PhD Studentship The Role of Self-Incentives in Behaviour Change

Providing people with economic incentives (e.g., cash, gifts, lotteries) seems to be an effective way of changing health behaviour (Kane et al., 2004).  However, providing people with economic incentives may not always be realistic because they can be difficult to administer (both practically and ethically) and there have been suggestions that externally-administered incentives can undermine long-term self-initiated behaviour change (Curry et al., 1991; Deci & Ryan, 1985). 

One possible way of overcoming these difficulties is to encourage people to reward themselves (e.g., meeting friends, shopping), or in other words to use self-incentives, rather than using economic or other extrinsic incentives. 

Very few studies have compared the unique effects of self-incentives on health behaviour change with a control group.  This omission is important because it is currently unclear whether the promising potential effects of self-incentives on sustained health behaviour change can be attributed solely to self-incentives or to some other behaviour change technique. The goal of this PhD research is therefore to isolate the effects of self-incentives to provide an indication of the ‘active’ ingredients required in health behaviour interventions. Specific issues to address include:

  • Do self-incentives (alone and/or in combination with other behaviour change techniques) bring about sustained health behaviour change?
  • Can people be encouraged to use self-incentives effectively?
  • What kinds of self-incentives bring about sustained health behaviour change?
  • What is the optimum rate of self-incentivisation?

Field experiments and randomised controlled trials will be employed to achieve these objectives. The research holds considerable potential to influence behaviour change interventions in applied healthcare settings.

The successful candidate will become a member of the Manchester Centre for Health Psychology, a research cluster that includes twenty members of academic staff alongside numerous postdoctoral and PhD researchers. Typical next destinations for PhD graduates include postdoctoral roles, lecturer positions and applied psychology posts within the NHS or other sectors.

Applicants should hold (or expect to obtain) a minimum upper-second honours degree (or equivalent) in psychology or a related discipline. A Masters qualification or extensive (>2 years) relevant research experience would be an advantage.

This 3-year project is available to UK/EU nationals only due to the nature of the funding and is due to start October 2013. Funding provides an annual tax-free stipend of £13, 726 in addition to covering tuition fees and research expenses.

Please direct applications in the following format to Professor Chris Armitage (By clicking the ‘Apply’ button below.):

  • Academic CV
  • Official academic transcripts
  • Contact details for two suitable referees
  • A personal statement (750 words maximum) outlining your suitability for the study, what you hope to achieve from the PhD and your research experience to date.

Any enquiries relating to the project and/or suitability should be directed to Professor Armitage. Applications are invited up to and including Friday 19 July 2013 although early expression of interest is encouraged. Interviews are scheduled for Tuesday 23 July.

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