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School of Social Sciences Studentships 


Full-time funded PhD studentship starting October 2018

Plus Icon The Impacts of arrest for indecent images of children (IIOC) offences on wellbeing, relationships, employment, and future outlook

Project outline

Child sexual abuse is now well-established as a significant global public health problem. In the UK, the largest victimisation study of child sexual abuse to date found that 11% of 18 - 24 year-olds (5% male; 18% female) had by the age of 18 experienced ‘contact sexual abuse’ as defined by UK law, rising to 24% when non-contact sexual abuse was included (Radford, Corral, Bradley & Fisher, 2013)[1]. The Lucy Faithfull Foundation (LFF) was established as a UK charity 25 years ago. LFF’s purpose is to safeguard children and young people from sexual abuse by preventing it and responding to it through working with protective adults, those affected by abuse and those perpetrating it.  
Over the past decade, there has been a major shift in the callers to LFF’s Stop it Now! helpline, from predominantly related to contact child sexual abuse to roughly two-thirds of calls relating to internet-based concerns and offences in the year-to-March 2018 (for background reading on issues around online child sexual offending, see Seto, 2013, Gillespie, 2011, and Quayle & Ribisl, 2012).[2]  LFF’s Stop It Now! helpline and interventions with people who have offended via the internet have been positively evaluated (Brown, Jago, Kerr, Nicholls, Paskell & Webster, 2014[3]; Gillespie, Bailey, Squire, Carey, Eldridge & Beech, 2016[4]) to date, but further work is needed around the longer term impacts of their work. Recent research has estimated that the risk of suicide amongst individuals arrested for internet child sexual abuse-related offences ranged from 183-230 times that of the general population.[5] Furthermore, the impact of arrest and conviction for internet-related offences on family and friendship groups, careers, mental and physical health, wellbeing, and general life prospects cannot be underestimated, but there is currently little or no research into these areas.

The successful applicant will, in consultation with the supervisory team, design and undertake a programme of research on the impacts of arrest for indecent images of children (IIOC) offences on wellbeing, relationships, employment, and future outlook.  This project aims to understand the impacts, particularly the longer-term impacts, of arrest for IIOC offences on the individual’s life.  We are also interested in understanding what situations and contexts following arrest are associated with no longer offending vs. reoffending, and worse vs. better welfare outcomes for those who have offended.

Inform Plus is a 10-week course run by LFF, delivered in small groups, for people who have been arrested, cautioned or convicted for internet offences involving IIOC (for more information, see https://www.lucyfaithfull.org.uk/inform-plus-for-internet-offenders.htm). We expect that one part of the PhD will explore the impacts, particularly the longer-term impacts, of attending the intervention.  We anticipate that this is likely to include exploring one/some of the following, but it is not limited to these:  the impact of Inform Plus on clients’ offending, risk of offending, understanding of their offending, quality of life, and suicide ideation and attempts.

The PhD is likely to involve one or more studies using qualitative methods or both qualitative and quantitative methods. 

Environment

The student will be based within the Genders and Sexualities programme of the Centre for Psychological Research in the School of Social Sciences.  The student will join a vibrant postgraduate community of approximately 30 PhD students within Psychology, with a dedicated Psychology Postgraduate Research Tutor, an internal annual PhD student conference, and a research seminar programme of external speakers.  Dr Turner-Moore is currently the co-lead for the Genders and Sexualities programme and the Psychology Postgraduate Research Tutor.  All PhD students at Leeds Beckett University are encouraged and expected to undertake a research training programme as part of their studentship. 

The Lucy Faithfull Foundation has offices in Bromsgrove (West Midlands), Epsom (Surrey), and Edinburgh (Scotland), and the student will be expected to spend time in one of these offices for data collection and data management.

Mode of Study

The studentship is available as a 3-year, full-time PhD.  Annual renewal will be subject to satisfactory progress.  If required, the studentship can be extended into a 4th year to enable the student to complete the write-up of the thesis; however, there is no funding available for this 4th year.

 

Supervision Team 
Dr Tamara Turner-Moore (Leeds Beckett University), Professor Sarah Brown (Coventry University), and a supervisor from Lucy Faithfull Foundation.

 
Plus Icon How to apply

Applicants should send the following to researchadmissions@leedsbeckett.ac.uk

  1. A full academic CV.
  2. A completed application form (which can be accessed here: http://www.leedsbeckett.ac.uk/-/media/files/research/research-awards-application-form.doc?la=en ).  The application form includes a research proposal of up to four A4 pages using type Arial 12 point (with references as an addition to the proposal).  In the research proposal, you should: (a) introduce and outline your proposed programme of research (i.e. a focused literature review, leading to the research aims and description of the study/studies, including participants, methods, analysis, and timeline); and (b) indicate where you already have experience and skills relevant to the eligibility criteria and your proposed programme of research.The proposal should clearly meet the requirements outlined in the Project Description.
  3. Scanned copies of your degree certificates (e.g. undergraduate or masters degree certificates) and transcripts.
  4. If relevant, scanned copies of your English language requirements.
  5. If relevant, scanned copies of your passport and previous UK visas.

 The closing date for applications is midnight on Sunday 1st July 2018.  Applicants shortlisted for interview will be contacted.  Interviews will take place on Thursday 26th July 2018.

