Meta-analysing a manual illusion: The multisensory congruency effect

A popular task in experimental psychology is the multisensory congruency effect - an illusion in which people find it hard to locate touches on their fingers when distractor lights are also presented. This project will conduct a meta-analysis of data obtained using this task.

Department: Psychology

Supervised by: Nicholas P Holmes

The Placement Project

This placement provides the opportunity to work in The Hand Laboratory in Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences. The student will complete a meta-analysis of data from 34 published papers concerning the multisensory congruency effect - a multisensory illusion in which people find it hard to determine the location of a touch on their hand when visual distractor stimuli are presented at the same time. This illusion has been used to study how we perceive the multisensory space around the hand. In 2012, a literature search was conducted, 34 articles were identified, and the articles' authors were contacted. The student will collate the data, organise them, and conduct a meta-analysis to answer important questions about how this multisensory illusion arises. The goals of the meta-analysis are stated in a protocol published on the lab's website, but the student will be encouraged to conduct exploratory analyses of interest. The student will be responsible for the whole analytic process, from data collection to presentation at research group meetings. Alongside the project, the student will be an active research member of a thriving psychological research laboratory which has just won significant research funding from the MRC.


The student will undertake a range of research tasks as part of the placement, including: 1) literature searches, reading, & personal study (approximately 1 week's work, spread across the placement); 2) data collection and organisation, data analysis (initially under supervision), summarising and reporting the data (3 weeks' work); 3) report-writing, creating a presentation, communicating results to group members other researchers, and post-placement preparation activities (1 weeks' work); 4) observation of and participation in ongoing research in the laboratory (3-4 days' work); 5) weekly meetings & progress reports with the supervisors, 1 hour each (1-2 days' work). The meetings in weeks 3 and 5 will involve a more detailed and structured review of progress. The supervisor will be in the School and contactable throughout the placement (email, phone, in person). As part of the student's induction on day 1, the supervisor and student will agree a structured plan for the placement, with specific targets set for each week to maximise value for both parties.

Skills, knowledge and experience required

The student is expected to have good knowledge and understanding resulting from the first two years of study as a psychology or life sciences undergraduate, including of experimental design and methods, ethical issues in research, and most importantly numeracy and statistics, strong experience of Microsoft Excel and SPSS software, and some experience of or a very strong willingness to learn Matlab and statistical programming. The student should also show an interest in the background and the goals of the project, have the appropriate time-management and communication skills necessary to interact with researchers around the world and local research group members, and demonstrate an enthusiasm for getting involved in other research work in the lab. The project would be ideally suited to a student studying Maths & Psychology, however students from computing or statistical backgrounds are also encouraged to apply.

Skills which will be developed during the placement

Conducting a meta-analysis is vital for synthesising a field of research and drawing conclusions which are greater and more powerful than any single study could provide. The student will learn analytic skills in meta-analysis, along with basic and some advanced programming and statistical analysis in Matlab. The meta-analysis will also require the student to liaise with researchers around the world in re-analysing their data and solving analytic problems. The additional skills and knowledge gained will very likely benefit the student's learning in their final-year taught modules and research project. Specific research skills to be gained, which cannot be acquired elsewhere during a typical undergraduate degree in psychology include: using Matlab software for programming experiments and data analysis; first-hand experience and understanding of the research environment; working on part of a larger research project and within a research team. The student will build on their existing skills in data analysis, being responsible for the data from its raw form to the stage of summarising and writing up. This experience will significantly enhance their numeracy and data processing skills. Other transferable skills to be developed include scientific writing, oral presentation & scientific communication (presenting the results of the research to regular research group meetings), team-working, resource-management, & communication skills - by working alongside MSc, PhD, post-doctoral, and academic researchers. Alongside the primary project, the student will be given opportunities to learn or observe other experimental methods being used in the laboratory. The additional techniques being used routinely in the laboratory include 3D-movement tracking, electromyography, brain stimulation, and brain imaging, as well as other behavioural and psychophysical techniques central to psychological science. Overall, this placement will significantly enhance the students' employability both within and outside of the scientific and research sector.

Place of Work

The Hand Laboratory, School of Psychology & Clinical Language Sciences, Room GS17

Hours of Work

09:00-17:00, Monday-Friday

Approximate Start and End Dates (not fixed)

Monday 01 July 2013 - Friday 09 August 2013

How to Apply

Applicants will submit a 1-2 page CV including relevant study, research, and employment, listing key skills, and providing a 100-200 word personal statement about their goals and career plans, and a 1 page covering letter explaining their motivation and how their skills and experience match those required for the placement, along with any further information that they feel is necessary. We will encourage candidates to use the UROP drop-in sessions and other resources prior to the application deadline, and will advertise as widely as possible for candidates. After the deadline, Nicholas Holmes will make a short-list of up to four candidates based on academic ability and the fit of the student to the placement. Short-listed candidates will attend a 1-hour interview and guided lab tour in the School, conducted by Nick and one independent expert academic staff member.

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