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Applications are invited for a part-time PhD/demonstrator studentship (4 years) to begin before 30th November 2022. The closing date for applications is Sunday 15th May 2022. Please see below for details of the available PhD projects for the studentship:

Potential projects for the part-time PhD Demonstrator role

Potential Projects in Developmental Psychology

Project title: The development, reliability and validity of a psychometric neurodevelopmental measure of binding competence for use in educational and clinical settings.

Synopsis:

Reading and writing during education is supported by coincident maturation of cognitive (Davies et al., 2020), transcription (Bourke et al., 2014; 2020) and linguistic processes (e.g., Lingwood et al., 2020). The relative effect of phonological and visuo-spatial working memory on literacy has been clearly demonstrated (e.g., Alloway et al., 2010; Bourke & Adams, 2010; Bourke et al., 2014; Davies, et al., 2020). Understanding of the relationship between executive functions and literacy in neurotypical and atypical groups also has implications for educational and clinical practice (e.g., Bourke et al., 2020). However, one aspect of working memory has been neglected, and that is the ability to form and maintain associations between motor, perceptual and linguistic processes for reading and writing. Current models and testing systems focus on visual, phonological, or audio-visual binding, and are limited in their use because they lack refinement, testing and concurrent validity (e.g., CABC-WM, Cabbage et al., 2017). Further, theoretical research has utilised cross-modal binding that include haptic processes (e.g., event files; Zmigrod et al., 2009), but this is not represented in the educational and clinical literature. Measures of binding processes from 4 to 25 years would extend understanding of neurodevelopmental differences in literacy processes.

Likely Supervisory team:  

Primary Supervisor: Dr Lorna Bourke (bourkel@hope.ac.uk)

Co-Supervisors: Dr Simon Davies, Dr Jamie Lingwood

 

Project title: Co-sharing technology for language, literacy and mathematics in the Early Years home environment

Synopsis: 

Shared book reading has been shown to be one of the most effective ways to foster language development and enhance parent-child interactions (Lingwood et al., 2020; Noble et al., 2019). Comparatively little is known about the effectiveness of other digital home learning environment (DHLE) activities, in particular those that relate to co-sharing of digital media (e.g., television, audio books) (Hornburg et al, 2021). The aim of this project will be to observe caregiver-child dyads co-sharing digital activities in the home to determine the language and conversation that emerge from these interactions. The second aim will be to design and evaluate a digital media intervention that will adopt interactive principles of shared book reading to enhance conversation and promote language-boosting behaviours. Finally, the project will aim to understand the links between DHLE and language development on child motivation and attitudes towards a range of curricula in school.

Likely supervisory team

Primary Supervisor: Dr Lorna Bourke (bourkel@hope.ac.uk)

Co-Supervisors: Dr Jamie Lingwood

 

Potential projects in Social and Applied Psychology

Project title: Understanding workability, job satisfaction, stress and health for the ageing worker

Synopsis: 

The workforce, in common with the general population in the UK, is ageing. Whilst many people can work for longer, there are some important considerations for organisations and employees regarding an increase in employee’s age in terms of workability, job satisfaction, productivity, stress, shift working and possibly survival. The aim of this doctoral level investigation is to examine work and age for employers and employees in different and / or specific workplaces. 
There are clear benefits of fulfilling work regardless of age, but it has to be recognised that capabilities are not the same across the lifespan. For employers, older workers have experience, and may be part of an organisation’s story. For employees, transitions into retirement may require decision-making, and adjustment, and consideration of health and work demands. Older workers are more likely to stay in work if they think that their work matters (job satisfaction), their employer supports them (manages stressors, acknowledges work-family conflict), and their needs (physical and mental health) are taken seriously. Whilst there is an evidence-base for these assertions, there are also many sweeping generalisations and caveats. 

This 4-year part-time PhD project would consist of an exploration and investigation of factors associated with managing work, stress and health in the context of ageing with a longitudinal element. It is anticipated that the project would use mixed methods and build on experience of the candidate and supervisory team to ensure a coherent level 8 programme of study.

Likely supervisory team

Primary Supervisor: Professor Rosanna Cousins (cousinr@hope.ac.uk)

Co-Supervisor: Dr Lisa Di Lemma

 

Project title: Identity transition in Injured Veterans.

Synopsis:

Membership of the British military offers a unique experience and lifestyle, which can have a long-term effect on identity, altering world views and impacting understandings of self (e.g. Binks & Cambridge, 2018). Ex-military personnel indicate identity conflict related to pressures in establishing continuity between their military and civilian lives (Higate, 2008) with those who sustain life-changing injuries subject to increasingly complex physical and psychological experiences, further complicating the process of transition and resettlement particularly in relation to identity (Basemann et al., 2018). Identity threat experienced as a result of physical and mental health conditions can result in the need for a redefinition of the relationship between self, body, and environment with the complex and bidirectional nature of the relationship between chronic health problems and identity issues requiring full consideration during recovery, rehabilitation, and reintegration (Basemann et al., 2018). Perceptions of self and others have the potential to be intensified by injury, with successful recovery correlated with a reframing of life-outlook, adopting strategies to compensate for altered functional abilities, and engagement in meaningful activities and relationships (Brewin et al., 2011). The proposed research will examine the personal and environmental factors that allow for this engagement and investigate the contextual and situational factors which increase social identity salience.

