School of Psychology

Current postgraduate students

There are a number of postgraduate students in the department studying for PhD and MPhil degrees in various areas of psychology.

Adila Binti Alias

Supervisor: Dr. Jessica Price

Past research has shown that culture plays a critical role in determining food choice.  This is because factors such as the environment, ritual and belief systems, the dynamics of the community and family structure, human endeavour, mobility and economic and political systems are integrated into a range of particular ‘traditional’ and accepted rules of cuisine and appropriateness. Does culture and its strong historical antecedents, help mould the diet individual’s in a specific society?

I hope to find out if there are any discrepancies in the selection of food across cultures once a stressor has been introduced. The experimental hypothesis is that food selection will change when under the influence of stress and will be influenced by the participant’s ethnic identity. Previous research has shown that stress-induced eating can be elicited when there is a significant increase in corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), adrenocorticotropin hormone (ACTH) or cortisol that can be found in the saliva.



Sheryl Chong

Supervisors: Dr. Neil Mennie, Dr. Kirsten McKenzie, Prof. Peter Mitchell

Vision functions not merely to provide a ‘picture-in-your-head’ mental representation of the external environment but has evolved to collect information from the environment to assist us in our daily tasks.

While it has been previously shown that much of the demand on the visual system is computed at the moment it is needed not all vision is active - a small percentage is ‘proactive’: fixations that fall on upcoming targets of manipulation which have been termed as ‘look-ahead’ fixations. My PhD explores the role and function of this ‘pro-active’ aspect of gaze behaviour (especially it’s role in prediction) using the traditional Malaysian board game Congkak as a model using a portable eye-tracker.


Azlina Amir Kassim

Supervisors: Dr. Jessica Price, Dr. Matthew Johnson

My research focuses on validating a novel cognitive task known as ADEPT as a potential diagnostic tool for Alzheimer’s disease. It involves administering the tool to demographically diverse patient populations with respect to gender, ethnicity and education to determine its suitability as a potential diagnostic tool for Alzheimer’s disease.

In conjunction with ADEPT, I use the Electroencephalography (EEG) to record event-related potentials (ERP’s) in relation to participants performance on the cognitive tasks.  


Vrushant Lakhlani

Supervisors: Dr. Kirsten J. McKenzie, Dr. Roger Newport (UK Campus)

My research focuses on cross-modal integration and tactile illusions; investigating the temporal dynamics of illusory tactile and bodily sensations in neurologically healthy individuals.

I use the Somatic Signal Detection Task (SSDT) and the MIRAGE Virtual reality system to induce illusions based on cross-modal manipulations, and chart the time-course of these somatic distortions using Electroencephalography (EEG).


Lee Ai-Suan

Supervisors: Dr Ian Stephen, Dr Elizabeth Sheppard, Prof Peter Mitchell

My research is in the area of cross-cultural face perception and description. I am comparing the patterns with which Malaysian Chinese look at and describe East Asian and Western Caucasian faces.
Previous research has found cultural differences in the way individuals look at faces. The use of language as a cultural prime has been shown to elicit different responses when participants perform identical tasks in different languages. I aim to use English and Mandarin on a Malaysian Chinese sample to examine if language priming will influence the way they describe faces. I also use eye-tracking methodologies to examine if language priming also has an effect on their looking strategy.


Lee Yee Mun

Supervisors: Dr Elizabeth Sheppard, Dr Kirsten McKenzie, Prof Peter Mitchell

Road Accidents are one of the main causes of death in Malaysia. My research is about investigating the performance of driving hazard perception among Malaysian drivers. It is important to create a suitable paradigm to be used in Malaysia in order to understand, explore and improve driving hazard perception of Malaysians. Hazard perception testing has been introduced in other countries such as UK and Australia in driver licensing because there is evidence that scores on tests of hazard perception are associated with actual driving performance, and specifically accident involvement. EEG will be used in my research to investigate brain activity while performing hazard perception test, to provide evidence of the hazard perception at a physiological level. Eye tracking will also be used to record the eye movements of drivers, which will enable us to differentiate between when a hazard is first perceived and when it is appraised as hazardous.


Christine Leong

Supervisors: Dr Jess Price, Dr Nikki Pitchford (UK campus), Dr Walter Van Heuven (UK campus)

As technology advances and communication between countries becomes unavoidable, a rapid and noticeable increase in number of multilingual speakers can be observed across the world. Malaysia is a multicultural country, and it is common for people to speak at least two or more languages. This will provide me with the opportunity to study the implications and benefits of being a multilingual speaker.

My main area of research is to investigate language acquisition in young multilingual children in Malaysia, as they start to learn different languages simultaneously. The basic aim of this research is to develop a speech discrimination training program to target specific communication problems and maximise training in multilingual speakers. If possible, I would also extend this research to older adults, and with different languages commonly spoken in Malaysia (e.g. Chinese, Malay and Tamil), and further afield ( e.g. Spanish and French). 


