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PhD Studentship: Psychology Doctoral Research Studentship - Routes to Conceptual Learning and Generalisation (2023)

University of Sussex

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Falmer
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, International Students
Funding amount: £17,668 pa
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 25th November 2022
Closes: 17th January 2023

This PhD project will be supervised by Dr Sam Berens and at least one other academic from the University of Sussex (to be decided once the research proposal is confirmed). 

How do we learn to solve problems for which we have little prior experience? Imagine you are foraging for dinner in an unfamiliar forest. You discover a delicious fruit that grows atop a particular type of tree. In order to have enough to eat, you must visit many different trees, yet there is a problem; the largest trees bear the most fruit but take the longest time to climb. You must quickly learn which trees are worth climbing and which are not. How do we learn new concepts like ‘a worthwhile tree’ and generalise this information to make good decisions in different situations? Neural network models provide a powerful framework for understanding this kind of learning. However, the (often surprising) predictions that they make have yet to be tested in humans. Furthermore, it is unclear when and how artificial neural networks and humans can generalise what they have learnt to novel situations (so-called out-of-distribution generalisation). During this PhD, you will examine the mechanisms which allow us to learn generalisable concepts that provide a basis for flexible decision-making. This work will involve a variety of techniques, including computational modelling, behavioural data analysis, and functional neuroimaging (fMRI).

Keywords: Learning, Memory, Generalisation, Inference.

Doctoral Tutor role

You will also be expected to take up Doctoral Tutoring during your 6 semesters (3 years) of funding. This work is paid at Grade 5.1 (currently £13.88 per hour), and covers contact time, preparation and marking. You will be expected to work approximately 165 hours per year, dependent on modules selected and availability.

Doctoral Tutors will be encouraged to study for a formal teaching accreditation (Associate of the Higher Education Academy), including enrolling on a ‘starting to teach’ module in the first term. Candidates who demonstrate interest in and suitability for the Doctoral Tutor role will be preferred. 

Eligibility

  • Candidates must have, or expect to obtain, a First or a high Upper Second Class Honours undergraduate degree, or equivalent qualification, and/or a Merit (an average of 60% overall) in a Master’s degree in Psychology or other relevant discipline.
  • The University of Sussex believes that the diversity of its staff and student community is fundamental to creative thinking, pedagogic innovation, intellectual challenge, and the interdisciplinary approach to research and learning. We celebrate and promote diversity, equality and inclusion amongst our staff and students. As such, we welcome applications from all, regardless of personal characteristics or background. 

For more information about funding and applying, please read the full advert, as well as our Psychology PhD FAQS and our Prospectus. Please submit your application online for 'PhD in Psychology' for entry in September 2023. 

Timetable

Deadline: Tuesday 17 January 2023 (23:59 GMT)

Interviews (on Zoom): February 2023

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