PhD student project areas by PV96CoQt


									                                 PhD Projects in the following areas

Four PhD studentships are offered in Psychology at Leeds Met University. The full-time, three-year
studentships will cover the cost of PhD fees at the Home/European rate and a tax-free stipend of
£13,590 per annum. Applications are invited in any of the three research themes within Psychology:
Ways of Thinking; Ways of Living; and Ways of Learning, and specifically in the following topics:

       Impulsivity, cognitive bias and drug addiction
       Categorisation, social cognition and embodied cognition
       Dreaming and memory
       Emotions, including collective emotions, mixed emotions and cross-cultural perspectives
       Men’s sexual thoughts and offending
       Femininity, aggression and violence in and out of the workplace
       Gender, work and mothering, and infertility
       Sex and sexualities in the digital age
       Augmented reality to improve learning
       Children’s activity choices
       Music and academic performance

 Welcome to Psychology at Leeds Metropolitan University

Thank you for your interest in studying for a PhD with us here at Leeds Metropolitan
                           PhD student project areas

                           Ways of Thinking Research Theme

Impulsivity, cognitive bias and drug addiction
Dr Zoe Kolokotroni

Drug addiction is very costly to society leading to a variety of health and social problems.
With approximately 210 million people using illicit drugs and 15-39 million problem drug
users in the world, the problem is large and there continues to be an enormous unmet need
for prevention, and treatment (United Nations Office on Drugs & Crime, World Drug report
2011). In order to prevent and/or treat this disorder it is important to understand why only
some individuals become addicted to drugs when they use them, and why addicts find it so
difficult to stop using drugs of abuse. Recent formulations of drug addiction theories propose
that chronic drug use results in a loss of inhibitory control over behaviour. When combined
with pathological craving and hypersensitivity to drug associated stimuli, this loss of control
can lead to impulsive drug-seeking/ drug-taking behaviour and relapse. Candidates will be
encouraged to employ a multi-methodological approach using computer tasks and
questionnaires to assess different aspects of impulsive behaviour, cue sensitivity and
attentional cognitive processes including attentional bias. A fundamental knowledge of
psychological processes involved in the control of behaviour will be required for this

For further information please contact Dr Kolokotroni:

The role of categorisation in social cognition
Dr Sabrina Golonka

It is well known that social categorisation (perceiving people as belonging to different
groups) is an important part of stereotype formation and prejudice. Social categories tend to
cohere around common properties, like gender, ethnicity, and age. Another type of
categorisation, thematic categorisation (e.g., Lin & Murphy, 2001), coheres around
complementary roles and scenarios. For example, students might be grouped with
professors because they play complementary roles in a teaching scenario. Research shows
that adults routinely form and use these thematic groupings (e.g., Simmons [Golonka] &
Estes, 2008, but little work has investigated how these relations influence social cognition.
This project will lay the groundwork for understanding the role thematic relations play in
stereotype formation and function, and how these processes may differ between populations
(e.g., across cultures). Interested students would work with the supervisory team to design
and implement experiments related to this topic.

For further information please contact Dr Sabrina Golonka:

Embodied Cognition
Dr Sabrina Golonka

The theory of embodied cognition proposes that we solve tasks using resources spanning
our brain, bodies and environments coupled together via perception. Although it is an
increasingly popular topic in cognitive science research, many basic cognitive processes
have yet to be considered from the perspective of embodiment and continue to be explained
via traditional, computational theories of cognition. Because of the increasing support in the
literature for embodiment over computation, it is essential to update our accounts of
processes like language and categorisation. Embodied cognition is discussed at length on
the blog, Notes From Two Scientific Psychologists
(, which is co-authored by the project supervisor. In
particular, see
dynamical-systems.html and
could-it-be-case-of.html and

Two projects are offered within this area.

