Anxious perception

This project aims to investigate how individual differences in anxious disposition can influence the categorisation of ambiguous visual stimuli.

Department: Clinical Language Sciences

Supervised by: Dr Katie Gray

The Placement Project

In our everyday lives, the world we perceive is inherently ambiguous. For example, any single visual image is consistent with an infinite number of three-dimensional scenes. For some, categorising the ambiguous visual input is trivially easy. However, individuals differ in how they inherently perceive stimulus uncertainty, with individuals who score high on self-reported intolerance to uncertainty tending to find uncertain situations anxiety provoking. Understanding how uncertainty affects perception of ambiguous visual input has implications for anxiety and stress-related disorders and their treatments. Given this, the focus of the current stand-alone research placement is to assess how uncertainty and individual differences in intolerance of uncertainty modulate visual perception through the categorisation of simple visual stimuli. Using computer-based tasks, participants will be asked to categorise visual stimuli, some of which will be ambiguous. Responses will be recorded and modelled using psychometric functions and correlated with self-reported intolerance of uncertainty.


The student will have the opportunity to undertake a wide range of research tasks as part of the placement: (1) participant recruitment, (2) data collection, (3) data analysis, and (4) report-writing. The student will receive hands on training on how to design and programme visual psychophysics experiments, and how to analyse the data.

Skills, knowledge and experience required

The student is expected to have a background in psychology with a keen interest and enthusiasm for the study of emotion, perception, and psychopathology. Competence with computers and statistics is desirable.

Skills which will be developed during the placement

The student will gain insight into the building blocks of experimental research in psychology as they will see the project go from testing to completion. Given the strong focus on visual psychophysics, the student will have hands on experience of examining the perceptual processes associated with certain responses. Furthermore, the student will receive training on how to use specialised programming software. The placement is likely to lead to co-authorship on a publication.

Place of Work

The student will be provided desk space within the School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences.

Hours of Work


Approximate Start and End Dates (not fixed)

Monday 18 June 2018 - Monday 30 July 2018

How to Apply

The post will be advertised centrally on the UROP website between 19th February and 29th March 2018.We will ask students to apply by sending a CV and statement to the PI (click on supervisor name at the top of the page for email). Interviews will take place in the spring term. The PI and second supervisor will conduct the interviews and provide feedback for those who are unsuccessful. The placement will start on Monday 18th June 2018.

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