Oct 98-Mar 02 PT) Delay and Knowledge Mediation in Human Causal Reasoning
  • Dr. Evanilza Loureiro: (Oct 98-Dec 03) Logical and Emotional Argumentation by Brazilian Religious Ministers
  • Dr. Nathalie Panabokke: (Oct 01-Oct 04) Role of Visual Imagery in Craving
  • Graeme Stewart MPhil: (Oct 03-Jun 05) A Hybrid Computational Model of Interacting Cognitive Subsystem
  • Dr. Tim Gamble : (Feb 01-Sept 06 PT) Doing two things: the effect of task complexity and structure on switch costs
  • Dr. Lisa-Marie Berry : ( Oct 05 - Sept 08) Cognitive Models of Craving
  • Dr. Joanna Blackburn : ( Jan 07 - Dec 09) The role of imagery in eating disorders

Grants & contracts

  • £130000: University of PLymouth (07/10-06/13) S. Pahl, M.White, J. May, J. Andrade
    Dental Anxiety
  • £2500: Vice Chancellor's Community Research Awards (01/08-30/09/09) J. May, J. Andrade
    Prevalence and effects of self-harm, attempted suicide and suicide in young people in the Plymouth area
    in association with The Samaritans
  • £266000: Australian NHMRC (01/07 to 12/09) D. Kavanagh et al
    Randomised controlled trial of a new intervention for alcohol craving:
    Associate Investigator on Australian grant worth AUS$665.25 to the University of Queensland
  • £ 48,654 - ESRC (01/07 to 12/09) Jon May, J. Andrade & H. Batey
    Intrusive Thoughts and Mindfulness in Deliberate Self Harm:
    An Open Competition +3 Studentship
  • £ 42,494 - ESRC (11/05 to 2/07) Jon May, J. Andrade
    Effects of thought acceptance, diversion and suppression on food craving. :
    Our Elaborated Intrusion Theory predicts that increased intrusions will cause more frequent and intense levels of desire and increased relapse. We are comparing effects on food craving and intrusions of thought suppression and two alternatives: Mindfulness-based acceptance and thought diversion.
  • £ 60,340 - ESRC (10/05 to 9/09) Jon May, J. Andrade & J. Blackburn
    Cognitive Aspects of Craving in Eating Disorders:
    An Open Competition 1+3 Studentship
  • £ 47,505 - ESRC (10/05 to 9/08) Jon May, J. Andrade & L.-M. Berry
    Coping With Intrusive Thoughts Using Mindfulness Training:
    An Open Competition +3 Studentship
  • £ 239,676 - EPSRC 4/05 to 3/08 Jon May (PI)
    FilmICS: Designing dynamic displays with Supportive Evaluation Techniques. : Computer interfaces are becoming more film like, but are hard for people to understand, whereas people understand what happens in real films quite easily. This project seeks to understand the principles used to edit film sequences, to aid the design of computer interfaces
  • £ 39,500 - ESRC (1/02 to 12/02) Jon May & M Bühner
    The influence of delay on human casual reasoning:
    Showed that knowledge and experience could bridge delays between cause and effect, contradicting earlier research which argued that a delay prevents people from inferring any relationship.
  • £ 186,446 - EPSRC (1/01to 10/04) Jon May (PI)
    TICKS – Modelling Multiple and Collaborative Work Tasks:
    In collaboration with the University of Bath, this examined the application of Task Analysis to multiple, collaborative tasks. It combined an existing cognitive modelling approach, ICS, with the Task Analysis method, TKS.
  • £ 44,577 - EPSRC (10/99 to 9/00) Jon May (PI)
    Modelling the Perception and Comprehension of Dynamic Displays:
    Demonstrated that film making techniques for guiding the viewers’ gaze around the screen followed principles derived from cognitive theory, and justified their application in interface design.
  • £ 60,000 - BT: (2/98-1/01) Jon May (PI)
    MultICS2: : A studentship continuing the work begun in MultICS.
