Using Psychology to Boost Performance in Critical Search Scenarios

Fully funded PhD studentship to investigate how to make human performance more effective in critical search scenarios. You'll develop innovative feedback systems that enhance the performance and motivation of people working in high-stakes environments like airport security, surveillance, and rescue operations.

Start date

1 October 2024


3.5 years

Application deadline

Funding information

Fully and directly funded for this project only. Generous top up on the standard stipend £25,000 for 2024-25. Tuition fees are covered.


In critical search scenarios, such as security, surveillance or rescue, providing effective feedback to operators is essential but challenging. This is especially true when there is uncertainty about whether there is any target to be found. As a concrete example: how thoroughly should an airport security operator search a bag when the chances are there is nothing in it to be found? This PhD project aims to develop novel feedback systems to enhance operator performance and motivation in such high-stakes environments. 

The project will explore several key objectives: 

  1.  Analyse existing strategies used by expert operators to decide when to cease a search.
  2.  Conduct experimental research investigating factors that influence these decisions using both physical and virtual search environments.
  3.  Develop and test innovative human-machine teaming tools that aid operators in making optimal search termination decisions.

 Your research will have potential applications in areas such as airport security, surveillance, air-sea rescue, and hidden device detection. This project is ideal for candidates with a strong background or interest in cognitive psychology, human factors, decision-making processes, and their application to real-world environments.

Join us to make a significant impact on enhancing the effectiveness and reliability of critical search operations.

Eligibility criteria

Candidate profile

Open to candidates who pay UK/home rate fees. See UKCISA for further information.

You will need to meet the minimum entry requirements for our Psychology PhD programme.

Applicants for PhDs in Psychology are expected to hold a minimum of an upper second-class honours degree (65 per cent or above) in psychology (or a related discipline) and a master’s degree in a relevant subject with a pass of 65 per cent or above. Previous experience in behavioural experimental research will be advantageous.

How to apply

Applications should be submitted via the Psychology programme page. In place of a research proposal you should upload a document stating the title of the project that you wish to apply for and the name of the relevant supervisor.

The studentship starts October 2024. Later dates are possible, please contact Dr Adrian Banks once the deadline has passed.

Studentship FAQs

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Application deadline

Contact details

Adrian Banks
09 AC 05
Telephone: +44 (0)1483 689435

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