Research Projects with Early-Career Staff

Lancaster University - The Department of Psychology

The Department of Psychology at Lancaster is keen to support PhD applications to work with early-career staff. We are looking for highly motivated candidates who have an excellent first degree (for 1+3 programmes) and/or distinction level Masters degree performance (for PhD only programmes) to work with the staff listed below. Your qualifications should be in a related discipline to your intended PhD studies. We are offering full-time PhD studentships to commence in October 2018 for up to 3 years. All studentships pay a generous living allowance and offer a fee waiver for three years (+3 PhD) or four years (1+3, Masters plus PhD for ESRC studentships).

The Department of Psychology is part of the ESRC’s North West Social Sciences Doctoral Training Partnership (NWSSDTP) together with the universities of Liverpool, Manchester and Keele. Through this consortium, we offer ESRC-funded PhDs for UK students and, with some restrictions, EU and overseas students. We also offer studentships through the Faculty of Science Engineering and Technology, and the Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarship Programme. Successful applicants will be expected to undertake some teaching duties as part of the studentship responsibilities. The scholarships cover tuition fees, and include a maintenance allowance of approximately £14,553pa.

Students have the opportunity to join a large and friendly language Department of Psychology at Lancaster University, which provides excellent support for further training and development, and supports open science practices. We are committed to family-friendly and flexible working policies on an individual basis. We welcome applications from people in all diversity groups.

Supervisor Name (Broad Research Area)

Project / Topic Area

Dr Tamara Rakić (Social Psychology and Language)

In today’s world, with increased mobility and heterogeneous societies, understanding how we form impressions of individuals is crucial for preventing discrimination. My previous research has looked separately (or in a pair) at different aspects of person perception, such as labels, accents, appearance, or stereotypes. One possible PhD project aims at providing a comprehensive investigation of how we evaluate unknown individuals based on complex combinations of categories, including their gender, occupation, appearance, ethnicity, accent, and nationality. This can be expanded to different social contexts (multicultural or not) and different age groups (younger vs. older adults). This would allow better understanding of how impression formation develops over time, as well as how they might be influenced by a social context (multicultural or not).

Related to the previous project, the effects of standard-accent bias have been demonstrated in a variety of context, where standard accent speakers are perceived more competent and hirable than nonstandard accent speakers. Some evidence suggests that there might be possible to suppress this negative bias at least in short term. The proposed project would aim to investigate different interventions and determine which are more practical and long-lasting. This could also be investigated in the presence of other types of information (e.g., appearance, occupation, etc.).

If you are interested in these topics or if you have other ideas that are related to these topics please contact Dr  Tamara Rakic.

Key references for this work include: 

  • Hansen, K., Rakić, T., & Steffens, M. C., (in press). Competent and warm? How mismatching appearance and accent influence first impressions. Experimental Psychology.
  • Hansen, K., Rakić, T., & Steffens, M. C. (2014). When actions speak louder than words: preventing discrimination of nonstandard speakers. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 33(1), 68-77.
  • Rakić, T., Steffens, M. C., & Mummendey, A. (2011). Blinded by the accent! The minor role of looks in ethnic categorization. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 100(1), 16-29.
  • Rakić, T., Steffens, M.C., & Mummendey, A. (2011). When it matters how you pronounce it: The influence of regional accents on job interview outcome. British Journal of Psychology, 102, 868-883. 

Dr Jess Wang (Social Cognition & Cognitive Development)

I’m interested in the ways in which we understand other people’s minds, an ability often known as Theory of Mind. In the Cognition of Social Interaction (CoSI) lab, we employ a range of techniques to better understand the cognitive basis for social interactions. This includes tracking people’s eye movements during conversations, testing their memory for communicative content, and measuring their response times and response accuracy to social stimuli.

I would be very happy to discuss ideas for PhD projects on social cognition across the lifespan. Please contact me at to discuss your ideas for a PhD.

Possible projects for 2018/19 entries include (but not limited to):

  1. Automatic mindreading: what, when, and how

An increasing body of evidence suggests that complex mental states such as beliefs may be tracked automatically (e.g., Meert, Wang, & Samson, 2017). However the underlying cognitive mechanism has not been fully understood. This project will examine whether automatic mindreading can be flexibly controlled by top-down mechanisms and be adaptive to different contexts (Furlanetto et al., 2016).

  1. The role of memory in communication

It is known that working memory supports referential communication (e.g., Wang, Ali, Frisson, Apperly, 2016; Zhao, Wang, Apperly, submitted). However at present little is known about the types of memory representations interlocutors form, and whether the richness of the representation changes with age. This project will examine the episodic memory traces for social interactions (Burns, Russell, & Russell, 2015).

Dr. Francesca Citron (Emotion, language, and the brain)

I am interested in how people process evolutionary or contextually salient stimuli, such as pictures of threatening or appetitive objects (bear, cake), emotional words (war, kiss), or idiomatic and metaphorical expressions (‘That was a kick in the teeth’, ‘I drank a heavenly coffee’). I am also interested in how these processes differ between second language and first language speakers, or between multilinguals and monolinguals. Finally, I am developing a growing interest in beauty perception (aesthetics) in response to literary texts and poetry as well as to paintings, statues, and other artwork.

I employ a range of methods, from self-reports (e.g., ratings) and reaction times, to electrical brain responses (EEG/ERPs) and neuroimaging (fMRI). I am also interested in using eye-tracking and physiological responses.

I am interested in hearing from motivated and enthusiastic students on topics related the those above.

More information on what we do can be found in the Emotion and Communication lab webpage.

If you are interested in discussing a project together, please email Francesca at:

Dr. Michelle To (Visual Perception)

I am interested in how the sensory system processes complex natural stimuli, such as photographs, movies, music and language. More specifically, my research investigates how human observers perceive differences and how different features from the sensory environment are integrated. In addition, I have also studied visual perception in the extreme peripheral field.

The main topics I am interested in include:

  • Natural stimuli perception
  • Feature integration
  • Cross-modal integration
  • Visual perception in the far and extreme periphery

If you are interested in doing a project in one of these, or a related one, please contact me at:


Interested applicants should get in touch with prospective supervisors or the department of psychology Postgraduate Office ( as soon as possible, and no later than January 31st, 2018.

Further details about scholarship awards can be found at

To apply for a PhD go to:

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