Prof Patric Bach

Prof Patric Bach

Potential PhD Projects


I use methods from experimental psychology and neuroscience (as well as some computational techniques), to understand how people plan and control their own behaviour and make sense of the behaviour others. Theoretically, my research is underpinned by recent frameworks of (Bayesian) predictive processing, and the idea that our perceptual systems can be used as “cognitive blackboard” (Roelfsema & de Lange, 2016) to plan our own actions, understand those of others, and to represent – and manipulate – what we know of our external and internal worlds more generally.

The following three strands have defined my research in the last years:

1. Social Perception as Bayesian Hypothesis testing and revision

People have the remarkable ability to intuitively “see” the meaning in other people’s behaviour – our friend’s excitement when opening a present, their disgust when brushing away a spider, or simply that they “want” the thing they’re currently reaching for. This project investigates the processes that underlie this ability. We specifically test whether this ability reflects a predictive process of Bayesian hypothesis-testing and revision, in which people project their prior knowledge about other people (their goals, mental states) onto these individuals’ behaviour, to verify whether it fits – and update it when needed.

The project is supported by a Leverhulme Trust research grant running until 2026. You can read more about it on the lab website: Social Perception as Bayesian Hypothesis Testing and Revision — Action Prediction Lab

For more background information, see here:

In recent years, we have started to expand this research to investigate how context is used when we perceive emotional expressions, and how people make sense of the behavior of artificial (robot) interaction partners, for example..

2. Perspective taking as perceptual process

People are incredibly adept at understanding other people. We effortlessly keep track of what other people have done, what they know and what they feel. One way into the minds of other people may be our ability to take their visual perspective, that is, our ability to represent how the objects around us will appear to other people. This project investigates whether the ability for perspective taking is supported by imagery-like processes that give us vicarious access to what others around us might perceive.

You can read more about this project on the lab website: Visual perspective taking as perceptual simulation (Ward, Ganis, Bach, 2019, Current Biology) — Action Prediction Lab

For more background information, see here:

More recently, we have started to investigate under what circumstances people take the visual perspective of artificial agents (e.g., robots), and which individual differences are associated with perspective taking (e.g., ability to imagine, autistic and schizotypal traits).

3. Imagery as basis of intentional action  

A long-standing theoretical approach, going back to Helmholtz and James and others, assumes that our intentional behaviour is controlled through an imagery-like process. Accordingly, people do not control their motor apparatus directly, but they initiate, plan and control their behaviour in terms of the goal states (the “effects”) they want to achieve in the environment – how their actions will look, sound, and feel when carried out. This “ideomotor” approach can explain how people can take control of their behaviour, beyond conventional habitual learning frameworks that merely focus on stimulus-response associations. It has seen a recent resurgence through the development of predictive processing/active inference approaches to action. This project tests these proposals.

For more background information, see here:

  • Bach, P., Frank, C., & Kunde, W. (2021). Why motor imagery isn’t really motoric: Towards a reconceptualization in terms of effect-based action control. PsyArXiv.
  • Colton, J., Bach, P., Whalley, B., & Mitchell, C. J. (2018). Intention insertion: activating an action’s perceptual consequences is sufficient to induce non-willed motor behaviour. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.
  • Here’s some press coverage that this work has received.


If you are have ideas how to drive these ideas forward in a PhD, or different research ideas that fit into my broad research interests, please contact me at: