Research Areas, Projects & Topics

MSc Research

Below are the current MSc by research projects offered by the School of Psychology. Other projects may also be available so please contact potential supervisors to enquire further.

Dr. Lesley Allinson (Lesley@lincoln.ac.uk) 

Individuals with autism are much less likely to take up driving compared to non-autistic individuals of matching cognitive ability. Those autistic individuals who are drivers appear to be more prone to accidents. This might be due to Executive Function (EF) deficits (such as switching attention, inhibiting responses and short-term memory impairments) believed to be common in autism. It may however be that EF deficits are not autism specific and can generally be seen to affect drivers who do not possess a diagnosis. In our Driving Simulator Laboratory, we have explored EF deficits in a typical population and are now proposing to study an autistic population. Our driving simulator has eye tracking technology and a further project could analyse, In depth, data from autistic and non-autistic drivers. Different patterns of eye gaze may account for driving errors.

Dr. Lesley Allinson (Lesley@lincoln.ac.uk) 

Research on both EF difficulties and eye gaze have so far produced mixed findings but it is important to provide firm evidence of driving outcomes in autism as being able to drive is a key step to becoming independent and enhances the chance of finding employment. The DVLA recently introduced new restrictions on licence applications from those with autism. The outcry that resulted led them to quickly backdown. This would have been an additional barrier for autistic people, and before such decisions are taken there needs to be solid evidence of differences between those diagnosed and those not. it may ultimately lead to better training based on identified deficits whether in autistic or neurotypical drivers.

Dr. Matthew Craddock (mcraddock@lincoln.ac.uk) 

Neural oscillations are rhythmic patterns of brain activity visible in electroencephalographic (EEG) recordings of electrical activity on the human scalp. Oscillations in the alpha-band - approximately with a frequency range of 8-13 Hz - are the most prominent of these rhythmic patterns, and have been shown to reflect biasing of attention. During visuospatial attention tasks in which participants covertly attend to the left or right hemifield of visual space, the spatial distribution of the power of alpha-band oscillations shifts accordingly. Specifically, alpha power increases over parieto-occipital cortex contralateral to the to-be-ignored region of space relative to when that same region of space is attended to. However, alpha-band oscillations are do not exist in isolation. The brain exhibits activity over a wide range of frequencies, and overall changes in that activity may be conflated with changes in a particular range. This project will use EEG to record electrical signals originating from the brain while participants perform covert spatial attention tasks. It will examine whether the changes observed in alpha-band activity during these tasks reflect broader changes across the whole spectrum of brain activity.

Dr. Julia Föcker (jfocker@lincoln.ac.uk) 

Previous studies have shown improved attentional functions after action video-game training, e.g. when tracking multiple moving objects. In the study we aim at investigating the neural correlates of multiple object tracking in video game players compared to non-players. To this purpose, we will record electrophysiological and behavioural correlates of tracking multiple moving objects in 16 

action video game players (AVGPs), 16 nonaction video game players (NAVGPs) and 16 non-video game players (i.e., controls; CONs). Participants are presented with blue and yellow cartoon faces moving around a screen and told to keep track of the blue faces. All the faces then change colour to yellow but volunteers are asked to still keep track of the faces that were initially blue. During this phase different target cues are presented, which consist of a colour change, an auditory cue or an auditory-visual cue. We expect gamers to show improved performance compared to non-video game players. Moreover, we expect modulations of the ERP components which are localized in areas of the attentional network. This study allows to investigate neural changes underlying attentional capacity in individuals with improved cognitive functions following extensive video game playing.

Dr. Julia Föcker (jfocker@lincoln.ac.uk) & Dr. Andrea Pavan (apavan@lincoln.ac.uk) 

Previous studies have shown improved cognitive and perceptual functions after action video-game training. In the study we aim at investigating the neural correlates of visual working memory in video game players compared to non-players. To this purpose, we will record electrophysiological and behavioural correlates of visual working memory under low and high load conditions in 16 action video game players (AVGPs), 16 nonaction video game players (NAVGPs) and 16 non-video game players (i.e., controls; CONs). In the high load condition, four different Gabors (i.e., oriented stimuli) will be presented in each visual quadrant, whereas in the low-load condition only two Gabors will be presented in one visual hemi-field. After a specific time interval, a probe stimulus will be presented and participants have to report the orientation of the spatially cued Gabor. In general, we expect that video game players (i.e., AVGPs and NAVGPs) outperform CONs, especially under the high memory load condition. Differences between the two video game groups will also be assessed. Moreover, we expect modulations of the ERP components generated in the frontoparietal network. This study allows to investigate neural changes underlying visual working memory in individuals with improved cognitive functions following extensive video game playing.

Prof. Kun Guo (kguo@lincoln.ac.uk) 

Humans in close relations often develop similar preference/taste of attractiveness or aesthetic judgement. This project will examine whether dogs and their owners prefer the same visual traits that defining aesthetic and attractiveness. We will use behavioural measurements (e.g. dog approach speed, approach order/sequence to stimuli) to examine whether dogs agree with their owners’ rating of aesthetic or face attractiveness, and whether there is a species-specific preferences for attractiveness based on general perceptual mechanisms.