Project 1: Language as an embodied cognitive system

Traditional approaches to language assume that stable word meanings are stored in
memory. For nouns, these stored memories are essentially conceptual representations. An
embodied approach to language challenges this key idea of stored word meanings (see
Smith & Jones, 1993 for a similar argument against stable concepts). An analogy
demonstrates how we might be able to communicate successfully without stored word
meanings: The perception/action literature (e.g., Bingham, 1988) demonstrates that we don’t
store skilled actions to be called up in the appropriate context. Instead, skilled behaviour
emerges in real time from a system consisting of embodied, perceptual, and environmental
factors. Applying this to language yields the following prediction – word meaning emerges in
real time from a system consisting of factors like who is participating in the conversation,
what you want to achieve, what is happening around you, and the feedback you receive from
your conversation partners. Interested students would work with the supervisory team to
design and implement experiments related to this topic.

Project 2: Embodied approach to category formation / perceived similarity

A cornerstone of cognition is that we behave similarly to different instances of the same
category. For example, individual police officers differ in age, ethnicity, and gender, but we
expect them all to perform similar services because of their membership in the “police
officer” category. The traditional view of categorisation is that we store stable category
representations in memory, which can then be used to guide behaviour in a certain situation.
Smith and Jones (1993) questioned the importance of stable conceptual representations.
Their view was that what was smart about cognition was its flexibility and adaptability and
that these characteristics were under-valued in traditional models of category use and
formation. The purpose of this project will be to lay the groundwork for a new model of
categorisation behaviour. This research will need to investigate how categorisation
behaviours evolve in real time from a system comprising perceiver, task, and environment.
Interested students would work with the supervisory team to design and implement
experiments related to this topic.

For further information please contact Dr Sabrina Golonka:

Investigating the contribution of dreaming to understanding memory consolidation in
Dr Caroline Horton

A small growing body of evidence suggests that dreaming may help with and/or reflect the
activation of memories in the sleeping brain, as part of an offline memory consolidation
process. The PhD project would involve quantitative investigations of behavioural measures
of memory consolidation in sleep compared to wake, with a particular focus on
autobiographical memory consolidation. Applicants with an interest in sleep, memory and/or
dreaming are welcomed to apply. There is flexibility surrounding the nature of the project and
the precise modes of investigation.

For further information please contact Dr Caroline Horton:
Individual, group-based and collective pride in cross-cultural perspectives
Dr Gavin Sullivan

The primary aim of this project would be to explore instances of pride – whether conceived in
positive and authentic or negative or hubristic terms – by comparing responses from
samples in the United Kingdom and Indonesia. The research could include experiences and
expressions of pride in particular situations (e.g., completing a marathon). In addition,
cultural differences in the experience and expression of identity or group-based pride would
be examined. Research on this issue would clarify different sources, structures and functions
of identity-based positive emotion in both cultural groups (i.e., a topic that has traditionally
been examined in terms of individualism and collectivism). Specific features of the project
will include an empirical of emotional reactions to watching achievements by individuals that
represent national groups. The further topic of collective pride would examine evidence that
there are different opportunities to share in very broad occurrences of pride or, alternatively,
collective joy. Research methods for this project could include quantitative and qualitative
methods as well as specific data-gathering techniques such as Experience Sampling

For further information please contact Dr Gavin Sullivan:

Collective emotions
Dr Gavin Sullivan

The study of collective emotions – defined as emotions that are wide-spread, intimately
connected to group identity, often based on feelings solidarity and belonging, and which
have a shared attentional focus – still tends to study, mostly in retrospective terms, particular
types of positive and negative emotion in particular recent and historical situations. For
example, collective pride is studied in relation to mega-sport events, outbreaks of “hot”
nationalism and collective grief explores occasions of widely shared loss of significant
figures in social and cultural life (e.g., the death of Princess Diana). Taking into account the
structures, functions and dynamics of collective emotion (i.e., in which collective positive and
negative emotions will be found and might conceivably occur sequentially or
simultaneously), this project will engage in a prospective investigation of collective emotion
over a predefined period (1 year). The project will examine predictable and unexpected
sources of collective emotion. An example of the former is planned events such as the World
Cup in 2014 or anniversaries and commemorations of major events, while examples of the
latter include disasters and shocking events (e.g., acts of terrorism, mass shootings, riots).
Data collection is expected to focus on three primary sources: an analysis of newspaper and
television reporting of news stories, interviews with individuals that are repeated at regular
intervals during the study period and focus groups with purposively chosen participant
panels. A major advantage of the prospective approach is that sources of collective emotion
at different levels (e.g., local, regional, national, transnational) can be explored in detail as
they occur. The project will also be the first to represent how individuals perceive, are
affected by and share in or resist collective emotions over a given period.

