Psychology PhD

Overview

Course facts

  • Name: Psychology
  • Qualification: PhD
  • Duration: Full-time PhD students normally spend three years in study, part-time students have five years to complete the PhD.

The School of Psychology at Bangor University offers modern undergraduate degree programmes that are fully BPS accredited and a suite of Masters programmes which reflect the School’s research specialisms. The School has achieved excellent ratings in terms of both research and teaching performance and has invested extensively in a modern teaching, learning and research environment, including brain imaging technology (MRI and EEG). Students have access to state-of-the-art research and computing facilities and the opportunity to study under world-renowned academic staff. The School also boasts a number of prestigious research centres including the Wolfson Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience, and the Centre for Experimental Consumer Psychology, which as well as being in the vanguard of academic research in these fields, offer students unique opportunities for project work covering important theoretical and practical elements.

Research Areas

Psychology with specialisations in:

  • Language, Bilingualism and Cognitive Development
  • Perception, Action and Memory
  • Social Neuroscience
  • Clinical, Health and Behavioural Psychology

Course Description

The PhD (or doctorate) is the highest academic qualification available. A PhD degree is designed to provide strong grounding in highly specialised areas through research. Its goal is to enable students to be researchers in psychology, contributing to academic knowledge and developing work of internationally publishable quality.

Choosing a Research Topic and Supervisor

If you are considering a PhD degree, one of your first actions - before applying for admission to the programme - is to identify and communicate with a potential supervisor in the relevant area. The research interests and publications of our academic staff are listed within our web pages. E-mail the people whose research is most relevant to the area in which you wish to work, and initiate the discussion! A list of supervisors currently seeking PhD students, and their research interests, is available on the research section of the School of Psychology’s website.

Course content is for guidance purposes only and may be subject to change.

Research project opportunities

Please note the research project opportunities detailed here are NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study.

If you are a European or International student this research programme is one of those which allows you to develop a research project proposal as an initial and integral part of a Combined English / Study Skills and Research Course at the University before starting the PhD/MPhil degree.

European and International candidates who have already reached the required level of English can apply for entry onto the project of their choice by presenting a relevant research proposal when applying for admission.

Alternatively you may also consider developing your own research proposal based on the research specialisms within the school.

The opportunities which are currently available are outlined below.

Asymmetries in sensorimotor control AND / OR Handedness: what’s the brain connection?

Supervisor: Dr David Carey

T: +44 (0) 1248 388700 / E: d.carey@bangor.ac.uk

Asymmetries in sensorimotor control

Many studies have documented subtle and not so subtle differences in movements made by the dominant versus dominant hand, and/or into the right or left side of space. Projects in my lab could investigate these asymmetries, suing techniques gleaned from cognitive psychology as well as paradigms from studies of sensorimotor control.

Carey, D.P. & Liddle, J. (2013). Hemifield or hemispace: what accounts for the ipsilateral advantages in visually-guided aiming? Experimental Brain Research, 230, 323-331.

Carey, D.P.   (2004). Neuropsychological perspectives on sensorimotor integration.   In

Functional Brain Imaging of Visual Cognition. Attention and Performance XX, pp. 481-

  1. Edited by Nancy Kanwisher, John Duncan and Carlo Umlita. The MIT Press: Cambridge, MA.

Carey, D.P. & Otto-de Haart, E.G. (2001). Hemispatial differences in visually

Handedness: what’s the brain connection?

Are left handers unusual? What is the relationship between handedness and the side of the brain dominant for speech? Are their attentional asymmetries that mirror those of speech in right handers and left handers? Projects in my lab often attempt to classify people using behavioural and sensorimotor techniques.

Bestelmeyer, P.E.G. & Carey, D.P. (2004). Processing biases towards the preferred hand: Valid and invalid cueing of left- versus right-hand movements. Neuropsychologia, 42. 1162-1167.

Buckingham, G., Main, J.C., & Carey, D.P (2011) Asymmetries in motor attention during bimanual reaching: Left and right handers compared. Cortex, 47, 432-440.

Carey, D.P. and Johnstone LT (2014). Quantifying cerebral asymmetries for language in dextrals and adextrals with random-effects meta-analysis. Frontiers in Psychology, 5:1128. http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01128

Carey, D.P., Buckingham, G., Otto-de Haart, E.G., Dijkerman, H.-C., Hargreaves, E.L. & Goodale, M.A. (2015). Are there right-hemisphere contributions to visually-guided movement? Manipulating left hand reaction time advantages in dextrals. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 1203. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01203

Please note this research project opportunity is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study.

Attentional and social effects of paralinguistic aspects of voice

Supervisor: Dr Patricia Bestelmeyer

T: +44 (0) 1248 383488 / E: p.bestelmeyer@bangor.ac.uk

Dr. Bestelmeyer works on auditory perception and is most interested in the attentional and social effects of paralinguistic aspects of voice such as affect, attractiveness or different native English accents on listeners. She uses behavioural tests and fMRI to evaluate and refine voice perception models that try to explain how we can extract and react to the complex information carried by a person's voice.

Please note this research project opportunity is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study.

