I am interested in supervising PhD research projects in the following areas (please note that these are just some suggestions - if you have any ideas about related topics, don't hesitate to contact me).
1) Measuring Conscious and Non-Conscious Perception
It is usually taken for granted that Forced Choice stimulus detection or identification tasks are the best way to measure whether or not people are able to consciously perceive something. There are, however, other factors that might influence participants’ performance in these tasks. For example, we know that non-consciously perceived stimuli can automatically activate their corresponding motor response, thus resulting in Forced Choice measures that overestimate participants’ ability to consciously perceive the stimulus. Obviously, this is bad news if we want to make any claims about conscious versus non-conscious information processing. The aim of this project therefore would be to investigate the relationship between perceptual and non-perceptual factors influencing Forced Choice performance levels and how these relate to other subjective and objective measures of conscious awareness.
2) Implicit Learning of Non-Consciously Perceived Stimulus Regularities
Stimuli that have not been consciously perceived can nevertheless have a systematic impact on our behaviour – but only when we already have the intention to respond to them. In a typical lab-based experiment, participants’ intentions are explicitly manipulated by the experimenter: We tell our participants what to do, and they (usually) do it. In real life, however, don’t respond to our environment according to some arbitrary rules, but in a way that ‘makes sense’ given the current environmental constrains. The aim of this project would be to investigate whether we are able to form such online representations of our environment on the basis of non-consciously perceived stimuli, and if, in turn, such implicit representations could affect our motor behaviour in the same way that explicitly stated rules do.
3) Life-span Development of Low-Level Motor Control
It is generally assumed that many inhibitory cognitive control functions change dramatically across the lifetime: They are not yet developed in young children, mature throughout adolescence, and might deteriorate in old age. However, this appears to be true for some but not all inhibitory control processes. In particular, it is not clear yet whether rather basic, low-level motor inhibition processes show such a pattern of changes. The aim of this project would be to collect data on low-level motor inhibition and on other forms of cognitive inhibition from a wide range of age groups in order to investigate whether there are any systematic age-related changes in the former, and if so, how they relate to the latter.