Plus Icon Contact Us

Candidates are encouraged to contact Dr Tamara Turner-Moore via email or phone 0113 812 6013 prior to applying for an informal chat about their qualifications, experience and research proposal.

Plus Icon Funding

In collaboration with the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, applications are invited for a full-time PhD research studentship within the School of Social Sciences at Leeds Beckett University.  The studentship will start 1st October 2018 and is for a period of three years, subject to satisfactory progress.  The studentship includes the payment of tuition fees (currently £4,260 for UK/EU students), an annual stipend of £14,777(pro-rata in 12 monthly payments) and a budget of £1,000 per year for training and research costs for three years.The stipend is exempt from UK Income Tax and National Insurance.

Plus Icon Eligibility

We are looking for a motivated and committed high achieving student.  Applicants should hold a first degree equivalent to at least a UK upper second class honours degree in a relevant subject.  The project would suit a student with a strong background in psychology, criminology, sociology or a related area.  The following qualifications, experience and skills are highly desirable, though not essential: (1) a postgraduate qualification in a relevant discipline; (2) experience of undertaking and analysing qualitative or mixed methods research; (3) experience of undertaking research on sensitive topics; (4) research, professional and/or voluntary experience with individuals who have committed sexual crimes.  Equivalent professional qualifications and any appropriate research experience may be considered.  For applicants whose first language is not English, a minimum English language level of IELTS score of 7.0 with no element below 6.5 is required. 

Plus Icon Overseas Applicants

Prospective students from outside of the UK and EU who wish to apply will be required to make up the difference annually between the UK/EU fees covered by the studentship (currently £4,260 per year) and overseas’ fees (currently £12,500 per year).  The fee difference must be paid prior to starting.  Overseas applicants must refer to the UKBA regulations on studying in the UK and contact Research Admissions before applying.

School of Social Sciences Masters by Research  (fees only)                                                                                                                                                                                                          Organisational Behaviour: PASH (Psychology Applied to Safety and Health)

Plus Icon Topic 1: Safety proactivity in organisations: Exploring the relationships between managerial values, proactive motivation and employees' initiative and communication behaviours to improve workplace safety.

Project outline 
 
The concept of “safety proactivity” (Curcuruto & Griffin, 2016) refers to communication and initiative acts by individuals, teams and organizations to create safer work conditions.  In recent years, ‘safety proactivity has become an increasingly important foundation of safety at work, as technological and organizational environments become more unpredictable and change occurs more rapidly (Griffin et al., 2013).  
 
Being proactive is about making things happen, anticipating and preventing problems, and seizing opportunities. It involves self-initiated efforts to bring about change in the work environment and/or oneself to achieve a different future (Parker et al., 2010). Therefore, there is an increasing attention by researchers and practitioners on how people and workgroups may be guided to manage safety more proactively (Curcuruto & Griffin, 2018). According to this, Parker et al. (2010) identify and define three distinct classes of “proactive motivation” which would sustain personal initiative by individuals: “can do”, “reason to”, and “energized to” work motivations.  
 
Can do motivation arises from perceptions of self-efficacy, control, and (low) cost. Reason to motivation relates to why someone is proactive, including reasons flowing from intrinsic, integrated, and identified motivation. Energized to motivation refers to activated positive affective states that prompt proactive goal regulation.  
 
Following research suggests that more distal antecedents, including managerial values and other organizational variables such as leadership and team-working, might influence employees’ motivation states to engage in proactive actions 
 
The aim of the proposed MRes is to provide empirical evidence to conceptual research hypotheses described in a recent literature analysis on the topic (Curcuruto & Griffin, 2015), by investigating the role of the three distinct classes of work motivation described above in determining safety proactivity-related behavior (i.e. communication and initiative) within a safety-critical work setting. In addition, the MRes work will contribute to examine the impact of managerial, leadership and team-working factors on this variety of proactive motivation.  

To enable data collection, the successful candidate will be required to coordinate herself/himself with the existing PASH research team at Leeds Beckett University, opting for one (or more) of the following research opportunities: a) by analyzing pre-existing available data, b) collecting new company data via PASH projects, c) collecting new data through the applicant’s work network. 

Contact Us:

If you are interested in applying, and would like an informal chat or further information about the project, or to talk through your proposal, please contact the Director of Studies, Dr Matteo Curcuruto.

Supervisors: Dr Matteo Curcuruto & Dr Jim Morgan   
 
Advisor: Prof Mark Griffin (University of Western Australia)

Plus Icon Topic 2: Exploring relationships between personality, safety climate and safety/risk behaviour in a safety-critical work environment.

Project outline 
 
Determining the factors that influence accident risk (or safety) for those working in highly hazardous work environments is a complex task. This is because there are a plethora of influencing factors, operating at multiple levels (individual, group, and organisational).  
 
Safety-related individual differences (e.g., personality) and contextual factors (e.g., safety climate) have both been shown be related to safety outcomes (e.g. safety compliance and participation), however these findings are from parallel yet largely separate research streams. The aim of the proposed MRes is to respond to the recommendations of a recent meta-analysis of personality and workplace safety (Beus et al., 2015) by integrating these perspectives to gain a more complete understanding of the importance of personality relative to known contextual factors in explaining safety-related behaviour. In addition, the MRes work will be the first to examine the impact of individual differences and contextual factors on a variety of safetyrelated outcomes (e.g., behavioural risk tasks, self-reported, and objective safety behaviour) within a safetycritical work setting.  
 