For further information please contact Dr Gavin Sullivan:

Mixed emotions: towards improved understanding of individual, linguistic, social and
cultural variations
Dr Gavin Sullivan

Mixed emotions are conceived as sequential or simultaneous occurrences of positive and
negative emotions. Recent experimental research supports the view that positive and
negative emotions can occur at the same time in relation to complex stimuli (e.g., viewing
scenes from the film “Life is Beautiful”). Further empirical work has suggested that there are
several types of situations that lead to the occurrence of mixed emotions (e.g., points of
transition in life). However, the range of combinations of emotion has not been fully explored.
In addition, the range of situations that might generate mixed emotions has also not been
fully explored. The aim of this research project, therefore, is to explore sources (or formal
objects and the focus) of individual differences in the experience, apprehension, and
expression of individual emotions (e.g., lack of life experience of unusual situations). This
includes exploring sources of variation in the way that individuals articulate mixed emotions
(e.g., does the phrase “mixed emotions” typically summarise a range of conflicting or
vacillating rather than simultaneous emotions of contrasting valence). A further aim is to
examine the full range of situations in which mixed emotions occur and, particularly, to
develop and test theories about the extent to which mixed emotions arise in situations that
are uncommon and lack relevant scripts or norms. Finally, the nature of cultural variations
will be explored, potentially, through an examination of sources of individual, linguistic, social
and cultural variation in the experience and expression of mixed and vacillating emotions in

For further information please contact Dr Gavin Sullivan:
                             Ways of Living Research Theme

Men’s sexual thoughts and sexual offending
Dr Tamara Turner-Moore

Sexual thoughts and fantasies are theorised to play an important role in the aetiology and
maintenance of male sexual offending, including sexual assault, rape and child sexual
abuse. Meta-analyses have demonstrated that sexual preoccupation is one of the strongest
predictors of sexual recidivism, and sexual thoughts and fantasies are considered important
for the assessment and treatment of male sexual offenders. Candidates are encouraged to
pursue their own areas of interest within these topics and to select appropriate methods
accordingly. Examples might include:

     exploring the discourses used by sexual offenders and community men in describing
        their sexual thoughts;
     identifying linguistic markers of men’s descriptions of their sexual thoughts that
        predict proclivity for sexual offending or risk of sexual recidivism;
     exploring the correspondence between men’s sexual thoughts and sexual
     investigating forensic practitioners’ and sexual offenders’ perceptions and
        understandings of “sexual thoughts and fantasies” and implications for treatment.

Candidates with experience of both quantitative and qualitative methods would be
particularly welcome. Projects in other areas of sexual offending will also be considered.

For further information please contact Dr Tamara Turner-Moore: t.turner-

Femininity, social class and aggression
Dr Katy Day, Dr Nina Martin, Dr Kate Milnes and Dr Bridgette Rickett

A small number of studies (Owens et al, 2000; Walker & Richardson, 1998) have suggested
that middle class women tend to ‘do’ aggression in certain ways (e.g. social exclusion) that
are different to the forms of aggression that the working class participants who took part in
Dr Day’s PhD research described and discussed (e.g. more direct, physical aggression –
Day et al, 2003). This is a potentially fertile yet neglected area and there is a need for
research which looks further into the interrelations between gender, class and aggression
with a view to i) demonstrating that aggression is complex, can be done in different ways
and take many different (and context-dependent) forms ii) demonstrating that it isn’t just
working-class women who ‘do’ aggression iii) further deconstructing the myth of the non-
aggressive woman.

