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The psychology of digital threat: What factors make people more trusting and more vulnerable online? (FAC17/PSY/BRIGGS)

   Faculty of Health and Life Sciences

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  Prof P Briggs  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

With the rise of digital communication, it becomes harder to know (i) who has access to our personal information, (ii) whether we can trust the information we receive and (iii) whether or not a relationship is real. Both offline and online relationships are based on trust, but many people are willing to exploit this trust relationship in the digital world and psychologists need a better understanding of these processes. As people of all ages go online, they open themselves up to different kinds of cyber-attack – either as part of a process of over-disclosing perhaps as a result of deliberate psychological manipulation designed to trick people into disclosing sensitive information or more inadvertently by simply not taking the right precautions. This cyber problem space draws upon principles from social psychology, consumer psychology, psychometrics and behaviour change.

This student will work with psychologists on the EPSRC funded cSALSA project (cyber security across the life-span) to identify some of the ways in which people become vulnerable online and to explore some of those psychological consequences. The Northumbria team will be working with people across the lifespan (children, working adults, older adults) and the successful student can choose to focus on a particular age group. We are interested in what kinds of peer learning goes on across social networks that might make people more trusting and vulnerable online. We will be using both qualitative and quantitative approaches throughout the project and so the student is able to make a proposal based on their own methodological strengths. The aim is to gain greater insight into the factors that inform people’s judgement of the risks they face when communicating online.

This project will be supervised by Professor Pam Briggs, and located within the Department of Psychology, in the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences.

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 (evidence required by 1 August 2017).

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

Please ensure you quote the advert reference above on your application form.
Start Date: 2 October 2017

Northumbria University is an equal opportunities provider and in welcoming applications for studentships from all sectors of the community we strongly encourage applications from women and under-represented groups.

Funding Notes

The studentship includes a full stipend, paid for three years at RCUK rates (for 2017/18, this is £14,553 pa) and fees (Home/EU £4,350).


Coventry, Lynne, Jeske, Debora, Blythe, John, Turland, James and Briggs, Pamela (2016) Personality and Social Framing in Privacy Decision-Making: A Study on Cookie Acceptance. Frontiers in Psychology, 7 (1341). ISSN 1664-1078

Thomas, L., & Briggs, P. (2016). Assessing the value of brief automated biographies. Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, 20(1), 37-49.

Thomas, L., & Briggs, P. (2016). Reminiscence through the Lens of Social Media. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 870.

Jeske, D., Briggs, P. & Coventry, L. (2016). Exploring the relationship between impulsivity and decision-making on mobile devices. Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, 20: 545-557.

Jeske, D., McNeill, A., Coventry, L., Briggs, P. (2016). Security Information Sharing via Twitter: “Heartbleed” as a Case Study. International Journal of Web Based Communities, 12(4), ePub.

McNeill, A., Harris, P. R., & Briggs, P. (2016). Twitter Influence on UK Vaccination and Antiviral Uptake during the 2009 H1N1 Pandemic. Frontiers in Public Health, 4.