PhD Studentship: Exploring the Role of Similarity in Self-regulation Style in Empathy, Pro-social Behaviour and Perceived Support

University of Roehampton - Department of Psychology

The Department of Psychology will fund two studentships for key research projects in 2018.  Successful candidates will engage in full time PhD study from January 2018 and integrate into the life of the Department, working with academic colleagues and students. 

Project Title

Exploring the role of similarity in self-regulation style in empathy, pro-social behaviour and perceived support.

The Bursary:

Funding is available for UK/EU and International* students at Home/EU rates for three years full-time study. The Bursary includes tuition waiver for PhD and annual stipend at £16,296 (rates as at 2016/17).   *(see end note)

The Project

In many types of social relationships people find it easier to empathise with some people rather than others. This project will explore whether a similarity in people’s self-regulation style is a factor in this.

Self-regulation in terms of a so-called regulatory focus relates to a) concerns people have, b) whether they are sensitive to gains or losses, and c) how they react to events. People with a promotion focus are concerned with ideals and accomplishments, are sensitive to gains, and display dejection after negative events. In contrast, people with a prevention focus are concerned with safety and responsibilities, are sensitive to losses, and display agitation after negative event. When two individual share the same predominant focus, this is called interpersonal regulatory fit, which often has positive effects (e.g., feeling valued, motivational benefits).

The project will examine:

1) If people feel more empathy with another who is distressed when they share the same self-regulatory style as that person?

2) Do people in distress perceive themselves to be more supported when they feel that they share the same self-regulatory style as their helper?  

Responsibilities include:

  • To manage several experimental studies and potentially a longitudinal and/or a field study.
  • To write their PhD thesis for publication in peer reviewed journals.
  • To disseminate their research in the scientific community.

Supervisory team

Dr Karl-Andrew Woltin. Prof. Kai Sassenberg (External Supervisor), Dr John Rae (Director of Studies).

Further informal queries applicants may contact Dr Karl-Andrew Woltin (


The Applicant should have a Master’s degree in Psychology (or equivalent, such as substantive experience as a Research Assistant) and demonstrate excellent statistical, critical thinking, and writing skills. The Applicant should be motivated to pursue a career in research and be able to work independently and to deadlines.

The application process.

To apply, please email the following to with RPS Psychology Studentship AND the first three words of the project title in the subject heading.

1) A copy of your CV, including copies of your academic qualifications.

2) A cover letter stating the reasons you are applying and outlining your expertise and relevant skills. Please also address, in two paragraphs, why you are interested in this specific research project and which research methods you would use to conduct the research.

3) A completed Application Form for PhD Study (RDB1) downloadable at

4) Note that references are to be submitted by your referees separately to this email address, by the deadline.

Application closing date: 12 midday, Friday 3 November 2017

Interviews to be held: November 2017

Start date for post:  6th January 2018

Prospective students should visit for details on funding and how to apply.

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