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Exploring the theoretical and clinical implications of eczema: Interpersonal aversion and emotion recognition

   Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

  ,  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Common skin conditions, such as acne, psoriasis and atopic eczema (AE), carry a large psychosocial burden for the affected individual. A common misconception is that they are contagious diseases (Halioua et al., 2015). In this project we focus on the skin condition, AE. 

Recent work has shown that, as visible AE increases, there is a significant decrease in the amount of direct and social contact people would like with the viewed person (Lander et al., 2021). People may feel that visible eczema is linked to a potential threat of disease-causing pathogens (Green-Armytage et al., 2019). Individuals who are sensitive to disgust and/or show high levels of health anxiety may particularly aim to avoid potential disease-causing situations (Curtis et al., 2011). Further work is needed to explore the extent and possible predictors of stigmatizing attitudes and establish the psychological impact of eczema on interpersonal aversion.  

Previous research on psoriasis patients (Kleyn et al. date) has suggested that they may have an altered emotional processing of disgust. In this project we will also explore emotional expression recognition (using dynamic emotion recognition tasks) by people with clinical (and mild atopic) eczema and healthy-matched controls. We will investigate whether people with eczema are impaired at the recognition and processing of disgust (or other emotions) and, if so, whether this is mediated by symptom severity, longevity and treatment.

This work will help identify the theoretical and clinical implications of eczema. These data will be important to future work of how and when to intervene with eczema treatment to prevent development of serious psychosocial sequelae.


In this project we aim to (1) enhance our theoretical understanding of the perception of people with AE and (2) consider the implications on emotion recognition for people with AE and (3) provide an assessment of clinical considerations when making treatment decisions.

1.     Candidates are expected to hold, or obtain, a minimum upper second class undergraduate degree (or equivalent) in psychology, cognitive neuroscience, clinical neuroscience, clinical psychology, neuroscience, or another related discipline. A Masters degree in a relevant subject would be an advantage.

2.     For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website ( Informal enquiries may be made directly to the primary supervisor. On the online application form select the PhD title.

3.     For international students we also offer a unique 4 year PhD programme that gives you the opportunity to undertake an accredited Teaching Certificate whilst carrying out an independent research project across a range of biological, medical and health sciences. For more information please visit

Funding Notes

Applications are invited from self-funded students. This project has a Band 1 fee. Details of our different fee bands can be found on our website (View Website).
Equality, diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester, and is at the heart of all of our activities. The full Equality, diversity and inclusion statement can be found on the website View Website


Green-Armytage, M., Simonds, L.M., John, M. & Woodger, N. (2019). Depictions of acne and psoriasis influences interpersonal aversion. Psychology, Health and Medicine, 1, 94-100.
Halioua, B., Sid-Mohand, D., Roussel, M. E., Maury-le-Breton, A., De Fontaubert, A., & Stalder, J. F. (2016). Extent of misconceptions, negative prejudices and discriminatory behaviour to psoriasis patients in France. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, 30, 650–654.
Kleyn CE, McKie S, Ross AR, et al. (2009). Diminished neural and cognitive responses to facial expressions of disgust in patients with psoriasis: a functional magnetic resonance imaging study. Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 129, 2613-2619
Lander, K., Harris, C., Al Attar, A., & Kleyn, E. (2021). Eczema and interpersonal avoidance. European Society for Dermatology and Psychiatry, presentation.

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