Bangor Literacy Lab

Supervisor: Dr Marketa Caravolas

T: +44 (0) 1248 388566 / E: m.caravolas@bangor.ac.uk

Dr Caravolas's research interests include modeling early literacy development, reading and spelling processes in different languages, dyslexia in different languages, diagnosis of dyslexia in adulthood, and language and literacy interventions for struggling readers in bilingual education. Much of her research uses longitudinal and multi-(language)-group designs in studies seeking to uncover universals and language-specific factors in learning to read, spell and write. The interested student would undertake novel research in one of these areas, or, would contribute to existing literacy basic and applied research programmes.

Please note this research project opportunity is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study.

Children’s health and wellbeing: How to inspire and empower children to eat healthy diets and be more active in their daily lives

Supervisor: Prof. Pauline Horne

T: +44(0) 1248 382212/E: p.j.horne@bangor.ac.uk

According to the World Health Organisation, child obesity has reached epidemic proportions worldwide and is the biggest public health challenge of the 21st century. To counteract the influences of obesogenic environments, powerful behaviour change interventions need to be delivered at scale to reverse the rising tide of obesity and its negative consequences for human health and wellbeing.

The Food Dudes Healthy Eating programme for 3-11 year old children in primary schools is based on the unique combination of 3 core learning principles [3 “R”s]: Repeated tasting incentivised by Role Modelling and Reinforcement. Over the past 25 years, our research group at Bangor has developed versions of the programme for roll out regionally (UK) and nationally (Eire), producing large and lasting increases in children’s consumption of fruit and vegetables, and displacement of foods high in fat and sugar from their diets. In more recent variants of the programme, maintenance of children’s healthy food choices has been further supported by environmental “nudges” (using the principles of “choice architecture”) in school lunch canteens.

Complementary to the Food Dudes Healthy Eating programme, Dynamic Dudes is a behavioural intervention to increase children’s daily physical activity. Currently under development, there is one version for the early years (3-4 year olds) and another for 5-11 year olds. Based on principles similar to those that underpin the Food Dudes programme, the Dynamic Dudes intervention also aims to increase intrinsic reinforcement for children’s physical activity through improvements in their physical literacy skills. Following successful pilot trials, we are now seeking funding to refine and trial both the early years and main primary school versions of this activity intervention.

Please note this research project opportunity is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study.

Cognitive strategies and experiential factors that shape how we perceive and interact with others

Supervisor: Dr Emily Cross

T: +44 (0) 1248 383274 / E: e.cross@bangor.ac.uk

Research with Dr. Cross in the Social Brain in Action Lab aims to delineate the cognitive strategies and experiential factors that shape the neural processes that link action with perception, and sculpt how we perceive and interact with other agents in social settings. Her team systematically examines these questions with paradigms that draw upon a diverse range of complex actions and stimuli, including dance, acrobatics, robotics, music and knot tying. The overarching objective of these studies is to evaluate how an observer's physical constraints or social expectations influence how they perceive and predict complex actions performed by human and non- human agents. This research incorporates expert populations, longitudinal training studies, computer animation, functional magnetic resonance imaging, transcranial magnetic stimulation and psychophysics to better understand how we perceive and interact with different agents and actions.

Please note this research project opportunity is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study.

Consumer Psychology: Brands, Retail, Emotions, Social Media, and that Jazz

Supervisor: Prof James Intriligator

T: +44 (0) 1248 383630 / E: j.intriligator@bangor.ac.uk

 

The field of "consumer psychology" sits at the intersection of psychology, marketing, and business. Research within this domain covers a huge range of topics such as: marketing, branding, advertising, behaviour-change, workplace issues, environmentalism. Bangor University is home to Europe's most renowned masters programme in "Consumer Psychology and Business". Working on a range of theoretical and applied topics, Bangor Psychology staff work with both local companies and with some of the world's leading brands (such as Cadbury, Unilever, and Mars).

PhD research within Professor Intriligator's lab covers all aspects of consumer psychology. Recent PhD students have examined such issues as: The use of digital signs in retail and the workplace, the influence of aromas in retail, digital devices and nature, behaviour change and energy usage, brand loyalty, emotion-based decision making, the impact of faces and other emotional stimuli in web pages, social media and marketing, etc.

Please note this research project opportunity is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study.

Coping with chronic disabling conditions: the interdependence of caregiver and patient beliefs in illness centrality and self-efficacy for coping

Supervisor: Prof Val Morrison

T: +44 (0) 1248 382485 / E: v.morrison@bangor.ac.uk

Research in health psychology has demonstrated the predictive utility of patient illness and treatment cognitions and expectancies in terms of a range of physical, functional, emotional and social outcomes.  Drawing from self-regulatory and sociocognitive theory, existing research has predominantly treated patients and their family/friend caregivers as holding independent, rather than interdependent, beliefs and expectations. Too often also, research has ignored mediating processes of change in these illness and treatment-related cognitions, and the extent to which this change better explains outcomes such as mood, rehabilitation or medication adherence, physical and social functioning.  Joining Val Morrison’s research group, any new PhD student would be required to address the dynamic nature of illness responses and their interacting effects on outcomes, with the unit of analysis being both the individual patient or caregiver, as well as the dyad. Working in collaboration with healthcare practitioners or the voluntary sector across a range of adult clinical populations including potentially those affected by a cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, stroke, arthritis,  or surgical populations, empirical studies will likely address the concepts of illness centrality, illness representations, self-efficacy,  and both proactive and reactive coping. There is the potential for mixed methods research i.e the use of quantitative and qualitative methods can combine to elicit useful data.

