Applications for the 2021 Winter Research Program are now open. 

General information on the program, including how to apply, is available from the UQ Student Employability Centre’s program website.

Explore the available winter research projects:

Feeling pressured to perform: Interacting with people when you fear prejudice

Supervisor: A/Prof Fiona Barlow

Duration: 5 weeks

Social psychologists have long suggested a simple solution to racism: interracial contact. Hundreds of studies show that for majority group members, positive contact with members of different minority groups improves attitudes towards them (Pettigrew & Tropp, 2006). The bulk of the literature, however, has overlooked how interracial interactions might be experienced by, and affect, minority group members (for commentary see Dixon, Durrheim, & Tredoux, 2005; Tropp & Pettigrew, 2005). For contact to be a viable anti-racism intervention, it must also be beneficial, or at least benign, for minority group members. We suggest that minority group members are keenly aware that the contact they have with majority group members will impact how their entire group is seen. In the current proposal we test the novel proposition that because of this, intergroup contact is sometimes not benign, and instead the pressure to curate positive contact experiences for majority group members can lead to minority burnout, exhaustion, and self-segregation. We aim to:

(1) build on the nascent literature on minority perspectives of contact;

(2) document the personal, social, and societal impact of feeling pressured to “perform” positive contact

(3) tie together contact, social identity, emotional labour, and acculturation perspectives to understand when and why contact benefits vs damages minority group well-being

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The socioemotional consequences of acute alcohol administration in healthy volunteers: A double-blind, placebo-controlled experimental study

Supervisor: Dr Molly Carlyle

Duration: 5 weeks

The current project is an experimental investigation of the acute impacts of alcohol on social-attentional, emotional, and decisional processing in social drinkers. The current project will be administering alcohol to 41 social drinkers using a double-blind, placebo-controlled design. Participants will be asked to attend two sessions where they will receive either a standard dose of alcohol or placebo, and will complete a series of cognitive, physiological, and self-report measures.

The winter internship will involve assisting in the running during the recruitment and testing phase of the project.

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COVID-19 Unmasked Global Collaboration

Supervisor: Dr Alexandra De Young

Duration: 4-5 weeks

During 2020, a global collaboration between 9 countries (Australia, US, UK, The Netherlands, Poland, Greece, Cyprus, Spain, Turkey) was formed to conduct an international research study entitled, “COVID-19 Unmasked”. This research aims to bring a broad perspective of child and caregiver well-being in the context of COVID-19. More specifically, the collaborating researchers aim to (a) describe and compare the COVID-19 related experiences within and across countries; (b) examine mental health outcomes for young children (1 to 5 years) and their  caregivers over a 12-month period during the COVID-19 pandemic; (d) identify the relationships between risk and protective factors for child and caregiver emotional wellbeing; and (e) combine data from all participating countries into one large open access cross-cultural dataset to facilitate further international collaborations and joint publications. 

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Children’s dual engines of social learning

Supervisor: Dr Frankie Fong

Duration: 5 weeks

Imitation is one of the most widely studied topics in the area of children’s socio-cognitive development. It has been well established that with age, children develop the cognitive capacity for imitative flexibility which enables them to switch between conventional (which prioritizes acquisition of social conventions) vs. instrumental (which focuses on outcome attainment using the most efficient means) approaches of learning. This process involves children weighing different social (e.g., verbal cues, group membership) and instrumental (e.g., efficiency, cost) factors to make adaptive social learning decisions to suit diverse context.

This project involves various studies surrounding the broad topic of imitative flexibility (e.g., how children learn from media; how parental expectations may influence children’s conformist tendency). Scholars will assist with literature review, questionnaire and behavioural study (e.g., imitation) design, and data management (e.g., data coding, data preparation). Data collection may be possible. Specific tasks and research focus will be discussed with each scholar.

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The role of dynamic norms in the outcome of message appeals to blood donors

Supervisor: Prof Barbara Masser / Dr Mel Hyde

Duration: 4  weeks

Recent appeal messages used by Australian Red Cross Lifeblood have communicated that fewer people are presenting to donate blood than previously (e.g., ‘Stop the Drop campaign – “Appointment numbers are heading south. Tassie needs 2,500 this week. Help stop the drop by booking your appointment today.”).  These campaigns have been launched in the hope of attracting more people to donate.  However, the broader research on ‘dynamic norms’ in meat consumption, conservation of water, and use of reusable cups (Sparkman & Walton, 2017; Loschelder et al., 2019) suggests that showing that the behaviour of others is changing may be sufficient to motivate others to follow their lead. That is, in the context of blood donation exposure to campaigns such as ‘Stop the Drop’ may result in fewer people presenting to donate than previously.

This project will consider evaluation data provided by Lifeblood on the outcomes of this campaign and experimentally investigate whether dynamic norms operate as theorised in the context of prosocial behaviour. The Winter Research Scholar will explore the evaluation data provided and assist in designing the experimental study/ies.