To enable data collection, the successful candidate will be required to coordinate with an existing PASH research team working on an existing project in collaboration with VolkerRail UK ltd, which is rail engineering company based in Doncaster.  

Contact Us: 

If you are interested in applying, and would like an informal chat or further information about the project, or to talk through your proposal, please contact the Director of Studies, Dr Jim Morgan.

Supervisors: Dr Matteo Curcuruto & Dr Jim Morgan 

 Advisor: Dr Michelle Newberry (University of Southampton) 

Genders and Sexualities

Plus Icon Topic 1: Gender, sexuality, action and liberation

Liberation Psychology (LP) (e.g. Martín-Baró, 1996) is a praxis-oriented critical approach to social psychology.  Developed within Latin America and drawing on a diverse range of influences, LP differs from the postmodern approaches to critical psychology typically researched at universities in core capitalist countries: rather than focusing on academic theory and textual analysis, LP pursues the development of understanding through action, thereby seeking to identify and address oppressive social realities (Burton, 2013).  Aiming to be a ‘psychology for the oppressed’, LP approaches aim to raise consciousness through mutual dialogue, identify and strip out dominant ideologies from existing social and psychological knowledge and practices, collectively remember repressed cultural histories, and communally transform social realities through experience and action. The most important LP work has taken place against a politically oppressive backdrop of colonialism, cultural repression and abject material poverty in countries such as El Salvador (e.g. Martín-Baró, 1996).  However, LP has had influence outside of Latin American contexts, including within North America and Western Europe.  One area of development has been in relation to combining LP with insights from feminist, postMarxist and postcolonial theories to work with groups marginalised both within psychology and broader society (e.g. Moane, 2010; Macquarrie et al, 2011).   
 
This MRes study aims to develop, implement and report a time-limited, praxis-driven LP project.  This project will involve work in a local context (either this university, or within communities in Leeds) with specific liberation groups, and be based around lived issues that can be understood in relation to gender and/or sexuality.  We would like this particular study to involve the application of feminist interpretative frameworks, and deploy some participatory research approaches (e.g. Participatory Action Research; see Kagan, 2012).  Projects combining LP and feminism with other theoretical perspectives (e.g. critical race theory/thinking from Black Psychology; queer theories; the social model of disability; critical/materialist perspectives on social class/capitalism; postcolonialism; etc) are welcomed, and applications are particularly encouraged from members of groups whose voices may traditionally be under-represented within academic psychology.  We are open to all ideas for projects that fall within the above parameters; however, one area around which we have particular interest is praxis-oriented work with people who have experienced sexual violence. 

Supervisors: Dr Katy Day & Dr Tom Muskett 

Plus Icon Topic 2: Gender identity in adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)

Many more males than females are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) but little is known about the role of gender in ASD (Loomes et al., 2017). Some studies suggest adults with ASD experience higher levels of gender dysphoria compared to adults without ASD (Glidden et al., 2016) with anecdotal evidence suggesting adults with ASD are less likely to conform to gender roles and identities. This study aims to assess whether adults with ASD who strongly identify as being autistic also strongly reject gender roles and identities. Data can either be collected through an online survey using quantitative analysis or through semi-structured interviews using qualitative analysis.  

Supervisors: Dr Lisa Harkry

Plus Icon Topic 3: Sexual harassment and abuse of young people

Project Option 1:  Sexual harassment of young people in public places 
 
With recent news stories, and the MeToo and TimesUp movements, sexual harassment is in the public eye like never before.  Universities UK set up a taskforce to address sexual violence, harassment and hate crime within universities, and the House of Commons’ Women and Equalities Committee has undertaken an inquiry into sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools, and is currently undertaking inquiries into sexual harassment in the workplace, and the sexual harassment of women and girls in public places https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/women-and-equalities-committee/inquiries/parliament-2017/sexual-harassment-public-places-17-19/

Whilst some strong work has already been carried out in this area (e.g. Vera-Gray, 2016; 2018), there is still much work to be done, particularly in relation to the sexual harassment of young people in public places.  This project will explore the sexual harassment of young people (women and men aged 13-18) in public places, whether sexual harassment on the street, on public transport, or in other public places or buildings.  Applicants should demonstrate an awareness of relevant ethical issues in undertaking this research.

Project Option 2:  Child sexual abuse?  Young women’s experiences with older partners 
 
The legal age of sexual consent in England and Wales is 16.  Whilst it is an offence for anyone to have any sexual activity with a person below this age, Home Office guidance is clear that they will not prosecute young people who both mutually agree to have sex and who are of a similar age.  With this in mind, sexual relationships between a young person under 16, and a person over 16 who is not close in age, is a sexual offence, and the academic literature often refers to ‘statutory sex crime relationships’, ‘statutory victimisation relationships’, ‘grooming’ and ‘child sexual abuse’.  More widely, the academic literature on young people with older romantic partners of any kind is typically framed in terms of risk and pathology (of either/both partners).  However, what is often missing from these studies is the young person’s voice: how do they understand and experience these relationships?  What do these relationships mean to them?  Do they see and find these relationships to be abusive or not, and if so, in what circumstances? 
 