Please note this research project opportunity is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study.

Development of Functional Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (fMRS) - directly measuring neurotransmission

Supervisor: Dr Paul Mullins

T: +44 (0) 1248 383631 / E: p.mullins@bangor.ac.uk

My research is currently directed along two lines: 1) The study of neurotransmitters and their interplay in normal functioning and disease, and 2) cerebral blood flow and how it changes in response to external and internal stimuli.  These two research strands overlap in several cases and I am also interested in studying the interplay between both. 

To study neurotransmission I use magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), and particularly the technique of functional magnetic resonance spectroscopy (fMRS), which allows us to measure neurotransmitter dynamics in real time. Members of my lab have shown that it is possible to measure dynamics of the excitatory neurotransmitter Glutamate with a temporal resolution of a few seconds, and that these measures can be combined with EEG and measures of the BOLD response (which forms the basis of fMRI).  Some of the questions we hope to approach next are      

  1. What is the exact timing of the glutamatergic response function?
  2. What is GABA's role in repetition suppression in the LOC?
  3. What about network recruitment/repetitionenhancement?

Development of fMRS as a tool to probe neural activity and neurotransmission directly has potential for application in clinical populations where the putative mechanism involves derangements in neurotransmitter metabolism, neurotransmitter receptor function or both. (e.g. Schizophrenia, epilepsy, Migraine, Parkinsons). These projects will introduce the student to MRS spectroscopy and will require the student to develop and employ skills in Matlab, experimental design, image processing and MRS analysis.

Recent work on cerebral blood flow in Hypoxia has revealed some interesting results regarding regions of the brain normally considered to be highly active at rest – the so called default mode network. Working with colleagues at the School of Sport health and Exercise Sciences we would like to extend these findings into other areas of metabolic stress and deficit – and further investigate how cerebral blood flow in these regions may be affected.

Projects in this area will introduce the students to MRI techniques for measuring cerebral blood flow (e.g Arterial spin labeling), physiologic measurements, behavioural testing and neural metabolism, as well as image analysis, experimental design, Matlab, FSL and SPM.

I expect my PhD students to be somewhat self-sufficient and very self-driven, having said that I would be very involved with these two particular projects and would provide the basic training required for the student to complete their thesis. In addition to the knowledge about the role of Glutamate and GABA in neurotransmission and neural processes underlying cognition, the PhD student on either of these projects would gain several employable skills: safe operation of an MRI scanner (Phillips 3T); experience in applying advanced imaging and spectroscopy techniques; instruction in MRI Physics, experimental design and image and spectroscopy analysis. I have several national and international collaborations, allowing the student to be exposed to research from other labs if desired. There would also be opportunities to be involved in teaching on the Masters in NeuroImaging program.

Please note this research project opportunity is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study.

Dissecting the functional organization of spatial working memory through behavioural and physiological measures in healthy and brain injured participants

Supervisor: Dr Giovanni d'Avossa

T: +44 (0) 1248 388801 / E: g.davossa@bangor.ac.uk

Recent work in my lab suggests that spatial working memory relies on both local representations encoding the precise location of the elements in a visual scene as well as global representations of the scene configuration.

The existence of multiple representations for spatial working memory is in keeping with physiological data, which suggest that both lower and higher tiers of the visual cortical processing hierarchy are involved in spatial working memory, albeit in rather different ways. While the former brain regions show little or no sustained activity during maintenance of information in memory, the latter regions show instead sustained signals whose amplitude is modulated by the memory load.

Currently, we are investigating how these two levels of representation interact by examining the effects on spatial recall of visual landmarks, which are stable features of a visual environment, but whose location does not have to be remembered vs. items whose location has to be remembered. This and additional work is carried out in both healthy and brain injured participants using behavioural and physiological measures (BOLD and ERP). Overall the project provides an excellent opportunity, to those students interested in spatial cognition and its neuropsychology, to probe the organization of spatial representations in the brain.

Please note this research project opportunity is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study.

Dynamics of human learning and memory

Supervisor: Dr Stephan Boehm

T: +44 (0) 1248 38 388241 / E: s.boehm@bangor.ac.uk

My research interests are human learning/memory and its dynamics, and I utilize both behavioural methods as well as event-related brain potentials. The overarching objective of the research is (1) to delineate the cognitive architecture and the neural underpinnings of human learning and memory and (2) to explore and describe the flexibility of how different forms of memory are invoked and how they interact. One major research focus is on advancing models of learning and memory describing the cognitive architecture of memory, in particular priming (for example for familiar faces and objects). The second research focus is on teasing apart contributions from different forms of memory co- occurring at the same point in time, investigating their interactions and evaluating the conditions under which these interactions occur. Examples of this research are the dissociation and interaction of implicit (non-declarative) and explicit (declarative) forms of memory like priming and episodic memory, the influence of semantic memory on priming, and the relationship of priming with perception and consciousness (awareness).

 

Please note this research project opportunity is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study.

