Funded PhD Project (UK students only)

Project code



Department of Psychology

Start dates

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).

The supervisors are Prof. Aldert Vrij (Social Psychology, UoP), Dr Zarah Vernham (Forensic Psychology, UoP) and Prof. Galit Nahari (Criminology, Bar Ilan University, Israel). 

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 and the International Centre for Research in Forensic Psychology.

The work on this project could involve:

  • Detecting sham marriages (marriages purely for the purpose of gaining advantages associated with the married status) when interviewing alleged romantic couples together. 
  • Examining whether interventions that exploit the difference in richness in joint memories between genuine and fictitious couples could further facilitate lie detection.
  • Collaboration between the University of Portsmouth (Prof. Aldert Vrij- Social Psychology, Dr. Zarah Vernham-Forensic Psychology) and Bar Ilan University, Israel (Prof. Galit Nahari-Criminology)

Security services across the world attempt to detect sham marriages. Collective interviewing (interviewing a couple together) has shown potential to detect deception in such settings, with genuine couples communicating differently with each other than fictitious couples.

The key assumption of this project is that genuine couples have richer joint memories than fictitious couples, which investigators could exploit through specific interventions.

In a series of experiments, we will test interventions that we expect fictitious couples will find harder to address than true couples, resulting in responses that are less rich in quality than the responses from genuine couples. 

Entry requirements

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.

English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.


The student will design the experiments with us and will be responsible for running the experiments, coding the transcripts using existing coding protocols, analysing the data, and reporting the findings. The student should be competent in designing experimental studies and in both multivariate data analysis and qualitative methods of data analysis. The student should have good writing skills and good interpersonal skills for engaging wit participants and communicating with other PhD students and end-users.

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).  

Please note: 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.

When applying to the University, please quote project code: PSYC4920120

This site uses cookies. Click here to view our cookie policy message.

Accept and close