PhD studentship: Understanding sweet liking and disliking: implications for behavioural change

University of Sussex - School of Psychology

PhD studentship available to start March 2017

Project title: Understanding sweet liking and disliking: implications for behavioural change.

Supervisor: Professor Martin Yeomans (School of Psychology, University of Sussex) and Dr John Hayes (Associate Professor, Penn State University, USA)

Humans are thought to have evolved liking for sweet tastes as a predictor of the presence of sugar. A great deal is known about sweet taste detection, and associated neural controls. However, a number of critical puzzles remain about the relationship between sweet taste and human food preferences. This project focuses on one puzzle: why are there clear individual differences in sweet preference, evidenced as the distinction between sweet likers and dislikers?  

Three critical areas will be examined:

  1. How does sweet liking and disliking alter with age? By testing sweet liking across the lifespan we can determine whether sweet disliking is evident early in life or whether it is acquired through maturation.
  2. Do laboratory measures of sweet liking predict sugar use? Few studies have explored the extent to which laboratory measures are predictive of real-life intake.
  3. Can sweet liking be modified? Observational data suggest that sweet liking changes with experience: for example, many people reduce habitual use of sugar in beverages. But how this operates and can be harnessed to promote behavioural change remains unexplored. We will examine how current models of flavour preference development can be applied to alter sweet liking. This should allow novel behavioural programmes to be developed which could be targeted at consumers whose health may be most compromised by excessive intake of sweetened products.

Applications should be made by Friday 9th December 2016. 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 fees, and a maintenance allowance, joint funded by the University of Sussex University and Industry. The maintenance allowance is currently £14,296 per annum.

Eligibility requirements for potential candidates:

  • This award will only pay fees at the Home/EU rate (
  • Candidates must have, or expect to obtain, a First or a high Upper Second Class Honours undergraduate degree in Psychology, Nutrition or a related discipline.

Guidance for applicants:

  • Application procedures can be found here.
  • Please submit an online application for the ‘PhD in Psychology’ programme through this link.
  • State in the ‘Funding information’ section of your online application that you are applying for this studentship, giving the title above and naming Martin Yeomans as ‘Supervisor suggested by applicant’.
  • The proposed source of funding should be specified as 'WSRO/Sussex funding’.

Candidates should provide:

  • A research statement that briefly outlines your 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.
  • An up-to-date CV.
  • A current degree transcript(s) with full details of performance on all completed courses.
  • Two academic references.

For queries with respect to the application process please send an email for the attention of 'Postgraduate Coordinator' to:     

To discuss the details of this PhD project further, please contact Prof Martin Yeomans (

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