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Neuromodulation of behaviour

Supervisor: Dr Li-Ann Leow

Duration: 5 weeks

We often act with the aim of obtaining rewarding outcomes and/or avoiding punishing outcomes. The processing of rewards and punishments is affected by the neurotransmitter dopamine. In this work, you will help conduct and run studies where we examine how behaviour is affected by manipulating brain function via dopamine medications, brain stimulation and/or behavioural techniques.

As data collection is conducted in the School of Psychology, on-site attendance is required to complete the project.

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The epidemiology of alcohol, tobacco, and substance use in adolescents

Supervisor: Dr Janni Leung

Duration: 5 weeks

Substance use are top factors that causes disease burden in young people. This project involves conducting literature review on the epidemiology of substance use, including alcohol, smoking, cannabis, and other extra-medical drug use, across different countries and their psychological, social, and demographic correlates in adolescents. High achieving students will have the opportunity to build an on-going collaboration, contribute to publications, and explore future topics that can be developed into a research project for a thesis.

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Evaluating the online module UQ Respect: Sexual Consent, Ethical Bystanding and Compassionate Response

Supervisor: Prof Barbara Masser

Duration: 4 weeks

Online modules are a common strategy used by universities across Australia and internationally to contribute to efforts in sexual misconduct prevention. Evidence supporting this approach is limited and there is a need to better understand the effectiveness and value of online modules in the context of sexual misconduct prevention. This study will provide important insights into the University of Queensland’s current online module that will help understand if the module is achieving its aims of increasing confidence and skills in understanding and gaining sexual consent, being an ethical bystander and supporting a peer who discloses an experience of sexual misconduct. This study will inform improvements to the module.  Further, this study will contribute to a current gap in literature exploring the role of online modules in sexual misconduct prevention in university contexts.

Research question

  1. Does the online module, UQ Respect: Sexual Consent, Ethical Bystanding and Compassionate Response increase students’ immediate confidence and perceived skills in:
    1. understanding and gaining sexual consent
    2. being an ethical bystander
    3. supporting a peer who discloses an experience of sexual misconduct
  2. How do students at UQ perceive the module as a learning tool?
    1. Are there key strategies that could improve the module in terms of usability and relevance from the student perspective?

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The impact of social exclusion on bystander behaviour

Supervisor: Dr Annabelle Neall

Duration: 5 weeks

Belongingness, or the need to be accepted as a part of a group, is contingent on the ability to establish and maintain interpersonal relationships. Individuals who fail to meet this need are susceptible to number of undesirable consequences, including emotional distress and psychological withdrawal (Baumeister & Leary, 1995). Thus, individuals are highly motivated to avoid social exclusion, especially in situations where one’s livelihood is jeopardised (i.e., failing to belong to the workgroup may reduce our capacity to make money and meet other physical and psychological needs).

This research seeks to understand the impact of social exclusion on participants’ intentions to intervene and perceived responsibility for intervention in workplace settings.

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Cross-Disciplinary Approaches to Study Human Animal Wellbeing and Relationships

Supervisor: Prof Nancy Pachana

Duration: 5 weeks

This project has 2 parts: constructing a small survey for UQ students doing Human Animal Wellbeing research, and a brief summary of cross-disciplinary approaches to studying Human - Animal Relationships and Wellbeing.  Being part of this project will involve meetings with key stakeholders in the UQ Partnership for Animal Wellbeing (UQ PAW) transdisciplinary research consortium.

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Social Prescribing: How Community Engagement Can Improve Health in Later Life

Supervisor: Prof Nancy Pachana

Duration: 5 weeks

Social Prescribing (SP) is a service offered in general practice (GP) contexts that involves referring patients with non-clinical needs to local services and activities provided by the third sector (i.e. community, voluntary, and social enterprise sector). SP aims to promote partnerships between the health and the social sectors to address the wider determinants of health, including social engagement. This project will involve constructing a narrative literature review on the evidence supporting social prescribing for older adults (those 65+). Although most literature on social prescribing is from the UK, there is a small and growing literature in Australia. 

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How to make it through the daily grind: Strategies for work-life balance and well-being

Supervisor: Dr Stacey Parker

Duration: 4-5 weeks

I am offering the chance to be a part of a larger project, working together with myself, my PhD students, and other collaborators, on experience sampling studies about how people sustain their fatigue and vitality during work and after working (i.e., via micro breaks, recovery strategies). We are interested to learn if energy management during the workday can contribute to recovery from work-related effort that evening at home. Moreover, if particular boundary management strategies (i.e., work-life segmentation vs integration) can help to support wellbeing day-to-day and week-to-week.

