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It’s not what you see, but what it means to you: Changing perceptions of the environment to impact sedentary behaviour in children (ref: SF20/SER/LING)

Faculty of Health and Life Sciences

About the Project

In the UK, 3 in 5 children are insufficiently physically active, spending on average 6 hours a day engaging in sedentary activities. Negative health consequences accumulated from time spent sedentary can only be partially offset by time spent in physical activities. It is thus crucial that sedentary time is minimised from a young age.
Many home and school-based activities (e.g., writing, reading, using a computer) involuntarily call for sedentariness, as environmental factors (e.g., layout of the room, furniture availability) implicitly influence how one carries out an activity due to their associative purpose (e.g., a chair by the desk means one must sit-down). While the purpose of environmental factors is relatively less modifiable, altering our perception and associative cues within the environment might present a more promising opportunity to impact behaviour change. Therefore, the main aim of this PhD project is to examine how environmental factors are perceived and may contribute to sedentary behaviour in young children. The goal is to understand how we can modify our perception of the environment so that it does not prompt sedentary behaviour, which would in turn reduce sedentary time. Using a multi-disciplinary mixed-method approach, this project will involve co-creation with a youth population and laboratory-/field-based studies.
The successful candidate will be supervised by Dr Fiona Ling and Dr Gavin Tempest from the Department of Sport, Exercise & Rehabilitation and Dr Ayşe Özbil Torun from the Department of Architecture & Built Environment. Interested applicants would ideally have a background in psychology, cognitive science, architecture and/or any other related subject and an interest in physical activity/sedentary behaviour research. Experience in psychological testing, running statistical analyses and scientific writing is preferred. Experience working with children would be an advantage.

Eligibility and How to Apply:
Please note eligibility requirement:
• Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
• Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g., SF20/…) will not be considered.
Deadline for applications: Open
Start Date: October 2020 or March 2021
Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds an Athena SWAN Bronze award in recognition of our commitment to improving employment practices for the advancement of gender equality.

Enquiries to Dr Fiona Ling ()

Funding Notes

Please note, this is a self-funded project and does not include tuition fees or stipend; the studentship is available to Students Worldwide. Fee bands are available at View Website . A relevant fee band will be discussed at interview based on project running costs


1. Carlin, A., Perchoux, C., Ling, F.C.M. et al. (2017). A life course examination of the physical environmental determinants of physical activity behaviour: A “Determinants of Diet and Physical Activity” (DEDIPAC) umbrella systematic literature review. PLoS One, 12(8), e0182083.

2. De Craemer, M., Chastin, S., Ling, F.C.M. et al. (2018). Data on determinants are needed to curb the sedentary epidemic in Europe. Lessons learnt from the DEDIPAC European Knowledge Hub. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15, 1406. doi:10.3390/ijerph15071406

3. Ozbil Torun, A., Gocer, K., Yesiltepe D., & Gorsev, A. (2020). Understanding the role of urban form in explaining transportation and recreational walking among children in a logistic GWR model: A spatial analysis in Istanbul, Turkey. Journal of Transport Geography, 82.

4. Yeşiltepe, D., A Özbil, (2015). “The effects of perceived and objective measures of home-environment on transportation and recreational walking among children”, 10th International Space Syntax Symposium, (ed.) Kayvan Karimi, Laura Vaughan, Kerstin Sailer, Garyfalia Palaiologou, Tom Bolton, 087:1-15, London, 13-17 July.

5. Tempest, G.D., Radel, R. (2019). Put on your (fNIRS) thinking cap: Frontopolar activation during augmented state creativity. Behavioral Brain Research, 373, 112082.

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