Holly Huey.

Applied Cognitive Scientist. Benchmarking human behavior & communication to improve generative AI visualization tools.

Hi there! I'm a 5th-year PhD Candidate in Experimental Psychology at the University of California San Diego.
I'm advised by Dr. Judith Fan @ The Cognitive Tools Lab.

My research uses large-scale crowdsourcing techniques to benchmark how people create and interact with visual media. In my graduate research, I've specialized in conducting a wide range of visuospatial & generative behavioral tasks to study human visual communication. I've also conducted developmental research using drawing to study children's conceptual development of visual object concepts.

My approach combines a mixture of quantitative & qualitative methods to characterize these behaviors. With these insights, I hope to help improve generative AI models mimicking human generative behaviors and human-centered tools aimed at supporting human-AI interactions related to: text-to-image-generation, audience design, object identification, and semantic segmentation

Here's my latest resume.

Bio: I grew up on Whidbey Island, WA. As an introverted teenager on a rural island, I spent most of my time sketching and hiding away in ceramics studios. After two art apprenticeships and then double majoring in Philosophy and History of Mathematics & Sciences from St. John's College, I became fascinated by how novel visual media (e.g., Cartesian coordinate system, periodic table, Vitruvian man) across history helped catalyze and communicate major scientific discoveries. Despite this critical role of visual media in human innovation, relatively little is known about the cognitive processes that underlie how people communicate via images, by comparison to language. This question continues to inspire my research throughout my graduate program.

research domains


Since the first cave art, drawings have been a window into how people organize their knowledge into symbolic representation. By collecting & analyzing large-scale drawing datasets by humans, AI models, and children, my work aims to investigates how people interpret the visual objects and scenes in their environments.


Visual explanations are at the core of human innovation & design. How do people's goals to convey higher-level knowledge about physical mechanism shift how they produce diagrams? This line of work investigates how people prioritize different kinds of semantic information and what behavioral impact their representational choices have on viewers.


In our modern era, data visualizations have become a critical tool to understand large-scale information & reveal predictive statistical trends. However, even more simple graphs (barcharts, linecharts, scatterplots) require years of education to understand & make them. By analyzing how people answer different questions about graphs, my work aims to identify different ways of visualizing data can lead to more effective graph design & comprehension.
While my dissertation research is focused on these three domains, I have also explored & published work in other domains, such as human visuospatial perception, social pragmatics, navigation, and symbolic reasoning. See my below publications for more information.

Designed by Holly Huey. Photo credit: Petrina Chan (headshot) & Terra Huey (headshot art)