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ESRC SWDTC Studentship: Human social learning strategies in real-world-relevant experimental tasks

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  • Full or part time
    Dr Mesoudi
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About This PhD Project

Project Description

The University of Exeter is pleased to be offering a total of up to 22 ESRC funded 1+3 or +3 studentships, including any collaborative projects, as part of the South West Doctoral Training Centre (SWDTC) for entry in 2016-17. Within the DTC, the College of Life and Environmental Sciences is currently inviting applications for the project entitled: Human social learning strategies in real-world experimental tasks. This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding. Studentships will be awarded on the basis of merit and strategic fit with the aims of the DTC.
.For eligible UK/EU students the full time studentship will cover fees and an annual Research Council stipend of at least £14,057 (2015-16 rate) for up to three years (+3 award) or four years (1+3 award).

For the 1+3 studentships we would require you to register initially on one of the following Masters programmes:
• MSc Psychological Research Methods (Streatham campus)
For the +3 studentships we would require you to register on the MPhil/PhD Psychology (Penryn campus).
Applicants are encouraged to discuss their applications with the supervisors prior to submission.

Supervisors

Dr Alex Mesoudi (University of Exeter)
Professor Darren Croft (University of Exeter)
David Griffiths (FoAM Kernow)

Project Description

Recent research in the human evolutionary and behavioural sciences suggests that the ability to copy others is crucial for our species’ ecological success [1]. More than any other species, we acquire vast bodies of knowledge and skills from others via social learning (learning from others), benefiting from previous generations’ insights and trial-and-error. Social learning forms the basis of long-term cultural evolution, resulting in complex technologies and institutions that allowed our species to dominate the planet, for good and ill.
Yet we have poor understanding of the precise ways in which people learn from others in different contexts. Evolutionary models have generated predictions concerning when people should copy, who they should copy, and how they should integrate personal and social information. Lab experiments have begun to test these predictions against actual human behaviour [2]. However, these experiments are limited in being highly abstract compared to real-life decisions, and conducted on narrow samples of Western university students.
We will conduct an innovative series of computer-based psychology experiments to probe the uses, limits and consequences of human social learning, by testing evolutionary predictions within real-world contemporary contexts in culturally-diverse participant samples. In collaboration with FoAM Kernow, a non-profit organisation dedicated to maximising links between science and society, we will create online tasks based on contemporary real-world situations in which people must balance social and personal information to solve problems.

This project will make major contributions to the interdisciplinary study of human social learning, intersecting psychology, anthropology, economics and biology. It builds on AM’s previous research studying social learning within archaeological contexts [3], updated to contemporary situations. Potential practical applications include cases where people make poor decisions due to social influence, such as problem gambling or health-related behaviours.

[1] Mesoudi (2016) Cultural evolution. Current Opinion in Psychology.
[2] Whiten, Caldwell & Mesoudi (2016) Cultural diffusion. Current Opinion in Psychology.
[3] Mesoudi (2011) An experimental comparison of human social learning strategies. Evolution & Human Behavior.

For further information about this project and about eligibility please visit: http://www.exeter.ac.uk/studying/funding/award/?id=2082

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