See Bachelor thesis

Cognitive Psychology


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BCP1 - INVESTIGATING A NEW MOTOR SKILL: THE CASE OF CHORDING

SUPERVISOR: PROF. DR. WILLEM VERWEY
 

While a lot of research has been devoted to the learning of motor skills, a particular task that has attracted little attention is chording. Chording skill is used when people are pressing various keys simultaneously, like when playing the piano or a saxophone. The interest in this task is increasing because there are indications that motor learning at the level of primary motor cortex involves learning bodily postures, and these may well also include the hand postures used to perform a chording task. As only a few studies have addressed chording task, in this bachelor thesis project the development with practice of chording responses will be assessed, and most importantly, the hypothesis will be tested that this skill develops differently for those practicing the task with one and with two hands. According to the notion that left and right motor cortex learn postures of one hand, one would expect that one-handed and two-handed chording develop differently. For that reason, chording will be assessed in two groups of participants, one using one hand, the other using to hands. This research will be carried out with participants in the BMS laboratory. The results of the experiments will be submitted for publication in the case of positive findings.

Seibel, R. (1962). Performance on a five-finger chord keyboard. Journal of applied psychology, 46(3), 165.

Wifall, T., McMurray, B., & Hazeltine, E. (2012). Perceptual similarity affects the learning curve (but not necessarily learning). Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 143(1), 312-331.

BCP2 - IS THE BENEFIT OF A HIGH CONTEXTUAL INTERFERENCE PRACTICE SCHEDULE AFFECTED BY THE LENGTH OF A MOVEMENT SEQUENCE?

SUPERVISOR: PROF. DR. WILLEM VERWEY (2 students)

This study addresses the optimal way to learn a serial movement skill. According to the Contextual Interference (CI) notion, performance and retention benefit if people alternate between different tasks as opposed to repeating a single task over and over again. It is not clear, however, what a ‘single’ task means in that a fixed movement series may eventually be considered a single task because a single integrated representation (called a motor chunk) develops in memory. This suggests that the repeated execution of the same movement series is less beneficial than when two sequences are being practiced in a random order.

This study will be carried out by two students. Given that the study involves a between-subjects design with two groups of participants, each student will perform the study with one of these two groups of participants. The results of the experiments will be submitted for publication in the case of positive findings.

Kim, T., Chen, J., Verwey, W. B., & Wright, D. L. (2018). Improving novel motor learning through prior high contextual interference training. Acta Psychologica, 182, 55-64.

Abrahamse, E. L., Ruitenberg, M. F. L., De Kleine, E., & Verwey, W. B. (2013). Control of automated behaviour: Insights from the Discrete Sequence Production task. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 7(82), 1-16.

BCP3 – CONCEPTUAL LEARNING

SUPERVISOR: PROF. DR. FRANK VAN DER VELDE (1-3 students)

Abstract

Concepts and their relations play a crucial role in human cognition. In particular, they are the building blocks of our semantic cognition, with which we understanding our environment. Concepts can vary from concrete, as given by the concept "dog", to abstract, such as the concept "honesty". Learning concepts can be based on learning perceptual classifications, such as learning the concept "dog" from classifying individual dogs, or by classifying or recognizing actions as performed by certain agents. But concepts can also be learned by combining other concepts and their relations. So, the concept "animal" could be learned from understanding the similarities between concepts such as "dogs" and "cats" and their differences with other concepts like "chair" or "house". In this way, we also learn relations between concepts, for example that a dog is an animal, but not every animal is a dog. Because concepts (such as actions) are typically learned in (certain) relations to each other, a 'conceptual space' (or knowledge base) can arise, which forms the basis for our semantic cognition.  

How we learn concepts and conceptual spaces, and how they are represented in the brain, is a topic of very active research. Learning of concepts and relations is also an important theme in machine learning. The key issue in this project concerns the way in which concepts and their relations in a given domain are learned and how they are combined to form a conceptual space. The domain can be chosen one, such as the "sport domain" (with concepts like "player" or "game") or the "health domain" (with concepts like "virus" or "medicine"). Or it could be designed for the project to study how humans learn such a new domain. The chosen topic can be studied with experimental techniques such as card sorting or priming studies. Or the conceptual space in a chosen domain could be designed (e.g., for use in machines) and evaluated by humans, for example by using questionnaires. Aspects of concept learning and conceptual spaces can also be modelled with computer modelling, such as Deep Learning or other techniques. 

Literature:

Rouder, Jeffrey; Ratcliff, Roger (2006). "Comparing Exemplar and Rule-Based Theories of Categorization". Current Directions in Psychological Science. 15: 9–13. doi:10.1111/j.0963-7214.2006.00397.x. 

Lambon-Ralph, M. A., Jefferies, E., Patterson, K. and Timothy T. Rogers, T. T. (2017). The neural and computational bases of semantic cognition. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 18, 42–55. doi:10.1038/nrn.2016.150

Huth, A. G., de Heer, W. A., Griffiths, T. L., Theunissen, F. E., & Gallant, J. L. (2016). Natural speech reveals the semantic maps that tile human cerebral cortex. Nature, 532(7600), 453-458. doi:10.1038/nature17637

BCP4 – SHORT-TERM MEMORY FOR COLOUR, FORM OR ORIENTATION

SUPERVISOR: DR. ROB VAN DER LUBBE

Recent ideas on working memory or short-term memory (STM) propose that STM may be better conceptualized as a limited resource that is flexibly distributed among items to be maintained in memory rather than holding a fixed number of elements active. Many aspects of STM are still unknown. In this project, we will especially focus on memory for colours/form/orientation. How precise are our memories for colour/form/orientation and how does this preciseness depend on the number of presented objects?

BCP5 – TOP-DOWN CONTROL IN THE SIMON TASK

SUPERVISOR: DR. ROB VAN DER LUBBE

Earlier research suggests that the tendency to respond to the attended side, even when the attended side is irrelevant for the response, may be affected by intentions (i.e., the Simon effect; see Van der Lubbe et al., 2012). Goal of the project is to examine whether the instruction that a forthcoming trial may be congruent or incongruent has a clear effect. The proposed research is a replication and extension of earlier work performed by my former student Marc Lauffs (see UT repository).

BCP6 – MENTAL EFFORT, FRONTAL THETA, AND WORKING MEMORY

SUPERVISOR: DR. ROB VAN DER LUBBE (1-2 students)

Earlier research suggests that mental effort is reflected in increased electroencephalographic (EEG) activity in the frontal theta band (~ 4-8 Hz). Mental effort may be related to working memory (WM) capacity. Goal of the project is to test with a simple procedure whether mental effort is reflected in increased theta power, and whether this sensitivity is related to WM capacity. Mental effort may be manipulated by asking participants to report the alphabet forwards or backwards, or by using an N-back task, while WM capacity can be assessed with a standard procedure from the WAIS intelligence test.