The award is for up to 3.5 years for UK/EU/Overseas applicants and provides full tuition fees, a generous stipend of approximately £15,000 and access to a grant towards research training support.
- Applicants should have (or will soon receive) a masters degree (or equivalent) in psychology or a cognate discipline relevant to their preferred project. In all cases, we are looking for academically excellent students, who are passionate about doing research and have an exciting project they want to pursue.
- There are five projects available (see below), and students should select one project as part of their application. Applications do not need a full research proposal, but applicants should include a discussion of how their research interests, skills, experience and career plans are a good fit for the proposed project. Applicants will be assessed on the basis of their academic ability, skills and research experience.
- In all cases, informal enquiries should be directed to the project’s primary Supervisor before application.
- In your application, please state that you are applying for the EPSRC-funded PhD studentship in the Department of Psychology. The application should clearly identify which project you are applying for, and the associated supervisor(s). We ask that you include a personal statement of your suitability for the project and PhD research more generally (no more than 750 words).
- Deadline – 16th June 2020
- Interviews are planned for early July, but will be scheduled nearer the time. Interviews will take place online.
- How to Apply
Project: A study into naturalistic gaze behaviour in Alzheimer’s Disease
Supervisory Team: Dr Trevor Crawford, Prof. Sandra Sunram-Lea (Psychology, Department, Lancaster University), Dr Rebecca Killick (Statistics Department, Lancaster University)
As people are living longer due to medical advancements, various forms of dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) are becoming more prevalent among the elderly . Innovative and novel approaches are required to facilitate early diagnosis, improvequality of life, and reduce the debilitating effects of the disease. One promising approach is through the use of eye-tracking technology. In the recent MoDEM program (EPSRC funded), we have shown that this approach can distinguish reliably AD from other neurodegenerative diseases and from natural ageing . Crucially, we have also demonstrated its sensitivity in differentiating between the two types of Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI): amnesiac MCI and non-amnesiac MCI . As yet this research in AD hasnot addressed more ecologically valid and naturalistic gaze behaviour. This PhD project is designed to investigate natural gaze behaviour in the context of every-day activities such as watching TV, making a cup of tea, etc. This project will provide a unique insight into how naturalistic gaze behaviour changes in people with AD. The research questions that would be investigated in this PhD are:
•Experiment 1: Is naturalistic gaze behaviour affected by Alzheimer's disease? And how does it compare to gaze behaviour of natural ageing and young participants.
•Experiment 2: What are the effects of explicit inhibition (including the effects of top-down control vs bottom-up automatic gaze behaviour).
•Experiment 3: Are patterns of gaze behaviour in individuals with amnesiac MCI significantly different to individuals with non-amnesiac MCI?
•Experiment 4: Can performance on the inhibitory control tasks predict patterns of gaze behaviour in naturalistic tasks?
•Experiment 5: How is progression of the disease influencing gaze behaviour when retested 1 year later.
Project: Digital technologies and bystander behaviour
Supervisory Team: Prof. Mark Levine, Dr Richard Philpot (Lancaster Psychology) Dr Maria Angela Ferrario (SCC Lancaster), Prof. Arosha Bandara (Computing/Comms-Open University)
Digital technologies have begun to transform the ways in which citizens can contribute to safety and security in public spaces. For example, smartphones allow the capture and sharing of images of emergency events; allow us to report incidents and receive real-time alerts of emergency events; allow us to communicate and coordinate with others during the events themselves. This studentship will consider some of the psychological implications of technology availability during emergencies. More specifically, we will explore the concept of bystander behaviour in the digital age. The studentship will examine the impact that having a smartphone has on the way bystanders think and act in emergencies. For example, do they film rather than help? How prevalent is filming during emergency events and how do fellow bystanders respond to the filming? Under what conditions is filming a form of help? The studentship will consider the ways in which technologies can be designed to promote pro-social behaviour and mitigate the likelihood of anti-social behaviour on the part of bystanders. The studentship will explore bystander/technology interactions in different kinds of situations where citizens may be bystanders to emergency events (including medical emergencies, night-time economy violence; assaults on public service workers; demonstrations and protests; police-citizen arrests). The studentship will benefit from an interdisciplinary supervisory team with expertise in social psychology and software engineering for social good. The project will also benefit from links to the interdisciplinary EPSRC research project ‘Citizen Forensics’ (EP/R033862/1) which studies citizen/police relations in the digital age.
