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Durham University

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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

Research Projects

Department of Sociology


Chapter in book

Edited Journal

Journal Article


  • 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.