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Modelling the effect of empathy and emotion on strategies in two-player games

This project is no longer listed on and may not be available.

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  • Full or part time
    Prof R Hoyle
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

This project involves mathematical modelling of experimental psychology data in order to explore the role of emotional states in the development of cooperation strategies in two-player social dilemma games. A social dilemma arises when an individual’s selfish interest diverges from that of the social group of which they are a part and on which they rely. A social dilemma game, such as the famous Prisoner’s Dilemma, is a mathematical construct in economic game theory that aims to model social dilemmas. Social dilemma games can also literally be played as games, for example in psychology experiments that aim to discover how people really behave when presented with these stylised dilemmas. We aim to shed light on why people are typically more cooperative when playing such games than would be expected on purely rational grounds by investigating how the communication of emotional states between players might influence their behaviour. The PhD student on this project will analyse data from social dilemma game experiments where players receive facial feedback that gives an impression of their opponent’s emotional state. There may be also be the opportunity to help run additional experiments. The student will further use the data and insight from the experiments to construct mathematical models of the evolution of player strategies in response to emotional feedback.

Applicants should have a first class degree in mathematics or a related discipline with a large quantitative component such as physics or statistics. An interest in psychology is essential and previous study of it will be an advantage. The project will be co-supervised between the Departments of Mathematical Sciences and Psychology and so applicants must have strong interest in and motivation for interdisciplinary research. The ability to communicate effectively across discipline boundaries is essential.

We are advertising this position only until it is filled and will consider applications as soon as we receive them.

Funding Notes

Prospective candidates are required to apply for this studentship by applying for the MPhil/PhD in Mathematics using the University of Southampton on-line application system. A copy of the on-line application form and guidance notes can be found at the following website:

The studentship will cover tuition fees and stipend for UK/EU applicants. Partial funding may be available for overseas applicants


Supervisor link to their website:

Related Subjects

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FTE Category A staff submitted: 54.80

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