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Investigating the Placebo Effect in Children

School of Applied Sciences

About the Project

Why does rubbing a child’s knee after they fall over make it feel better? We know the placebo effect can play a significant role in alleviating pain in adults, but what about children? This PhD would investigate the placebo effect in children, exploring a range of questions, such as:

 Is the placebo effect larger in children?
 How does cognitive development in general (for example, meta-cognition) influence the placebo effect?
 Are the mechanisms underlying the placebo effect different in adults and children?

This research will provide novel insights into the link between perceived effects of placebos and underlying cognitive processes across development.

Academic qualifications
A first degree (at least a 2.1) ideally in psychology with a good fundamental knowledge of cognition and quantitative research methods.

English language requirement
IELTS score must be at least 6.5 (with not less than 6.0 in each of the four components). Other, equivalent qualifications will be accepted. Full details of the University’s policy are available online.

Essential attributes:
 Experience of fundamental quantitative research processes
 Competent in research planning, execution, and reporting
 Knowledge of psychology research ethics and methods, and quantitative data analysis using appropriate software (e.g., SPSS, R)
 Good written and oral communication skills
 Strong motivation, with evidence of independent research skills relevant to the project
 Good time management

Desirable attributes:
Experience of working with children A masters degree in a relevant area

Funding Notes

This is an unfunded position

Please quote project code SAS0089 in your enquiry and application.
• Completed application form
• CV
• 2 academic references, using the Postgraduate Educational Reference Form (Found on the application process page)
• A personal research statement (This should include (a) a brief description of your relevant experience and skills, (b) an indication of what you would uniquely bring to the project and (c) a statement of how this project fits with your future direction.)
• Evidence of proficiency in English (if appropriate)


Weimer, K., Gulewitsch, M. D., Schlarb, A. A., Schwille-Kiuntke, J., Klosterhalfen, S., & Enck,P. (2013). Placebo effects in children: a review. Pediatric research, 74(1), 96-102. Gniß, S., Kappesser, J., & Hermann, C. (2020). Placebo effect in children: the role ofexpectation and learning. Pain, 161(6), 1191-1201.
Kuhn, D. (2000). Metacognitive development. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 9,178-181.

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