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Durham University

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Staff Profile

Dr Emily J. Oliver, PhD., CPsychol., AFBPsS

Associate Professor, Director of Research in the Department of Sport and Exercise Sciences

Contact Dr Emily J. Oliver


Emily was appointed as a faculty member of the School of Applied Social Sciences at Durham University in January 2014. Having read a BSc. in Sport Science with Psychology, followed by an MSc. in Applied Sport and Exercise Psychology, Emily completed her PhD at Bangor University in 2010. Her doctoral thesis focused on the application of self-determination theory as a framework to understand the antecedents and effects of self-talk, in particular its role in motivated behaviour.

She was appointed as a Lecturer at Aberystwyth University in October 2009, and whilst there her work contributed to both the 'Human Performance' and 'Physical Activity in Ageing, Rehabilitation and Health' research groups within the Institute of Human Sciences. In 2012 she was selected by the International Congress of Psychology for an Emerging Psychologist Scholarship (40 world-wide), and she served as both Director of Admissions (2011-2013) and Director of Postgraduate Studies (2013-2014).

Emily is a British Psychological Society Chartered Psychologist and Associate Fellow, a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and a member of the Institute for the Psychology of Elite Performance.Her current projects focus primarily on the application of motivational principles to the design and delivery of public health interventions.

PhD Students

If you are interested in undertaking a PhD under her supervision, Emily would be delighted to hear from about your ideas and to discuss opportunities to work with you at Durham. She welcomes applications in two broad research areas. First, motivation, in particular how the psycho-social environment influences individuals to initiate and maintain health behaviours (e.g., physical activity). Second, the role of self-talk or internal dialogue in directing behaviour and skilled performance.

Current and previous doctoral students include:

Alex Hodge: The relationships between sporting relationships, attachments, and psychological health.

Ben Rigby: Evidence use and policy implementation in physical activity and public health promotion.

Mark Ogilvie: Masculinity, bisexuality, and sport.

Patrick Knaap: Young and Transgender: Transphobia, Transition, and Implications for Social Policy.

Dr Coral Hanson: The effectiveness of exercise referral schemes.

Dr Laura Thomas: The role of dynamic motivational states in behaviour and performance.

Dr Robert Morris: Youth-to-senior transitions in elite sport: exploring psychosocial models in practice.

Research Interests

Psychological factors involved in elite performance, and in the initiation and regulation of human behaviours with a focus on those that contribute to health and wellbeing (e.g., physical activity, community engagement). Research areas include motivation (specifically self-determination theory), self-talk, and leadership (ethics and motivational climates).

Selected Recent Funded Projects:

  • Lafortune, Buckner, Oliver et al. (2018). Developing Age-friendly rural communities: the contribution of local participatory planning processes. Funder: NIHR School of Public Health Research.
  • Oliver, Cramb, Wimalasekera, and Ranasinghe. (2017). Physical Activity, Rurality, and Health in Sri Lanka: Building sustainable health promotion systems. Funder: Newton Fund.
  • Hawkins, Oliver, Moore, Murphy, Simpson, Tudor-Edwards and Jago. (2015). PACERS: The use of accelorometry-based activity monitors and linked web portal to enhance long-term maintenance of Physical Activity. Funder: Health & Social Care Wales.
  • Mawn, L., Stain, H.J., Oliver, E.J., Bridle, C., Oliver, A., Bambra, C., & Torgerson, C. (2014). A systematic review of interventions targeting reengagement and wellbeing for NEET youth. Funder: Wolfson Research Institute.
  • Hudson, J., Oliver, E.J., & Cooper, A. (2013). Enhancing physical activity during acute stroke rehabilitation: The role of the psychosocial environment in behaviour change. Funder: Older People and Ageing Research and Development Network.
  • Oliver, E.J., & Roberts, C.W. (2012). Enhancing engagement in community regeneration: exploring the application of a value-oriented behaviour change technique. Funder: Richard Benjamin Trust.

