Innovative national study of university students’ experiences of high mood launched at Staffordshire University

By Dr Robert Dempsey, Senior Lecturer in Psychology.

As part of an exciting and innovative collaboration between eight UK universities and the Student Minds charity, we are conducting a national survey of the relationship between students’ experiences of high and variable moods with their academic experiences and general wellbeing. Experiences of variable mental health by university students has received significant attention over the past few years, with increases in the rates of reported mental health issues amongst students aged between 18 and 24 years and an increased number of students disclosing mental health difficulties to their universities (IPPR, 2017).

Whilst there has been a lot of discussion of students’ experiences of depression, anxiety, suicidality and the engagement in self-harm related behaviours, there has been little focus on the experience of high and variable moods amongst students and how this might impact on their social and academic functioning. High moods, which are associated with increased energy and activity levels, disturbed sleeping patterns, but also the engagement in more impulsive and risky behaviours, could have as much of an impact on student wellbeing during university studies as can depression, anxiety and negative moods. Given that studying for a degree is often one of the most stressful experience encountered in students’ lives, understanding how students respond to this stress and manage their moods is important for developing preventative interventions and improving students’ overall wellbeing and university experience.

Our unique collaboration aims to better understand students’ experiences of high and variable moods, identify the predictors of high mood amongst students and the potential avenues for intervention to improve students’ wellbeing and performance at university. As part of a collaborative network of researchers based at eight UK universities, which Staffordshire University is pleased to be part of (alongside Northumbria, King’s College London, Exeter, Manchester, Newcastle, Reading, and Glasgow universities) and Student Minds, we have launched a national survey of students’ experiences of high mood. We plan to follow-up this first survey with additional surveys to allow us to understand how students’ experiences of changeable and high moods develop over time.

Updates about this study and other research being conducted in the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research will be posted on the Department of Psychology’s InPsych blog!

The National Survey: Seeking University Students!

The survey is open to all UK university students aged between 18 and 25 years who are currently enrolled at any UK university. We are seeking a broad range of participants, including those who perhaps haven’t experienced any high or variable moods, to take part in the survey and help to inform future interventions in this area.

Note that Staffordshire, Northumbria and Exeter Psychology students can take part via their SONA systems (the study is listed in SONA and can be completed in return for credits). All UK students who complete the survey can also opt-in to a prize draw for vouchers.

For further information and/or to take part, please click here to visit the survey’s website.

 

Currently a student, but aged 25 years and over?

A separate study I am conducting is investigating how pro-social behaviours such as volunteering impact on mental health and coping strategies, e.g. suicidal thinking and self-harm. This is another collaborative study between myself, based at Staffordshire, and researchers at external universities.

Anyone can participate in this separate study (there is no age limit) which takes the form of an online survey of personality, prosocial behaviours and mental health. Students studying at Chester, Nottingham Trent and Staffordshire universities can sign up to the study in SONA to receive credits (please log into SONA to find the study).

If you are not a Chester/Staffs/Trent student, you can find out more about the prosocial behaviour study by clicking here. Chester/Staffs/Trent students please see SONA for more details.


The Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research is home to research activity in the Psychology Department at Staffordshire University. The Centre is home to a number of research-active psychologists who are engaged in research across a wide range of psychological subdisciplines. The Centre has two overarching research streams: Health and Behaviour Change and Applied Development, Social and Cognitive Psychology.

The Centre provides training for PhD students, Research Masters degrees, as well as Professional Doctorates in Clinical and Health Psychology (click here for more details). The Centre also provides bespoke training to private and public organisations, as well as expertise for consultancy research opportunities. For more details about the Centre, its research activities, events and consultancy, please visit our website (click here).

Do appearance-focused interventions help promote sun protection behaviours?

By Dr. Alison Owen, Lecturer in Psychology.

Over the last decade, melanoma skin cancer incidence rates have increased by almost a half (45%) in the UK, and there are around 15,400 new melanoma skin cancer cases in the UK every year, that’s 42 every day (Cancer Research UK). A massive 86% of melanoma skin cancer in the UK is preventable (Cancer Research UK), for example by protecting your skin from the sun by using sun tan lotion or using clothes to cover up, so it is really important to find ways to encourage people to protect their skin from the sun.

Researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University (Sofia Perrson, Yael Benn and Sarah Grogan) and Leeds Beckett University (Katie Dhingra), along with researchers here at The Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research (Alison Owen and David Clark-Carter), have carried out a review of literature investigating how effective appearance-focussed interventions are at encouraging people to have safer and healthier UV exposure and sun protection behaviours. The study was modeled on a previous review carried out here at Staffordshire University in 2013 by Dr Owen, Prof Grogan, Prof Clark-Carter and Dr Buckley, which focused on how well appearance-based interventions work to reduce UV exposure, for example by discouraging people from using sunbeds in the future, or encouraging them to wear more sun protection (read this paper here).

