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FYI. Fully funded PhD studentship (UK): Big business and body image


Big business and body image: Exploring the opportunities, benefits, and challenges of engaging businesses in the promotion of positive body image

This is an exciting cross-disciplinary opportunity for a fully-funded UWE Bristol PhD studentship in the areas of psychology and business at the world-renowned Centre for Appearance Research.

The successful applicant will be supervised by Dr Phillippa Diedrichs (Centre for Appearance Research, Psychology), Dr Emma Halliwell (Centre for Appearance Research, Psychology), and Dr Fiona Spotswood (Centre for Behaviour Change and Influence and Bristol Business School).  An external advisor from the business sector with expertise in purpose-led business strategy and brand development will also form part of supervisory team.

Closing date for applications is Monday 27 June. 

About the studentship

Body image is recognised by governments and policy-makers as an important public health issue. Typically in mainstream psychology, body image researchers have focused on interventions to address this at the individual-level.  There is a paucity of research on strategies to change the macro-level factors repeatedly identified as key contributors to this pernicious health and social issue (e.g., the over-representation of idealised, objectified, airbrushed women and men in advertising; poor regulation of weight loss product marketing).

To date, brands and businesses have been seen by researchers and psychologists as part of the problem, rather than part of the solution. But what if the might of global business, its operations and its advertising, could form part of the solution? What if, instead, it could be harnessed to promotepositive body image? And what if this was on a global scale?

In our increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world, businesses will play an important role in addressing some of the biggest challenges facing psychology and public health. Concomitantly, there is increasing demand for businesses to be more accountable to society. It is no longer enough to satisfy business stakeholders. Businesses are under pressure to bring social value. Consequently, businesses are investing considerably in corporate responsibility agendas and social purpose-driven practices. There is emerging evidence that businesses are more successful because of this, and that researchers and health promotion interventions can benefit from their expertise, interest, and investment.

This PhD will answer the timely question arising from these developments. How can body image researchers and advocates leverage this trend to engage businesses in supporting and improving the effectiveness and scale of efforts to promote positive body image?

Using a mixed research methodology, this PhD will:

  • Shine light on the opportunities, benefits, and challenges of leveraging businesses to promote positive body image, to support and deliver body image interventions and advocacy initiatives, and to measure their impact at scale.
  • Look to past and present examples of social and public health issues that have engaged businesses (e.g., e-cigarettes, tobacco, alcohol, hand washing) and the broader social marketing literature to determine what lessons can be applied to strategically advance and upscale the promotion of positive body image in society at individual and macro-levels.
  • Engage with body image researchers, advocates, and health professionals to understand their experiences and appetite for engaging with business to promote positive body image.

To facilitate learning, the student will take an active role in shaping the PhD in collaboration with the supervisory team. This will also allow the PhD to accommodate and respond to the fast-moving landscape of businesses and marketing.

The student will be based at the Centre for Appearance Research at UWE, a vibrant research and learning environment.

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