Research Groups

Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Wellbeing

  • Physical Activity Special Interest Group

Research Projects

Department of Sociology

  • PACERS: The use of accelorometry-based activity monitors and linked web portal to enhance long-term maintenance of physical activity in adults
  • Promoting organisational citizenship and collegiality: The utility of an online, value-centred training programme for leadership assessment and development

Teaching Areas

  • Motivation and Behaviour Change
  • Psychology of Elite Performance
  • Public Health Interventions


Chapter in book

  • Oliver, E.J. & Roberts, C.W. (2017). Enhancing young peoples’ engagement: a case study in a regenerating local community. In Making a difference with Psychology. Niven, K., Lewis, S. & Kagan, C. London: Richard Benjamin Trust. 49-55.
  • Oliver, E.J. & Flint, S.W. (2014). A new approach to the regulation of body-image discrepancies: examining associations between self-talk and personality. In Psychology Serving Humanity: Proceedings of the 30th International Congress of Psychology. Volume 2: Western Science. Cooper, S. & Ratele, K. New York: Psychology Press. 277-286.
  • Hardy, J. & Oliver, E.J. (2014). Self-talk, positive thinking, and thought stopping. In Encyclopedia of Sport and Exercise Psychology. Eklund, R.C. & Tenenbaum, G. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage.
  • Oliver, E.J (2010). Group Cohesion in Sport. In Sport Psychology. D. Tod, J. Thatcher & R. Rachman Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Hardy, J., Oliver, E.J. & Tod, D. (2008). A Framework for the Study and Application of Self-talk within Sport. In S. D. Mellalieu & S. Hanton Routledge.

