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Establishing whether stereotypes are maintained through cumulative cultural evolution.

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  • Full or part time
    Dr D Martin
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

This project will establish whether social stereotypes are maintained through cumulative cultural evolution by extending our recent discovery that stereotypes form and evolve as social information is repeatedly passed from person to person. In the UK, it is illegal to discriminate against people based on the social group to which they belong yet there is abundant evidence that people routinely face employment discrimination based on their gender, ethnicity, age, and whether or not they have a disability. Research suggests the origins of this discrimination often stems from cultural stereotypes (e.g., women are stereotypically warm and caring whilst men are stereotypically analytical and assertive). When people endorse cultural stereotypes it can lead to overt prejudice; however, even when people’s beliefs lead them to refute these stereotypes the mere knowledge of their content can lead to unconscious bias in thoughts and behaviour. Given the influence they exert on us as individuals and on society, it is imperative we determine how and why the content of cultural stereotypes remains so apparently impervious to social and societal change.

Our lab recently demonstrated that novel stereotype-like structure spontaneously forms and evolves when social information is repeatedly passed from person to person ( This project will adapt our recently developed diffusion chain methodology to determine whether cultural stereotypes are maintained via cumulative cultural evolution. Specifically, the project will involve designing and running behavioural experiments to establish how information changes over time as it is repeatedly socially transmitted. All relevant programming and statistics training will be provided throughout the duration of the project.

The ideal candidate will be someone who is interested in answering fundamental social psychological questions from a social cognition perspective and who is intelligent, inquisitive, diligent, and who can thrive working within a team environment.

Candidates should have (or expect to achieve) a Master’s level degree and the equivalent of a First Class Honours degree in a relevant subject. Applicants with a minimum of a 2.1 Honours degree may be considered provided they have a Distinction at the Masters level. Additional research experience would be an advantage. Applications must be made through the University of Aberdeen applicant portal: Applications must include: 1) An on-line form completed through the applicant portal. 2) A project proposal, maximum 1500 words (excluding references), describing the background, aims, and suggestions for 2-3 studies to address the aims. Applicants can liaise with the supervisor when developing their proposal. 3) Two academic references – please attach the references to the application or include full referee contact details. 4) A CV outlining your academic qualifications and research experience to date. 5) an academic transcript and 6) if relevant, a copy of your English language proficiency certificate.

Funding Notes

“his project is part of a competition funded by the Elphinstone Scholarship Scheme. Successful applicants will be awarded full tuition fees (UK/EU/International) for the duration of a three year PhD programme. Please note that this award does not include a stipend.


Martin, D., Hutchison, J., Slessor, G., Urquhart, J., Cunningham, S.J., & Smith, K. (2014). The spontaneous formation of stereotypes via cumulative cultural evolution. Psychological Science, 25, 1777-1786, doi:10.1177/0956797614541129

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FTE Category A staff submitted: 20.60

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