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An investigation of the motivated prejudice behind the “perpetual foreigner syndrome”

Supervisor: Dr Michael Thai

Duration: 4-5 weeks

Asian faces are consistently considered more foreign than White faces in Australia (Thai et al., 2020). Little work has examined the factors that explain this discrepancy in perceived national identity. One interpretation could be that this discrepancy reflects genuine, non-prejudiced statistical inference. That is, there may statistically be more Asian people of foreign origin than there are White people of foreign origin in Western nations, so it would be sensible to infer that Asian faces are more likely to be foreign in the absence of any other cues to national identity. Recent evidence, however, shows that Asian Australian individuals are still reliably rated as less Australian than White Australian individuals, even when they are depicted as Australian-born and heavily immersed in the Australian culture (Thai et al., 2020). This suggests that presumptions of foreignness may not be entirely driven by automatic, statistical processing. Rather, they may be a manifestation of motivated prejudice towards Asian people. The aims of the research project will be to investigate whether there is a prejudicial component underlying the presumption that Asian people are foreign.

Applicants may choose to be involved in the main research project described above, or a number of related projects also in the area of race relations and person perception.

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Affirmative Action Meta-Analysis

Supervisor: Dr Courtney von Hippel

Duration: 5 weeks

Government offices, educational institutions, and private organisations use affirmative action strategies in an attempt to reverse decades of discriminatory practices and help level the playing field for underrepresented minority groups. We are conducting a meta-analysis to examine more than 40 years of research in this field and investigate the effects of these programs on behavioural and attitudinal responses.

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OHS Capabilities and Inspections for Psychological Health and Safety

Supervisor: Dr Kirsten Way

Duration: 5 weeks

Mental health conditions cost Australian workplaces almost $11 billion (AUD) per year in absenteeism, presenteeism and workers’ compensation costs (beyondblue and PricewaterhouseCoopers, 2014).

Given the size of the problem, work-related mental health conditions continue to be of significant concern to Australian businesses and governments alike (see for example, Safework NSW 2017, Safe Work Australia 2017). Labour inspectorates and OHS professionals are at the forefront of efforts to respond to psychosocial hazards in the workplace.  This project aims to investigate capabilities of OHS professionals and the utility of inspections undertaken in response to psychological health and safety incidents (complaints, injuries, or illnesses), including key workplace stakeholders’ perceptions of these.

Research Questions

1. What capabilities and interdisciplinary skills are required for OHS professionals related to risk management for psychological injury?

2. What are employer and worker perceptions of the utility of reactive inspection approaches to psychological health and safety complaints?

Research Design

The research design includes analysis of existing organisational data sources such as regulator complaints as well as qualitative data from interviews and focus groups. 

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Organisational Responses to Child Deaths and Worker Grief

Supervisor: Dr Kirsten Way

Duration: 5 weeks

The experience of losing a child can result in a profound sense of grief and loss. For the parent, workplaces may be a source of help or of hinderance, yet little is known about the most helpful ways for workplaces to respond. This project aims to investigate grieving parents’ needs and to identify key structural supports and other ways in which people in the workplace can best respond when a worker has lost a child.

Research Questions

1. What are parents’ experiences related to their organisations’ response when they lose their child?

2. What are the most helpful and least helpful aspects of organisations’ response?

Research Design

The research design includes semi-structured interviews and associated qualitative data analysis. 

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Neural responses to emotionally-significant individuals

Supervisor:  A/Prof Alan Pegna

Duration: 4 weeks

The current project addresses a fundamental question in the field of affective neuroscience, namely whether faces are processed differently depending on the affective relationship with the viewer.

Electrodes placed on the surface of the scalp will measure the electrical response (electro-encephalographic response) during a task that will involve viewing photographs of individuals with whom the viewer is very close (partner), not close but familiar, or still entirely unfamiliar.

The project aims to establish whether faces of emotionally-significant individuals modulate early brain responses.

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The effects of ownership on interactions with virtual objects

Supervisor: Dr Mick Zeljko

Duration: 5 weeks

Many cognitive processes are influenced depending on reference to the self and our concept of self may be extended to include the things we own (the ‘extended self’: Belk, 1988; Constable et al., 2011). In particular, ownership effects have been shown to influence our interactions with the environment and recent evidence suggests that the concept of ownership may be represented in our visuomotor system such that it influences our interactions with owned objects. The current project will examine if ownership effects extend to interactions with virtual objects on a computer screen. Participants will control a cursor to interact with virtual objects that have been arbitrarily assigned ownership to either the participant or another person and the kinematics of the interaction will be recorded for analysis. Importantly, the project will be run online. The winter research scholar will develop experimental protocols using the Gorilla online experiment system, deploy experiments for data collection, collect and collate data, and analyse the collected data. Programming experience is essential.

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Understanding the verbal determinants of attractiveness in speed dating

Supervisor: Dr Brendan Zietsch

Duration: 5 weeks

Though there has been much research focus on the physical determinants of attractiveness, there has been almost no research on how the content of people’s speech influences their attractiveness in a courtship situation. This project will answer these questions by analysing existing data in the form of audio recordings/transcripts from existing speed dates in our lab.

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