The MSc in Psychological Research is a valuable degree, either as a stepping stone onto a PhD or as a course that will better prepare you for a career outside academia. The degree will give you an excellent insight into life as a research student, while also providing structure with its taught components. You’ll also have greater independence, which will force you to further develop fundamental skills for any career and your approach to work will mature as a result.
I had two strong interests in psychology and structured my placements and project around these. I used my first two placements to explore the relationship between attention and emotion and did this in quite distinct ways: my first placement was supervised by Derrick Watson and investigated whether facial recognition is poorer when faces are encoded while approaching the subject and bearing an angry expression. My second placement with Adrian Von Muhlenen investigated whether fear increases visual search efficiency for compensators of threat in the form of religious symbols. My main interest, however, is in legal psychology and my project was a 2-part study implementing a cognitive load approach to deception detection. I worked under Kimberley Wade’s supervision to investigate whether I could make a deception detection test more resistant to faking by increasing subjects’ cognitive load. This exploration of different topics was very valuable to me by allowing me to experiment with my own preferences in psychology and helping me to choose which topic to focus my PhD on.
The Psychological Research MSc provided me with an excellent opportunity to develop my research ability through direct experience in developing, building and performing actual psychological experiments. Working on three distinct projects offered real insight into the process of collaborative research, as well as widening my pool of knowledge and giving me more ideas to draw upon in each study. I consider this course to be a great introduction to the actualities of research for those considering further study, but who may not feel ready to begin a full PhD.
My first placement, with Thomas Hills was: Reproductive Processing as a New Form of Adaptive Memory. This placement tested whether an adaptive mnemonic benefit observed in the processing an item’s value in a survival scenario could be extended to another evolutionary situation, reproduction. My second placement with Elliot Ludvig was: Biasing the Replay of Associative Learning Trials. This placement investigated whether responses in a binary choice task could be biased towards one option by reshowing background context cues used during training in a break between learning blocks. My project with Adam Sanborn was: Rational Modelling of the Subtyping Effect. My main project examined how stereotypes of certain social groups can be preserved despite contradictory evidence using computational models of categorisation, in which the group is divided into subgroups based on similarities in the members.