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Sabrina Cohen-Hatton

Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton

Honorary Research Fellow

School of Psychology

Tower Building, 70 Park Place, Cardiff, CF10 3AT


Research summary

Decision making is a fundamental aspect of human and animal cognition which results in the initiation of specific goal directed behaviours. This process can have far reaching consequences, particularly in dangerous or risky situations. It is essential for Fire and Rescue Services to prepare Incident Commanders to be able to make decisions in dangerous, fast-moving, emotionally charged situations, even with incomplete or inaccurate information. The cost of not getting this right is high. Human factors have been confirmed as the cause of 80% of industrial accidents, and it has been recognised that most firefighter injuries are influenced by the same factors.

In order to understand the mechanisms of decision making it is important to consider learning about related environmental cues, and how this influences responding. For example, cues that people are exposed to (in this case, at an incident) can form strong associations with other cues, outcomes, or even emotions and physiological reactions, that can later bias the response made at a different point in time. My research focuses on exploring the mechanisms that underpin such interactions (such as Pavolvian-Instrumental transfer), and the role of major pre-frontal neurological structures in this process.

I have published my findings in several scientific journals, and presented internationally at such events as the Federation of European Neuroscience, the European Brain and Behaviour Society meeting and the Associative Learning Symposium. I was also awarded the JURY prize in recognition of this research from the School of Psychology, Cardiff University.

As an operational officer undertaking this research, the ultimate motivation has always been firefighter safety and developing a greater understanding of psychological processes that may further mitigate risk when we deal with incidents. I am currently exploring the application of this research to support effective incident command and safety management.


Undergraduate education

2009 - 1st Class, Psychology (BSc Hons), Open University.

Postgraduate education

2013 - Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), School of Psychology, Cardiff University
2005 - MA, International Fire Service Development


2015 - Honorary Research Associate, School of Psychology, Cardiff University.
2015 - Deputy Assistant Commissioner, London Fire Brigade.