Research Fellow, Department of Psychology

Egham, United kingdom
£40,608 per annum - including London Allowance
10 May 2023
End of advertisement period
06 Jun 2023
Academic Discipline
Social Sciences, Psychology
Contract Type
Fixed Term
Full Time

Location: Egham
Salary: £40,608 per annum - including London Allowance
Post Type: Full Time
Closing Date: 23.59 hours BST on Tuesday 06 June 2023
Reference: 0423-195

Full-Time, Fixed Term (24 months)

Applications are invited for the post of Research Fellow in the Department of Psychology, to work with Prof. Ryan McKay, Dr. Nick Furl and Dr. Robert Ross on a project entitled “Collective Delusions: Social Identity and Scientific Misbeliefs”.

The project: While there is an overwhelming scientific consensus that vaccines are beneficial, that genetically modified foods are safe, and that the earth is warming due to human activity, large segments of the general population report believing the opposite. Pervasive unscientific beliefs – “collective delusions” – can have catastrophic personal and public consequences. Widespread claims that COVID-19 is a hoax and that vaccines have harmful side effects, along with the proliferation of scepticism over anthropogenic climate change, undermine people’s intentions to vaccinate, to self-isolate, or to reduce their carbon footprint, precipitating or exacerbating public health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic and environmental disasters such as the current climate emergency.

Meanwhile, in the political realm, many commentators have warned of a recent global trend of intensifying polarisation. Severe polarization is a major threat to democracies worldwide, with pernicious effects both on essential democratic institutions and on societies as a whole. An especially worrying manifestation of polarisation involves polarisation not only over values and preferences, but over beliefs about facts themselves – beliefs that should answer only to the empirical evidence. For instance, Republicans and Democrats in the USA disagree about the legitimacy of Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 US presidential election, while Remainers and Brexiteers in the UK disagree about the economic benefits of leaving the European Union.

At present we lack a detailed understanding of the depth and dynamics of these disagreements. Do partisans really disagree about fundamental facts, or are they playing to the gallery, expressing their social identities? This project aims to understand the cognitive and neural mechanisms that mediate identity-protective cognition, and to uncover the extent to which “collective delusions” reflect distortions in sincere belief as opposed to superficial “expressive responses”.

The project comprises a series of studies that have been designed in general terms. The role of the Research Fellow is to finalise the protocol with the project team (above) and to assist with implementing the studies approved in the grant application. This will entail preparing materials, programming experimental treatments, recruiting and testing participants, analysing data, and contributing to writing up the results. There may also be scope for designing and running additional studies.

The successful candidate will possess as many as possible of the following:

  1. PhD (or near completion of) in relevant subject area (e.g., psychology, political science, experimental economics, cognitive neuroscience), with a focus on belief formation or a related field;
  2. Experience of running human subjects in psychology studies ;
  3. Experience with conducting and analysing studies with cognitive neuroscience methodologies, e.g., fMRI or TMS;
  4. Experience running online studies;
  5. Strong statistical skills;
  6. Experience/expertise with machine learning and/or computational modelling of behaviour.
  7. Experience in using key statistical and/or stimulus presentation software, e.g., Python, R and/or MATLAB;
  8. Experience with fMRI analysis software (e.g., SPM, AFNI, FSL, etc);
  9. Experience with constructing research funding proposals;
  10. Demonstrated enthusiasm for open science research practices;
  11. Ability to keep accurate records, strong communication skills, experience with interacting with research users and with researchers from related disciplines, and ability to work independently under regular supervision as well as within a team setting.

In return we offer a highly competitive rewards and benefits package including:

  • Generous annual leave entitlement 
  • Training and Development opportunities
  • Pension Scheme with generous employer contribution 
  • Various schemes including Cycle to Work, Season Ticket Loans and help with the cost of Eyesight testing. 
  • Free parking 

The post is based in Egham, Surrey, where the College is situated in a beautiful, leafy campus near to Windsor Great Park and within commuting distance from London. Meetings with the team will take place at Royal Holloway. It is expected that the successful candidate will work on campus.

For an informal discussion about the post, please contact Professor Ryan McKay on

For queries on the application process the Human Resources Department can be contacted by email at:

Please quote the reference: 0423-195

Closing Date: 23:59, 6 June 2023

Interview Date:16 June 2023

Further details: Job Description & Person Specification    

The university has adopted hybrid working for some roles therefore some remote working may be possible for this role.

Royal Holloway is committed to equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI), and encourages applications from all people regardless of age, disability, gender, marital status, parental status, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation, or trans status or history. More information on our structures and initiatives around EDI, including information on staff diversity networks, can be found on our Equality and Diversity Intranet page.