Prof. Kun Guo (kguo@lincoln.ac.uk) 

The Behavioural Ecology View proposed by Fridlund (1994) suggests that facial expressions are not just as indicators of current emotional state, but are also indicators of future behaviour. From this perspective, we can argue that human facial expressions might be used by the dogs to adjust their behaviour based on the likely future behaviour of the human. This project will look at how well dogs can understand the communicative and predicative value of facial expressions, and how likely they 

can use their ‘understanding’ to guide their approach/ avoidance behaviour and their interactions with human.

Prof. Kun Guo (kguo@lincoln.ac.uk) 

The increasing presence of pet, assistance and therapy animals (e.g. dogs and cats) in our society requires our timely interpretation of emotional expression in animals, which is fundamental for safe and rewarding human-animal interaction and to ensure animal welfare. We hope to bring together the cutting-edge research techniques, such as behavioural pattern analysis, eye-tracking, virtual reality and brain imaging (you can use one or two methodologies based on your personal interest), in order to achieve the overarching objectives of understanding whether humans process human and animal emotional cues in a similar manner at perceptual, cognitive, neural and behavioural levels. You can either research on one of my already-planned projects or come up with your own project.

Dr. Ava Horowitz (ahorowitz@lincoln.ac.uk) 

Contemporary attachment theory focuses on cognitive and affective processing (Crittenden, 2000) and has been expanded to the understanding of adult relationships, including adult-adult relationships (Howe, 2011). Attachment theory is currently being applied in areas such as clinical practice (Barazzone, Santos, McGowan & Donaghay-Spire, 2019), mentoring (Germain, 2011; Gormley, 2011), schools (Kearns & Hart, 2018; Parker & Levinson, 2018) and extensively within the assessment, approval and monitoring of fosterers and adopters in the UK (Department of Health, 2000). An area that appears less explored is the capacity of close friendships to meet the attachment needs of adults and how friendship choice, development and loss maps on to the attachment system. This project would aim to begin such an exploration, via self-report measures, potentially combining qualitative and quantitative methods. Details of the precise focus and method remain to be negotiated between the supervisor and supervisee, depending on where their interests intersect.

Dr. John Hudson (jhudson@lincoln.ac.uk) 

There is strong evidence that speech shares some neuronal processes with fine motor movement. It has been suggested that characteristics such as sequencing, motor timing and coordination, which form the basis of the speech-motor system, may underlie these shared processes. A series of recent influential papers from the Lincoln Trancranial Doppler lab has led to the development of a theoretical model describing a left lateralised Speech-Praxis Centre, which is suggested to underpin the commonalities in information processing across sequential speech and motor output. However, there is little work exploring precisely which aspects of these functions are most closely related to this left lateralised asymmetry. There is a need to extend our understanding of left hemispheric specialisation underlying speech/motor processes in order to accurately assess clinical cohorts with developmental and acquired disorders of language and motor function. This will increase knowledge of the mechanisms underlying comorbid deficits in language and motor coordination in such groups, and refine inventions that improve functioning across domains. The proposed project aims to improve the neuropsychological understanding of functional cerebral laterality for language and motor processing. Specifically, the shared neuronal processes underlying speech and motor praxis will be further investigated, alongside the impact of atypical lateralisation on language and motor abilities.

Dr. Robin Kramer (rkramer@lincoln.ac.uk) 

Previous work has begun to consider temporal resolution - that is, how fast we visually process the world around us. In one study (Stetson, Fiesta, & Eagleman, 2007), the authors developed a 'perceptual chronometer' as a device which allows the measurement of temporal resolution. I would like to use this idea in order to explore the concept further. First, I am interested in whether temporal resolution varies with age, so comparing children, young, and older adults. Second, I plan to explore different manipulations (e.g., consuming sugar, caffeine, etc.) which might increase or decrease temporal resolution in adults.

Dr. Bonaventura Majolo (bmajolo@lincoln.ac.uk) 

Ingroup cooperation is predicted to be an important factor affecting the outcome of between-group competition. However, it is not clear whether ingroup cooperation ‘spontaneously’ emerges as a result of competition, it is due to group structure and composition (e.g. ingroup cohesion or familiarity between group members) and/or to policing (e.g. punishment of non-cooperative members). This project aims to investigate these unclear aspects of the relationship between ingroup cooperation and outgroup competition using sport teams. The data collection will focus on how team sport players behave during competitive games in a series of competitive matches organised in the sports hall at the University of Lincoln. This project is interdisciplinary in nature, involving researchers from sport and computer science.

Dr. Emile van der Zee (evanderzee@lincoln.ac.uk) 

Word learning in the dog has so far focused on words referring to objects. In this project we will be looking at the dog’s ability to distinguish between word meanings based on adjectives: big/small, and dark/light. Evidence in relation to word learning for words referring to objects has shown that the Border Collie is sensitive to size differences in objects (van der Zee et al, 2013). The visual system of the dog is also known to be able to distinguish between white/black, with the dog’s colour vision being limited to the blue/yellow spectrum. These two pieces of information suggest that the potential for learning adjectives as suggested is present in the dog. The project involves training dogs to link non-sense words with patches showing size and light/dark differences. The successful candidate needs to have demonstrable experience in behavioural training with dogs.