PhD project

Early emotions and concepts about nature arising from play in outdoor settings

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Application deadline

30 June 2023

A connection between a child’s early language development and the learning environment is well established. What is less clear is the manner in which specific environments affect the linguistic skills of young children with resulting effects on their emotional and conceptual growth.

Of particular interest in this project will be the effects on language development of interaction with the natural world via outdoor play. It is envisaged that the project would compare the effects of play in outdoor settings with other types of play activities in the early years. The focus of interest will be determined through discussion with the student but possible topics of interest would include: emotional expression, environmental empathy, anthropomorphism, green vs. built outdoor environments, and scientific or spatial thinking about the natural world.

This is a highly interdisciplinary PhD project and so we invite applications from strong and motivated candidates with backgrounds in a relevant subject, such as Psychology, Education, Linguistics, Speech & Language Therapy or another related discipline.


There is no funding attached to this project. The successful applicant will be expected to provide the funding for tuition fees and living expenses, via external sponsorship or self-funding.

How to apply

  1. Email Dr Lynne Duncan ( to:
    • send a copy of your CV
    • discuss your potential application and any practicalities (e.g. suitable start date).
  2. After discussion with Dr Duncan, you can apply via our direct application system. 


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