For further enquiries, please contact Dr Kate Milnes:

‘Pro-Ana’ and the Internet
Dr Katy Day, Dr Nina Martin, Dr Kate Milnes and Dr Bridgette Rickett

This project expands upon some work already carried out by Dr Day in this area and the
following studies would both build upon the work carried out to date and make an original
contribution to knowledge in this field: (i) To analyse material from ‘pro-eating disorder’
websites by employing a discursive analysis informed by psychoanalytic principles (e.g. a
Lacanian analysis) (ii) To explore Dr Day’s argument (Day & Keys, 2008) that one limitation
of the analysis conducted was that it couldn’t really ‘get at’ the emotive content/nature of
many of the posts because it was solely concerned with the construction of meaning and

For further enquiries, please contact Dr Bridgette Rickett:

Femininity, violence and paid work
Dr Katy Day, Dr Nina Martin, Dr Kate Milnes and Dr Bridgette Rickett

Further to Dr Rickett’s work looking at accepted and resisted femininities in female door-
supervision workers and female police officers, we have become very interested in how
women negotiate violence in organisational settings. There has been some indication from
research that violence in these organisational spaces has, discursively, become so
'masculinised' that women are either positioned as the recipients of violence or as the means
to dissipate violence (i.e. performance of a sexualised femininity as means of distraction).
However, we feel that this may be a reproduction of the notion that women 'carefully avoid
risk' in a different guise. Some parts of Dr Rickett’s research findings indicate that, contrary
to these ideas, femininity within these settings can be constructed as being violent and
menacing and that this may serve as a means to challenge organisational ideologies around
the 'fragility' of women. This PhD project could pursue these ideas further by examining
discourse around femininities and violence in violence work settings.

For further enquiries, please contact Dr Bridgette Rickett:

Femininity, sexual harassment and paid-work
Dr Katy Day, Dr Nina Martin, Dr Kate Milnes and Dr Bridgette Rickett

Some recent research has indicated (see Mathews, 2007) that media representations of
sexual violence have served to reproduce the sexual-double standard by drawing upon
established codes around femininity and sexuality. This project would use qualitative
research methods to examine the discourses/and or experiences around sexual/work
harassment of women. The research could draw upon other recent findings that 'sexual
harassment' as a discourse is historically and culturally embedded and may in itself
perpetuate ideas around men as perpetrators and women as victims. Interviews with female
police officers analysed by Dr Rickett revealed an active resistance to the notion of 'sexual
harassment', this could be read as functioning either to legitimise the 'invisibility' of the
practice or, to question the idea that women are passive victims of such practices.

For further enquiries, please contact Dr Bridgette Rickett:

Gender, work and maternity
Dr Katy Day, Dr Nina Martin, Dr Kate Milnes and Dr Bridgette Rickett

Dr Rickett’s previous research which involved talking to female police officers about their
experiences of being women in a male-dominated work-space revealed a dominant theme
around a deep-seated resistance to women who combine motherhood with a continued
attachment to paid work. This area of focus seems to be relatively un-touched. A PhD in this
area but could be hugely beneficial in terms of providing an understanding of how gender,
organisation and politics may work to bolster the ‘invisibility' of paternity in the work-space.

For further enquiries, please contact Dr Bridgette Rickett:
Mothering and Childhood Health
Dr Katy Day, Dr Nina Martin, Dr Kate Milnes and Dr Bridgette Rickett

Child health campaigns aimed at parents to increase childhood health (e.g. reducing obesity)
are on the increase (e.g. The National Child Measurement Programme). In addition mothers
often have a central interest in child health and usually take responsibility for monitoring the
health of their children. Therefore their activities are subject to scrutiny and these activities
are often linked to family and child health outcomes in ways that fathers’ activities are not
(Jackson, 2004). We welcome projects that further explore the nature of current child health
campaigns and what mothers’ experiences of such campaigns are.