Likely supervisory team

Primary Supervisor: Prof. Neil Ferguson (fergusn@hope.ac.uk)

Co-Supervisors: Dr Eve Binks, Dr Lisa di Lemma

 

Potential projects in Vision and Cognition

Project title: Visual exploration of interior design in digital and virtual environments

Synopsis: 

The day-to-day experience has been dramatically changed during COVID-19 pandemic including the increasing amount of time which we spend indoors. Research investigating the quality of aesthetic experience of interior space, and the conditions that may enhance or impoverish it in relation to individual differences is virtually non-existent. Our previous research at Liverpool Hope University has required ground-breaking technological and empirical advances to measure aesthetic experience in laboratory setting and efficacy through the proxy measure of eye-movements while walking through an art gallery.  We can extend our methods to examine issues in relation to aesthetic experience of interior space that have, to date, never been examined. First, through the integration of eye-movement with virtual reality and other physiological measures (i.e., GSR and accelerometer), we aim to test whether properties of the environment may impact on how we process and experience interiors. Second, an understanding of these issues is required to explore individual differences. Especially, we are interested in how the structure and the properties of interior spaces may improve the experience of the clinical population such as high functioning autism. Beside its theoretical value, in terms of real-world impact the proposed project contributes to the development of guidelines for interior designers.

Likely supervisory team

Primary Supervisor: Dr Letizia Palumbo (palumbl@hope.ac.uk)

Co-Supervisors: Dr Tobiasz Trawinski, Dr Neil Harrison

 

Project title: 

Embodied mechanisms underpinning cognitive and emotional appraisal of tourist destinations

Synopsis:

Research evidence suggests that anticipation of a trip leads to significant psychological benefits of excitement and pleasure even before the holiday has begun (Gilbert & Abdullah, 2002). Hedonic responses elicited by browsing photos of potential tourist destinations often trigger an intention to visit that destination in the future. While the impact of naturalistic environments, cultural heritage, architecture or atmosphere, have been investigated in relation to hedonic responses (Harrison & Clark, 2020; Palumbo et al., 2020; Vartanian et al., 2021) and tourist destination choices (Szubert et al., 2021), other psychological mechanisms underpinning preferences for tourist destinations have been neglected. This project aims to investigate whether cognitive and emotional appraisals of tourist destination images may stem from a mechanism by which the observer is encouraged in embodying the tourist destination “as if” they were present in the observed place. This will be examined combining eye tracking, approach/avoidance tasks and physiological measures (GSR, accelerometer) in real and virtual environment. By examining sensory-motor and emotional experiences associated with the visual exploration of a place, this project will inform well-being and tourism stakeholders of what makes a destination attractive, hence contributing to relaunch the tourist sector greatly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Likely supervisory team

Primary Supervisor: Dr Letizia Palumbo (palumbl@hope.ac.uk)

Co-Supervisor: Dr Neil Harrison

 

Project title: 

An investigation into visual exploration of real-world nature environments using mobile eye tracking

Synopsis:

A large body of research has consistently shown that exposure to nature is associated with a host of beneficial psychological outcomes, such as cognitive restoration and stress reduction. It is vitally important to increase our understanding of the psychological effects of nature exposure, given that people are spending less time in nature due to increasing levels of urbanisation and screen-dependent lifestyles. One way to advance our understanding is to measure how attention is allocated during exploration of a scene using eye tracking. However, the vast majority of studies investigating eye movements in scenes of nature have used photographs of nature, which has reduced ecological validity compared to immersion in real-world nature settings.
The current project will use mobile eye tracking technology to investigate the relationship between allocation of eye gaze and cognitive and affective responses to nature. Individual differences in personality traits such as openness to experience and connectedness to nature are known to be associated with sensitivity to natural beauty (Harrison & Clark, 2020), therefore a further aim of the project will be to investigate the role of individual differences in eye movement behaviour and responses to natural environments.

Likely supervisory team

Primary Supervisor: Dr Neil Harrison (harrisn@hope.ac.uk)

Co-Supervisor: Dr Letizia Palumbo, Dr Dan Clark

 

Project title: Exploring Adaptive Memory

Synopsis:

In recent years, researchers have adopted a functional perspective, asking what purpose memory serves, as opposed to its parameters. A pivotal study by Nairne et al. (2007) argued that as memory would have been subject to the demands of natural selection, one function of memory might be that it allows an individual to retain information that would help them to survive. There is now mounting evidence that processing items with regards to their survival properties yields higher memory performance than several proven mnemonic strategies. Indeed, it has been argued that survival processing may be the ‘best of the best of known encoding procedures’ (Nairne et al., 2008). This approach has spawned a vast number of studies showing the effect to be robust, across stimuli domains and multiple encoding tasks. It has also shown superior memory for survival related stimuli (animates) over non-relevant stimuli. However, whilst we know that survival processing is an effective mnemonic technique, it is debated as to which mechanism drives this effect. Understanding the driving mechanism is an important avenue of research as it would allow for greater understanding of human memory and may provide the basis for an intervention for people with memory impairment.

Likely supervisory team

Primary Supervisor: Dr Dan Clark (clarkd@hope.ac.uk)

Co-Supervisor: Prof Nick Donnelly

 

Eligibility

Applicants should have an undergraduate degree in Psychology or a related discipline. In addition, applicants should have, or expect to hold when taking up the post, a Masters degree with Distinction, or a Masters degree with Merit (including a Distinction grade for the dissertation).

To apply

Applicants should apply by making a postgraduate research application in Psychology at pgr.hope.ac.uk. You will need to submit a CV, transcripts/certificates, details of two academic referees, and a research proposal (maximum of 1,000 words) with your application. The proposal should also name the suggested supervisor(s) and include a reference list (not included in the word count).

Informal inquiries about projects and/or supervisors may be sent to Dr Neil Harrison (harrisn@hope.ac.uk).