Research Interests

My main research interest revolves around the topic of ‘Threat perception’.

“Threat perception can be defined as when an individual categorises a perceived stimulus as a threat.

Holmshaw, 2019, P9

The current research into ‘threat perception’ has so far found that when an individual identifies a threatening stimulus, it is perceptually amplified. Threat perception is an defence mechanism which is linked with the ‘flight-or-fight response’. It is likely that this mechanism was developed for human survival. Olds et al (2014) infer that as the system allows us to percieve threatening stimuli to be amplified, it gives the individual more time to react to the threat and choose the most appropriate response.

I have always been interested in survival and evolutionary mechanism’s, and I often find myself being intrigued with how as humans we perceive the environment, and how this affects our subsequent decision making. This is specifically known in the academia as Ecological dynamics perspective on decision making, essentially this suggests that as humans our perception of the environment, and knowledge of our action capabilities influences our subsequent decision making. “The Coupling of perception and action can be captured as opportunities for action (or options) known as affordances” (Ashford, Abraham & Poolton, 2020, P5).

In my undergraduate dissertation, I began to explore some of the effects of both threat perception, and manipulated action capabilities on decision making. My research question was entitled ‘Does the manipulation of action capabilities affect an individual’s perception of an opponent and a teammate?’ Specifically I explored if a player perceives an opponent to be more threatening than a teammate, and if the manipulation of the players action capabilities causes the player to perceive both the opponent and the teammate as more threatening compared to perceptions under normal action capabilities. Interestingly, my study found that a player perceives an opponent to be ‘more threatening (perceptually amplified) than a teammate when their action capabilities were manipulated.

Threatening stimuli are often perceptually amplified. Compared to non-threatening stimuli, threats appear to be taller, closer, move faster and seem more intense. According to the action specific approach to perception, individuals perceive a stimulus based on their ability to act on the stimulus. In addition, perception is affected by an individual’s psychological and physiological state. The present study sought to explore whether these effects occur in sporting situations, investigating two main aims. Firstly, investigating if an opponent is perceived to be more threatening than a teammate, and secondly, investigating if the manipulation of action capabilities causes both the opponent and the teammate to be perceived as more threatening. The findings suggest that an opponent is only perceived to be more threatening than a teammate when their action capabilities are manipulated. The results also suggest that the manipulation of action capabilities causes an individual to perceive both the opponent and the teammate as more threatening, however perceptual amplification is greater for the opponent. Together, the findings confirm that an opponent is perceived to be more threatening than a teammate, but only when their action capabilities are manipulated.

My Dissertation abstract

I loved the dissertation & research process, I was so proud to complete and hand my study. Since then, I have continued to explore and research further into threat perception and other areas of ecological psychology as as part of my current masters study and out of interest. I am hoping to research further into the topic as part of my masters dissertation, and potentially as a topic of study for a PHD.


samholmshaw.com
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