Electro-cortical correlates of intra-subject variability

Supervisor: Dr Christoph Klein

T: +44 (0) 1248 388351 / E: c.klein@bangor.ac.uk

Elevated intra-subject variability of reaction times (ISV), a measure of fluctuations in performance on cognitive tasks, is a promising behavioural endophenotype for several psychiatric conditions. It is associated with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, frontal lobe injury, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Such trial-to-trial variability in performance has been identified as a possible measure of neural noise, either generally or specifically as an index of catecholaminergically-mediated prefrontal noise, but may also reflect ultra-slow endogenous brain oscillations. ISV, of course, is always studied in the context of a particular task. Working memory is a domain of cognition which is theoretically important in both catecholaminergic transmission and ISV.

This PhD project will experimentally investigate the electro-cortical correlates of ISV employing PCA- or ICA-based single-trial analyses of event-related potentials (ERP) and EEG frequency bands of multi-channel EEG recordings. We will aim to study ISV in the context of tasks sensitive to pre-frontal cortex functioning such as working memory tasks or tests of executive functioning to test and experimentally dissociate rival models of ISV associating the phenomenon with neural noise, endogenous brain fluctuations as well as general versus specific properties of the brain. Potential extensions of the project may include the molecular-genetic underpinnings of ISV (e.g., through dopaminergic neuro- transmission) and/or the investigation of increased ISV in specific psychiatric populations (ADHD or schizophrenia).

Kuntsi, J. & Klein, C. (2012). Intra-Individual Variability in ADHD and its Implications for Research of Causal Links. In: Stanford, C. & Tannock, R. (Editors). Behavioral Neurobiology of ADHD and its Treatment. Current Topics in Behavioral Neuroscience, 9, 67-92.

Please note this research project opportunity is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study.

Emotions and amnesia

Supervisor: Prof. Oliver Turnbull

T: +44 (0) 1248 383670 / E: o.turnbull@bangor.ac.uk

Patients with profound anterograde amnesia (such as that following hippocampal damage) show preservation of emotion-related learning, across substantial periods of time (i.e several weeks). There is a vast literature on episodic memory systems, and their (hippocampally-mediated) biological underpinnings. There has also been a substantial literature on other memory systems, such as semantic or procedural skills, that are independent of episodic memory. However, the role for emotion-based learning systems, the role of emotion-mediated memory, has been far less investigated.

The study will address the under-investigated issue of how emotions are modified in the patchy and distorted recall of amnesic patients. In particular, the study seeks to establish whether specific classes of emotion are (1) better recalled, (2) whether specific emotions prime each other, and (3) whether these patterns of memory error relate to pre-morbid personality. All of these issue bear on important emotion-related questions, especially on the relationship between emotions, and how these are developed and maintained throughout the life-span. The topic has substantial clinical implications – perhaps most obviously in relation to dementia.

Please note this research project opportunity is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study.

Evaluating the effectiveness of various literacy and numeracy interventions

Supervisor: Dr Carl Hughes

T: +44 (0) 1248 383278 / E: j.c.hughes@bangor.ac.uk

Many children and adults struggle to learn basic literacy and numeracy skills, which has a significant impact on their overall academic attainment, employability, and access to modern society.

We have been conducting a number of research projects in school across North Wales and beyond, to evaluate the effects of various literacy and numeracy interventions based on behavioural principles (including Direct Instruction, Precision Teaching, and Fluency-based instruction, and Internet based reading programmes).

Research opportunities in this area include; investigating approaches to reading and numeracy instruction for children in mainstream schools, as well as for children with various learning difficulties in special schools; investigating interventions to increase the basic skills of children and adolescents at risk of offending; investigating the use and effects of internet-based reading programmes; and investigating teacher behaviours and educational contexts relevant to implementation and dissemination of effective practices.

 

Please note this research project opportunity is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study.

How to Tell the Brain What to Do: Influences of Verbal Commands on Sustained Concentration in Older Adults

Supervisor: Dr Paloma Mari-Beffa

T: +44 (0) 1248 383816 / E: pbeffa@bangor.ac.uk

The main purpose of this research project is to study the way in which verbal instructions promote concentration on task goals. Being able to concentrate on a task (and avoid distraction) is fundamental to achieving our goals. The consequences of losing task control can range from minor slips of actions to devastating dysfunctional behaviour. Despite its central role in human adaptation to life, it is nevertheless one of the most vulnerable of all cognitive functions. Developmentally, such ability could be considered non-existent new born infants. Peak performance is achieved at about 20 years old shortly before it starts declining after 29 years of age. Later deterioration is variable but generally progressive, establishing it as the best predictor of cognitive dysfunction in older people. In this project we study mechanisms to boost this cognitive control in older people, therefore, our results can be critical to identify interventions to preserve cognitive functions in general. More specifically, it could be used to improve mental health and mental well-being later in life.

Please note this research project opportunity is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study.