The primary aim of this research will be to explore young women’s understandings and experiences of their relationship with an older partner from their own perspective, giving them the opportunity to define and describe it for themselves, and to draw out what they personally see as positive or challenging.  A secondary aim of the research will be to explore the understandings and experiences of the young women’s older partner.  For ethical reasons, the project will focus on 16- to 18-year-old women who are currently in a relationship with a partner who is five or more years older than them, but who have been in this relationship since they were aged 13-15.  This project is likely to involve individual and/or couples interviews, possibly using photo-elicitation and narrative analysis.  Applicants should demonstrate an awareness of relevant ethical issues in undertaking this research.  

Contact Us:

If you are interested in applying for one of these projects, and would like an informal chat or further information about them, or to talk through your proposal, please email the Director of Studies, Dr. Tamara Turner-Moore or phone on 0113 812 6013.

Plus Icon Topic 4: Promoting positive masculinities: evaluating workshops delivered to trainee teachers

In the era of #MeToo it is especially important to challenge ‘toxic masculinities’ and to work with boys and young men to cultivate more constructive, inclusive versions of masculinity. In the UK, the ‘Great Lad Initiative’ (GLI) delivers workshops to school and college groups designed to promote more positive, expansive masculinities. We feel that it is important for teachers to play a part in educating boys and young men to be more gender aware. This project then will involve interviews with trainee teachers before and after participating in one of the GLI workshops in order to elicit their expectations and outlook on gender (first interview) and their evaluations and perceived impact on their future practice (second interview). All interviews will be transcribed and analysed using a suitable method (e.g. thematic analysis), and initial recommendations for teacher training and practice made concerning the promotion of positive masculinities in school settings. 

Supervisors: Prof Brendan Gough & Prof Jonathan Glazzard 

Health and Clinical

Plus Icon Topic 1: Investigating cancer and stroke (ICAS) Health Psychology

Project outline 

There are over 360,000 new cancer cases (Cancer research UK) and over 100,000 strokes in the UK each year (Stroke association UK). It is not surprising with this prevalence that people will suffer cancer and stoke simultaneously. A recently conducted scoping review revealed that the risk of stroke is high for people who have an existing cancer diagnosis (Arthurs et al 2016; Kuan et al 2014) and an increased risk of brain cancer incidence in stroke patients (Chen et al 2017). Worryingly, comorbid stroke and cancer patients are more likely to be hospitalised (Sanossian et al 2013).  However, the unique challenges of managing these two conditions has not yet been adequately explored in patients or their carers.   
This project aims to explore the experience of having a diagnosis of both cancer and stroke for survivors and for their carers. Particularly we would like to explore the unmet needs from their perspective. 

Methodology:  
This study is conducted through qualitative design. Drawing from the local stroke associations patients experiencing both stroke and cancer, survivors and carers will be interviewed/attend focus groups to discuss the unique challenges they face in daily living and in communication with health professionals.  
We are looking for an enthusiastic and motivated student to work with us in this new and important area.   

Contact Us:

If you are interested in applying for this project, and would like an informal chat or further information about it, or to talk through your proposal, please contact the supervisory team  
Dr Trish Holch   0113 812 4950 or  Dr Suzie Wang 0113 812 55780 

Plus Icon Topic 2: Sexual violence against women by unregulated sperm donors

Project outline 
 
Increasing economic and health inequalities (e.g. reduced NHS funding, limited personal finances for private clinics) restrict women in accessing assisted conception via the medico-legal structures of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA).  Consequently, increasing numbers of women are resorting to obtaining sperm donations from men on unregulated websites and social networking sites.  The implications are alarming.  Data (McQuoid, 2015) suggests that one in two of these women are abused by unregulated sperm donors, who insist on “Artificial Insemination Plus” (AI+), i.e., the woman sexually stimulates the man to produce the sperm sample, “Partial Insemination” (PI), i.e. the man partially inserts his penis into the woman, or “Natural Insemination” (NI), i.e. the man has unprotected sex with the woman to impregnate her.  These men often sexually groom women in a vulnerable position to convince them that “PI”/“NI” doesn’t constitute sex and that these will be more effective than artificial insemination, or otherwise mislead women, agreeing to artificial insemination but then demanding AI+/PI/NI.  Some online sperm donors also pressure women to send sexual photos/messages, demand high financial remuneration and/or sexually assault women pregnant with their sperm.  This abuse disproportionately affects marginalised women, e.g. limited economic means, intellectual/psychosocial disabilities, young/sexual minority women.  This is an important, but very new, area of research, and we are seeking an impassioned and high-achieving student who will work with us to build on Claire McQuoid’s work. 
 
Methodology: 
 
This project is likely to involve: 
 
*A scoping review to map the key concepts underpinning this new area and the main sources and types of evidence available, including policies, legislation, academic scholarship and debates. 

*Exploring whether women are willing to share their experiences of sexual coercion/violence by unregulated sperm donors, and if so, to hold detailed interviews with three or four women to better understand their experiences, the impacts on their bodies and sense of self, and their support needs.  Possible methods of analysis could include interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) or narrative analysis.  If it is not possible to locate enough women willing to share their experiences, the project could also include an analysis of experiences posted online/in the media.  

