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  What makes a good timer? An investigation of individual differences in duration estimation accuracy and other time-related behaviours

   School of Psychology and Wellbeing

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  Dr Philip Fine  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Applications are invited for a PhD research student on a project investigating individual differences in time perception, duration estimation and other time-related behaviours.

Rationale: Experienced time does not have a one-to-one relationship with physical time, and research has uncovered many factors which affect how fast time appears to pass and our estimates of the duration of tasks or events. Some of these factors relate to the task or event itself, the research paradigm (whether estimating duration prospectively or retrospectively), the actual methodology used, and the situation, environment or context. Other factors have been posited to relate to individual differences in the estimator. These might include, for instance, an awareness of one’s own body (interoception), boredom, arousal, motivation and flow, emotion, and personality.

Recently we have developed a new Time Personality Questionnaire (TPQ: Fine & Ellis, 2019) which measures various time-related factors, such as punctuality, an awareness of both time passing and the date, and a realistic appreciation of how long tasks will take. These has been shown to relate to other personality traits such as conscientiousness.

The Project: There are various directions this PhD can take, related to one or more of the research questions below. All projects will be expected to involve testing participants on a variety of temporal judgement and/or temporal estimation tasks, as well as collecting TPQ and other personality data.

Possible Research Questions:
1. How does our ability to estimate duration relate to general estimation abilities (e.g. for length, amounts, etc.) and other IDs such as time personality? How good are people at estimating their own ability to time tasks or events?
2. Can the ability to estimate durations be improved by training or some other intervention?
3. Do ‘supertimers’ exist - people who are remarkably accurate at temporal estimation, compared to the general population? If so, what makes them so good? Are there specific professions which require superior timing, such as musicians or dancers?

The School of Psychology and Wellbeing at the University of Buckingham has a thriving research community gathered into 3 research hubs. You would join the Centre for Research in Expertise Acquisition, Training and Excellence (CREATE) (; a thriving research hub focusing upon research in: Expertise and the Drivers of Excellence; Insight and Creativity; Performance Science (Music, Dance); Niche Populations.

Your first supervisor would be Dr Philip Fine ( whose research focuses on expertise, creativity, time perception and music psychology.

In terms of entry qualifications, PhD applicants must hold at least a 2:1 Honours BPS-accredited degree in Psychology at Undergraduate level (including at least a 2:1 in their final year dissertation, and a good working knowledge of research design and stats), and would typically be expected to have an MSc degree (or equivalent) although this may be waived in the case of an exceptional applicant. The candidate should be enthusiastic about the research area and have excellent written and oral communication skills along with experience of quantitative (and potentially qualitative) methodologies.

Continuation on the PhD will be subject to suitable progress, assessed after one year.
Psychology (31)

Funding Notes

Candidates must be self-funded, but we are happy to work with prospective PhD students to apply for external funding. For suitable students, there may be teaching opportunities after progression is confirmed.


Applicants for this opportunity should upload a single document including a covering letter and brief CV, outlining (a) how their previous experience supports their application to pursue a PhD in Psychology and (b) how their experience/interests suit them for this particular study. The names of two academic referees should be included, but would only be approached in the event that the applicant was shortlisted. Please refer to the code: PHD-TIME-PERCEPTION in your application.
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