[visionlist] Postdoc in development of visuo-motor decision-making, University College London

Marko Nardini m.nardini at ucl.ac.uk
Sun Oct 17 13:30:36 GMT 2010

There is a vacancy for a post-doctoral Research Associate on a project studying the development of visuo-motor decision-making in children. The position is based in Dr Marko Nardini's lab at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and is funded for a period of 36 months by a research grant from the UK Economic and Social Research Council. The intended starting date is January 2011, or as soon as possible thereafter.

Over the course of a normal day we make countless risky perceptual-motor decisions, from when to cross a busy road to how to reach across a coffee cup without knocking it over. Such decisions involve an interplay between perceptual, motor and "cost" variables that are difficult to quantify. Yet everyday safety, health and wellbeing depend on computing when and how to move. Such computations may be sub-optimal in childhood. This project will study children's perceptual-motor decision-making using newly developed experimental tasks and a mathematical framework that tests which outcomes agents are seeking to maximize. The goal is to investigate children's abilities to choose optimal movement strategies by taking their own perceptual and motor capabilities into account. This relates to real-world problems of choosing safe courses of action when engaging in 'movement under risk' (e.g. crossing a road). 

For an introduction to this research area, and related previous studies (which have been run with adults), see:

Trommershäuser, J., Maloney, L. T., & Landy, M. S. (2009). The Expected Utility of Movement. In Neuroeconomics: Decision Making and the Brain, ed. Glimcher, P. W. et al. London: Academic Press. (PDF: http://bit.ly/bgZT18)

Faisal, A. A. & Wolpert, D. M. (2009). Near Optimal Combination of Sensory and Motor Uncertainty in Time During a Naturalistic Perception-Action Task. J Neurophysiol., 101, 1901-1912. (PDF: http://bit.ly/cLlJcm)

The position will involve:

* Developing new visuo-motor tasks to study the development of visuo-motor decision making in children aged 6-12 years. 

* Developing 'ideal observer' / 'ideal actor' models of behaviour on novel laboratory tasks, for example a task presenting the sensory, motor, and decision elements involved in road crossing in a simplified and formalised form. (For an example of an 'ideal actor' model, see the Faisal et al paper above, in which such a model is formulated for a ball-catching task). 

* Collecting empirical data with children and adults, and comparing these with predictions from 'ideal observer' / 'ideal actor' models. 

* Analysing results, presenting and preparing them for publication

Applicants must have a PhD in a scientific discipline related to experimental psychology. Proficiency in mathematics is also essential. A strong track record of research in human sensory, motor, or cognitive development is highly desirable. Knowledge of programming and mathematical modelling is also desirable. Candidates without a track record of developmental research should have a very strong track record in other domains immediately related to the project (e.g. mathematical modelling of human visuo-motor control or decision-making). The post is subject to a satisfactory enhanced Criminal Records Bureau check. 

Prospective applicants are welcome to contact m.nardini at ucl.ac.uk with informal enquiries about the post. 

The closing date is 17 November 2010, 5pm GMT. For the job advertisement, full job description, and application form, see http://tinyurl.com/decisiondev


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