Impact of mindfulness training on attention, emotion regulation and conceptual processing in the context of well-being across in the life-span

Supervisor: Dr Dusana Dorjee
T: +44 (0) 1248 388842 / E: d.dorjee@bangor.ac.uk

My research investigates how mindfulness training modifies behavioural, physiological and neurocognitive processes relevant to well-being and development across the life-span. In this context, my current studies on mindfulness training in schools, mechanisms of mindfulness in healthy adults, and mindfulness in aging examine the impact of mindfulness training on  cognitive control, emotion regulation, and conceptual processing relevant to well-being. I am particularly interested in possible preventive effects of mindfulness on mental and physical health. Potential Ph.D. projects on topics in this area would integrate behavioural, self-report and electrophysiological methods, particularly event-related brain potentials (ERPs). More information about research conducted in my lab can be found at: http://mindfulbrain.bangor.ac.uk

Please note this research project opportunity is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study.

Interdisciplinary approach to haptic perception and tool use

Supervisor: Dr Simon Watt

T: +44 (0) 1248 388252 / E: s.watt@bangor.ac.uk

Supervisor: Prof Paul Downing

T: +44 (0) 1248 382159 / E: p.downing@bangor.ac.uk

We use psychophysics and fMRI to investigate cross-modal integration, particularly in the visual / haptic domain. The overarching question behind the project concerns how the brain combines signals from different sensory modalities, considering that they are assembled from fundamentally different units. For example, in the case of size judgements, the modality-specific signals that specify an objects’ size in vision are not directly comparable to those specified by haptics. Yet we routinely use these signals together in everyday action – and psychophysical studies show we do this near-optimally.

We are using fMRI with advanced experimental designs in order to begin to understand the basis for this ability. E.g. what are the regions that compute haptic size; do they use a local or distributed code to do so; how do their responses depend on the particular effectors used? A particular focus of interest for the thesis could be around tool use, which presents further interesting problems for multisensory integration. This is because the mapping between visual and haptic inputs systematically varies depending on the type of tool used. A further puzzle is that people are often adept at switching between tools, apparently handling changes in visuo-motor mappings with relative ease. The basis for this ability is poorly understood.

The two supervisors offer a unique combination of world-leading expertise in psychophysics of cross-modal integration (Watt) and fMRI studies on body and action representations (Downing). The project would suit students from a variety of backgrounds and with a variety of career interests (e.g. basic neuroscience, robotics)

An MSc in Psychology, Neuroscience, Vision Science, or related disciplines is a requirement. Some programming skills e.g. in Matlab would be highly desirable.

Please note this research project opportunity is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study.

Reading fluency / Dyslexia / Bilingualism

Supervisor: Dr Manon Jones

T: +44 (0) 1248 382541 / E: manon.jones@bangor.ac.uk

1. Developmental dyslexia affects approximately 10% of the population, and is a problem that persists into adulthood. Many adults with dyslexia adapt to their reading difficulty to some extent, but a problem in reading fluency persists. In recent years, research efforts have focused on the perceptual and cognitive factors that enable reading fluency in normally developing readers, and cause fluency deficits in dyslexia. However, we do not yet have a full understanding of the processes underpinning fluency in these groups.

The proposed study will use experimental methods to investigate the concept of ‘automaticity’ in reading fluency: the current assumption that slower reading involves slower access to and lower activation levels of lexical codes. The study will specifically seek to address the following aspects of dyslexia: 1) the evidence for impaired automaticity in text reading as opposed to impaired lexical inhibition, 2) the respective roles of visual and phonological processing in these deficits, and 3) qualitative differences in automaticity as a function of age.

2. Popular accounts of bilingualism claim that to have two languages is to “possess a second soul”. Recent findings from the burgeoning literature on linguistic relativity suggest that basic perceptual and cognitive processes can be influenced by the properties of different languages, but much less work has been conducted on language and its effect on higher order semantic conceptualizations such as opinion and belief.

The proposed study will use experimental methods to assess 1) the extent to which language of input affects processing effort and offline ratings of belief in response to culturally biased and non-culturally biased statements, 2) how this relationship is modulated by other factors, including emotional responses, degree of language proficiency in the L1 and L2 etc., 3) how ‘superficial’ characteristics of the input (accent, intonation etc.) can affect participant response.

Please note this research project opportunity is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study.

Social and cognitive neuroscience

Supervisor: Dr Richard Ramsey

T: +44 (0) 1248 388554 / E: r.ramsey@bangor.ac.uk

A highly-motivated and creative student with strong written and oral communication skills, and preferably experience with human neuroscience techniques (fMRI, TMS, EEG) is required for this position.

The project is part of ongoing research in the Social Brain in Action Laboratory (SoBA Lab), which explores the cognitive and brain systems that underpin our ability to understand the actions and mental states of other people.

A key aim of the project will be to address novel questions in social neuroscience using a combination of behavioural measures (e.g., reaction times and error rates) and state-of- the-art functional brain imaging techniques (e.g., repetition suppression, multi-voxel pattern analysis and connectivity analysis). Using these methods, the successful candidate will be encouraged to develop a theme of research that examines how neural circuits in the human brain make sense of the dynamic and complex social information that we experience in everyday life. Example research topics include: action / person perception, observational learning, perspective taking, theory-of-mind and imitation. Applicants with research interests in other areas of social neuroscience are also strongly encouraged to apply.

The SoBA Lab is an international research group housed in the School of Psychology at Bangor University, which offers access to outstanding facilities for Social / Cognitive Neuroscience. For more details, see: www.soba-lab.com.

