Are you applying to universities? | SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCE Are you applying to universities? | SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCE

Exploring the limits of adverse effects of misinformation

   Department of Psychology

About the Project

Applications are invited for a self-funded, 3 year full-time or 6 year part-time PhD project.

The PhD will be based in the Department of Psychology and will be supervised by Dr Hartmut Blank, Dr Alistair Harvey and Dr Stefana Juncu.

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, the effects of misinformation have been studied both with respect to (1) their effects on (eyewitness) memory in the tradition of Elizabeth Loftus’ work on the eyewitness misinformation effect and (subsequently) false memories of entire autobiographical events and with respect to (2) the difficulty of correcting misinformation about news events and other facts once introduced (involving more recent work by Stephan Lewandowsky, Ulrich Ecker and others). 

The current project aims to explore the limits of such misinformation effects on memory and beliefs, partly building on previous work on warnings about misinformation (e.g., Blank & Launay, 2014; JARMAC) and the detection of discrepancies/contradictions either within the provided misinformation or between misinformation and people’s memories of the actual facts (e.g., Blank et al., 2022; JARMAC).  The general idea is that there may be natural limits to the effects of misinformation (along the famous dictum attributed to Abraham Lincoln: “You can fool all of the people for some of the time; you can fool some people for all of the time; but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time”). This may be explored in the following ways:

  1. Mutually 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). 
  2. Discrepancy detection: more misinformation will lead to people noticing more discrepancies between (their memory of) reality and socially provided misinformation – but at which point can this induce skepticism and resistance towards misinformation?
  3. The credibility of provided misinformation: Decades of social psychological research show that the perceived credibility of a source of (mis-)information is essential for shifting beliefs (and memories) about issues – but where are the limits in the misinformation context?
  4. Conformity pressure: Misinformation often exists in social media echo chambers – how does the consistency and social reinforcement (vs. inconsistence and social contradiction) of such misinformation contribute to its effect, and how may such conformity 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 Psychology or a related area. 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; some technical competence regarding social media would help as well.

How to Apply

We’d encourage you to contact Dr Hartmut Blank () to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, please follow the 'Apply now' link on the Psychology PhD subject area page and select the link for the relevant intake. 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. 

When applying please quote project code: PSYCH5190224

Funding Notes

Self-funded PhD students only.
PhD full-time and part-time courses are eligible for the UK Government Doctoral Loan (UK students only).

Email Now

PhD saved successfully
View saved PhDs