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Extending social perception theories to advertising context

School of Psychology and Sport Science

Cambridge United Kingdom Data Analysis Gender Studies Health Informatics Marketing Communication & Media Studies Psychology Social Work Statistics

About the Project

Research Group: Centre for Societies and Groups

Proposed supervisory team: Dr Magdalena Zawisza ()

Dr Daragh McDermott ()

Summary of the research project

This project aims to systematically test a proposed theoretical extension of social perception theories to advertising context (Zawisza & Pittard, 2015, Zawisza, 2016).

Social perception models posit that brands may be perceived as humans (Wojciszke & Abele, 2008; aka the Big Two, Abele & Bruckmüller, 2011). The transference of social perception models over emotions and then behaviours (Cuddy, et al., 2008) makes them promising for predicting consumer behaviour. However, while the models have been applied, though only formally, to the perception of brands (Kervyn et al., 2012) its predictive value for purchase intent in advertising context is limited (Zawisza & Pittard, 2015, Zawisza, 2016).

The PhD project will focus on testing and extending the current social perception models and their applicability to advertising context. The thesis may focus on representation of any social group in advertising (be it gender, race, country of origin, etc.), any product, service or brand categories and any channel of communication (e.g. print media, social media, the Internet) or persuasive communication types (including social advertising focused on attitude change). It will test the utility of social dimensions in determining advertising success.

The project will examine the proposed extension empirically through the use of quantitative experimental research methods. Study 1 will preselect appropriate advertising stimuli. A series of experiments will then follow to test the performance of these stimuli as a function of moderating and mediating variables potentially affecting the resultant purchase intent. These could be various product categories, consumer characteristics, cultures and different types of services.

The aim of the project is to produce impactful practical recommendations for marketing practitioners and advertising standards agencies alike. It may form part of a bigger collaborative project run by Dr Zawisza at Cambridge. Equipment and software such as online experimental testing platforms enabling use of Social Media will be available at ARU.

Interested candidates should come with background in social sciences, marketing and/or advertising, experience in running quantitative research projects (i.e. experiments) and conducting advanced statistical analyses. Interest in experimental social psychology is essential and in consumer psychology desirable.

Where you’ll study:

Cambridge -


This project is self-funded.

Details of studentships for which funding is available are selected by a competitive process and are advertised on our jobs website as they become available:

Next steps

If you wish to be considered for this project, you will need to apply for our Psychology PhD ( In the section of the application form entitled ’Outline research proposal’, please quote the above title and reference number.

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