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Development and individual differences in understanding and contagion of others’ affective and cognitive states


Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

Project code



Department of Psychology

Start dates

Closing date

18th June 2019 (4pm)

This is a fully-funded 3-year PhD or 4-year Master's and PhD studentship, to start in October 2019.

This PhD represents 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 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 RCUK rate).

The work will explore:

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

Understanding the mental states of other people is key to navigating a complex social world. But for some individuals, including those with developmental disorders such as autism, this can be difficult.

This research will investigate how children develop these abilities and whether the mechanisms for understanding emotions are the same as those for understanding thoughts. It will also identify any links between our ability to actively calculate someone else's mental state and our tendency to experience contagion from their state, without being aware it's happening.

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

Entry Requirements

Entry Requirements

  • You must be a UK resident and hold a good honours degree (2:1 and above) from a recognised higher education institution.
  • Please note, if you're applying without a Master's qualification containing a substantial Social Sciences methods component, you may be required to complete a relevant 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.

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

Before you apply, you'll need a University supervisor to support your SCDTP application – so please 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 4-year Master's or 3-year PhD.

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: PSYC4520119

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