  • £ 131,231 - EU T&MR (1/98 to 12/02) Jon May (8 other sites funded)
    TACIT: Theory and Application of Continuous Interaction technologies:
    A Training & Mobility of Researchers network, involving nine sites across Europe. Within this project we addressed the role of temporal contiguity on human causal inference
  • £ 67,000 - EPSRC (10/97 to 9/99) Jon May (PI)
    Automating the approximate modelling of cognitive functio: n
    Developed an automated modeller of cognitive function in the domains of perception, memory and attention, by building an implementation of a particular unified model of cognition, Interacting Cognitive Subsystems (ICS)
  • £ 58,500 - BT: 2/97 to 2/98
    Jon May (PI), PJ Barnard, D Duke
    MultICS: Sensations in multiple modalities need somehow to be combined if we are to perceive them as being caused by a single event. This project examined the role of knowledge, expectation and task context

Tanja-Dijkstra K, Pahl S, White MP, Andrade J, May J, Stone RJ, Bruce M, Mills I, Auvray M, Gabe R & Moles DR 2014 'Can virtual nature improve patient experiences and memories of dental treatment? A study protocol for a randomized controlled trial' Trials 90, (15) Publisher Site , DOI PEARL
Tanja-Dijkstra K, Pahl S, White MP, Andrade J, Qian C, Bruce M, May J & Moles DR 2014 'Improving Dental Experiences by Using Virtual Reality Distraction: A Simulation Study' PLOSOne 3, (9) , DOI PEARL
Kavanagh DJ, Andrade J, May J & Connor JP 2014 'Motivational interventions may have greater sustained impact if they trained imagery-based self-management' ADDICTION 109, (7) 1062-1063 Author Site , DOI
Skorka-Brown J, Andrade J & May J 2014 'Playing 'Tetris' reduces the strength, frequency and vividness of naturally occurring cravings' Appetite 76, 161-165 Author Site , DOI PEARL
May J, Andrade J, Kavanagh DK, Feeney GFX, Gullo MJ, Statham DJ, Skorka-Brown J, Connolly JM, Cassimatis M, Young R & Connor J 2014 'The Craving Experience Questionnaire: A Brief, Theory-Based Measure of Consummatory Desire and Craving' Addiction PEARL
May J, Kavanagh DJ & Andrade J 2014 'The Elaborated Intrusion Theory of Desire: A 10-year retrospective and implications for addiction treatments' Addictive Behaviors , DOI PEARL
Connor JP, Kavanagh DJ, Andrade J, May J, Feeney GFX, Gullo MJ, White AM, Fry M-L, Drennan J, Previte J & Tjondronegoro D 2013 'Alcohol consumption in young adults: the role of multisensory imagery' Addictive Behaviors PEARL
Andrade J, May J, Deeprose C, Baugh SJ & Ganis G 2013 'Assessing Vividness of Mental Imagery: The Plymouth Sensory Imagery Questionnaire' British Journal of Psychology Author Site PEARL
Hamilton J, Fawson S, May J, Andrade J & Kavanagh DJ 2013 'Brief guided imagery and body scanning interventions reduce food cravings' Appetite Author Site PEARL
Kavanagh D, Connolly J, Tjondronegoro D, Andrade J, May J, Hides L, Witkiewitz K & McMahon T 2013 'TEST OF A NEW MOTIVATIONAL INTERVENTION FOR ALCOHOL MISUSE: FUNCTIONAL IMAGERY TRAINING' DRUG AND ALCOHOL REVIEW 32, 45-45 Author Site
May J, Andrade J, Willoughby K & Brown C 2012 'An attentional control task reduces intrusive thoughts about smoking' Nicotine Tob Res 14, (4) 472-478 Author Site , DOI PEARL
May J, Andrade J, Kavanagh D & Hetherington M 2012 'Elaborated Intrusion theory: A cognitive-emotional theory of food craving' Current Obesity Reports 2, (1) 114-121 Author Site , DOI PEARL
Blackburn JF, Thomson AR & May J 2012 'Feeling good about being hungry: food-related thoughts in eating disorder' Journal of Experimental Psychopathology 3, (2) 243-257 , DOI PEARL
Andrade J, May J & Kavanagh DK 2012 'Sensory imagery in craving: From cognitive psychology to new treatments for addiction' Journal of Experimental Psychopathology 3, (2) 127-145 , DOI PEARL
Andrade J, Pears S, May J & Kavanagh DJ 2012 'Use of a clay modeling task to reduce chocolate craving' Appetite 58, (3) 955-963 Author Site , DOI PEARL
Statham DJ, Connor JP, Kavanagh DJ, Feeney GF, Young RM, May J & Andrade J 2011 'Measuring alcohol craving: development of the Alcohol Craving Experience questionnaire' Addiction 106, (7) 1230-1238 Author Site , DOI PEARL
May J, Calvo-Merino B, deLahunta S, McGregor W, Cusack R, Owen AM, Veldsman M, Ramponi C & Barnard P 2011 'Points in mental space: an interdisciplinary study of imagery in movement creation' Dance Research 29, (2) 404-430 , DOI PEARL
