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Psychology Doctoral Research Studentship - Cognitive benefits of viewing natural scenes

University of Sussex

Location: Falmer
Salary: A stipend for 3 years (rising in line with UKRI studentship rates, currently £17,668 p.a.) to cover living costs.
Hours: Full Time
Contract Type: Fixed-Term/Contract
Placed On: 7th February 2023
Closes: 1st September 2023
 
  • A stipend for 3 years (rising in line with UKRI studentship rates, currently £17,668 p.a.) to cover living costs.
  • Home fees or International fees and research/training costs are also covered for 3 years.
  • 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.

What are the cognitive and neurophysiological effects of looking at nature? What mechanisms are behind these effects?

The human visual system is sensitive to the statistics of natural scenes, and statistics of colour (e.g. Maule & Franklin, 2015; 2020). There is also evidence linking image statistics with visual discomfort and brain activity (e.g. O’Hare et al., 2021), suggesting that pleasant scenes are processed more easily, and therefore consume less energy. Simply viewing images of nature has been associated with cognitive benefits in working memory and attention, compared to viewing urban images (e.g. Berman et al., 2008). However, it is not clear what role visual processing plays in delivering these benefits, or how they might interact with visual discomfort.

This PhD will focus on understanding whether and how the visual properties of natural scenes influence cognitive function. It will be particularly suited to candidates with a strong background in vision, colour science, neuroscience and/or cognition. Potential methods include behavioural tasks and visual psychophysics, eye-tracking, fMRI and EEG. Prior experience or an interest to learn programming (especially MATLAB) will be required.

There is a thriving vision science community at the University of Sussex studying vision and colour perception at all levels from retinal processes in animals (e.g. Professor Tom Baden and Professor Daniel Osorio), human colour perception (Dr. John Maule, Dr. Jenny Bosten and Professor Anna Franklin), to high level cognition and consciousness (e.g. Professor Jamie Ward and Professor Anil Seth).

  • Will pay fees at the Home or International rate (as required by the applicant's fee status). International students must move to Sussex for the duration of the PhD and will not be permitted to register as Distance Learners. The studentship does not include additional funding towards the costs of visas or travel to the UK.
  • Candidates must have, or expect to obtain, a First or a 2:1 undergraduate degree, or equivalent, and/or a  Merit (an average of 60% overall) in a Master’s in Psychology or other relevant discipline.
  • In the 'Supervisor suggested by applicant' section of your application, put 'John Maule'.
  • In the 'Proposed source of funding' section of your application, please put 'Psychology Doctoral Research Studentship - Maule'. 

For queries with respect to the application process: psychologyphd-enquiries@sussex.ac.uk 

To discuss the details of your research interests further, please contact Dr John Maule.

 

 

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