RTG 2175 Perception in Context and its neural Basis

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New TP Geyer/Müller

A funded PhD position available in the MEMVIS group at the Department of Psychology of LMU Munich




We are looking for a new PhD candidate to join our MEMVIS lab (MEMory in VIsual Search: contact person: Prof. Dr. Thomas Geyer; geyer@lmu.de).

Our background. Imagine your task is to detect a certain element in a cluttered environment, e.g., finding an edible berry among inedible leaves or toxic berries. Such situations are are-created in our laboratory by presenting, on a screen, an array of stimuli with one stimulus being the ‘target’ and the others are ‘non-target’ – distractor – elements. We know that items that differ from the surrounding elements in a certain feature or are expected attract your attention. Importantly, search performance is not ‘a-historic’: We have evidence that memory is acquired for both search-relevant and search-irrelevant stimulus attributes, in the latter, e.g., the spatial relationship between the target and the (context) distractors. In MEMVIS we spend much work on this ‘context-based guidance’ of observers’ search performance in a variety of (unisensory, e.g., visual, and multisensory, e.g., visual-tactile) search tasks. In terms of methodology, we employ multiple methods for the study of human cognition. Examples: reaction time and psychophysical methods (including eye tracking), EEG, TMS, and – in the not too distant future – fMRI. The composition of the group is highly international.

Our PhD work program. Our recent findings show that visual search is not a unitary process – of looking for something in a crowded scene. Instead, it consists of qualitatively distinct phases of display exploration and monotonic search. Importantly, only in the latter phase, visual search (and saccades) come systematically closer to the target item. This may suggest that during the exploratory phase, participants form short-term memory about the target stimulus (e.g., its location and/or identity) and test this memory in the subsequent monotonic phase. Visual search could thus be conceived as an ‘online’ hypothesis generation and confirmation process. This idea will be investigated in the PhD project adopting a fundamentally psychological approach, though combining behavioral with cognitive-neuroscience methods.

Our interdisciplinary research and teaching environment. The position starts in October 2018. The PhD project is part of a dedicated doctoral research training group (RTG 2175) at Graduate School of Systemic Neurosciences of LMU Munich (GSNLMU). The work will be carried out at the chair of General and Experimental Psychology (chairholder: Prof. Dr. Hermann Müller), which is one of the largest psychological chairs in Germany (currently there are some 30-35 collaborators with various research backgrounds in cognitive neuroscience).

Our requirements (i.e., your skills). (1) A excellent M.Sc. degree in a cognitive-neuroscience discipline (e.g., M.Sc. in Neuro-Cognitive/Psychology, M.Sc. in Neurosciences, M.Sc. in bio-/medicine/engineering); (2) Experience with behavioral and neurophysiological techniques (e.g., EEG, TMS, fMRI), documented in the form of, e.g., a M.Sc. Thesis project, a research practical (internship), and/or a publication. (3). Proficiency in programming and data analysis with MATLAB and R. (4) Excellent communication skills (including writing); (5) Successful completion of GSN-LMU’s selection procedure (see http://www.gsn.uni-muenchen.de/).

For more information please contact Thomas Geyer via e-mail (geyer@lmu.de) or phone: +49/(0)89/2180/5216.