Applications are invited for a PhD studentship, funded from the 1001 TUBITAK project “Let’s Keep the Baby but not the Bathwater: Distinguishing Benign from Harsh Social Comparisons in the Era of High Competition”. The studentship will start on 1st September 2021 until 31st January 2024.

Project description
Educational research and practice strongly recommend that harsh competition should be discouraged and replaced by cooperation and focus on mastery strivings to enhance learning and adaptive educational outcomes. Yet from the very first stages of our life, we all realize that we constantly evaluate ourselves not only with respect to our past performance but also with respect to others’ achievements. If social comparisons are so pervasive then what if we turn them to optimal forms that will lead to more adaptive outcomes? What if, instead of totally exiling social comparisons, we replace harsh social comparisons (e.g., outperforming the others) with mild, benign social comparisons? Specifically, what about performing adequately well compared to others as a way to challenge ourselves, or attaining something that few people can do, again out of challenge?

In seven experimental studies, followed by an educational intervention, we are going to test to what extent benign social comparisons can facilitate cognitive functioning, intrinsic motivation, and engagement, provided they are endorsed out of adaptive reasons such as out of interest, challenge-seeking, or community contribution.

This Ph.D. offers the opportunity to take an interdisciplinary approach (combining educational, cognitive and social psychology) to investigate the role of competition in students functioning. It will involve a systematic review of the literature of achievement goals, self-determined motivation and social comparison as well as training and applications of the experimental methodology.

The student will be enrolled in the Ph.D. program of Curriculum and Instruction in the Department of Educational Sciences of Bilkent University. The supervisor will be Dr. Aikaterini Michou but the student will also collaborate with Dr. Athanasios Mouratidis (Bilkent University) who is the PI of the project and Prof. Melike Sayil (TED University). In this project will be also involved two MA students, a Ph.D. student and volunteer undergraduate students.

The studentship is supported for 30 months (full-time) and includes full tuition fees and a stipend of 3500TL + 750TL per month (full time 2021/22 rate). After this period and until student’s graduation from the Ph.D. program in Curriculum and Instruction only tuition fees will be provided (unless the student finds another funding opportunity). The Ph.D. program in Curriculum and Instruction can last 10 to 12 semesters depending on offerings and student’s progress.

Applicants should have an MA degree with a background in Education. Experience in experimental and quantitative research and/or motivational theories is desirable. The applicants should also fulfill the requirements of the Ph.D. program in Curriculum and Instruction as follows:

CGPA: 3.00 / 4.00

ALES: 60 (equally-weighted)
ALES is required for resident Turkish citizens who are applying for the M.A. and Ph.D. programs. Those applicants who are not Turkish citizens are required to submit a valid GRE score instead.

GRE: Verbal and quantitative total of 305 (1100) and 4.0 in analytical writing

GRE/ALES scores are valid for 5 years. GRE/ALES scores must be valid at the time of registration.

English Proficiency: TOEFL IBT (at least 87) or IELTS Academic (6.5 with a minimum score of 5.5 in each section), or Bilkent PAE (C)

If you submit IELTS or Bilkent PAE scores only, you also need to satisfy the foreign language requirement as imposed by the Inter-Universities Board (ÜAK) of Turkey: at least 55 from YDS or its equivalent as listed by the Board, in a language other than the mother tongue must be submitted.


All exam scores are considered valid for only two years, and they must be valid at the time of registration.

If you wish to discuss this project further informally, please contact Dr. Aikaterini Michou, e-mail However, applications must be made ONLY online and the candidates of this studentship should indicate their interest in their statement of purpose.

To apply for this position please visit:

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