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Contextual behavioural science and health behaviour change: Developing effective techniques for smoking cessation

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  • Full or part time
    Prof Nick Hulbert-Williams
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

Certain health behaviours, such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, remain problematic at both the individual and population level, despite years of health promotion work by governmental and non-governmental agencies. These health behaviours not only lead to substantially increased risk of illnesses but also poor responses to treatment for ill-health and excess costs to the healthcare service. Risk information is often insufficient to change health behavior. Current psychological models of health behavior, taking into account numerous psychological variables, can predict future health behavior to some degree, but repeatedly fail to inform reliable behaviour change interventions.

Contextual behavioural science (CBS), and in particular Acceptance and Commitment Training, offers an alternative conceptualization of human behavior. It has been argued that such models better explain the maintenance of such behaviours. A small, but growing evidence is beginning to build applying CBS behavior change techniques to health behaviours.

This PhD will focus on smoking behavior and will explore CBS informed interventions for smoking cessation. A core element of the work will be to further develop existing behavior change techniques to optimize their efficacy, and to develop briefer, more cost effective interventions that could potentially be integrated into existing smoking cessation services. Given the areas of expertise within our research unit, we will accept applications from students who wish to explore this topic in either the general population, or in people who are/have been treated for cancer.

Due to the aims of this project we do not anticipate that this project will be suitable for those wishing to undertake a PhD using qualitative methods. This work will instead appeal to a student who wishes to build on an existing interest in quantitative and experimental psychological science. There will be scope to become trained to deliver Acceptance and Commitment Training as a paraprofessional coach.

Studying at Chester

As a postgraduate research student at the University of Chester, you will benefit from being part of one of the fastest-growing Graduate Schools in the UK. The University has almost 500 students studying towards a research degree, each of whom benefit from our excellent library and learning resources, including a dedicated postgraduate study space and regular programme of skills development workshops. Your work will be supervised by a team of experts in your specialist area of study, in addition to our faculty postgraduate tutor. The primary supervisor for this project is Prof Nick Hulbert-Williams ([Email Address Removed]); prospective applicants are very welcome to contact Prof Hulbert-Williams in advance of making an application to discuss this project in more depth.

Based within the Department of Psychology, you will also have access to our suite of research laboratories and a host of specialist equipment for your data collection, supported by a small team of psychology technicians. Our department supports an enthusiastic and active research community of which you will be part. This includes our monthly research seminar series, public lectures, and regular meetings of our research groups and journal clubs. For this particular project, you will join our Contextual Behavioural Science Research Lab, one of three work streams within the Chester Research Unit for the Psychology of Health (CRUPH).

You will be allocated a generous development fund to support your data collection and conference attendance. We are not able to provide any other financial support for your studies. This advertisement is for self-funded study only and you will be required at the point of application stage to detail how you will pay your fees (see You are encouraged to have a sensible plan in place for payment of your living expenses whilst you undertake this work.

General enquiries about PhD study in our department can be made by contacting Dr Sam Roberts ([Email Address Removed]).

How to apply

Applications should be made via our online application system ( please make it clear in your application which specific project you are applying for. The deadline for applications is Wednesday 31st August 2016, and we anticipate that interviews will take place in September.

Funding Notes

This advertisement is for a self-funded phd applicant only.

How good is research at University of Chester in Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 13.40

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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