Potential PhD projects

All my research revolves around one question: does social interaction matter? Despite the fact that our social world consists mostly of actively interacting with others, most social cognition research has put people in a passive role, looking at “social stimuli” and having them make judgments. I want to look at whether being in interaction with someone actually makes a difference. To do this, we make use of eye tracking and virtual human avatars to manipulate the experience of contingency, and also look at how interaction dynamically changes over time and how this predicts how we think about and act with others. Are you interested in social interaction, interaction dynamics, social reward, gaze, or anything related? Please contact me to discuss a potential project. We can discuss any ideas or projects that you come up with, or that are related to my current research strands (see below). Any experience or knowledge you might bring in terms of eye tracking, R, MatLab, or Python will be greatly appreciated. Possible topic areas:

  • Do gaze dynamics predict how people will perceive one another, and does how we perceive others determine our gaze dynamics in interaction? Using Dual Eye Tracking with Virtual Anthropomorphic avatars (DeyeVA) the aim is to look at how gaze-based interaction dynamics predict how similar we perceive others to be. Does it influence how we cooperate ore compete with them in a joint task?
  • Social versus monetary reward: Can I train someone to look faster to something if their reward is not monetary, but simply an avatar looking in the same direction? What determines this reward? Contingency? Expectancy? Imitation or any kind of (learned) contingency? What makes social special when it comes to contingencies?
  • Gaze as task-relevant versus social communication: How do gaze dynamics differ between situations where I actively try and communicate with the other via my gaze, versus situations where I can communicate verbally and need not indicate anything via gaze?
  • Interaction versus observation: Am I better at distinguishing live versus pre-recorded gaze patterns from someone else if I’m interacting with someone rather than watching them interact with a third person? How is the experience of observing someone live different from knowing that that other person can also see you?