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EASTBIO Using Biomarkers to Illuminate the Experience of Being Forgotten or Remembered.

   School of Psychology

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  Dr D Ray, Dr Rama Chakravarthi  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project


Dr Devin G Ray (University of Aberdeen)

Dr Ramakrishna Chakravarthi (University of Aberdeen)

Memory is a powerful signal of value in human relationships that is only just beginning to receive scientific scrutiny. This project will use neural and physiological measures to examine the underlying mechanisms of how being remembered or forgotten modulates our assessment of relationships.

People accurately believe that remembered information is more valuable than forgotten information [1]. As a result, remembering or forgetting information about another person signals the value attached to that person [2]. Interpretation of another person’s memory is complicated by contextual factors, however (e.g. distraction, excuses, the nature of the remembered or forgotten information) [2]. Unfortunately, research into this question is constrained by limitations inherent to self-report: humans are often not good at assessing the impact of other’s memory on themselves, although it has clear effects on their behaviour and relationships. Both social pressure (e.g. norms around excuses and apology) and a lack of direct insight (e.g. internal processes too rapid for introspective observation) can undermine the accuracy of self-report. To illuminate this phenomenon, this project will therefore investigate the effect of being remembered or forgotten using neural and physiological measures that are not vulnerable to social pressure and that can temporally resolve extremely rapid internal events.

Key Questions
The project will focus on three key issues that will reveal underlying mechanisms:
1. Experience symmetry - are reactions to being remembered and being forgotten mirror images or asymmetrical?
2. Circumstantial mitigation – how are external (e.g. distraction) and internal (e.g. Alzheimer’s disease; known to be forgetful) circumstances accounted for in reactions to others’ memory and forgetting?
3. Information valence – do people react differently to memory and forgetting for evaluatively negative (e.g., embarrassing events) and evaluatively positive (e.g., accomplishments) information.

We will employ a combination of three neural and physiological biomarkers to test each of the above questions:
1. Electroencephalography – measures neural activation with high temporal resolution.
2. Facial Electromyography – uses electrodes on facial muscles to detect rapid muscular changes related to different emotions with high temporal resolution.
3. Skin conductance + hear rate – uses electrodes on the fingers and chest to assess physiological arousal (i.e. activation of the sympathetic nervous system).

Our paradigm will collect extensive biographical information from participants, use that information as stimuli in a memory test for real or ostensible additional participants, and will then provide item-by-item feedback to the original participant about whether a particular biographical fact was remembered or forgotten. Participants’ reactions to memory for each biographical item will be assessed using our core biomarkers supplemented by self-report about the overall experience. Specifically, we will a) compare reactions to remembered or forgotten information in different proportions, b) assess the impact of various mitigating circumstances (e.g. amount of time available to study, presence or absence of medical conditions), and c) determine the effect of information valence in the initial collection of biographical details.

In sum, this project will utilize neural and physiological measurement to gain new insight into a key dynamic of human relationships - the experience of being forgotten or remembered.

Application Procedure:


Please send your completed EASTBIO application form, along with academic transcripts to Alison McLeod at [Email Address Removed]. Two references should be provided by the deadline using the EASTBIO reference form. Please advise your referees to return the reference form to [Email Address Removed].

Funding Notes

This 4 year PhD project is part of a competition funded by EASTBIO BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership http://www.eastscotbiodtp.ac.uk/how-apply-0. This opportunity is open to UK and International students and provides funding to cover stipend and UK level tuition (limited funding is available to provide international tuition fees). Please refer to UKRI website and Annex B of the UKRI Training Grant Terms and Conditions for full eligibility criteria.

Candidates should have (or expect to achieve) a minimum of a 2:1 UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in a relevant subject.


1. Castel, A. D., Balota, D. A., & McCabe, D. P. (2009). Memory efficiency and the strategic control of attention at encoding: Impairments of value-directed remembering in Alzheimer’s disease. Neuropsychology, 23(3), 297-306.
2. Ray, D. G., Gomillion, S., Pintea, A. I., & Hamlin, I. (2019). On being forgotten: Memory and forgetting serve as signals of interpersonal importance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 116(2), 259-276.
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