Please note this research project opportunity is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study.

Social perception and neurodevelopmental disorders

Supervisor: Dr Kami Koldewyn

T: +44 (0) 1248 388581 / E: k.koldewyn@bangor.ac.uk

PhD students working in the Developmental Social Vision lab will explore several aspects of social perception - including face and body perception, biological motion perception, animacy perception and the perception of social interaction both across the lifespan and in neurodevelopmental disorders. Students will be encouraged to develop projects using behavioural and eye-tracking paradigms as well as both functional MRI and transcranial magnetic stimulation to examine the cognitive and brain systems that underpin our ability to perceive and understand other people and the interactions between them. Students will be encouraged to identify novel questions and design innovative studies in social perception as well as explore new ways of combining behavioural and brain data.

Please note this research project opportunity is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study.

Testing the Zero Control Theory

Supervisor: Prof. Guillaume Thierry

T: +44 (0) 1248 388348 / E: g.thierry@bangor.ac.uk

Fifteen years of research have led me to considering seriously the idea that there is no such thing as free choice and that the human brain makes decisions in a wholly deterministic fashion, based on a large number of unconscious and elaborate processes that escape conscious awareness. Conscious awareness of the self may thus be considered an emergent property of a highly complex biological system (our body and brain) interacting with a highly complex environment (the world around us). As an emergent property, conscious awareness would then have little do with deciding what we do and how we do it. Freedom of choice (often referred to as ‘free will’) would then be mere illusion: We would become aware of a decision when it has already been made by the unconscious and, in the process of becoming aware, we would be led to believe that we made the decision, but never did.

My new research programme will aim to test this staggering hypothesis which I propose to call the Zero Control Theory by

(1) investigating random generation in humans (i.e., testing whether random generation is actually possible); 

(2) tracking down the fate of information (verbal or nonverbal) that has been indadvertedly processed by the brain and seeing how such information can guide future decision-making;

(3) exploring the concept of decision priming (i.e., determine whether a mandatory or seemingly free/optional decision has a differential priming effect on an upcoming decision made shortly thereafter);

This research will seek to build of a bridge between Cognitive Neuroscience, Psychology and Philosophy of life.

Please note this research project opportunity is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study.

The Centre for evidence Based Early Intervention School of Psychology

Supervisor: Prof Judy M Hutchings

T: +44 (0) 1248 383625 / E: j.hutchings@bangor.ac.uk

The Centre for evidence Based Early Intervention School of Psychology currently has four PhD students supervised by Professor Hutchings

  1. Evaluation of the one-to-one Enhancing Parenting Skills parenting programme. This RCT project is evaluating a parenting programme developed by Prof Hutchings and delivered by Health Visitors to high-risk pre-school children. The intervention comprises three stages, assessment, case analysis and intervention based on principles derived from applied behavioural analysis. This PhD is funded for three years from 1st January 2014 and is funded by a former Bangor student.
  1. Development of a web based parenting programme that teachers core behavioural principles and is based on Prof Hutchings Little Parent Handbook. The content was developed in the 1990s as part of a larger RCT of a CAMHS based intervention for parents of children with conduct disorder. This PhD, also part funded by the former Bangor student and part funded by the Children’s Early Intervention Trust Charity and is funded from July 2014 – June 2017
  1. One funded PhD student is evaluating the Finnish school based KiVa bullying prevention programme that has both whole school and targeted components and aims to influence the behavior of bystanders. Following from a Master’s thesis with a pilot group of schools this thesis is looking at the impact of broader role out of this programme across schools in Wales and is funded from October 2013 – September 2016, partly by the BIG Lottery and partly by the Children’s Early Intervention Trust charity.
  1. A newly funded KESS PhD scholarship is reviewing the training and support needs of foster carers and will be evaluating interventions to support them. This funding commenced in December 2015 and will be completed in November 2018. A number of behaviourally based training options are being reviewed including web-based, one to one and group based programmes.

Please note this research project opportunity is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study.

The human face as a biomarker of social traits

Supervisor: Prof. Rob Ward

T: +44 (0) 1248 383601 / E: r.ward@bangor.ac.uk

I am interested in evolutionary perspectives on human behaviour. Much of this work investigates to what extent the human face is a reliable signal for a person's social traits. We find that many aspects of personality can be accurately identified solely from neutral face images. That is, to some extent, people with similar looking-faces behave in similar ways (Jones, Kramer, & Ward 2012). Although trait identification can be surprisingly accurate, it can also be misleading and produce potential social harm (Scott, Jones, Kramer, & Ward, 2013).

We hypothesise is that at least some of the correlation we find between appearance and behaviour is driven by the influence of sex hormones on morphological and behavioural development. Further, the visual effect of these hormonal signals may be part of an evolved signal system for nonverbal communication (Kramer, King, and Ward, 2011). There is much here to understand; however, cross-cultural investigations of face characteristics, their associated social traits, and the ability to perceive and understand these signals, will be crucial for testing our hypotheses.

Please note this research project opportunity is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study.