In the present study, in press in the British Journal of Health Psychology, 33 studies were reviewed, each of which having used an appearance-focused intervention aiming to encourage healthier UV exposure and sun protection behaviours. For example, some of the reviewed interventions worked by showing individuals the impact that exposing their skin to the sun without using protection could have, in terms of wrinkling or age spots. We found very encouraging results, in that appearance-based interventions appear to have positive effects on UV exposure and sun protection immediately after the intervention, as well as up to 12 months afterwards. This supported the findings of the original review, which also found that appearance-based interventions have a positive effect on UV exposure and sun protection intentions and behaviour.

Dr Owen is continuing to carry out research looking at the effectiveness of appearance-focussed interventions on changing peoples’ health behaviours, and is currently carrying out research investigating whether showing people the negative impact that binge drinking can have on their skin, can impact on their alcohol consumption in the future.

The new systematic review can be read via the British Journal of Health Psychology‘s website:


Staffordshire University – The Home of Health Psychology

Staffordshire University’s Centre for Health Psychology is a centre of excellence for teaching and research in Health Psychology, and is home to Staffordshire’s BPS Accredited Stage 1 MSc in Health Psychology and Stage 2 Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology. The Centre for Health Psychology is part of the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research.

Keep updated with the latest Health Psychology news from Staffordshire University via following us on @StaffsPsych and via the #HealthPsychStaffs hashtag.

For further information about Health Psychology courses and research at Staffordshire University please visit the following webpages:

Psychology and the Brain

The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University is delighted to invite you to Psychology and the Brain, a fun and interactive evening where you will be given the opportunity to get hands-on with some of our fascinating equipment and hear from experts in the field.

Psychology and the Brain will take place at Staffordshire University’s Science Centre, Leek Road, Stoke-on-Trent, on Thursday 15th March 6 – 8:30 pm. Click here to view the location of the Science Centre on Staffordshire University’s Stoke-on-Trent campus. Includes free parking on site and refreshments.

Psychology and the Brain: Listen

Have you ever wondered… how we measure brain activity? How does VR trick our eyes into thinking what we’re seeing is reality? A series of short expert talks will explore these and other fascinating questions.

Psychology and the Brain: Hands-on

Try your hand at learning how our equipment works such as how we tell if you are stressed, how we can uncover if you are lying and how we test your reaction skills in our driving simulator, amongst other fun demonstrations.

Psychology and the Brain: A chance to win

Having taken part in the hands-on activities, you have a chance to win some Love2Shop vouchers. Entry information and winners announced on the night.

Follow the Psychology and the Brain event via our twitter hashtag #StaffsPsychBrain, including live tweets on the night.


Book Tickets: All welcome. Reserve your (free) space at https://psychologyandthebrain.eventbrite.co.uk or contact psychologyevents@staffs.ac.uk for more information.

Psychology and the Brain is part of a series of events organised in connection with the Psychology Society to celebrate Brain Awareness Week. Full details can be found here.

How does psychology and the brain apply to you and your life? Come along and find out.


The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent.

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

For more information about the Psychology degrees on offer at Staffordshire University please visit the below pages:

Dr Daniel Jolley appears on Adam Ruins Everything podcast discussing psychology of conspiracy theories

On this week’s Adam Ruins Everything podcast, Dr Daniel Jolley, Lecturer in Psychology at Staffordshire University, was an invited guest to discuss the topic of conspiracy theories.

Daniel is a social psychologist in the Department of Psychology whose primary research interest involves examining the psychology of conspiracy theories.  In his research, he is interested in why people believe in conspiracy theories and what potential consequences exposure to conspiracy theories may have on individuals and society.

On the podcast, the host Adam Conover interviewed Daniel where they discussed why so many millions of people subscribe to conspiracy theories and what tools can be developed to alleviate their potential harm, such as with the use of counter-arguments against the conspiracy account.

This interview was a follow up to Daniel’s appearance on the hit-US TV Show also called Adam Ruins Everything on the American channel Tru TV. Daniel was a guest on the show, which aired on US TV in October 2017, where the show showcased the topic of conspiracy theories with the help of scientific research.

You can listen to the podcast here and also catch up with the TV series on the show’s website.


The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent.

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

For more information about the Psychology degrees on offer at Staffordshire University please visit the below pages:

Dr Jenny Taylor joins the Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University!

By Dr Jenny Taylor, Lecturer in Psychology

Dr Jenny Taylor

I am delighted to have recently joined the Psychology  team as a Lecturer here at Staffordshire University. My first few weeks have been great, everyone has been very friendly and supportive and I’ve been made to feel really welcome. Here’s a bit of background about me:

I completed my undergraduate psychology degree in Psychology and Criminology at Keele University in 2007. After a few years away from academia, I returned to Keele to complete my MSc in Psychology of Health and Wellbeing – it was during this time that I realised my passion for health psychology and qualitative research! After my MSc, I stayed at Keele to start my PhD which was focused on exploring the social representations of sunbed use and how these representations influence how people talk about and behave with regards to sunbed tanning and the risks involved.

