PhD studentship The role of unconscious influences in self-regulation

Supervisor:  Dr Ryan Scott (School of Psychology, University of Sussex)

This PhD will explore how self-control influences unconscious cognitive processes such as attentional biases and subliminal influences.  Understanding the nature of effects resulting from depleting self-control, and conversely preserving or strengthening it, has important implications for a range of clinical conditions.  There is good evidence, for example, that interventions for anxiety and depression achieve their beneficial effects in part by improving self-control (DeRubeis, Siegle & Hollon, 2008).  Our understanding of the mechanisms involved, however, is somewhat limited. 

Recent research has challenged the dominant model of self-control, Baumeister’s strength model (Baumeister, Vohs, & Tice, 2007), proposing instead that observed effects arise from attentional and motivational sources (Inzlicht & Schmeichel, 2012).  The proposed research looks to combine established methods for manipulating self-control with a variety of paradigms employed in studying unconscious processes.  It is hoped that this approach will provide insights into the influence of self-control by, among other things, permitting a direct test of the extent to which conscious motivational factors versus unconscious influences play a causal role in changing behaviour when self-control is depleted. 

While the precise direction of the project will be guided by the successful candidate’s interests it is anticipated that the work will utilise a range of technical methodologies including continuous flash suppression, transcranial direct-current stimulation, and brain imaging.

Applications should be made by Friday 17thJanuary 2014.

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The award of the studentship will be based on a competitive process. If awarded, it would be a full-time studentship (funded for a duration of three years) covering tuition fee, and a maintenance allowance. The maintenance allowance is currently £13,726 per annum. There is an expectation to contribute to teaching on a paid basis.

Eligibility requirements for potential candidates:

  • This award will only pay fees at the Home/EU rate.   Candidates may not be eligible for the full award if they do not meet UK residency requirements. For full details of eligibility see Annex 1: Residential guidelines at
  • Candidates must have, or expect to obtain, a First or a high Upper Second Class Honours undergraduate degree, or equivalent qualification, and/or a Master’s degree in Psychology or a related discipline.

Guidance for applicants:

Candidates should provide:

  • A research statement that briefly outlines our current state of knowledge, hypotheses that could be addressed, and an outline of potential methods. Your answer should not exceed 2 pages including references, be set at minimum 10 font type with margins a minimum of 1cm.
  • A teaching-related statement that addresses the normal expectation that you contribute to teaching of statistics and research methods (up to 300 words).
  • A current transcript with full details of performance on all completed courses.

To apply for this post, please click on the Apply button below.

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