The left bias in perceived light source

Supervisor: Dr Ayelet Sapir

T: +44 (0) 1248 388734 / E: a.sapir@bangor.ac.uk

When we interpret a shaded picture as a three-dimensional scene, our visual system uses various depth cues. One such cue is shading, which can make a two dimensional shaded circle look like a three dimensional convex bump or concave cavity, depending on where the light source is presumed to be. Often the position of the light is unknown and we need to guess it in order to resolve a convex-concave ambiguity. Initially, psychologists have suggested that the visual system assumes that light comes from above and argued that this assumption is ecologically justified because our everyday light source (the sun) is overhead. Later on, it was found that people’s preferred lighting direction is not directly overhead, but rather shifted to the left. This is intriguing because the sun is not to the left any more than it is to the right; therefore there must be another factor contributing to this light source assumption. In previous experiments in our lab we found that the left bias is related to innate hemispheric lateralization, but it can be altered by lifetime experience. The aim of the present proposed study is to further explore why people assume the light source is coming from the left. We will test different populations, from children to older adults, and may use imaging techniques to explore the neural correlates of the left bias in assumed light source.

Please note this research project opportunity is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study.

The neuroscience of human hand function

Supervisor: Dr Ken Valyear

T: +44 (0) 1248 382623 / E: k.valyear@bangor.ac.uk

The purpose of the research in my lab is to better understand the brain-behavioural relationships that underlie human hand function. We focus our attention on manual behaviours that are essential for human activities of daily living, such as grasping and tool use. While our research primarily serves the advancement of basic science, we believe that a better understanding of how the brain controls the hand will promote new and improved, evidence-based rehabilitation interventions for individuals with movement problems. Several overlapping lines of research are ongoing, including work on action selection and performance, tool use, and the effects of injuries to the peripheral nervous system on the functional organization of the central nervous system. New PhD candidates will lead a novel research project in one of these areas, typically involving a combination of behavioural, functional MRI, and neuromodulatory methods (i.e. transcranial magnetic stimulation; transcranial direct current stimulation). There may also be opportunities for testing special-case patients, and to interface the research with specific clinical populations (e.g., stroke survivors) for the purpose of promoting rehabilitation. The student will have opportunities to develop and steer the work according to their own interests.

Please note this research project opportunity is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study.

The orthographic lexicon and sound-spelling translation in bilinguals

Supervisor: Dr George Houghton

T: +44 (0) 1248 382692 / E: g.houghton@bangor.ac.uk

Supervisor: Dr Marie-Josephe Tainturier

T: +44 (0) 1248 382714 / E: m.j.tainturier@bangor.ac.uk

This project will develop and test models of the organization of the orthopaedic (reading and spelling) lexicon and the process of sound-spelling (and spelling-sound) translation in fluent Welsh-English bilinguals. The central question is how the brain simultaneously represents two different orthographic systems which partially overlap. Both the experimental and modelling work will be developed from the ongoing research of the supervisors. The project would particularly suit a candidate with some knowledge of computer programming who wishes to develop skills in computational cognitive modeling.

Please note this research project opportunity is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study.

Understanding key learning processes and their application to support health and wellbeing in typically developing children and special populations

Supervisor: Dr. Mihela Erjavec

T: +44 (0) 1248 383107/ E: m.erjavec@bangor.ac.uk

I am interested in determinants of early learning, development of imitation and language, and social context and interactions that contribute to these processes. I supervise postgraduate research projects that improve our understanding of these processes and their interactions. This research is conducted under carefully controlled conditions in our excellent facilities at the University Nursery and Childcare Centre, Tir Na n’Og, and in local nurseries and schools (see http://playlab.bangor.ac.uk).

My second research stream involves applications of this knowledge in behaviour change interventions that can optimise outcomes for children of all levels of ability. Variables of interest include healthy eating and exercise; improving the choice architecture of school environments; offering tangible incentives for making healthy choices; gamification; the use of media and online tools; and new technologies that can promote behaviour change (see http://caer.bangor.ac.uk).

Finally, I am interested in improving the effectiveness of child health and wellbeing interventions and in applying them in other cultural contexts; across a variety of ages and abilities; nationally and internationally.

Please note this research project opportunity is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study.

Vocabulary optimization in human language production

Supervisor: Dr Gary Oppenheim

T: +44 (0) 1248 388838 / E: g.m.oppenheim@bangor.ac.uk

 

The average adult speaker knows around 40,000 words, but is able to find a single appropriate word in less than a second, often speaking at a rate of 2-3 words per second in normal conversation. The Language Production Lab (http://pages.bangor.ac.uk/~pss238/lab) uses human language production as a tool to understand how the mind works, and one of our current lines of work focuses the idea that speakers are constantly reshaping their vocabularies to enable such fluent production. We have developed a computational model of speech production implements such a learning algorithm, so our current efforts focus on extending and refining the model, and collecting new behavioural data to test both the core ideas behind the model and its implementational details. The successful candidate will be encouraged to develop novel (related) questions and explore innovative ways of combining computational models and behavioural data to uncover how our minds support successful language use.

Please note this research project opportunity is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study.

