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Social Sensing and Nudging for Behavioural Change

   Cardiff School of Computer Science & Informatics

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  Dr L Turner, Dr Emily Collins  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Digital ‘detoxing’ and management of screen time has become a rising societal trend as the smartphone has become more pervasive and embedded in nearly all aspects of daily life. However, this has largely concentrated on self-management and research has largely focused on the behaviours, causes, and consequences of usage from the perspective of individuals, irrespective of social environments. In reality, we live and interact with our devices in a complex social world. For example, standing alone on a train platform during a commute and attending a dinner table with friends can have different explicit or implicit social norms which may influence, or be influenced by, device usage.

The overarching goals of this project are to a) determine the empirical capability of using the smartphone to detect device usage amongst social situations and b) what role it can have in influencing usage behaviour implicitly or explicitly (e.g. nudges).   The project will build upon existing research surrounding the smartphone’s contextual sensing and information delivery capabilities (e.g., interruptibility prediction), but expand this to examine the effects of social context on device use by repurposing on-board sensors and implicit software mechanisms in a similar manner to COVID-19 contact tracing apps.

Aims and Methods:

The initial direction for will involve undertaking a literature review. Alongside this, feasibility tests will be undertaken establish the technical capability of developing an experiment platform for sensing device usage and delivering nudges. This will be followed by dedicated empirical studies and subsequent data analysis using appropriate statical and machine learning techniques.


The outcomes of this research intends to help inform the design of intelligent interruption systems.

Keywords: Human-computer interaction, human-centred computing, contextual sensing, behaviour change, social computing, ubiquitous computing.

Academic criteria: A 2:1 Honours undergraduate degree or a master's degree, in computing or a related subject.  Applicants with appropriate professional experience are also considered. Degree-level mathematics (or equivalent) is required for research in some project areas.

Applicants for whom English is not their first language must demonstrate proficiency by obtaining an IELTS score of at least 6.5 overall, with a minimum of 6.0 in each skills component.

This project is open to students worldwide.

How to apply: This project is accepting applications all year round, however, if you are interested in applying for a PhD Scholarship, please visit our website to find out more about the Scholarships application deadline. 

Apply online: 

For more information about this project, please contact Dr Liam Turner [Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes

This project is for Self-Funded Students.
Please note that a PhD Scholarship is available for entry 2021/22. If you are interested in applying for a PhD Scholarship, please follow the instructions available on our website:
In the Funding field of your application, insert "I am applying for 2021 PhD Scholarship" and specify the project title and supervisor of this project in the fields provided.

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