Contact Us:

If you are interested in applying for this project and would like an informal chat, further information or to talk through your proposal, please contact the Director of Studies, Dr. Tamara Turner-Moore or 0113 812 6013

Supervisors:  Dr Tamara Turner-Moore & Prof Georgina Jones 

Plus Icon Topic 3: Exploring factors influencing cancer awareness and help seeking for cancer symptoms in teenage and young adults (TYA)

Project outline 

Over 2,000 new diagnoses of TYA cancer are made each year (Cancer Research UK 2014) however many struggle to identify the most common cancers (Kyle et al., 2013) and have significant emotional barriers to help seeking (Hubbard et al 2014; Holch et al 2018 1; Morley et al 2018).  In an effort to improve awareness and understand these barriers the Young People’s Cancer Awareness Measure (YPCAM) was developed by the University of Manchester and the Teenage Cancer Trust (Smith et al., 2016).  This MRes will explore which factors may influence young peoples’ likelihood to engage in help seeking behaviour for cancer symptoms.

Factors warranting further exploration are:   

*Risk taking and risk assessment (De Haan et al 2011) previously we have determined a complex relationship between risk behaviour and risk assessment and cancer awareness (Holch 2018 2). 

*Self-efficacy (SE) is the perceived ability to perform actions that will lead to desired health-outcomes (Schwarzer & Fuchs, 1995; Schwarzer & Jerusalem 1995). SE is a key component of most major health models (Conner & Norman 1995).

*Illness perceptions, a key component of Leventhal’s self-regulatory model of illness perception (Leventhal & Nerenz 1985). 

*Behavioural intentions (Ajzen, 1991) and perceived behavioural control components of the Theory of Planned behavior (TPB) (Conner & Armitage 1998). 
 
Methodology:

Using quantitative methods this MRes will explore TYA cancer awareness, help seeking behaviour and risk perception using the YPCAM and focus on identifying and determining the impact of variables influencing these factors (above) in a large sample of young people.  It is important to explore the impact of key demographic variables including age (explore variations in lower and younger TYA), along with the potential impact of gender and ethnic status. 

We are looking for an enthusiastic and motivated student to work with us in this important area.  

Contact Us:

If you are interested in applying for this project, and would like an informal chat or further information about it, or to talk through your proposal, please contact the Director of Studies, Dr. Trish Holch on 0113 8124950   

Plus Icon Topic 4: Social identity and mental health in adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)

Project outline 

There is no single term used to describe autism in the UK which is universally accepted by the autism community (Kenny et al., 2016). However, it has been noted that autistic adults prefer identity-first language (‘autistic’) and professionals working in the autism field prefer person-first language (‘person with autism’). This study aims to assess whether differences exist in mental health, for adults with ASD, between those who use identity-first and those who use person-first language.

Methodology:  

Data can be collected through an online survey using quantitative analysis. Recruitment can take place through various autism charities or services around the UK. The study can also be explored through a qualitative approach. The methodologies proposed are reasonably flexible (within student and researcher expertise) due to the target sample (adults with ASD).

Contact Us:

If you are interested in applying for this project and would like an informal chat to talk through your proposal, or further information, please contact the Director of Studies: Dr Lisa Harkry at 0113 812 6817. 

Supervisors: Dr Lisa Harkry & Dr Ellie Willard 
 

 

Cognition and Behaviour

Plus Icon Topic 1: Imagining my future and yours: The psychological functions of future thinking

Project Outline
 
Recent developments in the field led to the suggestion that the concept of autobiographical memory should be expanded to include memories that are not experienced personally but are recounted by others. Such mental representations have been termed vicarious memories (Pillemer et al., 2015). Research has also shown that people engage in imagining future events both for themselves and others, and that this kind of prospective thinking is largely supported by memory networks needed for remembering the past (Schacter, Addis, & Buckner, 2007). Such simulations of future events are related to autobiographical memory in that they may serve personal goals (Grysman et al., 2013). It is conceivable that people also engage in vicarious future thinking, a mental activity that has not been previously explored in depth, and one that is at the core of this project. Vicarious future thoughts are future events that are mentally simulated through listening to other people’s future thoughts. Studies have shown that vicarious memories and future projections for others differ from one’s own personal experiences and projections in terms of phenomenological characteristics, but the function of such cognitions remains speculative in the literature. Our preliminary findings on this question suggest that our ability to retain vicarious future thoughts may serve the social function of feeling closer to others (Pauly-Takacs & Cole, in preparation). In the proposed study we plan to take an experimental approach by inviting pairs of friends into the lab and asking them to share future thoughts with one another. We can then assess the effect of sharing future events on measures of social closeness, identity and directive functions. There is also scope to explore individual differences in traits that may be related to vicarious thinking (e.g. theory of mind, empathy, conscientiousness) to further elucidate the psychological underpinnings of such cognitions.  
This project will appeal to applicants that have a keen interest in human memory and social cognition more generally.

 

Supervisors: Dr Kata Pauly-Takacs 

 External Advisor: Dr Scott Cole (York St John University) 

Plus Icon Topic 2: The role of impulsivity in co-dependence on cannabis and tobacco

Project outline 

Cannabis is the most widely used illicit substance globally. A major factor contributing towards cannabis dependence may be co-dependence on nicotine, since cannabis is often smoked together with tobacco in joints throughout Europe [1], many cannabis smokers smoke cigarettes, and are also nicotine-dependent [2, 3]. Furthermore, co-use of cannabis and tobacco is associated with heavier cigarette smoking [4], while tobacco smoking mediates the relationship between cannabis use and cannabis dependence [5]. Impulsivity is a multifaceted construct including trait (personality) and behavioural characteristics thought to be involved in the stages of addiction (initiation, maintenance and relapse) for several drugs including cannabis [6]. To date however, limited research has attempted to determine the differing roles impulsivity may play in cannabis dependence alone verses co-dependence with nicotine. This research proposes to examine the role of impulsivity in substance use (initiation, maintenance and relapse) for cannabis, nicotine, and both substances.   

