Leverhulme Trust funded PhD studentship in Psychology- “The cognitive basis of perspective-taking and prosocial behaviour in adolescents.”

Applications are invited for a 3-year PhD studentship with Professor Heather Ferguson and Dr Lindsey Cameron in the School of Psychology at the University of Kent, funded by the Leverhulme Trust. The studentship commences in October 2023.


This studentship is suitable for applicants who have or will have a Master’s degree or equivalent at merit or distinction level in Psychology or another relevant subject area by October 2023.

The studentship award covers your tuition fees at the Home rate (£4,596 per annum in 2022-23) and additionally provides you with a stipend (£17,668 per annum in 2022-23) for maintenance. Additional support for research costs will be provided either by the Leverhulme Trust grant or the School of Psychology.

Research Project

The studentship, starting in October 2023, will be part of the Leverhulme Trust-funded grant project titled, “The cognitive basis of perspective-taking and prosocial behaviour in adolescents.”

The overall project aims to investigate the degree to which differences in the ability to take other peoples’ perspectives (i.e. consider their viewpoint or mental states) influence prosocial attitudes and behaviour (e.g. empathy and prejudice reduction) among early adolescents (11-15 years old). We aim to identify the socio-cognitive mechanisms that underlie these abilities, and examine how these social and cognitive behaviours change over time and are influenced by peer relations (and vice-versa). Thus, a good understanding of these topics and experience of conducting research with children are highly desirable.

The successful candidate will join the team in the second year of the project, and will focus on testing the causal relationships between perspective-taking, prosociality, and socio-cognitive mechanisms by developing training protocols for early adolescents, based on the working memory and inhibition training protocols that have been successfully used in adults. Prof Ferguson and Dr Cameron will work closely with the student to shape the specific studies in the PhD in a way that meets the projects goals as well as matches the student’s research interests.

Studies in the project will use a mixture of behavioural and eye-tracking methods alongside a battery of tasks to measure different sub-components of prosocial attitudes, behaviour and understanding, as well as measures perspective-taking, socio-cognitive abilities, and social networks. It is expected that the successful candidate will have a strong background of conducting high-quality empirical research, with experience of using R to conduct statistical analyses (e.g. ANOVAs and linear mixed effects models).

The student will be part of the Cognitive and Developmental Psychology research groups within the School of Psychology located on the Canterbury campus of the University of Kent. For more information, see the School’s website.


The competition is open to applicants of all student fee paying statuses; however, this studentship guarantees coverage of fees at the Home rate only. This means that EU and International students may be required to make up the difference in fees.

Please note that current Kent PhD students are not eligible for this award.

How to apply

All completed applications received by 23:59 (UK time) on 10 March 2023 will be considered.

Completed applications must comprise all of the following:

  • Submission of a KentVision application for a Psychology PhD place in the School of Psychology at the University of Kent including:
    • A transcript of degree undergraduate and postgraduate marks to date and certificate, if available, in pdf format.
    • The names and email addresses of two academic referees. References must also be received by 10 March 2023. Please leave a suitable amount of time for your referees to respond to the reference request which is sent automatically upon submission of the PhD application in KentVision.
    • A current CV in pdf format.
  • Submission of a 1-2 page covering letter which explains why you should be considered for the Leverhulme Trust-funded Psychology PhD Studentship. In this letter, please include your research interests and how you think the data being generated by this project could be useful in pursuing them. This should be sent directly to hssadmissions@kent.ac.uk and should include the KentVision application ID number. If you have any specific questions about the scholarship, please write to Professor Heather Ferguson.

Please note that the PhD application form in KentVision includes fields and word count guidelines that are not specific to consideration for this competition so please ensure that you follow the procedures listed above. In fields such as ‘Reasons for study’ and ‘Research proposal’ you are welcome to write ‘See Application for Leverhulme Trust-funded Psychology PhD Studentship’.

Deadline for completed applications (including references) is 10 March 2023. The shortlisting process will start on 11 March 2023 and interviews will be held in the week commencing 27 April 2023. Unfortunately, we are unable to cover travel costs but will arrange Zoom/Teams interviews where appropriate.