A blog about the social impact of AI
6 December 2019
Emma Engström
Pontus Strimling

PhD student position in psychology – Investigating the psychological and social processes that influence the diffusion of AI in society

We are planning to advertise a PhD student position in psychology in collaboration with the Department of Psychology at Stockholm University in the spring of 2020. More details will be announced later.

The Department of Psychology is a large and creative workplace with education in psychology at all levels, from the first to the third cycle. Over 1000 students take part in our various courses and programs, including the psychologist program, the psychotherapist program, specialist education, master’s programs, a PhD program and more. The Stockholm University Psychology Clinic is our own psychotherapy reception with different specializations. We also host successful research in a variety of fields, and our researchers belong to one of our six research divisions.

Project description

Social and ethical impacts of any technology presuppose its diffusion. The overall aim of this PhD-project is therefore to contribute to develop a methodological framework for predicting the diffusion of consumer AI in different demographics within the coming decade. This will help us better understand the mechanisms that are determinant for diffusion, and to predict the spread of a set of selected AI technologies. AI-applications that are likely to spread particularly slowly/fast will be identified, and, for chosen AI-applications, the social and ethical impacts will then be evaluated.

The goal of the project is not to make predictions with great precision, but rather to use a scientific approach to articulate the key underlying mechanisms of AI diffusion, and to draw attention to important areas for intervention.

When you apply you should write a project plan that fits with this topic. For example, this plan may include research hypotheses, suggested experiments and/or surveys that will help us investigate the psychological processes that govern the adoption and spread of consumer AI in society. Previous experiences of AI research are not necessary.

The student will be part of a research team at the Institute for Futures Studies in central Stockholm. Read more about this research at AI Futures, the team’s blog about the social impact of AI.

For further information, contact Dr. Pontus Strimling pontus.strimling@su.se.

The WASP-HS Program

This PhD position is part of the Wallenberg AI, Autonomous Systems and Software Program on Humanities and Society (WASP-HS). WASP-HS aims to realize excellent research and develop competence on the consequences and challenges of artificial intelligence and autonomous systems for the individual person and society. This 10-year program is initiated and generously funded by the Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation (MMW) with 660 million SEK. In addition to this, the program receives support from collaborating industry and from participating universities.

WASP-HS includes an extensive national graduate school with up to 70 doctoral students, the creation of least ten new research groups across Sweden, support for twelve visiting professors to strengthen Swedish research and networking activities, and a number of research projects. For more information about the research and other activities conducted within WASP-HS, please visit http://wasp-hs.org/

The WASP-HS graduate school provides foundations, perspectives, and state-of-the-art knowledge in the different disciplines taught by leading researchers in the field. Through an ambitious program with research visits, partner universities, and visiting lecturers, the graduate school actively supports forming a strong multi-disciplinary and international professional network between PhD students, researchers, and practitioners in the field. It thus provides added value on top of the existing PhD programs at the partner universities, providing unique opportunities for students who are dedicated to achieving international research excellence with societal relevance.

Qualification requirement

In order to meet the general entry requirements, the applicant must have completed a second-cycle degree, completed courses equivalent to at least 240 higher education credits, of which 60 credits must be in the second cycle, or have otherwise acquired equivalent knowledge in Sweden or elsewhere.

In order to meet the specific entry requirements, the general syllabus for doctoral studies in the field of psychology stipulates that applicants must have completed at least 90 first-cycle or second-cycle higher education credits in Psychology, have otherwise acquired equivalent knowledge in Sweden or elsewhere. Those studies should include a thesis corresponding to a minimum of 15 credits.

The qualification requirements must be met by the deadline for applications.

Other desirable qualifications include experience in quantitative study design and data collection, survey methodology, statistical analysis, and project management.

We encourage applications from candidates with a keen interest in technology diffusion, big data and interdisciplinary research.


A review committee will assess the candidate’s ability to successfully complete the PhD program. Criteria used in the review process are the candidate’s research plan, which should be included in the application, a previous paper/publication, and other relevant educational and professional merits.

Admission Regulations for Doctoral Studies at Stockholm University are available at: www.su.se/rules and regulations.

Terms of employment

Only a person who will be or has already been admitted to a third-cycle program may be appointed to a doctoral studentship.

The term of the initial contract may not exceed one year. The employment may be extended for a maximum of two years at a time. However, the total period of employment may not exceed the equivalent of four years of full-time study.

Doctoral students should primarily devote themselves to their own education, but may engage in teaching, research, and administration corresponding to a maximum of 20 % of a full-time position.

Please note that admission decisions cannot be appealed.

Stockholm University strives to be a workplace free from discrimination and with equal opportunities for all.


For further information about the project position, please contact the project leader pontus.strimling@su.se

For general information about the Department of Psychology or the PhD program, please contact the Director of studies for the PhD program, Fredrik Jönsson, telephone: +46 8 16 38 76, fredrik.jonsson@psychology.su.se


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