Study design 
Experimental research  

Supervisors: Dr Zoe. Kolokotroni and Dr Jason. Round 

Plus Icon Topic 3: Sex differences in throwing for long distances and accuracy

Project outline 
Humans are specialist throwers; we have evolved many anatomical and psychological adaptations that enable us to throw farther, faster and more accurately than any other species. I am interested in the perceptual skills that support targeted throwing, and the consequences of manipulating this perception on the performance of skilled throws. 

Men are known to be able to throw faster and therefore farther than women (on average, once experience is accounted for). A recent evolutionary paper proposed that results like these support their hypothesis that throwing is a particularly male adaptation, and that the observed sex differences reflect innate, biological differences in anatomy.  

The primary problem with this analysis is that ‘faster’ does not necessarily mean ‘better’ throwing, and the field of studying perception-action skills has advanced to the point where we can quantitatively assess the quality of an action in multiple meaningful ways. Some recent data of my own applying some of these methods suggests women are able to adaptively control throws just as well as men; there may be no sex difference to explain. 

This project will explicitly look at this issue. We will perform full body motion capture experiments in the Biomechanics Lab at Carnegie, in which men and women (balanced on various measures of skill) will throw to hit a target up to 15m away. We will evaluate the level of control using more valid measures than just speed, to investigate whether there is, in fact, a sex difference in throwing skill beyond one explained by strength and size. 

This project would suit a top student with a Sports Science background (especially biomechanics) or a top Psychology student with a demonstrable track record in experimental methods. Experience with motion capture equipment would be a plus, but is not required.

Supervisors: Dr Andrew D Wilson & Dr Timothy Bennett 
 
Web: cognition in action & psych science notes
 
Twitter: @PsychScientists 

Plus Icon Topic 4: Stimulus equivalence and emergent symbolic vocabulary in infants.

Project Outline

This research will investigate the processes that underlie normally-developing infants’ rapid acquisition of the receptive and productive symbolic vocabularies so crucial to their later intelligence, reading ability, syntactic and semantic development, and school success.  Although numerous cognitive studies have demonstrated that infants can rapidly learn new words under controlled conditions via ‘fast mapping’ and ‘ostensive pairing’ procedures (e.g., Schafer & Plunkett, 1998), none have shown that, as far as the infant is concerned, the new words function as symbols that can stand for their referents.  These studies suffer from not having tests that can distinguish between true symbolic vocabulary and behavior that merely looks like language but lacks its symbolic essence. However, behaviour-analytic tests of stimulus equivalence can meet that need ((Dugdale, 1992, 2009; Dugdale & Lowe, 2000; Wilkinson & McIlvane, 2001).  We have already used equivalence tests successfully to show that with minimal input very young children can rapidly learn new words and treat them as symbols (Dugdale & Johnson, submitted). We now wish to extend this research to infants to answer the following questions: When do children first become able to treat the words they hear and say as symbols that stand for the objects they represent?  What are the effects of being able to do so on their psychological functioning?  Can the differential onset of equivalence in development explain why some children exhibit a ‘vocabulary spurt’ (a sudden increase in their rate of acquiring new words, believed by some theorists to mark the onset of symbolic understanding) while others do not?  

The ideal applicant will have experience of successfully testing young children and the ability to conduct longitudinal single-case or microgenetic research with a variety of vocabulary measures, both behavioural (e.g., traditional ‘point and say’ methods, preferential looking) and neuropsychological (e.g., event-related potentials). 

Supervisors: Dr Neil Dugdale

Plus Icon Topic 5: Study of exceptional multi-tasking skills

Project outline 

In daily life, we often multi-task. In multi-tasking settings, we frequently switch our attention between multiple “sub tasks”. A good example is cooking a meal: Rapidly switching your attention between frying steak, boiling pasta, boiling vegetables, and preparing drinks. There are many other examples, such as driving and talking, or listening to a lecture while reading messages on a mobile phone. 

In my own research, I have looked at people and animals who are really good at multi-tasking. I have, for example, studied gender differences in multi-tasking (e.g., here and here, Stoet et al., 2013). Further, I have studied multi-tasking in various species, and it turns out that rhesus monkeys are really good at rapid multitasking (Stoet & Snyder, 2010). Currently, I am looking at “supertasking” with PhD students, and we found that around 10% of people are exceptionally good at multi-tasking. 

Similarly, the research group around David Strayer (Strayer & Watson, 2011) found that a small percentage of the population has no problem with multi-tasking when driving a car (i.e., talking on a mobile phone and driving), even though talking on a phone clearly impairs driving in the average person. 

In this research project, you would study exceptional multi-tasking abilities. There are different possibilities for this project, and it is up to you to propose the details and to discuss these in further detail when starting the project. I am open to your ideas on the details of the project. 

