PhD Studentship: Pro-environmental Actions: Public Perceptions and Rationales

University of Sussex - School of Psychology

PhD studentship available for September 2018

Supervisors:  Dr Paul Sparks (University of Sussex) and Dr Tom Farsides (University of Sussex)

People often carry out individual pro-environmental / green actions that can have minimal pro-environmental impact. Impact may even be miniscule when such actions are repeated by an individual many times over. At a collective level, the combined effects of many individuals’ actions may be considerably greater ... but may still be imperceptible at a global level. The key research question for this programme of research is: What rationales do people provide for participating in such actions that are ostensibly carried out for pro-environmental reasons (in light of the often imperceptible impact of those actions)? The research commences with an assessment of the ways in which people construe the notion of pro-environmental action. A number of core inter-related research questions will be addressed. For example, under what conditions do people overestimate the effects of their actions? Under what conditions do people act in terms of deontological – or other, heuristic  - rules rather than utility-based calculations? Under what conditions are there clashes between affective processes and cognitive judgements when people make such decisions? In a systematic programme of research, this PhD studentship will make use of a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods to address these – and cognate - issues. The target outcome is an improved understanding of people’s motivation in the face of decisions to act pro-environmentally, or otherwise.

Applications should be made by Sunday 21st January 2018

  • Studentship awards will be based on a competitive process, including interview. There are two types of awards available: +3 studentships, which fund a three-year full-time PhD, and 1+3 studentships, which fund a one-year Master’s degree followed by a three-year full-time PhD. Full-time studentship covering tuition fee, and a maintenance allowance (currently £14,553 per annum).
  • The competitive awards are funded by the School of Psychology (+3, eligibility: Home or EU residency); the ESRC (1+3 or +3, eligibility at South-East Network for Social Sciences (SeNSS); or the Chancellor’s International Research Scholarship (+3, eligibility at Chancellor's International Research Scholarship (2018).
  • Candidates must have, or expect to obtain, a First or a high Upper Second Class Honours undergraduate degree, or equivalent qualification, and/or a Master's degree in Psychology or a related discipline.

Guidance for applicants:

  • Application procedures can be found here.
  • Please submit your application online for the ‘PhD in Psychology’ programme for September 2018 through this link
  • In the ‘Supervisor suggested by applicant’ section of your application form, please put name of supervisor
  • In the ‘Proposed source of funding’ as School of Psychology and/or SeNSS, or CIRS).

Candidates should provide:

  • A research proposal that outlines your knowledge of the research area, hypotheses that could be addressed in your PhD, 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.
  • 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 Dr Paul Sparks via email:

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