Fully Funded PhD Scholarship in Psychology

University of Sheffield - Psychology

Project title: Paranoia and trust


Primary supervisor: Professor Richard Bentall

Project description:  Paranoid delusions are the most common symptom of psychosis but less severe forms of paranoid ideation and mistrust are common in everyday life and lie on a continuum with the rarer clinical forms (Elahi, Perez Algorta, Varese, McIntyre, & Bentall, 2017). Previous research has shown that attachment-threatening early life experiences (Bentall, Wickham, Shevlin, & Varese, 2012), insecure attachment styles (Wickham, Sitko, & Bentall, 2015), low self-esteem and impaired theory of mind (Bentall et al., 2009) all contribute to the risk of experiencing paranoia. Although conventional CBT strategies for addressing paranoid beliefs suggest that they are sometimes amenable to rational disputation, in clinical practice patients often report feeling paranoid despite knowing that their beliefs are ill-founded. The idea that implicit, affect-laden processes drive paranoid thinking is consistent with the observation that ordinary people make rapid, automatic judgments of trust when encountering unfamiliar faces (Todorov, Mende-Siedlecki, & Dotsch, 2013).

This research will use experimental measures to examine the role of automatic, implicit processes in mistrust and paranoid thinking, how these processes relate to early attachment experiences, and how they interact with other paranoia-related process, particularly self-esteem and theory of mind. Initial studies will be on healthy participants stratified according to paranoid traits but later studies may be with patients suffering from paranoid delusions. Depending on the second supervisor, it may be possible to include ERP methods and/or to carry out pilot studies of evaluative condition methods designed to manipulate implicit judgments (see (Baccus, Baldwin, & Packer, 2004)).

Start date: 1 October 2018

Requirements:  Applicants must have a minimum of a first class or high upper second-class undergraduate honours degree and a distinction or high merit at Masters level in psychology or a related discipline.

Funding: Tuition fees £4194 per year Living Expenses £14,500.00

Science Graduate School

As a PhD student in one of the science departments at the University of Sheffield, you'll be part of the Science Graduate School. You'll get access to training opportunities designed to support your career development by helping you gain professional skills that are essential in all areas of science. You'll be able to learn how to recognise good research and research behaviour, improve your communication abilities and experience the breadth of technologies that are used in academia, industry and many related careers. Visit www.sheffield.ac.uk/sgs to learn more.

For further details and the application process please visit:


Closing date for applications is 5pm Wednesday 24 January 2018

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Northern England