Possible BA's/MA's Thesis Topics

We offer a supervision for theses dealing with the following topics (additional topics may be possible upon request):

 

Supervisor: Martin Fischer (martinf@uni-potsdam.de)

  • Measuring action simulation in perception and comprehension;
  • The role of finger counting in adult numerical cognition;
  • Eye movements while reading about space or time or while calculating;
  • Attentional processes on hand-held devices;
  • Physical and psychological distancing (proxemics) in human-robot interaction;
  • Social touch in human-robot interaction.

 

Supervisor: Elena Kulkova (kulkova@uni-potsdam.de)

  • Non-literal language (e.g., idioms, metaphors, etc.) processing and its neural
    underpinnings;
  • Cross-domain semantic priming: The interplay between language and arithmetic;
  • Hemispheric involvement during processing figurative meaning;
  • Cross-domain semantic priming: The interplay between emotions and arithmetic;
  • Embodied aspects of abstract concepts / abstract language comprehension;
  • Action simulation during language comprehension.

 

Supervisor: Jochen Laubrock (laubrockuni-potsdamde)

  • The attentional blink as a measure of cognitive processing;
  • Measuring expertise using eye tracking;
  • Pupillometry as a measure of cognitive effort;
  • The interface of vision and language: How do we understand visual scenes?
  • The role of prediction in linguistic and visual processing.

 

Supervisor: Alex Miklashevsky (armanster31@gmail.com)

  • Understanding numbers through space and motor representations

How do we understand numbers? Some studies suggest that our numerical knowledge is grounded in very basic experiences, such as the spatial association of smaller numbers and left side and larger numbers and right side. Perhaps also counting habits play a role? Almost all over the world, children use their fingers to learn numbers, and these finger representations may still be activated in adults when they perform mathematical calculations in mind. See for more information a recent publication from our group: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnhum.2020.590508/full

  • Understanding of time through space

Understanding abstract concepts, such as time, can be grounded in basic experiences with space. For example, participants associate the past with the left side and the future with the right side (see for details: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/cogs.12709). Yet, there are many open questions about such associations: when and why do they appear? What is their role in the process of understanding? How do they influence our everyday decisions?

  • Understanding of valence through space

Understanding abstract concepts, such as valence, can be grounded in basic experiences with space. For example, in many studies, right-handed participants associate negative concepts with the left side and positive concepts with the right side (https://casasanto.com/papers/Casasanto_JEPG_2009.pdf). Yet, there are many open questions about such associations: when and why do they appear? What is their role in the process of understanding? How do they influence our everyday decisions?

  • Understanding of motor language

When reading a sentence like Anna signed a contract, participants unconsciously activate their motor system (https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0050287). According to embodied cognition, to understand motor language (like words write, run, hammer, or fork), one must activate one’s own experiences. The question is whether this activation is a necessary part of understanding or just a secondary artifact. It is also important to find out when this activation appears and when not – for example, by testing different semantic tasks, sentences with negation (Anna did not sign the contract), or conditional mood (Anna would sign a contract).

  • Embodied understanding of abstract concepts / abstract language

It is relatively easy for embodied cognition to explain how people understand concepts of apple or chair based on their physical experience with those objects. Abstract concepts, such as freedom or justice, are much more challenging. They cannot be seen, touched, or smelled, yet people somehow understand these words. How does this happen? In what way are those concepts acquired? How are they processed? These questions received much attention in the embodied cognition literature, but the answers are still unclear.

  • Large psycholinguistic databases and abstract concepts

While experimental studies are essential, they usually use only a small subset of words/concepts for testing hypotheses. However, there are large psycholinguistic databases where information is collected for thousands of words: how much each word is related to seeing, hearing, smelling, or to what extent people need to use their hands, feet, or head to interact with each object (e.g., https://www.lancaster.ac.uk/psychology/lsnorms/). By analyzing such datasets with statistical methods or combining several datasets in one study, researchers can ask intriguing questions of embodied cognition – most of all, how we understand abstract concepts.

 

In case you are interested and/or have questions please refer directly to the supervisor.