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PhD Studentships

Keele University - School of Psychology

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Keele
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, International Students
Funding amount: see advert text
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 10th May 2019
Closes: 5th June 2019
Reference: FNS GS 2019-13

Prioritised proposed projects

The School has identified several research areas of priority. A summary of these prioritised projects and the supervisory teams associated with them can be found below. You can apply for one or two of these projects.

Project Title: Person Perception in the Context of Crowd Events

Supervisory Team: Dr Sarah Laurence (Lead supervisor,, Dr Sarah Spotorno, Professor Clifford Stott

Protecting crowded places is an increasingly important part of modern day policing. The proposed project will use cognitive theory of face recognition to help understand and enhance how police officers identify individuals within crowds that pose threats. It will provide an opportunity to research the cognitive abilities involved in assessing threat in crowd contexts and offer unique insights into the role of personal familiarity and within-person variability in person identification in a ‘real world’ context. The proposed programme of research will use a variety of methodological techniques, including behavioural, eye tracking, and observation to study person perception in a crowd context. Experience conducting experimental research in psychology will be beneficial.

Project title: Characterising the role of functional knowledge in real-world scene processing: Temporal dynamics and relationships with scene’s contents

Supervisors: Dr Sara Spotorno (Lead supervisor, and Dr Joseph Brooks

Viewers are highly proficient in processing real-world scenes and this is a key ability in everyday life. However, what information is gathered and represented from a scene, and when, is still not fully understood. Research has been focused on how the scene’s contents (background and objects) are processed, without considering, until recently, the role of functional knowledge, which concerns what actions can be performed in the scene. This programme of research will examine how functional knowledge and knowledge about the scene’s contents are related, the time course of their use during scene processing and the nature of information that is needed to understand action possibilities within a scene. To this purpose, a combination of experimental behavioural research, eye tracking and EEG/ERP methodologies will be used. Experience in experimental research in psychology, good programming skills and an interest in visual cognition will be highly beneficial.

Project title: Attentional control of visual short-term memory resources

Supervisory team: Dr Jim Grange (Lead supervisor:; and Dr Sara Spotorno

Visual short-term memory (vSTM) refers to the storage of perceptual information lasting on the order of seconds. It supports many cognitive operations, including perception and visual attention. However, the capacity of vSTM is clearly limited. Theories of vSTM suggest that this capacity rests on successful allocation of a single and limited memory resource across the visual scene. But, in our busy environments, how does the vSTM system know how to allocate this precious resource appropriately? The current project aims to understand how attentional control interacts with vSTM to ensure appropriate allocation of this memory resource. The project will primarily utilise behavioural experimentation.

Open-call proposed projects

Candidates are free to develop their own proposed projects. Candidates wanting to pursue this route are required to contact a staff member from the School whose research interests and expertise fall within the candidate’s research interests to collaboratively develop a research proposal. For initial inquiries please contact the School's Postgraduate Research Coordinator: Dr Masi Noor (

For more information about the School:

Link to School's Research Groups

Link to School's facilities & equipment

In addition to the application form, your application should include:

1) CV

2) 1-page personal statement where you (i) explain how your past research experience and studies have prepared you for this project, and (ii) your preference for one or two of the projects

3) 1 assessed piece of written work either from your final year undergraduate studies or your MSc studies.

4) 2 academic references

5) It is also recommended that you contact the lead supervisor of your chosen project or the Postgraduate Research Coordinator (Dr Masi Noor, for informal inquires about the project.

Informal enquiries about the Prioritised Projects should be made to the Project Leads:

- Dr Sarah Laurence (

- Dr Sara Spotorno (

- Dr Jim Grange (

Or the Postgraduate Research Coordinator Dr Masi Noor (

Informal enquiries about the Open Call should be made to Dr Masi Noor in the first instance.

Funding Information

Funding support is provided as follows:

100% UK/EU tuition fees for 3 years commencing Academic year 2019/2020 (UK/EU fees are £4,327 per annum for 2019/20). Stipend support for three years at Research Council rates (2019/20 stipend £15,009 per annum). Some support for conference attendance and research activities will be available. Overseas students are eligible but need to pay the difference between UK/EU fees (£4,327 per annum for 2019/20) and overseas fees.

Qualifications, Experience and Skills


Eligible applicants should ideally hold, or be predicted to achieve, a first class undergraduate degree or equivalent in Psychology or related disciplines (minimum requirement: 2.1).


A relevant Master's degree.

Experience in experimental research in psychology or related discipline

Good programming and modelling skills

Experience in visual cognition

Experience in behavioural experimentation

Attitude and Personality


Ability, willingness and motivation to undertake advanced research study at PhD level.

Excellent communication, interpersonal and organizational skills.

Strong problem solving skills and a drive to work independently as well as part of a team


Evidence of aptitude for independent research.

Keele University values diversity, and is committed to ensuring equality of opportunity. In support of these commitments, Keele University particularly welcomes applications from women and from individuals of black and ethnic minority backgrounds for this post. The School of Psychology and Keele University have both been awarded Athena Swan awards and Keele University is a member of the Disability Confident scheme. More information is available on these web pages:

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