Research Fellow

University of Birmingham - School of Psychology

Fixed term for 3 years

Full time starting salary is normally in the range £29,799 to £38,832. With potential progression once in post to £41,212 a year.

Applications are invited for an ESRC-funded post in partnership with Weight Watchers to work on a project investigating social influences on human eating behaviour directed by Professor Suzanne Higgs. The primary activities will be the design, preparation, running and reporting of eating behaviour studies. The project title is “Eating together: effects of the social context of eating on appetite”.

The project

Much progress has been made recently in identifying aspects of our current eating environment that may promote overconsumption of food. For example, some evidence suggests that the recent trend towards food products being available in large portion sizes and the omnipresence of tasty food cues in the environment may explain why some people are prone to eating even when they are not in a state of nutritional need.  However, a neglected factor in theories of the drivers of obesity is the social context in which eating occurs. While it has been established that eating in a group of friends or family can increase consumption at that meal by around 70%, there has been no investigation to date of whether this "social facilitation" of eating results in increased cumulative energy intake over time. Moreover, very little is known about why people tend to eat more when eating with others than when eating alone. The primary aim of the project is to conducting the first systematic examination of the mechanisms that underlie social facilitation of eating and assess whether these effects are compensated over time. Findings from the studies will enhance understanding external drivers of overconsumption and provide novel data on how overeating in social context may be avoided.

The Candidate

The idea candidate will have excellent organisational and communication skills, a first class undergraduate degree in psychology or a related discipline and a strong research background in experimental psychology as evidenced by a PhD. Priority will be given to candidates with expertise in designing and running eating behaviour experiments.

The School

The School of Psychology at the University of Birmingham ( is one of the largest and most successful in the UK, currently ranked in the top 5 Schools in the country (REF 2014).  The School is soon to move to new accommodation in the form of a fully refurbished, purpose-designed space and a new-build Centre for Human Brain Health that will house our new MRI, MEG, EEG, NIRS, sleep lab, and the recently appointed Chair in Translational Neuroscience. The University of Birmingham is an equal opportunities employer. The School of Psychology has a Bronze Athena SWAN award and strives to maintain a flexible and supportive environment that enables its staff to flourish

Informal enquiries to Suzanne Higgs;

Please note this post is aligned to external funding and therefore the salary on offer is up to a maximum of £29,799 only.

To download the details and submit an electronic application online please click on the Apply Online button below; please quote Job Reference in all enquiries. Alternatively information can be obtained from 0121 415 9000 or visit

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Midlands of England