Fully Funded PhDs in Psychology at Staffordshire University!

The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University are pleased to be offering four fully funded PhD Studentships. These studentships will involve conducting a major research project (see below for details) as well as some light teaching duties.

Staffordshire University's £30 million Science Centre, home of the Psychology Department

Staffordshire University’s £30 million Science Centre, home of the Psychology Department

The studentships include a fee waiver, a tax-free stipend of £14,057, and six hours per week of teaching duties.

Interested parties are recommended to contact the respective Principal Supervisors for further details about their studentship. Further details about the application process for these PhD studentships is available here.

Please note that the closing date for applications is Monday 14th September 2015.

1. The design, development and evaluation of a diabetes prevention programme

Principal Supervisor: Dr Rachel Povey (email R.Povey@staffs.ac.uk).

Diabetes is a significant health issue within the UK, with over 3 million diagnosed and an estimated 590,000 as yet undiagnosed with Type 2 diabetes (Diabetes UK, 2015), costing the NHS approximately £10 billion per year. As Type 2 diabetes can be preventable, the NHS, Public Health England and Diabetes UK have recently launched a national Diabetes Prevention Programme, which will be piloted in seven sites around the UK.   The proposed PhD studentship has been developed through ongoing collaboration between PSE researchers and Public Health England (PHE). It will be supervised by Dr Rachel Povey, Dr Chris Gidlow and Dr Naomi Ellis and will involve the development, support and evaluation of aspects of the Diabetes Prevention Programme. Although this will be driven, in part, by the needs of PHE, the first months will be spent defining the PhD based on the available opportunities, in addition to the student’s own ideas, experience and expertise

Supervisory Team: Dr Rachel Povey, Dr Chris Gidlow & Dr Naomi Ellis.

2. Applying the social norms approach to improve dietary behaviours amongst high school students

Principal Supervisor: Dr Robert Dempsey (email Robert.Dempsey@staffs.ac.uk)

Rates of obesity and the consumption of unhealthy, “junk”, foods are rising amongst young adolescents. This PhD project will involve the development and evaluation of a social norms-informed intervention to promote healthy eating amongst high school children. The intervention will be based on the Social Norms Approach, an intervention strategy used to elicit positive behaviour and attitudinal change by challenging commonly held misperceptions of peer behaviours and attitudes. Social norms interventions have been primarily conducted in the USA and have focused on reducing substance use by university students, with few studies investigating the presence of normative misperceptions of healthy eating amongst young adolescents and whether these misperceptions can be challenged via normative feedback.


  • Conduct a systematic literature review of existing studies.
  • Develop a social norms-informed intervention which can be used in-class (using a cluster randomised controlled design) with input from children from the intervention site.
  • Investigate the extent of normative misperceptions of peer healthy eating behaviours and attitudes amongst high school students.
  • Conduct a small-scale study (a cluster randomised controlled trial) to investigate whether the social norms intervention has a significant impact on normative misperceptions and healthy eating behaviours and attitudes.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness and acceptability of the intervention (using both qualitative and quantitative methodologies).

The successful candidate will be expected to make an original contribution to the design of the project and be capable of working independently. This is an exciting project which is ideally suited for a bright, motivated and enthusiastic graduate with interests in health psychology, behaviour change and in evaluating the Social Norms Approach.

Supervisory Team: Dr Robert Dempsey, Dr Rachel Povey, & Prof Tony Stewart.

3. The role of attention and negative emotion in the production of false memories

Principal Supervisor: Dr. Louise Humphreys (email L.Humphreys@staffs.ac.uk)

Research suggests that memory is enhanced for emotionally negative events (Humphreys, Underwood, & Chapman, 2010), yet negative emotion can lead to heightened susceptibility to false memory (Porter et al., 2010). Whilst research has examined the role of attention in emotional memory (typically results show that emotional stimuli capture more attention than neutral stimuli and are preferentially attended to despite other task demands), few studies have addressed what role attention plays in emotional false memories. Van Damme and Smets (2013) is one of only a few studies that have examined this. They found that negative valence inhibited central false information but increased peripheral false information, suggesting that attention is drawn to emotionally arousing features (with fewer resources available for processing peripheral details). Based on these findings a measure of attention should show differences in attention allocation between central and peripheral details. However, to our knowledge no research has directly measured the role of attention in false memory production.

The role of attention in emotional false memory will be examined by 1) manipulating attention at study, and 2) measuring attention using eye-tracking methodology. This research has important implications for the courts, where false memories are a perennial problem. Presenters of fact (e.g., barristers, solicitors) as well as triers of fact (e.g., judges, jurors) need to become aware of factors that can influence people’s susceptibility to false memories. This research aims to examine attention to emotionally negative events, and how this impacts on people’s susceptibility to false memories.

Supervisory Team: Dr Louise Humphreys & Dr Sarah Krähenbühl

4. Portraits of Pain: The use of pain drawings to meaningfully communicate pain experiences

Principal Supervisor: Professor Karen Rodham (email: Karen.Rodham@staffs.ac.uk)

There is evidence that pain drawings may be a method by which people in pain can meaningfully communicate, understand and potentially alter their pain experiences. This study follows a protocol established and tested by Loduca and colleagues (2014) in Brazil, which incorporates pain portraits into the rehabilitation process. Understanding more about a person’s experience of pain will facilitate the development of more individualised and patient-centred treatment plans.

We are currently completing a feasibility study exploring how best to incorporate the Pain Portrait process into a UK NHS-based pain management programme. The PhD builds on this feasibility study.

Aim: To explore whether replicating and implementing the pain portrait process in clinic in the UK can:

  • help patients communicate and cope better with their pain;
  • help staff understand more about their patients’ pain experience
  • improve patient outcomes
  • provide insight into cultural (UK-Brazil) differences in pain experiences

Supervisory Team: Prof Karen Rodham, Dr Amy Burton and Prof Tony Stewart.

Further details about our courses in Psychology can be found here. Please click on the following links for further details of Staffordshire University’s research centres in Psychology, including our Centre for Health Psychology and Centre for Psychological Research.