Final Year Projects

Flexible University of Sussex, Brighton, UK

The lab is open to final year projects of Sussex students. Research in the Reality Bending Lab focuses primarily on the physiological and neurocognitive underpinnings of reality perception and aspects of reality bending (e.g., fiction, deception, fake news, illusions, and altered states of consciousness such as through meditation or immersion). Possible projects include (but are not limited to):

How do we know what is real? And what does it change?

  • Real vs. Fake: This project will typically involve presenting some real vs. “fake” stimuli (e.g., fake news, AI-generated images, …) to participants and investigate what interindividual/cognitive/emotional factors allows them to discriminate between the two.
  • Emotion regulation via fiction: believing that something is unreal (regardless of whether it actually is or is not) seem to have some ripple effect on various facets of our body and brain, such as emotions. This project studies the characteristics and potential use of fiction as an emotion regulation strategy. This project can be focused on negative emotions (with threatening/unpleasant stimuli) or “positive” emotions (e.g., sexual arousal, attractiveness).
  • Authenticity & Neuroaesthetics: This project investigates the effect of believing that an artwork is “forged” (e.g., an imitation of a great painter) on our appraisal of beauty.

Assessment of - and relationship between - bodily and cognitive abilities

  • Neuropsychological assessment of Cognitive Control: This project focuses on the development, validation and improvement of a neuropsychological task to reliably measure “cognitive control” (executive functions). This project requires some interest in neuropsychological assessment, task development and associated technical skills (programming, game development).
  • Physiological Control: development of measures (questionnaires, physiological tasks) measuring the ability to voluntarily regulate one’s physiology (e.g., heart rate, autonomic reactions, etc.).
  • Relationship between Interoception and higher-order functions: This project involves measuring various aspects of our relationship with our body (e.g., by measuring cardiac activity) and analyzing its relationship with cognitive abilities (e.g., Self control, emotion regulation) or higher-order constructs (e.g., primal world beliefsLinks to an external site.).
  • Secondary EEG data analysis: Investigating an existing dataset containing resting state EEG signal, from which one would extract features to try predicting dispositional indices (such as primal world beliefs).

Non-invasive induction of altered states of consciousness

  • Emotion regulation via distancing: by instructing people to change their state of mind (e.g., “see the events in a detached manner, like a fly on the wall”), we hope to manipulate aspects of the sense of reality - such as absorption and psychological distance - and compare its effect (in particular on emotions) with that of other emotion regulation strategies.
  • Can we manipulate the conscious state and observe actual effects on the performance at various cognitive tasks? For instance, via hypnosis or mindfulness-like instructions or sound stimulation (binaural beats, drumming, …). We study the role of expectations and try to isolate the mechanism of change.

Metascience / Data science / Software development

  • Investigation of scientific practices: to what extent scientists engage in “new” practices (e.g., open science, slow science, preregistration, registered reports, …) and what factors (e.g., career level, time, ideology, …) are driving their adoption (or lack thereof). This might involve things like validating assessment tools (such as questionnaires or gamified measures like quizzes), distributing it widely and analysing the results.
  • Improving access of R to psychologists: R outputs can be complex, and we are developing tools to facilitate its understanding (e.g., the reportLinks to an external site. package). This project involves implementing functions in R to help communicate and interpret statistical results. This project requires some interest in programming and stats.
  • Neurophysiological signal analysis in Python: implementation and validation of new algorithms in Python, related for instance to chaos theory, EEG signal analysis, etc. This project requires some interest in programming, computer science and mathematics.
  • Psychophysiological methods: what is the optimal electrode configuration for recording skin conductance responses (often used as a marker of emotions).

Some of these projects share strong links with philosophical concepts (e.g., the paradox of fiction) and/or carry some clinical relevance (e.g., for the understanding and treatment of mood/psychotic/dissociative disorders). Also, note that the lab is radically engaged in open science and, ultimately, quantitative methodologies: thus, most projects would typically require a substantial use of R (or Python) at some stage. However, it’s totally okay not to feel proficient at these skills at the start, but the important thing is to be interested and motivated to learn.

Projects might be conducted individually, in pairs, or in a group, depending on needs. Attending weekly lab meetings is also expected.

Don’t rely on what is written!

Ask directly members of team (current and past) about their experience in the lab!