Project: Computational Modelling of Implicit Attitudes
Supervisory Team: Dr Dermot Lynott, Dr Ryan Boyd (Lancaster Psychology)
Prejudicial attitudes exert a powerful influence on individuals and society more generally, and recent research suggests that the statistical patterns in how words are used in language
may capture such biases. The goal of this project is to understand the links between the statistical patterns of words in language, their relationship to the formation of human biases and prejudicial attitudes, and how both language and biases are linked to people's behaviours.
In this project, we will use a combination of statistical modelling and experimental methods to address these outstanding issues. First, the project will involve looking at language patterns in large corpora of text and assessing how they relate to implicit attitudes derived from human behavioural data. Second, we will systematically compare a range of candidate statistical models, and establish which models best capture data from people. Third, we will extend these models to determine the extent to which linguistic and non-linguistic information is predictive of attitudes and prejudicial behaviours. The outcomes of the project will shed new light on how the language we are exposed to affects our attitudes, biases and behaviour.
Working on this project you will join a collegiate department, and a supportive research team with expertise in a range of relevant domains (language modelling, experimental psychology, cognitive science), who strongly encourage an open science approach to research.
Project: Use of remote communication technologies by people with hearing loss and effect on feelings of social isolation
Supervisory Team: Prof. Chris Plack, Dr Helen Nuttall, Dr Jenna Littlejohn (University of Manchester)
In the UK, half of people over the age of 70 live alone. The use of remote communication technologies, such as telephone, social media, and video calls, are important to aid communication with social networks, and have become essential modes of communication during the period of enforced social distancing due to COVID-19. However, 70% of the UK population over the age of 70 (8.3m people) also have hearing loss, and often struggle to hold conversations over these platforms, especially when bandwidth is low and sound quality is poor. Hearing loss is associated with reduced quality of life, increased rates of depression, and cognitive decline, all of which may be mediated through social isolation. In this project, we will use an online survey to determine how hearing loss impacts on the use of remote communication. We will determine how hearing loss and the communication medium used affect emotional connection with the support group, and feelings of social isolation, loneliness, and depression. We will also conduct laboratory experiments to determine the most effective means of remote communication for people with hearing loss. We will measure the intelligibility of passages delivered via various communication media, the listening effort involved, and the emotional connection with the communicator. These data will be important in improving communication and mental health for older adults, particularly in a future in which close physical contact with friends and family may be substantially reduced.
Project: The soft skills of software learning development: Psychological dimensions of computing and security behaviours
Supervisory Team: Prof. John Towse, Prof. Mark Levine (Psychology), Dr Miriam Sturdee (SCC, Lancaster), Prof. Bashar Nuseibeh (OU / Limerick, Ireland)
From the outside, software coding looks like an entirely technical endeavour. Lines of code determine instructions carried out by the computer producing the functionality of software. Proficient coders therefore need a high level of detailed technical knowledge about their programming language. However, there is increasing evidence for numerous and varied psychological contributions affecting how software is built, what functionality it eventually delivers, and what vulnerabilities it possesses (for example, see work from the supervision team below).
This project will focus on how computer scientists learn about software, and will study the ways that both cognitive capacities (e.g. working memory, reflexivity, mental models) and social identities (e.g. group membership, cultural transmission of behaviours and priorities) shape and mould the programming choices that individuals make as they study and as they develop software. The project is expected to comprise a series of convergent, multi-method experiments with an emphasis on quantitative methodology.
The studentship will focus on psychological theories of behaviour from cognitive and social perspectives and will offer opportunities to test these in a real-world, applied settings, through an interdisciplinary team of supervisors working across leading research institutions. The project is novel but the supervision team have strong, existing links that demonstrate effective ways of working- in particular through the current EPSRC funded project “Why Johnny doesn't write secure software?". The studentship will also have the potential to inform student learning in computing sciences and beyond.