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Determinants and psychological correlates of sustained behaviour change and recovery from addiction

Department of Psychology

About the Project

Although difficult, many people who are addicted to alcohol or drugs eventually recover from their addiction, often without any formal treatment. Similarly, many heavy drinkers are able to ‘cut down’ their alcohol consumption, sometimes without help and often in response to life changes. There is some preliminary evidence that both types of recovery / behaviour change are accompanied by important psychological changes such that involve executive functions, automatic cognitive processing biases, and subjective beliefs about alcohol. These observations raise a number of additional questions, answers to which could contribute important information about the process of behaviour change and how treatments might be optimized in order to bring about those psychological changes. For example, which psychological processes (if any) play the most important causal role in behaviour change, and which arise as a consequence of behaviour change? How do addiction treatments and behaviour change interventions influence these psychological constructs, and how might those interventions need to be modified in the future? This research would involve a series of cross-sectional and longitudinal investigations of people who have yet to change their behaviour, people who are currently attempting to change, and people who have successfully changed their behaviour or recovered from addiction. It may also involve work to build on and clarify the observations from these studies, such as experimental field studies, or development and preliminary evaluation of novel interventions.

Funding Notes

Self funded or sponsored students only

NB The University has some scholarships under competition - application deadline is 29 January 2020 at 5pm. More details can be found - View Website

Start dates are October and March yearly


Copeland, A., Jones, A., & Field, M. (2020). The association between meaning in life and harmful drinking is mediated by individual differences in self-control and alcohol value, Addictive Behaviors Reports, 100258.
Field, M., Heather, N., Murphy, J. G., Stafford, T., Tucker, J. A., & Witkiewitz, K. (2020). Recovery from addiction: Behavioral economics and value-based decision making, Psychology of addictive behaviors, 34, 182-193.
Schnoll, R.A., Hitsman, B., Blazekovic, S., Veluz-Wilkins, A., Wileyto, E.P., Leone, F.T., Audrain-McGovern, J.E. (2016). Longitudinal changes in smoking abstinence symptoms and alternative reinforcers predict long term smoking cessation outcomes, Drug and Alcohol Dependence 165 (2016) 245-252.

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