One possibility is to look into the female advantage in multi-tasking. While we found an advantage for women, other researchers found an advantage for men in multi-tasking (Mäntylä, 2013). It seems that whether or not women are better in multi-tasking depends on the type of task. To explore this further, you would study gender and different types of multi-tasking, and find out under which conditions women outperform men in this task (and vice versa). 

Alternatively, you can do a project on super-taskers. We know that some people are exceptional in multitasking (i.e., super-taskers), but less is known if it is possible to train anyone on becoming a super-tasker (i.e., are people born as super-taskers, or can anyone acquire that skill?). You can develop a training technique to train up people to become super-taskers. There are various approaches to do so. 

For more information on this, feel free to contact me via email with any question you may have. 

Supervisors: Prof Gijsbert Stoet

Speech and Language

Plus Icon Topic 1: Social media and social inclusion opportunities for those who stutter: a UK perspective

Project outline 

Stuttering is a complex, multi-dimensional phenomenon of which disruptions to speech comprise one element (James et al, 2009).  For older children and adults, stuttering can lead to negative predictions and thoughts about speaking, feeling frustrated and embarrassed about stuttering and avoidance of words or speaking situations (e.g. Beilby, 2014). People who stammer (PWS) are at increased risk of low self-esteem and associated psychological problems and have high rates of social anxiety disorder (Iverach & Rapee, 2014). Literature suggests that this increases in adolescence; as children who stammer reach their teenage years their self-image becomes increasingly negative and fear of stammering and associated anxiety increases (Smith et al, 2014).  Therapeutic input frequently involves working with the PWS to explore the meaning of stuttering for the individual and to identify and reduce avoidances that may accompany it.  
 
Online communities provide PWS with positive psychosocial support and a platform to connect with others (Raj & Daniels, 2017). Being online provides an opportunity for expression without the fear that often accompanies using verbal communication (Stoudt & Ouellette, 2004).  It may also provide an ‘escapist illusion’ (Rosenburg and Khon, 2016) and opportunities for avoidance of the stuttering self.  However, using social media may also present risks for those who stutter such as cyberbullying (Nicholai et al. 2018). The benefits of using social media to improve perceptions of social inclusion have been identified with other populations of young people with significant communication impairment who rely on Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) (Grace et al. 2014; Hynan et al. 2015; Caron & Light, 2016).  
 
This MRes project could advance our understanding, using a qualitative, quantitative or mixed method approach, of social inclusion opportunities through social media for people who stammer (within the UK) which is at present quite limited.  
 
Methodology 
 
This project could use quantitative, qualitative or mixed methods and would be suitable for a post graduate speech and language therapy or psychology student. 
 
1. Quantitative approaches could consider using social media generated data, questionnaires or Internet based surveys to explore perceptions of social inclusion by people who stutter 

2. Qualitative methodologies could utilise interview-based data with people who stutter, family members and others within support contexts (e.g. health, education and social care) to generate theory for broader understandings of social inclusion opportunities through social media. 

Supervisors: Dr Sarah James, Dr Amanda Hynan & Ben Bolton

Plus Icon Topic 2: Measuring the effects and predicting outcomes of the use of writing apps to communicate in people with aphasia.

Project outline 
 
People with aphasia are restricted from writing messages via the internet due to their language impairment (Menger, Morris & Salis, 2014). Considering that the internet has become important for participating in social, professional and academic life, research is needed to guide speech and language therapists in improving writing skills for using the internet in people with aphasia. Several case series studies have measured the effects of using technologies to compensate for writing impairments and have found gains to spelling accuracy, text length and content (Armstrong & MacDonald, 2000; Behrns et al., 2009; Thiel, Sage & Conroy, 2016). However, there has been a lack of research into the candidacy issues of using different types of assistive writing technologies.

A larger study is needed to investigate the factors that predict success in using technologies for writing messages. The study will answer the following questions: Are writing apps effective in facilitating writing in people with aphasia? Which factors predict success in using writing apps? 
 
Methodology 
 
A within-participants case series study will measure the effects of training people with aphasia to use an assistive writing app to complete functional writing tasks.  Outcomes will include changes to app use, spelling accuracy, speed, information conveyed, and quality and content of written texts. Correlational analyses will be conducted to investigate whether there is a relationship between cognitive, linguistic, reading and spelling skills and outcomes of app training.  

Supervisors: Dr Lindsey Thiel & Dr Sarah James 

Plus Icon Topic 3: Police Officers working with young people with Speech, Language and Communication Needs

Project outline 
 
10% of children and young people in the general population have Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN) (Beard, 2018). However, research has found the incidence of SLCN is significantly higher for children and young people known to the Youth Justice Service with 60-90% presenting with SLCN, and 4667% falling into the ‘severe’ category (Bercow, 2008; Bryan, Freer, & Furlong, 2007; Games, Curran, & Porter, 2012; Gregory & Bryan, 2010). This suggests that children with SLCN are more likely to engage in offending behavior, but also highlights the need for professionals working with this population to be skilled in supporting people with communication difficulties. 
 
