Thomas Sambrook


  • 0.107A Lawrence Stenhouse Building

If you made any changes in Pure these will be visible here soon.

Personal profile


I joined the School of Psychology in 2017. I read psychology at Bristol University and was later awarded an M.Sc. in cognitive science from Birmingham University and Ph.Ds from St. Andrews University (field primatology) and Plymouth University (cognitive neuroscience)

Key Research Interests

At present, my research interests revolve around the cognitive processes underlying decision making ("what should I do?") and reinforcement learning ("how did it work out for me?"). My recent papers have looked at neural correlates of these processes and increasingly tend to use computational models. I have tended to use small monetary gambles as the means to study these processes but am now beginning to use primary reinforcers such as food and pain.

I am also interested in the role that habit plays in guiding our decision making behaviour

However I have worked in other areas, including field studies of primate social behaviour and assessment of bilingual language acquisition 

Research supervision

I am interested in supervising lab-based projects that test theories about how people judge the value of received outcomes and the prospect of future outcomes. These theories are drawn from behavioural economics, neuroeconomics and good old fashioned instrumental conditioning. I use EEG (MSc and PhD only) and computational modelling of behaviour of decision making tasks.

Example projects are given below

PhD Students

Harry Stewardson 2019-2023

Harry investigated the neural basis of reinforcement learning by running two large scale EEG experiments using rewards (money) and punishments (bursts of white noise and electric shocks) and performing two meta-analyses. This resulted in four publications

MSc Students

Kerri Margrets-Kelly 2023

Kerri is currently running an EEG experiment to investigate how reinforcement learning adjusts to different scales of reward

Examples of undergraduate projects I have supervised

Spontaneous blinking rate as a mediator between tonic dopamine levels and measures of reward sensitivity. This is an ongoing interest. Undergraduates: Please get in touch if you are interested in dopamine

Deficits in depression: Exploring the effect of anhedonia on model-based learning (School of Psychology best undergraduate dissertation winner 2020)

Psychological health symptomologies do not predict sensitivity to punishment in aversive learning

BMI and reinforcement learning in the context of sweet vs. savoury high-calorie foods

Teaching Interests

Module Leader: Evolutionary Psychology (Year 3)

Lecturer: Cognitive and Biological Psychology (Year 2)

Seminar Leader: Psychology Lab Skills (M.Sc.) 


Administrative Posts

Chair of the Psychology Research Ethics Committee

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

Recent external collaboration on country/territory level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots or