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Project title: Can we direct our imagination towards helpful ends?

Primary supervisor: Professor Peter Totterdell

Project description: Recent research has indicated that people spend a considerable amount of time engaged in imaginative activity, such as daydreaming, and that at least some of that activity is useful for social functioning and well-being. This imaginative activity can involve mental simulation that is volitional as well as reactive. The question therefore arises as to whether people can be helped to direct their imagination so that it fulfils useful functions –such as enhancing empathy, social interaction, and sense of purpose– and how that can best be achieved. This doctorate will therefore draw on complementary lines of research concerning daydreaming, imagined contact, anticipated emotion and the brain’s default mode network to investigate this topic. The research is likely to use a combination of quantitative methods, including lab-based experiments and experience sampling.
Relevant paper:
Waytz, A., Hershfield, H. E., & Tamir, D. I. (2015). Mental simulation and meaning in life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 108, 336-355.


Formal enquiries should be addressed to: Professor Peter Totterdell (p.totterdell@sheffield.ac.uk)

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