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Action perception: psychological and neural frameworks

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Thursday, January 31, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

We have a PhD position to contribute to a larger project investigating the psychological and neural frameworks by which we perceive other peoples’ actions. This position will start in September 2019 and the successful candidate will be supervised by both Dr. Nick Barraclough and Prof. Steve Tipper in the Department of Psychology at the University of York, UK.

Background
Understanding how humans perceive other peoples’ actions is central to determining how we function successfully in our social world. Those that struggle to process human actions (e.g. individuals with Autism) have profound difficulties interacting with other people effectively. Despite the importance of action perception, surprisingly it is still unknown what psychological framework underlies the critical human ability to perceive other individuals’ actions. One of the organising principals of our mental representations is that features of our external world are represented in different internal workspaces or ‘perceptual spaces’. These spaces capture similarities and differences between stimuli and enable further classification, naming and responses. Determining the shape of these perceptual spaces has been fundamental to progress in psychology and neuroscience.

Aims of the project
The aims of this project will be to determine the fundamental organising principles underlying action evaluation, develop a new set of morphable actions that can be manipulated within action space, and explore individual variances in representations in action space in healthy individuals and clinical populations (e.g. individuals with Autism).

The candidate will develop stimulus sets that include photorealistic full-field action videos alongside motion capture data. Psychophysical and behavioural experiments will be developed to provide large scale data sets on which multidimensional computational models of action perception will be derived. These models of action space will be used to test how different people perceive actions along different perceptual dimensions, with the view to guide optimisation of action perception in health and disease. In addition, there will be the opportunity to study both the structural and neurophysiological basis of action space using multiple neuroscientific techniques both in the Department and at the York Neuroimaging Centre.

Requirements

Essential:
Good BSc degree in Psychology, Neuroscience, Biology, Computer Science or other relevant field with excellent project mark (completed or expected by September 2019); experience testing humans as participants; excellent communication skills; a willingness to learn to write computer code

Desirable:
Relevant Masters degree; experience with clinical populations; some experience writing computer code or scripts (e.g. in MATLAB, R or Python); experience measuring human brain function in humans (e.g. using fMRI, PET, MEG, TMS, EEG, or tDCS)

I expect PhD students to suggest additional, complementary research questions that could be answered with the morphable multidimensional action set, particularly during the final year of the studentship.

Interested applicants should apply online and include in their application:
1. CV
2. Cover letter indicating how you meet the essential and desirable requirements for the position
3. Statement of current and future research interests and how this project meets your overall career aims
4. An outline of complementary research questions that could be answered using actions that could be morphed along multiple dimensions (for example: speed, power, fluency, valence, trustworthiness etc.). Please state the research question(s), say why it’s important and novel (in comparison to what has already been discovered in that area) and how you might tackle it (e.g. outline methodology). Maximum 500 words.

The deadline for applications is 12.00 (midday) Thursday 31st January 2019. I will invite the top candidates for interview (in person, or skype) in early February 2019, with a view to offering positions by mid-February 2019.

Funding Notes

Funding will be for three years (home/EU fees and stipend of ~£14,500/year) for three years, starting in September 2019. In addition, you will be expected to complete 100 hours of teaching (tutorials, demonstrating in practicals, marking) each year in return for the studentship.

How good is research at University of York in Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 24.90

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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