Funded PhD Opportunity To examine perceptions and associations of shock food labelling and to assess the impact on consumer behaviour: A quasi-experimental approach

This opportunity is now closed.

Subject: Business and Management Studies


Proactive advertising is a well-researched area, and academic discussion on shock advertising has mostly involved a disparaging viewpoint (Sandıkcı, 2011). This belief has however, stemmed from literature around non-food commodities.

The proposed project will fulfil the need to produce impactful research to test consumer emotional response to advertised foods, high in saturated fat, sugar and salt (will shock advertising impact on decision making process; to buy or consume?). One method which may be introduced to ascertain an individual’s reaction and attitude to advertising, is to measure emotional response. Emotions are a relevant way to understand response to advertising, more recently promoting  emphasis on the nuances within positive and negative emotions (Laros & Steenkamp, 2005).

This proposed study will examine the impact of shock advertising on consumer food choices using the temporal analysis method and ‘psychophysiological’ eye tracking technology. Previous studies on authentic consumer perceptions to food advertising have been dependent on indirect feedback and often subjective reporting on how advertising may predict  future buying behaviour and consumption of specific food categories.

The aim of this study is to showcase an area of limited research using technology to report truer and more objective findings which may then be trialled through working in partnership with multi-national food companies as well as local SMEs and food micro entrepreneurs in Northern Ireland.

Involvement of the food industry, will offer a greater sense of meaning and relevance to the research, with the potential to improve consumer eating habits by educating through stealth. The Food and Consumer Testing Suite (FACTS) will be used to collect the initial data; then food companies will, in partnership with the researcher, trial shock labelling tactics with the sample. While shock advertisements create awareness about the brands they promote, their long-term effectiveness is not known.

To what extent increased brand awareness influences recall, attitudes, purchase intentions, and brand image merits empirical investigation. Given the increasing popularity of notions such as “corporate citizenship” (Maignan and Ferrell 2001) or “citizen brands” (Willmott 2001), it is considered that the proposed research will generate inquiry into the potential of shock food advertising as a marketing instrument and a vehicle of public communication.

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)
  • Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal
  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement
  • Research proposal of 2000 words detailing aims, objectives, milestones and methodology of the project

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.

  • Masters at 65%


    Vice Chancellors Research Scholarships (VCRS)

    The scholarships will cover tuition fees and a maintenance award of £15,009 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 £15,009 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

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Key Dates

Submission Deadline
Monday 18 February 2019
Interview Date
week commencing 11 March 2019

Contact Supervisor

Dr Amy Burns

Other Supervisors

Apply online

Visit and quote reference number #344843 when applying for this PhD opportunity