Psychology: Swansea University Research Excellence Scholarships: Fully Funded PhD: The Importance of Trust and Social Norms for Public Health Decision Making (RS658)

  • DeadlineDeadline: 24 July 2024 (23:59 GMT)
  • WalesWales


Closing date: 24 July 2024 (23:59 GMT)

Funding provider: Swansea University

Subject areas: Social psychology

Project start date:

  • 1 October 2024 (Enrolment open from mid-September)


  • Dr Gabriela Jiga-Boy (School of Psychology -
  • Dr Dion Curry (School of Social Sciences)
  • External advisor- Dr Jennifer Cole (Northeastern University, USA) 

Aligned programme of study: PhD in Psychology

Mode of study: Full-time

Project description

Swansea University is pleased to offer fully-funded Swansea University Research Excellence Scholarships (SURES) for full-time doctoral students to its fifth cohort, commencing in October 2024.  

This project aims to investigate two key factors that undermine compliance with public policymaking on topics such as health (e.g., vaccinations) or sustainable behaviour (e.g., speeding restrictions, low carbon zones): 1. People’s distrust in public health officials, especially those they disagree with, and 2. people’s misperceptions of social norms (i.e., whether others like them would comply or not). Research published by our team showed that people support policies less when these are proposed by leaders they dislike or distrust (Cole et al., 2022; Flores et al., 2022); and that people agree with others that protecting health is important - yet, despite such agreement, they underestimate how much others will comply with COVID-19 restrictions (Cole et al., under review). Increasing trust in leaders and correcting misperceptions about others’ opinions can reduce polarization and achieve support for public policies. We seek to answer a range of urgent research questions, including but not limited to: Does communicating transparently about health and sustainable behaviour policies reduce polarization on such topics and increase trust in leaders? How correct are people’s perceptions of what others like them do or would do? What are the consequences of misperceived social norms on one’s individual behaviour? And can we correct misperceived norms?  

The project relies on two lines of robust research, including work developed by this team and their international collaborators. First, communicating transparently about the benefits and the risks of many public policies increases long-term trust in authorities, whereas vague, reassuring talk (akin to how many political leaders address the public) decreases trust (Kerr et al., 2022; Petersen et al., 2021). Second, people misperceive what their peers think about public health policies – a phenomenon named ‘pluralistic ignorance’ (Prentice & Miller, 1993) – and, consequently, they think the world is more polarized that it actually is (Fernbach & Van Boven, 2022; Lees & Cikara, 2020, 2021).   

We are seeking to appoint a PhD student who will develop this project using methods from experimental social psychology and political science to increase compliance with public policies by increasing trust and correcting misperceptions. Objective 1 will be to review the existent literature on trust in public leaders (e.g., politicians, policymakers, etc.) and on people’s perceptions of social norms regarding health and sustainable behaviour. Objective 2 will be to test strategies to increase the public’s trust in public leaders. Finally, Objective 3 will be to test strategies to correct misperceptions about social norms.  

Applicants should include a 500-word research proposal, setting out a sample research question (within the scope of the current project) and the methods they would use to answer this research question; this should also include a brief description of the analytic approach that would be used to analyse the data.  

For more details please see here:

Entry Requirements

Candidates must have attained, or must be expected to attain, a first-class honours degree and/or a distinction at master’s level. If you are eligible to apply for the scholarship (i.e. a student who is eligible to pay the UK rate of tuition fees) but do not hold a UK degree, you can check our comparison entry requirements (see country specific qualifications). Please note that you may need to provide evidence of your English Language proficiency. 

Candidates should have strong quantitative research skills, to include designing, conducting, and analysing data from experiments. 

  • Where applicants have multiple master’s degrees, a distinction must be held in the degree that is most relevant to the intended PhD study. 
  • If you are currently studying for a master’s level qualification with an expected award date that is later than 01/10/2024, you should hold a minimum of an upper-second-class (2:1) honours degree.   
  • You should be able to demonstrate a pass with a minimum grade average of at least 70% for your part-one master’s degree modules (the taught aspect of your master’s course rather than a research-focused dissertation) and submit your dissertation by no later than 30/09/2024.  

Applicants must be able to begin their course of study in October 2024. As a cohort-based programme, deferral to an alternative enrolment window within the academic year or to another academic year is not permissible.

Please note that both the degree and language-proficiency entry requirements for SURES are higher than the baseline standard for entry that is stipulated for most of the PhD programmes at Swansea University. 

Due to funding restrictions, this scholarship is open to applicants eligible to pay tuition fees at the UK rate only, as defined by UKCISA regulations. 

If you have any questions regarding your academic or fee eligibility based on the above, please email with the web-link to the scholarship(s) you are interested in. 


This scholarship covers the full cost of UK tuition fees and an annual stipend at £19,237.

Additional research expenses of up to £500 per year will also be available.

How To Apply

To apply, please complete your application online with the following information:

  1. Course choice – please select Psychology / PhD / Full-time / 3 Year / October

    In the event you have already applied for the above programme previously, the application system may issue a warning notice and prevent application, in this event, please email where staff will be happy to assist you in submitting your application.

  2. Start year – please select 2024
  3. Funding (page 8) –
  • ‘Are you funding your studies yourself?’ – please select No
  • ‘Name of Individual or organisation providing funds for study’ – please enter ‘RS658 - Health Decision Making'

*It is the responsibility of the applicant to list the above information accurately when applying, please note that applications received without the above information listed will not be considered for the scholarship award.

One application is required per individual Swansea University led research scholarship award; applications cannot be considered listing multiple Swansea University led research scholarship awards.

NOTE: Applicants for PhD/EngD/ProfD/EdD - to support our commitment to providing an environment free of discrimination and celebrating diversity at Swansea University you are required to complete an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Monitoring Form in addition to your programme application form.  Please click the following link to complete your EDI Monitoring Form:
Please note that completion of the EDI Monitoring Form is mandatory; your application may not progress if this information is not submitted.

As part of your online application, you MUST upload the following documents (please do not send these via email):

  • CV
  • Degree certificates and transcripts (if you are currently studying for a degree, screenshots of your grades to date are sufficient)
  • Writing sample (e.g. an essay submitted as university assignment)
  • Brief cover letter, stating suitability for the role  
  • 500-word research proposal 
  • Two references (academic or previous employer) on headed paper or using the Swansea University reference form. Please note that we are not able to accept references received citing private email accounts, e.g. Hotmail. Referees should cite their employment email address for verification of reference.
  • Evidence of meeting English Language requirement (if applicable).
  • Copy of UK resident visa (if applicable)
  • Confirmation of EDI form submission (optional) 

Informal enquiries are welcome, please contact Dr Gabriela Jiga-Boy (

*External Partner Application Data Sharing – Please note that as part of the scholarship application selection process, application data sharing may occur with external partners outside of the University, when joint/co- funding of a scholarship project is applicable.

Who is eligible to apply?

Due to funding restrictions, this scholarship is open to applicants eligible to pay tuition fees at the UK rate only, as defined by UKCISA regulations.   

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