Cheng Lim

Supervisors: Dr Elizabeth Sheppard, Dr David Crundall (UK Campus)

I am researching hazard perception and the ability to recognise and react to hazards while driving. Traditional hazard perception tests involve watching driving videos and responding as soon as you see a hazard.  Past research has found that performance on these tests is associated with actual accident rates, and also improves as drivers gain experience.  In 2002 the UK introduced a hazard perception test into their driver licensing curriculum, and it now forms part of the theory test. 

I am comparing hazard perception skills of Malaysian and UK drivers using two methods:  the task described above, and a predictive task asking drivers "what happens next?" We also track eye movements to compare visual strategies.  Both tasks differentiate between novice and experienced drivers in the UK, but will this be the case in Malaysia?  Through this research, we hope to gain insights into how drivers view hazards at home and abroad, and whether cultural differences pose a barrier to the export of hazard perception methodologies.


Roslinda Binti Mustapha

Supervisors: Dr Ian Stephen, Dr Marc Archer, Prof Peter Mitchell

Faces are fascinating stimuli, providing information about identity, emotion, age, gender and intentions of individuals. Previous studies indicate that sensitivity to facial expressions of threat is related to anxiety in children and adolescents. Facial emotions displayed by parents may therefore impact on adolescents’ emotional state, attitudes towards others and sensitivity to threat stimuli.

My research investigates parenting style among Malay parents and examines their adolescent children’s perceptions of threat and anxiety. Adolescents who are consistently exposed to poor parenting practice develop a negative perception of their parents. Anger faces may be threatening, while fear faces may be interpreted by high anxiety adolescents as a sign of threat and danger in the environment. I aim to explore young adolescents’ perceptions of their parents’ parenting style, how this relates to their anxiety and how this affects adolescents’ perceptions of ambiguous facial expressions as threatening. This study will also take into account the role of adolescents’ temperament as a mediator of self-regulation. 


Treshi Perera

Supervisors: Dr Kirsten McKenzie, Dr Roger Newport (UK Campus) 

The ‘rubber hand illusion’ has provided a means of studying body ownership in healthy participants and has shown that ownership maybe based on the convergence of multisensory inputs. Some theorists argue that a bottom up process of multi-sensory matching is needed for the rubber hand illusion to occur while others state that the illusion depends on top down processes. In order to resolve this multisensory conflict, we have to see which representation is particularly disrupted. Although previous studies have determined which brain regions are activated during this illusion, as yet we do not know the time-course of the illusion. Therefore, my research uses the MIRAGE virtual-reality system investigate whether bottom up or top down processes are more important in these illusory body distortions and EEG to investigate when these illusory sensations occur.


Dhanya Pillai

Supervisors: Dr Elizabeth Sheppard, Prof Peter Mitchell

My PhD investigates mentalising abilities in neurotypicals and individuals on the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Mentalising involves processes which are utilised to understand emotions, mental states, and inferring the behaviours of others’.

Past research suggests that the distinctive social difficulties displayed by individuals with ASD may be explained by impaired mentalising ability. This phenomenon will be examined through a novel design involving stimuli created in a naturalistic social context. Eye-tracking technology will also be used in order to examine people’s gaze patterns as certain facial regions (ie., eyes and mouth) have been shown to convey salient information used to identify mental states. I aim to examine people’s abilities in inferring mental states from behavioural responses (ie., facial expressions) as well as their gaze patterns which will give insight into the strategies used in order to complete the mentalising tasks.


Kashima, E. S., & Pillai, D. (2010). Identity development in cultural transition: The role of need for closure. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 42(5), 725-739.


Poh Wei Lin

Supervisors: Dr Matthew Johnson; Prof Peter Mitchell

My research focuses on visual attention and memory in thought processing. Previous studies found the inhibition of return (IOR) as an effect that encourages exploration for new unattended items during a visual search by inhibiting one’s ability to return to the previously explored area. This effect enhances one’s ability to search or process novel information when perceiving new stimuli such as searching for targets in video games or looking at the fine details of a painting. I use different methodologies to investigate the variables that may enhance one’s ability to process visual information much quicker and to effectively discern between types of information. I am interested in the interaction between attention and memory, and the role that visual perception plays in this interaction.


Chrystalle B.Y. Tan

Supervisors: Dr Elizabeth Sheppard, Dr Ian Stephen, Prof Peter Mitchell

For my research I use eye-tracking methodologies to investigate how adolescents with autism perceive faces. In social situations, attention to the face enables an individual to extract vital information about the bearers, such as a person’s emotional state and facial familiarity. However, individuals with autism, who have difficulty processing emotional and social information, tend to avoid eye contact and do not attend to faces, which may result in a failure to process and encode visual information in a typical pattern.

I aim to examine how individuals with autism identify facial expressions and recognise faces by tracking sequences of eye fixations to identify the extraction patterns that observers use to encode and interpret visual information.


Tan, C. B. Y., Stephen, I. D., Whitehead, R., Sheppard, E. (2012). You Look Familiar: How Malaysian Chinese Recognize Faces. PLoS ONE 7(1), e29714.


