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Biological and computational mechanisms of human decision making (SambrookTU20PSY)

Faculty of Social Sciences

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Dr T Sambrook No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

This PhD project investigates the biological and computational mechanisms of human decision making. You will be exploring how moment-to-moment decisions that humans take arise from the interplay of three separate behavioural controllers in our decision-making circuitry: a Pavlovian, emotional controller responding to simple reward and threat, which produces strong physiological responses in the body and governs simple approach/avoid behaviour; a procedural controller that tracks reward and punishment in the pursuit of value; and a deliberative, conscious controller that models the world and acts in pursuit of explicit goals
The subjects in your study will be making decisions in an “escape room” style space. They will be exposed to sudden cues for danger and reward, undergo shaping of their behaviour with instrumental conditioning procedures and attempt to solve verbal and pictorial clues. They will yield psychophysiological measures of their bodily state, for example heart rate, skin conductance, electromyography, pupillometry or actimetry, all of which may be presented to the subject as biofeedback.

You will be responsible for designing an immersive environment in which to place your subjects. You will develop the interface between the subjects’ physiological responses and the remote monitoring software. You will design experiments that test current theories in biological and computational decision making and embed these within an escape room experience. You will analyse your data using computational models of learning.

Applicants should ideally have some experience of programming (e.g. Visual Basic, Matlab, C-family, Acknowledge) though further training can be provided. They should hold an interest in decision making.

For more information on the supervisor for this project, please go here:

This is a PhD programme.

The start date of the project is October 2020.

The mode of study is full-time/part-time. The studentship length is 3 years for full-time students and 6 years for part-time students.

Funding Notes

This PhD project is in a School of Psychology competition for funded studentships. These studentships are funded for 3 years and comprise of home/EU tuition fees and an annual stipend of £15,009.

Entry requirements:

Acceptable first degree in Psychology or relevant other discipline.

The standard minimum entry requirement is 2:1.

Masters or equivalent experience.


i) Decision making

ii) Computational psychology

iii) Psychophysiology

iv) Reinforcement learning

v) Conditioning
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