May J, Andrade J, Batey H, Berry LM & Kavanagh DJ 2010 'Less food for thought. Impact of attentional instructions on intrusive thoughts about snack foods' Appetite 55, (2) 279-287 Author Site , DOI PEARL
May J, Andrade J, Panabokke N & Kavanagh D 2010 'Visuospatial tasks suppress craving for cigarettes' Behav Res Ther 48, (6) 476-485 Author Site , DOI PEARL
Buehner M & May J 2009 'Causal Induction from Continuous Event Streams: Evidence for Delay-Induced Attribution Shifts' Journal of Problem Solving 2, (2) 42-80 Author Site Publisher Site PEARL
Kavanagh DJ, May J & Andrade J 2009 'Tests of the elaborated intrusion theory of craving and desire: Features of alcohol craving during treatment for an alcohol disorder' BRITISH JOURNAL OF CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGY 48, 241-254 Author Site , DOI PEARL
Andrade J, May J & Kavanagh DK 2008 'Conscious and unconscious processes in human desire' Psyche 15, (2) 83-91 Publisher Site PEARL
Buehner MJ & May J 2004 'Abolishing the effect of reinforcement delay on human causal learning' QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY SECTION B-COMPARATIVE AND PHYSIOLOGICAL PSYCHOLOGY 57, (2) 179-191 Author Site , DOI
May J 2004 'An Information Processing View of Fringe Consciousness' Psyche 10, (1) 1-9
Kavanagh DJ, Andrade J & May J 2004 'Beating the urge: Implications of research into substance-related desires' ADDICTIVE BEHAVIORS 29, (7) 1359-1372 Author Site , DOI PEARL
May J, Andrade J, Panabokke N & Kavanagh D 2004 'Images of desire: Cognitive models of craving' MEMORY 12, (4) 447-461 Author Site , DOI
Barnard PJ, Scott S, Taylor J, May J & Knightley W 2004 'Paying attention to meaning' PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE 15, (3) 179-186 Author Site , DOI
May J, Dean MP & Barnard PJ 2003 'Using film cutting techniques in interface design' HUMAN-COMPUTER INTERACTION 18, (4) 325-372 Author Site , DOI
May J, Bühner MJ & Duke D 2002 'Continuity and Cognition' International Journal on Universal Access in the Information Society 1, 252-262 , DOI
Andrade J, Kemps E, Werniers Y, May J & Szmalec A 2002 'Insensitivity of visual short-term memory to irrelevant visual information' QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY SECTION A-HUMAN EXPERIMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY 55, (3) 753-774 Author Site , DOI
Buehner MJ & May J 2002 'Knowledge mediates the timeframe of covariation assessment in human causal induction' Thinking and Reasoning 8, 269-295
May J, Alcock KJ, Robinson L & Mwita C 2001 'A computerized test of speed of language comprehension unconfounded by literacy' APPLIED COGNITIVE PSYCHOLOGY 15, (4) 433-443 Author Site , DOI
Barnard PJ, May J, Duke D & Duce D 2001 'Macrotheory for Systems of Interactors' New York: ACM Press Human Computer Interaction in the New Millennium, 31-52
May J 2001 'Specifying the Central Executive may require complexity' Psychology Press: Hove Working Memory in Perspective., 261-277
Barnard PJ, May J, Duke D & Duce D 2000 'Systems, Interactions and Macrotheory' ACM Transactions on Computer Human Interaction 7, 222-262 , DOI
Kavanagh DJ, Statham DJ, Feeney GFX, Young R, May J, Andrade J & Connor JP 'Measurement of alcohol craving' Addictive Behaviors , DOI
May J & Andrade J 2003 Instant Notes in Cognitive Psychology. BIOS:Oxford, UK
Byerley P, Barnard PJ & May J 1993 Computers, Communication and Usability. North Holland
May J 2013 'Attentional Bias in Craving' in Miller P Principles of Addiction: Comprehensive addictive behaviors and disorders. San Diego, CA. Elsevier Inc. 435-443 , DOI
May J & Barnard PJ 2003 'Cognitive Task Analysis in ICS' in Diaper D; Stanton N The Handbook of Task Analysis in Human-Computer Interaction 291-325
May J 2001 'Human-Computer Interaction' in Smelser NJ; Baltes PB International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences Pergamon, Oxford 7031-7035
Duke DJ, Duce DA, Barnard PJ & May J 2001 'Human-Computer Protocols' in Stephanidis C 296-300
Conference Papers
May J & Gamble T 2014 'Collocating Interface Objects: Zooming into Maps' CHI 2014 Toronto, ON, Canada 26/04/2014 01/05/2014 New York, NY, US ACM 2085-2094 Publisher Site , DOI PEARL
May J & Gnanasekaran K 2013 The Functionality, Interface and Uptake of an energy saving application for mobile devices. PEARL