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Funded PhD Opportunity

The malleability of prejudice

Subject: Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience



Prejudice and prejudice reduction has been a key focus of social psychological research for many years. However, recent advances in the field of implicit cognition have changed the way we conceptualise and measure prejudice and will also have a dramatic impact on the means by which we attempt to change and reduce prejudiced attitudes. There is a considerable body of research that has illustrated that while many people’s explicit or conscious attitudes towards social groups are unbiased, they frequently show implicit, unconscious bias in favour of their ingroups or towards the socially dominant groups in society (Devine, 1989; Rudman, Greenwald, Mellott & Schwarts, 1999; Dasgupta, McGhee, Dasgupta, 2004). More importantly, this implicit bias has a subtle but powerful impact on behaviour with many studies demonstrating that implicit attitudes may lead people to act in prejudiced behaviours without their conscious awareness that that are doing so (Goldin & Rouse, 2000). These implicit biases are thought to be automatically activated through situational cues and motivational processes (Banaji & Dasgupta, 1998; Greenwald & Banaji, 1999). Once activated, they are very difficult to prevent or obstruct and are very likely to impact on our subsequent beliefs and behaviours (Dasgupta, 2013). While it was once believed that implicit attitudes were relatively static, stable and resistant to change (Bargh, 1999; Devine, 1989), emerging research suggests that implicit attitudes are malleable and change in a context specific way (Dasgupta, 2013). This is supported by research suggesting that implicit prejudice held towards members of disadvantaged groups can be reduced simply by altering the local environment that individuals occupy (Dasgupta & Greenwald, 2001; Dasgupta & Rivera, 2008). This has serious implications for the development of prejudice reduction interventions which work on the assumption that individuals must be aware of their bias (Banaji, 2001) and consciously work to change their perceptions of disadvantaged social groups (Devine, Monteith, Zuwerink & Elliot, 1991).

The proposed research will seek to develop our knowledge of use of implicit measures in the study of prejudice, to re-evaluate the utility of existing interventions and to further explore how implicit attitudes can instrumental in the reduction of prejudice.

Methods that will be used: This research will employ a range of implicit and explicit measures and will comprise of predominantly laboratory based studies.

Objectives of the research: To explore how our knowledge of implicit cognition can be harnessed to reduce prejudice.

Skills required of the applicant: Successful applicants will be trained in the use of key implicit measures. This position would suit candidates with an interest in experimental social psychology.

Essential criteria

  • Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC)

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • First Class Honours (1st) Degree
  • Masters at 70%
  • Research project completion within taught Masters degree or MRES
  • Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain
  • Publications record appropriate to career stage


    Vice Chancellors Research Scholarships (VCRS)

    The scholarships will cover tuition fees and a maintenance award of £14,777 per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). Applications are invited from UK, European Union and overseas students.


    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £ 14,777 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fees component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided).  For Non EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK.

Other information

The Doctoral College at Ulster University


Completing the MRes provided me with a lot of different skills, particularly in research methods and lab skills.

Michelle Clements Clements - MRes - Life and Health Sciences

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Key dates

Submission deadline
Monday 19 February 2018

Interview Date
week commencing 12th March 2018

Contact supervisor

Dr Claire Campbell

Other supervisors


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