The Bloomsbury Colleges | PhD Studentships | Studentships 2011 | Mechanisms of social influence in typical development and autism
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Mechanisms Of Social Influence In Typical Development And Autism

Lead Supervisor: Dr Liz Pellicano (IoE)

Co-Supervisor: Dr Geoff Bird (Bbk)

The Centre for Research in Autism and Education, the Department of Psychology and Human Development at the Institute of Education, London, and the Department of Psychological Sciences, Birkbeck College, are pleased to offer a full scholarship for a 3-year Bloomsbury Colleges collaborative PhD.

The successful PhD candidate will investigate the psychology of social susceptibility in childhood and early adolescence and in autism.

Despite the importance of social influence in all areas of cognition and its unargued relevance to shaping children's learning in the classroom, very little is known about how the susceptibility to social influence develops in childhood or how it might be attenuated in atypical development, as in the case of autism.

This PhD project will integrate methods from developmental and social psychology to (1) identify the mechanism(s) underpinning social susceptibility during childhood and early adolescence, and (2) to establish whether such mechanisms are atypical in children and young people with an autism spectrum condition. To address these questions, the candidate will develop novel or modified experimental tasks and will administer these tasks to typical children of a wide age range (4 - 16 years) and to children with autism.

The Institute of Education is both the largest and the leading research and teaching institution in education theory and practice in the UK. In the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) it was ranked as the top education department/institute in the UK. Birkbeck's Department of Psychological Sciences ranked 5th in the recent RAE results for Psychology departments in the UK. 

Graduates in experimental psychology or related subjects with a good first degree, or Masters degree are encouraged to apply.  The student will receive excellent training in the design and implementation of rigorous experimental studies, which will also be both child-friendly and developmentally sensitive. This training will therefore be interdisciplinary in nature, combining developmental and educational psychology with experimental social psychological methods, and will ensure a thorough grounding in how basic science can be realised in a more real-world context.

Key References:

  1. Beilock, S. L., Gunderson, E. A., Ramirez, G., & Levine, S. C. (2010). Female teachers’ math anxiety affects girls’ math achievement. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107, 1860-1863.
  2. Leighton, J., Bird, G., Orsini, C. & Heyes, C.M. (2010) Social attitudes modulate automatic imitation. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46, 905-910.
  3. Zajonc, R. B. (1965). Social facilitation. Science, 149, 269-274.

Further details about the project may be obtained from:

Lead Supervisor: Dr Liz Pellicano,,

Co-Supervisor: Dr Geoff Bird,,

Further information about PhDs at the Institute of Education is available from:

Application forms and details about how to apply are available from:

Further guidance can be obtained by emailing:

Please indicate in your request and on the application form the studentship for which you wish to be considered: BCPhD: Pellicano.

Candidates must supply a CV, full transcripts of their qualifications and the following:

  1. a statement of no more than 500 words indicating what skills and academic and professional experience you can bring to this project and why you consider you would be the best person to undertake this research.  If possible, this should include evidence of your knowledge of the relevant literature in the field.
  2. a piece of your academic writing which may be from your previous degree studies or an academic publication for which you were responsible. This should show your skills of critical analysis and your clarity, focus and fluency in the organisation and presentation of your arguments. 

Shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview in late March/early April.

When applying, please indicate where you found out about this studentship (please state the publication title/ web address).

Closing date for applications: This studentship is now closed.