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Politics and International Relations (PIR): People


NRLabs Neuropolitics Research

The Neuropolitics Research Lab produces transdisciplinary research, utilizing developments in the cognitive neurosciences, to shed new light on political attitudes, identities and decision-behaviours. Our aim is to test the utility of methods more typically associated with neuroscience, informatics and cognitive psychology in helping us to understand more about political attitudes and behaviours. Our neuropolitics research is produced in collaboration with colleagues from the social sciences, psychology, informatics and the brain imaging centres at the University of Edinburgh. We also work closely with colleagues from other Universities at home and abroad as well as with partners in industry. Our group uses a range of experimental approaches, including fMRI brain scanning, survey experiments, behavioural games, face-emotion coding, eye-tracking and physiological hormone testing as well as big data analysis, to explore the mind–brain–action nexus in political and policy context.

We are currently running a series of fMRI brain scanning, face-emotion coding and eye-tracking experiments. If you are interested in participating in our research, we are always looking for healthy volunteers. Please email (fMRI) or Robin Hill (face-emotion-coding/eye-tracking) to get involved. 

You can watch the BBC coverage of our lab's work and it's relevance to the referendum on the constitutional status of Scotland at the following link:

You can follow our work on Facebook or on Twitter @neuropols #NRLabs


Current projects: 



Group identity is a central aspect of political behaviour. In  a series of fMRI experiments we explore the neural correlates of this behaviour and ask what additional information this can provide beyond the more traditional large-scale cross-sectional surveys of political attitides and behaviour. 

Identity and Empathy for Others' Pain

This study examines the extent to which our identities shape the extent to which we feel empathy for others' pain. This research is conducted with our colleagues from the Interacting Minds Centre at the University of Aarhus. 

Identity and Cooperative Behaviour

Participants take part in a stag hunt to examine how the relationship between our identity and that of our partner impacts upon our williness to cooperate with others or our propensity to defect.

Identity and Exclusion

We explore the relationship between identity and exclusion in the context of an interactive game in an fMRI environment. 

Our fMRI research is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council's Transformative Research Programme.


Face-emotion coding and eye-tracking  

Contact Robin Hill

Working with our partners at CrowdEmotion we are testing the applicability of face-emotion coding approaches to political behaviour. This research is funded by the ESRC's UK in Changing Europe programme and by the University of Edinburgh's Chellenge Investment Fund. 

Engagement with audio-visual information

We are testing how the public respond to different representations of audio-visual materials with contemporary political relevance  - from politicians and in various media delivery formats. 


Big-data and cognitive framing in social media 

Contact Clare Llewellyn

Funded by the ESRC's UK in Changing Europe programme, we are exploring how the debate on the EU is being framed and reframed in the twitter-sphere and examining how this relates to the cognitive frames that predominate in the offline public and political dialogue and in the more traditional large-scale cross-sectional surveys. 

Those with an interest in how the debate on the UK's referendum on EU membership is playing out in the public imagination should also follow our regular analysis of the twitter debate @myimageoftheEU