This need has been recognized by the introduction of specific SLCN training for of some Youth Offending Teams in the UK (Gregory & Bryan, 2010) and the AssetPlus assessment tool (Youth Justice Board for England and Wales, 2014) which is used by Youth Offending Teams across the UK. However, this only identifies SLCN in young people once they have been convicted of an offence. This leaves a significant gap in identification and provision leading up to this point (e.g. arrest, interview and trial). Young people with SLCN are at significant disadvantage during arrest, interview and trial, which can lead to disengagement and subsequently harsher sentencing (e.g. Hopkins, Clegg, & Stackhouse, 2016; Snow & Powell, 2005). It is recommended that young people with SLCN be offered appropriate support throughout all stages of the justice process (LaVigne & Van Rybroek, 2013; Talbot, 2008). However, currently identifying young people with SLCN relies on the individual Police Officer during arrest or interview. There is currently little research exploring how able Police Officers are at identifying young people with SLCN, which may mean that some young people are unfairly disadvantaged if there communication difficulties are not identified and supported in the early stages of the justice system.  
 
This MRes project could explore how knowledgeable and/or confident Police Officers are when working with young people with SLCN by using qualitative, quantitative or mixed method approach.  This project could enhance our understanding of how people with SLCN are supported in the early stages of the justice system, and make recommendations for future developments in research and/or practice.   
 
Methodology 
 
This project could use quantitative, qualitative or mixed methods and would be suitable for a post graduate speech and language therapy or criminology student. 
 
1. Quantitative approaches could consider using questionnaires or internet based surveys to explore practices of Police Officers working with young people. 

2. Qualitative methodologies could utilise interview-based data with Police Officers to explore personal views and experiences of SLCN. 

Supervisors: Ben Bolton  Dr Sarah James  & Dr Tom Cockcroft  

Plus Icon Topic 4: Speech sound disorder therapy and parental perceptions of involvement in the delivery of intervention

Project outline 
 
The fifth edition of the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-5) states four criterion define a speech sound disorder (SSD): persistently unintelligible verbal speech due to sound errors, the impact is likely to be within social, educational and occupational contexts, the onset is during childhood; and no other medical or neurological conditions are accountable (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Supporting children with SSDs is a significant part of paediatric speech and language therapy; surveys have shown they can make up to 40% of clinicians’ caseloads (Broomfield & Dodd, 2004, Joffe & Pring, 2008).  
 
The intensity of therapy required to address SSDs is significant and it is often impractical for clinicians with limited resources to deliver. Therefore, in order to maximise the efficacy of therapy, parents and significant others are often involved in therapy practice to maximise opportunities for generalisation of skills and carry out specific homework tasks (McLeod and Baker, 2014, Watts Pappas et al. 2008). Sugden et al. (2016) carried out a systematic review of the evidence base relating to parental involvement in carrying out homework tasks for phonology-based SSD therapy. The review found that most of the peer-reviewed published papers in this area provided very little information on parental involvement. This lack of evidence impacts on the ability of clinicians to underpin clinical decisions with robust evidence.   
 
This MRes project could advance our understanding of parental perceptions of their involvement in speech sound disorder therapy within the UK using a qualitative, quantitative or a mixed method approach.  

Methodology 
 
This project could use quantitative, qualitative or mixed methods and would be suitable for a post graduate speech and language therapy student. 
 
1. Quantitative approaches could consider measuring through questionnaires or surveys parental experiences of involvement in speech sound disorder therapy.

2. Qualitative methodologies could utilise interview-based data with parents to explore their involvement with speech sound disorder therapy. 

Supervisors: Amanda Hynan & Ben Bolton

Plus Icon Topic 5: Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) and Aphasia

Project outline  
 
Therapy to support the language challenges of people with aphasia has been a core focus since the 1950s (Beukelman et al. 2015). Originally, the focus was very much on the restoration of skills but increasingly the focus of therapy has moved to consider restoration and compensatory therapy techniques. Clinicians often introduce compensatory techniques in the form of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), e.g. objects, photographs, communication books and boards, gesture, drawing, and speech-generating devices and mobile technologies with specific aphasia focused Apps. Combining restoration and compensation therapy has become widely accepted but tensions are also acknowledged. Weissling and Prentice (2010) illustrate that restoration and compensation need not be mutually exclusive, adopting compensation does not mean that hope of continued recovery of skills has to be abandoned,  acceptance of compensation, a fear of AAC being a permanent solution, and understanding compensation may all be difficult.  
 
Van de Sandt-Koenderman (2004) outlined how many people with aphasia were introduced to low-tech AAC (e.g. communication books etc.) but high-tech AAC in the form of computers was used more incidentally. Despite much progress since that time being made in relation to AAC techniques, due to the tensions outlined above, it is recognised that the introduction of sophisticated forms of high tech AAC with adults with acquired aphasia is still potentially slow (Beukelman et al. 2015). The adoption of AAC is often stronger with clinical populations with developmental conditions (such as cerebral palsy) and traditionally those with acquired conditions have been underserved (Beukelman et al. 2007). Research is required to explore the progress that is potentially being made to introduce and implement increasingly sophisticated forms of AAC for people with aphasia. 
 
This MRes project could advance our understanding of how AAC is perceived and introduced for people with aphasia within the UK using a qualitative, quantitative or a mixed method approach.  
 
Methodology 
 
This project could use quantitative, qualitative or mixed methods and would be suitable for a post graduate speech and language therapy student. 
 
1. Quantitative approaches could consider measuring through questionnaires or surveys clinician or service user experiences of using AAC within aphasia therapy.

2. Qualitative methodologies could utilise interview-based data clinicians or service users to explore their experiences of using AAC within aphasia therapy.  

Supervisors: Amanda Hynan & Lindsey Thiel

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