For further enquiries, please contact Dr Bridgette Rickett:

Narratives of infertility
Dr Katy Day, Dr Nina Martin, Dr Kate Milnes and Dr Bridgette Rickett

Infertility is the most common reason for women aged between 20 and 45 to see their GP
and is estimated to affect 3.5 million people in the UK (HFEA, 2011). With infertility (and its
implications) now being recognised as a psychosocial (rather than a purely medical) issue,
applications are invited for qualitative projects exploring women’s stories of infertility,
particularly the experience of secondary infertility (difficulty conceiving a child after already
having conceived). Applicants are encouraged to develop ideas for research that us
innovative qualitative methods or approaches (e.g. narrative methods, visual methods such
as photo elicitation, diary studies, etc.).

For further enquiries, please contact Dr Nina Martin:

Sex, sexualities and relationships in the digital age
Dr Katy Day, Dr Nina Martin, Dr Kate Milnes and Dr Bridgette Rickett

This project is based on the influence/impact of new technologies and communication media
(e.g. the internet, mobile phones, social networking, blogging/ microblogging etc) on people’s
experiences, practices and identities. It builds on some of our previous and current research
focusing on the discursive construction of identity in pro-anorexia websites and feminist
blogs. The PhD research would develop this interest into the area of relationships, sex and
sexualities. We are particularly interested in the following questions but would also be
interested to hear from applicants with their own research ideas:
     What kinds of messages about sex/sexuality do social networking sites, blogs and
      microblogs (e.g. Facebook and Twitter) contain and how might these shape people’s
      understandings/experiences of sex and relationships and/or their sexual identities?
     To what extent do new technologies and communication media give rise to,
      perpetuate, normalise or exacerbate forms of sexual bullying and or
      sexist/homophobic abuse (including sexist, misogynistic and/or homophobic ‘jokes’ or

For further enquiries, please contact Dr Kate Milnes:
                           Ways of Learning Research Theme

Augmented reality as a means of improving patients learning of, and memory for, up-
coming surgical procedures
Dr Matthew Coxon

Augmented reality technology superimposes computer-generated information, such as video
or graphics, over live information taken directly from physical reality (e.g. through a web
camera). A potential application of this technology is to provide patients insight into up-
coming surgical procedures, through simulating aspects of this surgery on their own body
parts. This allows patients to ‘watch’ as their skin is virtually opened up, and they can be
reliably informed on the nature and purpose of the procedures that will follow. Whilst novel
and engaging, it is important to evaluate whether this use of developing technology leads to
significant differences in terms of the learning of, and memory for, the relevant information.
This project will focus on a pre-existing augmented reality application developed by Dr Steve
Wilkinson (Centre for Creative Technology, Leeds Metropolitan University) to educate
participants about surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome. Candidates for this project are
expected to devise a series of experiments to explore and clarify any potential impacts this
technology may have on participants’ understanding. It is therefore expected that any
proposal will draw heavily upon the existing psychological literature concerned with learning
and memory. More detailed information about potential variables and factors that could be
considered, or information about the augmented reality application itself, is available on

For further information please contact Dr Matthew Coxon:

The relationship between perceived academic competence, intrinsic motivation and
children’s activity choices
Dr Susan Atkinson

The aim of this study will be to examine what factors influence activity choices during child-
initiated play in different areas in Nursery and Reception classes, and how important
perceived academic competence (I am good at ..) and intrinsic motivation (I like ..) are in
children’s choices. In addition, the research would investigate whether teacher perceptions
of children’s competence and motivation differ from those of the children. This would then
lead on to the development of an intervention to encourage and develop children’s agency
and sense of control in at least one academic area , followed by an evaluation of its
effectiveness in increasing motivation levels.

For further enquiries please contact Dr Susan Atkinson:

Music and academic performance
Dr Susan Atkinson

Existing research suggests that music lessons are beneficial to children: possible benefits
include increasing musical skill, and improvements to self-esteem, confidence, motivation,
and academic performance. This project provides a very rare opportunity to carry out
research in a primary school with a structured whole school singing programme, to
investigate the progress that children make over time as they progress with musical
instruction and have the opportunity to engage with further music activities. There is the
possibility of carrying out a longitudinal study, following children through from Nursery or
Reception, measuring motivation, self esteem, and performance measures such as reading
ability, phonological awareness and memory.

For further enquiries please contact Dr Susan Atkinson:

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