Studentship opportunity

Using language to promote sustainable food choices

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 production of animal-based foods has a significant, negative impact on the environment, and shifting diets toward more plant-based foods is crucial to reduce the environmental impact of food production. How can mainstream consumers be encouraged to consume more plant-based foods? More specifically, how can language be used to shift consumption toward more sustainable diets? That is the central question of this collaborative project with the World Resources Institute (WRI), an international not-for-profit think-tank that uses research to influence government policy and industry strategy to sustain the world’s natural resources.

To answer this question, we propose to first identify the principles through which existing language increases desire for plant-based dishes, and then test and apply these principles in a series of experiments. Based on the grounded cognition theory of desire (Papies & Barsalou, 2015; Papies et al., 2017), we suggest that food language increases desire if it triggers rewarding simulations of eating the food (i.e., spontaneous re-experiences of eating and enjoying a food through taste, texture, etc.). In other words, food labels that trigger consumption and reward simulations will increase desire over labels simply listing ingredients or labels emphasising health. We will examine existing labels for plant-based foods and assess whether the number of consumption and reward simulation words is associated with participants’ buying intentions. Then, we will conduct experiments to test whether simulation-inducing labels for plant-based foods increase desire compared to control labels and health labels.

Our research will provide clear, actionable insights into how language can be used to create desire for plant-based foods. Our collaboration with the WRI will ensure that these insights reach key stakeholders to create change at the industry level.

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 sustainable behaviour. • 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