Entry Requirements

You are expected to have an undergraduate degree in psychology or a related subject, with a minimum degree class of 2:1 or equivalent.  If you do not already have an MSc degree, then we would normally expect you to complete such a degree prior to starting the PhD programme. Many students complete their MSc degree in our department before progressing to the PhD. If you have already obtained an appropriate Master’s degree, you may be required to take one or more relevant modules in the School’s MSc in Psychological Research to complement your background and expertise.

International Students

For information and further detailed guidance on entry requirements for International Students, including the minimum English Language entry requirement, please visit the Entry Requirements by Country pages on the International Education Centre section of our website.

Ask the IEC for assistance...

If you want advice or a general chat about what’s available contact the International Education Centre on +44 (0) 1248 382028 or email international@bangor.ac.uk

Apply

Need help applying?

If you have any questions about entry requirements, how to apply or the course you are interested in please do not hesitate to contact Bethan Pentith, Postgraduate Admissions Officer on +44 (0)1248 388453 or by emailing psychology@bangor.ac.uk. We look forward to hearing from you.

Application advice

Applications for research degrees differ substantially from applications for taught courses such as Masters degrees. Although the application form is the same, the way in which you approach your application can make all the difference.

Applying for a self-funded or externally-funded Research Degree

As with all of our courses, you can apply to fund yourself through a PhD/Mphil at Bangor, or you may already have sourced external funding (e.g. from your employer or government), and we warmly welcome all expressions of interest in so doing. However, rather than simply filling in an application form, there are a few steps that you can take in order that your application stands a greater chance of being successful.

All PhD/Mphil students require supervision from at least one academic member of staff at the University, and if you are considering a PhD/Mphil, you will already have a good idea of the specific area or theme that you want to research. In order to ascertain that we hold sufficient expertise in your chosen topic to provide supervision, you should first look at our staff pages. This will provide you with a breakdown of each staff member’s area of academic focus.

Once you have found a member of staff whose research interests broadly accord with your own, you should contact them directly with a concise research ‘brief’ that outlines your proposal and ask whether s/he would consider supervising your project. If the academic expresses his/her interest, you may then further discuss your ideas and develop a full PhD/Mphil research proposal.

At this stage, you should formally apply online for the PhD/Mphil programme. You should fill the form out thoroughly, including academic references, your research proposal and the name of the academic member of staff under whose supervision you intend the research to be conducted.

Your research proposal

A good research proposal is essential if you are applying for a PhD or MPhil. The proposal should include:

  1. Overview – give a brief abstract of the subject area you wish to research and include information on the key theoretical, policy or empirical debates that will be addressed.
  2. Planning – you need to demonstrate that you are aware of the research timescales and have a plan in place to conduct your work. You need to demonstrate that the research is manageable in the given time period.
  3. Literature references – you need to show that your planned area of research has not been studied before. Provide references to key articles and texts relevant to your area of study.
  4. Methodology – you need to show that you are aware of the methodological tools available and have identified which ones would be suitable for your research.

More advice about preparing a research proposal

Applying for funded PhD studentships advertised by Bangor University

Funded PhD studentship opportunities arise frequently throughout the year, and are advertised as specific opportunities for which you must formally apply. The application process for funded PhD studentships may differ according to the academic School in which the studentship opportunity is held, so please check the relevant School’s homepage and follow the application advice therein. If you are unsure of any part of the application process, please contact the individual School for advice, or e-mail postgraduatestudy@bangor.ac.uk.

Online applications can now be made by prospective applicants for all postgraduate taught programmes and postgraduate research programmes at the University (with the exception of the PGCE, Diploma in Occupational Therapy and DClinPsy).

Home/EU students

Apply Online here...

Apply online

  • Please read through the Guidance Notes before you begin the online application form
  • Apply online yourself through our online application system.

Home/EU students with admissions queries please contact...

Postgraduate Admissions: postgraduate@bangor.ac.uk, telephone: +44 (0)1248 383717 or write to:

Postgraduate Admissions Office.
Academic Registry
Bangor University
Gwynedd UK
LL57 2DG

International students

  • Agents: if you are an agent applying on behalf of the student, then you can Apply here.  For further guidance click here

International students with admissions queries please contact...

International Education Office: international@bangor.ac.uk or write to

International Education Centre
Bangor University
Gwynedd
LL57 2DG

Telephone: +44 (0) 1248 382028

When do I Apply?

The University will accept applications throughout the year. We would generally advise that you submit your application in enough time for you to make any funding and/or accommodation arrangements, and for documents such as transcripts and references to be obtained if not submitted with the application.This will also give you more time to meet any conditions we may potentially attach to an offer (e.g. in the case of overseas students, taking an IELTS or TOEFL test to meet the English Language requirement).

Further information

Contact us

Funding

Funding for full-time PhD study (tuition fees plus living allowance) is available through a number of sources, including the ESRC, Bangor University, and the School of Psychology, which offers a number of studentships aimed at exceptional candidates from the UK, Europe, and internationally. Our website offers more details on the funding available for PhD students. Funding information and announcements about available studentships are kept up-to-date here.

Application Procedure

We invite applications for our funded studentships at set times throughout the year, both on our website and on http://www.jobs.ac.uk/.

Applications from students who have already obtained funding for their studies are welcome at any time. To make a formal application, please apply using our Online Admissions Service. We strongly recommend you read the Guidance Notes on online application before you start the application process. 

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