Journal Article

  • Hawkins, J., Edwards, M., Charles, J., Russell, J., Kelson, M., Morgan, K., Murphy, S., Oliver, E.J. , Simpson, S., Tudor Edwards, R. & Moore, G. (2019). Acceptability and feasibility of implementing accelorometry-based activity monitors and a linked web portal in an exercise referral scheme: A mixed-methods feasibility randomized controlled trial. Journal of Medical Internet Research 21(3): e12374.
  • Jamie, K., Oliver, E.J., Paterson, A. & Whittlesea, C. (2019). Discussing alcohol in medicines use reviews: experiences of patients in a community pharmacy context. International Journal of Pharmacy Practice 27(3): 318-321.
  • Hanson, C.L., Oliver, E.J., Dodd-Reynolds, C. & Allin, L. (2019). How do participant experiences and characteristics influence engagement in exercise referral? A qualitative longitudinal study of a scheme in Northumberland, United Kingdom. BMJ Open 9(2): e024370.
  • Flint, S.W. & Oliver, E.J. (2019). Seven-year itch: The UK Government’s difficult relationship with the food and drink industry since ‘Healthy Lives, Healthy People: A call to action on obesity in England (2011). Public Health Nutrition 22(7): 1326-1329.
  • Thomas, L.B., Hudson, J. & Oliver, E.J. (2018). Modelling motivational dynamics: demonstrating when, why, and how we self-regulate motivation. Journal of Motivation, Emotion and Personality 7: 43-56.
  • Thomas, L. B. & Oliver, E. J. (2017). Application of feedback principles to marking proformas increases student efficacy, perceived utility of feedback, and likelihood of use. Sport and Exercise Psychology Review
  • Mawn, L., Oliver, E.J., Akhtar, N., Bambra, C., Torgerson, C., Bridle, C. & Stain, H.J. (2017). Are we failing young people not in employment, education or training (NEETs)? A systematic review and meta-analysis of re-engagement interventions. Systematic Reviews 6: 16.
  • Hawkins, J., Edwards, M., Charles, J., Russell, J., Kelson, M., Morgan, K., Murphy, S., Oliver, E.J., Simpson, S., Tudor Edwards, R. & Moore, G. (2017). Protocol for a feasibility randomised controlled trial of the use of Physical ACtivity monitors in an Exercise Referral Setting: The PACERS study. Pilot and Feasibility Studies 3(1): 51.
  • Morris, R., Tod, D. & Oliver, E.J. (2016). An Investigation into Stakeholders’ Perceptions of the Youth-to-Senior Transition in Professional Soccer in the United Kingdom. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology 28(4): 375-391.
  • Oliver, E.J., Hanson, C.L., Lindsey, I.A. & Dodd-Reynolds, C.J. (2016). Exercise on referral: Evidence and complexity at the nexus of public health and sport policy. International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics 8(4): 731-736.
  • Oliver, E.J., Hudson, J. & Thomas, L. (2016). Processes of identity development and behaviour change in later life: Exploring self-talk during physical activity uptake. Ageing and Society 36(07): 1388-1406.
  • Hudson, J., Day, M. & Oliver, E.J. (2015). A ‘new life’ story or ‘delaying the inevitable’? Exploring older people's narratives during exercise uptake. Psychology of Sport and Exercise 16(3): 112-120.
  • Morris, R., Tod, D. & Oliver, E.J. (2015). An Analysis of Organizational Structure and Transition Outcomes in the Youth-to-Senior Professional Soccer Transition. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology
  • Thomas, L., Hudson, J. & Oliver, E.J. (2015). Development and Validation of An Implicit Measure of Meta-motivational States. Journal of Motivation, Emotion, and Personality 4: 15-25.
  • Hoon, A., Oliver, E.J., Szpakowska, K. & Newton, P. (2015). Use of the 'Stop, Start, Continue' method is associated with the production of constructive qualitative feedback by students in higher education. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 40(5): 755-767.
  • Hawkins, J., Oliver, E.J., Wyatt Williams, J., Scale, E. & van Woerdon, H. (2014). Assessing the feasibility of using uniaxial accelerometers with an online support platform in the delivery of a community-based exercise-referral scheme. Journal of Primary Care & Community Health 5(4): 288-290.
  • Oliver, E.J., Mawn, L., Stain, H.J., Bambra, C.L., Torgerson, C., Oliver, A. & Bridle, C. (2014). Should we ‘hug a hoodie’? Protocol for a systematic review and meta-analysis of interventions with young people not in employment, education or training (so-called NEETs). Systematic Reviews 3: 73.
  • Curtis, F., Oliver, E.J., Jones, A., Rice, S. & Thatcher, R. (2013). Health and lifestyle changes associated with ageing in rural communities: the emphasis on current concerns in Wales. (Iechyd a newidiadau ffordd o fyw sy’n gysylltiedig ag oedran mewn ardaloedd gwledig: y pwyslais ar bryderon cyfredol yng Nghymru.). Gwerddon 16: 28-39.
  • Akehurst, S.A. & Oliver, E.J. (2013). Obsessive passion: a dependency associated with injury-related risky behaviour in dancers. Journal of Sports Sciences 32(3): 259-267.
  • Tod, D., Hardy, J. & Oliver, E.J. (2011). Effects of self-talk: a systematic review. Psychology of Sport and Exercise Psychology 33(5): 666-687.
  • Beattie, S., Leif, D., Adamoulas, M. & Oliver, E.J. (2011). Self-efficacy and performance: Investigating the possible negative effects of self-efficacy upon golf putting performance. Psychology of Sport and Exercise 12: 434-441.
  • Oliver, E.J., Hardy, J. & Markland, D.M. (2010). Exploring elite coaches' views of athletes' practice behaviors. Psychology of Sport and Exercise 11: 433-443.
  • Oliver, E.J., Markland, D. & Hardy, J. (2010). Interpretation of self-talk and post-lecture affective states of higher education students: A self-determination theory perspective. British Journal of Educational Psychology 80(2): 307-323.
  • Law, R., Breslin, A., Oliver, E.J., Mawn, L., Markland, D., Maddison, P. & Thom, J. (2010). Patient perceptions of the effects of exercise on joint health in rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatology 49(12): 2444-2445.
  • Oliver, E.J., Markland, D., Hardy, J. & Petherick, C.M. (2008). The Effects of Autonomy-Supportive and Controlling Environments on Self-Talk. Motivation and Emotion 32(3): 200-212.
  • Markland, D. & Oliver, E.J. (2008). The Sociociultural Attitudes Towards Appearance Questionnaire-3: A confirmatory factor analysis. Body Image 5(1): 116-121.

Edited Journal

  • Flint, S.W., Oliver, E.J. & Copeland,R (2017). Obesity stigma in healthcare: impacts on policy, practice, and patients. Frontiers in Psychology, Eating Behavior, 8 (2149).


  • Rigby, B.P., Donkin, B., Oliver, E.J., Lindsey, I. & Mitchell, I. (2018). Influencing Older People's Physical Activity: A Pilot Rapid Evidence Review Produced on Behalf of the Active Durham Partnership Evidence-based Approach Group.
  • Hudson, J., Oliver, E.J., Thomas, L. & Higgs, F. (2012). Functional and Psychological Changes during a Community-based 32 Week Postural Stability Training Programme: Recommendations for Future Practice. Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board.