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EASP – European Association of Social Psychology

PhD Position on Gullibility and Misinformation in a Consumer Context

22.05.2021, by Tina Keil

University of Groningen, The Netherlands
Application deadline: June 6th, 2021

Logo: University of Groningen, RUG
Logo: University of Groningen, RUG

Project description

In this project we aim to address what is arguably one of the most pressing issues of our time: when and why we are more or less gullible (easily duped, cheated or persuaded) in the face of false or deceitful claims.

We will deal with questions such as: how easily do we fall prey to deceptive advertising, fake news, and misinformation on alleged hypes, (geo)political issues, or health threats? Under which conditions will this gullibility persist and when will it convert into vigilance and scepticism?

Previous research on the issue has yielded mixed and sometimes conflicting results: On the one hand, cases of consumer deception, the acceptance rates of Trump’s false statements (Swire et al., 2017), or the online diffusion of misinformation about the recent COVID-outbreak (e.g., Pennycook et al., 2020) paint a dark picture. On the other hand, consumers sometimes do act vigilantly, turning on their radar to discern fact from fiction and truth from deception (Mercier, 2017). Our key objective is to reconcile these mixed findings by developing and testing a new model that can predict when and why consumers are more, and when they are less gullible and how they can defend themselves effectively against deception and misinformation. Hence, the results of this project may also aid in the development of effective interventions that may empower consumers to discern the (online and offline) lie from the truth and to ward-off unwanted persuasive attacks.

The project is situated at the interface of psychology and marketing and will be supervised by prof. Bob Fennis (Dept. of Marketing, RUG), and dr. Kai Epstude (Dept. of Social Psychology, RUG) and embedded in SOM’s research programme marketing. Moreover, Within the project, you will have the opportunity to work with and visit two of the internationally most renowned scholars in the field of attitudes and persuasion, prof. Richard Petty (Ohio State University), and prof. Dolores Albarracin (University of Illinois). The project is funded by an NWO SSH Open Competition grant awarded to prof. Fennis and hosted by the Dept. of Marketing.


We are looking for a talented and motivated PhD candidate with a curious mind, who is able to transform ideas into action and is interested in connecting insights from consumer and social psychology in order to address an issue that is highly relevant. More specifically, given the background of the project we are looking for candidates with:

  • a Master’s degree (preferably obtained in a research master program) in social psychology, consumer psychology, health psychology, cognitive psychology, neuroscience, or an equivalent program
  • passion for theory-driven research and a demonstrable interest in the topic of the project
  • an interest in recent developments in the area of research replicability and open science
  • knowledge about and an interest in social media
  • strong analytical and writing skills
  • excellent English proficiency
  • experience with experimental research and analyses using PROCESS (Hayes, 2018) is an advantage.


Since its foundation in 1614, the University of Groningen has enjoyed an international reputation as a dynamic and innovative center of higher education offering high-quality teaching and research. Belonging to the best research universities of Europe and joining forces with prestigious partner universities and networks, the University of Groningen is truly an international place of knowledge.

Faculty of Economics and Business
The Faculty of Economics and Business offers an inspiring study and working environment for students and employees. International accreditation enables the Faculty to assess performance against the highest international standards. It also creates an exciting environment of continuous improvement. FEB's programmes, academic staff and research do well on various excellence ranking lists.

SOM, the graduate school and research institute of the Faculty of Economics and Business is looking for a highly motivated candidate for the following 4-year PhD position on the NWO SSH Open Competition funded project: “How Gullible Are We? When Do Consumers Fall Prey to Deceptive Advertising, Fake News and Misinformation?”.

Conditions of employment

We offer you in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities:

  • a gross monthly starting salary of € 2,395, which increases yearly to a maximum of € 3,061 gross per month
  • a holiday allowance of 8% gross annual income and an 8.3% end-of-the-year allowance in December
  • a temporary full-time appointment for a period of four years, under the condition of a positive assessment at the end of the first year.

Starting date: preferably 1 September 2021


The application package consists of the following separate documents:

  1. a motivation letter (2 A4 max) including a short paragraph (300 words max) with initial ideas about the project (in case of a second round we will ask for a more elaborated proposal
  2. your cv
  3. a transcripts of grades and if already available a scan of your diploma
  4. If available, proof of English proficiency
  5. other relevant documents.

You can submit your application until 6 June 11:59pm / before 7 June 2021 Dutch local time (CET) by means of the application form (click on "Apply" below on the advertisement on the university website). See