Tan Kok Wei

Supervisors: Dr Ian Stephen, Dr Elizabeth Sheppard, Prof Peter Mitchell

Human face provides a variety of useful information about the bearer, from the apparent clue of gender, ethnicity, and age to the subtle and implicit interpretation of one’s intelligence and health status.

I use psychophysical techniques to determine sensitivity thresholds of facial coloration, and examine its association with perceived health and attractiveness. I will also be looking at how exercise, and fruit consumption affect our physical and physiological functioning. We hope that by establishing the association between these variables, it will help us to design an effective appearance-based intervention to encourage health-enhancing-behaviours, such as engaging in regular exercise and eating more fruits and vegetables.


Tan, K.W., Stephen, I.D., Sensitivity threshold of colour changes in facial skin and colour patches. Perception, 42, 733 – 741


Wu Wenjie

Supervisors: Dr Elizabeth Sheppard, Prof Peter Mitchell

Mindreading is a unique human ability to make sense of others’ behaviour based on their underlying mental states. This social cognitive capacity enables people to construct and navigate their social world effortlessly and efficiently. Even infants begin life with some understanding of how the mind works and how their minds are similar to those around them.

Children share with adults the fundamental framework of a belief-desire reasoning scheme suggesting that actions result from desires coupled with beliefs. Children then develop more complex psychological reasoning to understand others and themselves.

My research is to chart the characteristics of how adults and preschool children understand persons in naturalistic social situations, by asking the following questions:

  • Is there general egocentric default existing among both adults and children when they infer other persons’ mental states?
  • How accurate can the adults and the children read others’ minds by tracking their observable behaviour and reactions in terms of commonsense psychology?
  • What is especially challenging for young children’s limited ability to read others’ minds: deficit in executive function, inability of perspective taking, lack of mental representation or egocentric simulating?


Wu, Zhang, Feng & Li (2008). The effect of hot executive function on children’s test with windows task. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 40(3), 319-326. 


Mazrul Mahadzir

Supervisors: Dr. Neil Mennie, Dr Ting Kang Nee, Dr. Alastair Smith (UK Campus)

Primates have evolved binocular vision that they use for spatial exploration. A lot of research has helped us understand this process in humans.   However, almost nothing is known about Orangutan visual cognition in natural environments where gaze and action are unhindered by the confines of a laboratory.

My research explores the predictive use of vision by orangutans in navigation and foraging for rewards in naturalistic environments. I use a portable eye tracker to record orangutan and human gaze as they search for rewards in a specially build foraging room. I aim to identify and determine their gaze strategies and motor actions  as they learn to search for hidden rewards inside this room. I will also be looking at how the value of the rewards will affect learning and strategies in this task. 


Yvonne K.H  Teoh

Supervisors: Professor Peter Mitchell, Dr Ian Stephen

The ability to accurately interpret and recognise the behaviour and emotions of others is crucial for effective communication. A person’s reaction can inform others of their emotional state, and also the social situations that caused the behaviour. Therefore, it is important to detect whether people adjust their behaviour based on the social situations they are experiencing, in order for others to react accordingly.

My research investigates whether individuals are able to infer the emotions displayed by others and whether people are able to identify when others are alone or observed by another.  By doing so, individuals are required to mentalise. For a more naturalistic approach, my research uses video clips of various individuals’ spontaneous behaviour instead of the conventional static photographs. Eye-tracking technology may also be used to gain further understanding of people’s gaze patterns when they infer the behaviour of others.


Saralla AP Murugappa Chettiar

Supervisors: Dr. Kirsten J. McKenzie, Dr Elizabeth Sheppard

I am currently a practicing Clinical Psychologist both at Penang General Hospital, and a private hospital in Penang.

An increase in case prevalence of paediatric (pre-adolescents and adolescents) anxiety patients with misinterpreted somatic symptoms prompted my interest in pursuing a PhD in this research area. Therefore, my thesis work examines the effectiveness of Modified Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (MCBT) sessions in symptom reduction in this population. The Somatic Signal Detection Task (SSDT) is utilized in my research as an objective marker, along with supplementary general and specific paediatric questionnaires to gauge somatic misinterpretation pre and post MCBT.

This research strives to be a global prototype study to investigate and replicate outcomes of adult populations findings of the above nature, utilizing MCBT and SSDT in the paediatric population.


 Coey Wong Kang Xin

Supervisors: Dr Chuma Owuamalam, Dr Jess Price

People who are overweight continue to face difficulties in today’s society in terms of negative regard and treatment. We know such negativity often is a consequence of stereotyping. For example, people who are overweight are stereotyped to be incompetent in physical activity (e.g., exercising). However, overweight people, at times, experience weight-based negativity from others in domains that are unrelated to physical activity (e.g., they may face negative treatment in job-seeking and even at work that may be tied to their weight status). My research seeks to (a) examine whether people ‘transfer’ stereotypes of physical competence regarding overweight people to other unrelated domains (e.g., managerial competence) and (b) uncover the psychological mechanisms responsible for this.  


School of Psychology

The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus
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