Studentship opportunity

Building healthy habits through goal priming

This studentship is funded by the ESRC through the Scottish Graduate School of the Social Sciences

University of Glasgow
Mode of study

Full time / Part time

Application deadline
15th March 2019

Project details

The consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages has been shown to play an important role in the current obesity epidemic.  Most consumers, however, struggle to reduce their intake, because consuming sugary drinks is a habit that is triggered automatically by familiar situations, despite one’s intentions to change.  Although habit change is essential to achieve and maintain good health, very few tools exist to help consumers develop healthy habits in their daily lives.  In this project, we will develop a novel method to build habits to consume water instead of sugary drinks, in close collaboration with Danone Waters, one of the world’s leading bottled water companies.  We propose to build healthy water habits through highly personalised, situated health goal priming.   Specifically, we will test whether repeatedly cueing individuals with personally relevant motives to drink water in the same situation can lead to building water drinking habits.

We will first establish the motives for consuming water in a large-scale scoping study.  Then, we will use these motives in a laboratory  experiment to test whether priming  with personally relevant motives effectively triggers water choices.  Finally, we will conduct a 75-day field experiment to build healthy water habits, in which a highly tailored smartphone app will remind participants of their personally relevant motives for drinking water in critical situations.  We will log participants’ water consumption to assess whether it increases during and after the intervention, testing whether true habits have formed.  Although much previous work has shown the potential of health goal priming to promote health behaviour, the current project is unique in extending this to habits.  Building healthy habits is a key target for interventions and for the food and drink industry.  Our findings will support these efforts by providing critical insights into how goal priming can be used to build healthy consumer habits.

About the institution

This studentship is in the School of Psychology at the University of Glasgow, a world-leading, vibrant and collaborative research environment. The successful candidate will join the Healthy Cognition Laboratory run by Dr Esther K. Papies,


Applicants must meet the following eligibility criteria • A good first degree (at least 2:1), preferably with a social science component. • Demonstrate an interest in, and knowledge of social, consumer and/or health psychology, as well as health behaviour change. • Have a good grounding in experimental research methods in Psychology, excellent statistical and writing skills, good team and communication skills, and familiarity and affinity with open science practices.

Students must meet ESRC eligibility criteria. ESRC eligibility information can be found here.

Award details

The scholarship is available as a +3 or a 1+3 programme depending on prior research training. This will be assessed as part of the recruitment process. The programme will commence in October 2019. It includes • an annual maintenance grant at the RCUK rate (2018/19 rate £14,777 full-time) • fees at the standard Home rate • students can also draw on a pooled Research Training Support Grant, usually up to a maximum of £750 per year

Other information

How to apply

1.Applicants must register their interest by completing the ESRC Eligibility Checker

2.Applicants register on GradHub and fill out EO (basic demographics) data (this is a requirement of the application process)

3. Applicants complete and upload the prescribed list of required documentation to include:
• Application form
• Academic transcripts
• References
• CV
• Any other additional questions as specified by the supervising team – this should be uploaded in a standalone document with a naming                     convention as follows
4. Applicants submit application through GradHub

Selection process

Applications will be ranked by a selection panel and applicants will be notified if they have been shortlisted for interview by April 1. Interviews will take place in April. All scholarship awards are subject to candidates successfully securing admission to a PhD programme within the University of Glasgow, College of Science and Engineering. Successful scholarship applicants will be invited to apply for admission to the relevant PhD programme after they are selected for funding.

Supervisor/Contact details

Esther K. Papies