Project code



Department of Psychology

Start dates

October 2020

Closing date

23 January 2020

This project is now closed. The details below are for information purposes only. View our current projects here.


The studentship is funded by the ESRC South Coast Doctoral Training Partnership (SCDTP), a collaboration between the universities of Portsmouth, Southampton and Brighton.

The studentship is available to UK students only and covers tuition fees and an annual maintenance grant of £15,009 (2019/20 rate).

This PhD presents a unique opportunity to the successful candidate to be part of the SCDTP cohort as well as the University’s Department of Psychology. 

The supervisors are Dr Sophie MilwardDr Matt Parker and Professor Bridget Waller

The work will investigate:

  • whether there are differences in development of mechanisms for understanding others’ affective versus cognitive states, and in calculation versus contagion of these states
  • whether an individual’s performance is similar across different tasks measuring contagion and calculation of affective and cognitive states, suggesting shared mechanisms

Understanding others’ mental states is key to navigating a complex social world. However, some individuals, including those with developmental disorders such as autism, find this difficult.

This research will use behavioural and physiological measures to investigate how children develop these abilities and whether the same mechanisms are necessary for understanding emotions versus thoughts.

Further, it will identify whether there are links between our ability to actively calculate another’s mental state and our tendency to experience contagion from their state without being aware it is occurring.

By identifying the mechanisms underlying mental state understanding, we can better understand situations in which this can be impaired.

Entry Requirements

All candidates must be a UK resident and hold a good honours degree (2:1 and above) from a recognised higher education institution.

Please note, students applying without a Master's qualification containing a substantial Social Sciences methods component may be required to complete such a Master's beforehand. The Master's will be fully funded by the SCDTP and will be run from the University of Southampton.

You'll need to have English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5, with no component score below 6.0.

You'll need an undergraduate degree in Psychology or related discipline and experience with quantitative research methods. Depending on experience, you may be required to complete the MRes Science (1+3).

How to Apply

The first thing you will need is a University supervisor to support your SCDTP application – so you’ll need to contact the project supervisors before you submit an application.

The project will require you to discuss possible methods and research design as well as detailing how your skills, background and research interests match the project.  It is therefore very important that you discuss the project with the supervisor.

Full instructions are given on the SCDTP application form and there are different word limits depending on whether you are applying for a 1+3 (ie Masters in Social Research Methods plus PhD) or +3 (PhD only).

You will need to submit an online application to the University of Portsmouth plus an application for funding to the SCDTP. For more details, visit the SCDTP website.

Please note, to be considered for this project, please quote project code PSYC5200120 when applying.