PhD Opportunity – World-Leading St Andrews Scholarship in Health Psychology 2021 entry

World-Leading St Andrews Scholarship in Health Psychology 2021 entry

The University of St Andrews is pleased to offer a full scholarship funded by St Leonard’s Postgraduate College, to support an exceptional student undertaking doctoral research in the following project:

Plastic People: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Behaviour Change for Reducing Plastic Waste


Project description

Research into public attitudes, experience of, and knowledge about plastics and microplastics are at its initial stages. Little research has encompassed theories of behaviour and risk perception, yet human ‘behaviour’ is one of the key factors influencing plastic waste. Relevant behaviours span our purchasing decisions regarding single-use plastics, how we discard, reuse, or recycle these, choices around alternative reusable products, and how we engage with policymakers to eliminate plastic waste.

Museums, as trusted agents in society, can play a significant role in reaching the public in innovative ways and acting as ‘catalysts for change’. A study on U.S. attitudes to climate change showed almost 75% trusted museums in relation to global warming – more than they trusted science television. Through storytelling and creating spaces for dialogue, museums engage audiences with complex issues – and as social spaces they could catalyse commitments to action. However, there is little research into whether and how public trust in museums can be used to prompt action, and even less examining whether reported intentions (during a museum visit) translate into longer-term behaviour change.

This novel inter-disciplinary project brings together behavioural science, conservation science, and museum practice and visitor studies. This doctoral studentship will develop a series of studies to answer the fundamental research question: What is the best way of engaging public of all ages to spur action on their behaviour to reduce plastic waste? To achieve this urgent goal, we will use theories from health psychology.  The COM-B system of behaviour identifies Capability, Opportunity, and Motivation as the drivers of behaviour. The student will engage members of public in a cycle of knowledge generation-development of message-evaluation using Research Studio at the Wardlaw Museum. The student will develop studies using methods such as survey and interviews to identify key factors in behaviour change, and risk communication principles for the development of displays/ programmes in Museum spaces.  Evaluation of outcomes will capture attitude/ knowledge change but will extend to include behaviour change and engagement with local policy and legislation change.

The student will be supervised by Dr Gozde Ozakinci (School of Medicine), Professor Sascha Hooker (School of Biology), and Dr Katie Eagleton (University Museums).

Informal enquiries regarding this scholarship may be addressed to Dr Gozde Ozakinci – email

Full details on the the funding available and how to apply can be found on the University scholarships webpage