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Crowdsourcing Social Support: Using Virtual Reality to Examine the Effects of Self-Disclosure on Psychological Outcomes (Ref: SF20/PSY/BROWN)

Faculty of Health and Life Sciences

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Dr G Brown Applications accepted all year round Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Current social media technologies allow individuals unprecedented possibilities for sharing information about themselves to large groups, expanding connections and opportunities for social support, thus potentially improving mental health, but the Centre for Mental Health has stated that much remains unknown about how posting on social media influences young people’s well-being. Previous research into self-disclosure (sharing information about one’s self online or face-to-face) has largely investigated face-to-face pair relationships, where intimate self-disclosures lead to positive emotional and relationship outcomes. Recent studies on social media, where disclosures are made to large networks, seem to show similar effects, but only for certain people. Positive personal and relationship outcomes vary by self-esteem. Individuals with high self-esteem benefit from broad self-disclosure while those with low self-esteem are harmed by it. Thus, individual differences in vulnerability to psychological disorders like loneliness and depression may alter the benefits of self-disclosure on social media. The current project will provide impactful answers by using an innovative method, virtual reality social situations, to examine how self-disclosure influences individuals’ relationships and psychological health. Virtual reality will be used to simulate self-disclosure to large groups of people that would be difficult to recruit in face-to-face situations.
The PhD has two main objectives: First, to create an original virtual reality environment, which will also be a useful methodological tool for other researchers. Second, to conduct rigorous, controlled, laboratory experiments using this novel virtual reality environment to research what types of disclosure are most beneficial for different types of individuals and how group size may influence this association.
This project will significantly improve our understanding of how self-disclosure on social media affects well-being.

Eligibility and How to Apply:
Please note eligibility requirement:
• Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
• Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g., SF20/…) will not be considered.
Deadline for applications: Open
Start Date: October 2020 or March 2021

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds an Athena SWAN Bronze award in recognition of our commitment to improving employment practices for the advancement of gender equality.

Please direct enquiries to Dr Genavee Brown ([Email Address Removed])

Funding Notes

Please note, this is a self-funded project and does not include tuition fees or stipend; the studentship is available to Students Worldwide. Fee bands are available at . A relevant fee band will be discussed at interview based on project running costs.


Manago, A. M., Brown, G., Lawley, K. A., & Anderson, G. (2019). Adolescents’ Daily Face-to-Face and Computer-Mediated Communication: Associations with Autonomy and Closeness to Parents and Friends. Developmental Psychology. Advance online publication.

Brown, G. & Michinov, N. (2017). Cultural differences in garnering social capital on Facebook: French people prefer close ties and Americans prefer distant ties. Journal of Intercultural Communication Research, 46 (6), 579-593.

Brown, G., Michinov, N., & Manago, A. M. (2017). Private message me s’il vous plait: Preferences for personal and masspersonal communications on Facebook among American and French students. Computers in Human Behavior, 70, 143-152).

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