Exploring the limits of adverse effects of misinformation on memory


   Department of Psychology

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  Dr Hartmut Blank, Dr A Harvey, Dr Stefana Juncu  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Applications are invited for a fully-funded three-year PhD to commence in October 2024.

The PhD will be based in the Department of Psychology (Faculty of Science & Health), and will be supervised by Dr Hartmut Blank, Dr Alistair Harvey and Dr Stefana Juncu. 

Candidates applying for this project may be eligible to compete for one of a small number of bursaries available. Successful applicants will receive a bursary to cover tuition fees for three years and a stipend in line with the UKRI rate (£18,622 for 2023/24). Bursary recipients will also receive a contribution of £1,500 per year towards consumables, conference, project or training costs.

Costs for student visa and immigration health surcharge are not covered by this bursary. For further guidance and advice visit our international and EU students ‘Visa FAQs’ page.  

The work on this project will:

  • Explore ways of counteracting adverse effects of misinformation on memory and beliefs
  • Explore the natural limits of such effects (“you can’t fool all of the people all of the time”; attributed to Abraham Lincoln)
  • Involve experimental work and analyses of misinformation in social media
  • Involve presenting your work at international conferences and in journal articles

Project description

Misinformation has been recognised as a problem since at least the 17th century (“The Kingdomes Weekly Intelligencer: Sent abroad to prevent mis-information”; 1648), but more recently Josef Goebbels, Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and others have developed it into a (dark) art form. In psychology, misinformation influence has been studied both with respect to (1) the effects on (eyewitness) memory (e.g., Elizabeth Loftus’ seminal work) and with respect to (2) the difficulty of correcting misinformation about news events and other facts once introduced (e.g., work by Stephan Lewandowsky, Ulrich Ecker and others). 

This project explores limits of misinformation effects on memory and beliefs, drawing on previous work on warnings about misinformation (e.g., Blank & Launay, 2014; JARMAC) and the detection of discrepancies/contradictions (e.g., Blank et al., 2022; JARMAC; Higham et al., 2017, JEP:Applied). The key idea is that there may be natural limits to the effects of misinformation (along the famous dictum, attributed to Abraham Lincoln, that “you cannot fool all of the people all of the time”). This will involve studying the following features and processes:

Self-contradictory misinformation: misinformation relative to original details may contradict itself (e.g., claims that a getaway car was a Porsche vs. a Tesla when it was a Jaguar in the original event). 

Discrepancy detection: more misinformation will lead to people noticing more discrepancies between their own memory and socially provided misinformation – but at which point can this induce skepticism and resistance towards misinformation?

Misinformation credibility: the perceived credibility of a (mis-)information source is essential for shifting beliefs (and memories) about issues – but where are the limits in the misinformation context?

Social media echo chambers: how does the consistency and social reinforcement (vs. inconsistence and social contradiction) of misinformation contribute to its effect, and how may such reinforcement effects be undermined?  

General admissions criteria

You'll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum upper second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

Specific candidate requirements

Intellectual curiosity and a good background in cognitive AND social psychology; familiarity with social media and technical competence in handling and analysing social media contents will help, too.

How to Apply

If you have any project-specific questions please contact Dr Hartmut Blank ([Email Address Removed]), quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, please use our online application form. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV. Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process.

If you want to be considered for this funded PhD opportunity you must quote project code PSYC8490124 when applying. Please note that email applications are not accepted.


Psychology (31)

Funding Notes

Candidates applying for this project may be eligible to compete for one of a small number of bursaries available. Successful applicants will receive a bursary to cover tuition fees for three years and a stipend in line with the UKRI rate (£18,622 for 2023/24). Bursary recipients will also receive a contribution of £1,500 per year towards consumables, conference, project or training costs.
Costs for student visa and immigration health surcharge are not covered by this bursary. For further guidance and advice visit our international and EU students ‘Visa FAQs’ page.

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