In the final year of my PhD, I took on the role of part-time Teaching Fellow at Keele. I continued in this role for another year following the completion of my PhD, as well as working as a Research Assistant on a project exploring the knowledge and attitudes of mothers in Staffordshire towards cervical screening and the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccination. I also, during this time, completed the Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education at Keele and I am now a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. In 2016, I took on a temporary position as Lecturer at Keele University, teaching on the undergraduate and postgraduate Psychology programmes.  I joined the team here at Staffordshire University at the beginning of January 2018.

My research interests are in exploring health risk behaviours that are body image related, such as sunbed use and cosmetic surgery. I am especially interested in how people talk about such behaviours in light of the risks.  I am a qualitative researcher and a member of the editorial board for the Qualitative Methods in Psychology (QMIP) section of the British Psychological Society (BPS).

I’m very excited to have joined such a vibrant, enthusiastic team here at Staffordshire University and am looking forward to continuing with my passion for both teaching and research.


Staffordshire University – The Home of Health Psychology

Staffordshire University’s Centre for Health Psychology is a centre of excellence for teaching and research in Health Psychology, and is home to Staffordshire’s BPS Accredited Stage 1 MSc in Health Psychology and Stage 2 Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology. The Centre for Health Psychology is part of the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research.

Keep updated with the latest Health Psychology news from Staffordshire University via following us on @StaffsPsych and via the #HealthPsychStaffs hashtag.

For further information about Health Psychology courses and research at Staffordshire University please visit the following webpages:

Using photo-elicitation to understand experiences of quality of life, paraplegia & chronic pain

By Dr Robert Dempsey, Senior Lecturer in Psychology.

Together, working with one of our MSc in Health Psychology students and a fellow member of staff (Dr Amy Burton), we have just published a paper using a photo-elicitation approach to understand the lived experience of quality of life amongst a group of individuals experiencing paraplegia and chronic pain.

Our paper, currently in press in the Journal of Health Psychology, details a novel study where we were interested in better understanding the factors which give and take away from the quality of life experienced by people living with paraplegia (who experience paralysis to their lower limbs due to a spinal cord injury) and chronic ongoing pain. Many people who are paraplegic also experience chronic pain but studies to date have tended to focus on self-report measures of pain experiences. Using self-report measures of pain experiences might not allow researchers to really understand the nature and quality of pain, as the experience of pain can be difficult to objectively measure, and may not help understand how individuals ‘make sense’ of these experiences.

It is well known that managing chronic pain when living with paraplegia, and being reliant on a wheelchair for mobility, can be a challenging experience for many people. We were particularly interested in understanding how people in this situation manage their pain and maintain a good quality of life, whilst maintaining a focus on their experiences as individuals. A lot of qualitative research into people’s experiences of physical health conditions uses researcher-led interview schedules focused on topics that the researchers are interested in – this can be problematic as it may not allow the participants to direct the interview discussions towards topics and issues they feel are important when making sense of their own experiences.

To help us ensure our study was focused on our participants’ experiences we used a form of interview technique referred to as photoelicitation, sometimes known as photovoice. Rather than just asking our sample of participants a series of questions about their experiences, we asked them to spend a week taking photos of things they felt took away from their quality of life or improved their quality of life. Six photographs from each participant were then chosen for discussion in the interviews, during which we only asked the participants some general questions about their photograph (such as: ‘what does this photograph represent in terms of your quality of life?‘). Our discussions based on these photographs produced some incredibly rich and complex data, showing some of the complexities of living with paraplegia, chronic pain and also using a wheelchair for mobility (which we wouldn’t have found if we just asked a series of set questions).

For example, one of our participants discussed a photo she took of a toy dinosaur, similar the one shown on the right. The participant explained that this toy dinosaur represented her experiences with healthcare staff, particularly doctors, who she saw as being old-fashioned, not understanding of her pain experiences and frustrating to deal with. These communication problems contributed to this participant’s worsening pain as she was often prescribed ineffective medications attributed to her pain experiences not being understood by healthcare staff. Discussions like this demonstrated the complexity of our participants’ experiences living with pain and paraplegia whilst attempting to maintain a good quality of life – often related to a sense of frustration that factors like medical professionals should help improve, not worsen, their quality of life.

Interestingly, using a wheelchair was viewed as a factor that both improved and worsened our participants’ quality of life. Some participants were grateful for the wheelchair giving them independence, to be mobile and not be over-reliant on others to get around. However, this sometimes came at the cost of the wheelchair preventing our participants from being fully mobile (e.g. by not being able to access parts of their own home or having difficulty using public transport) and even caused further pain and discomfort due to sitting in the chair.

Using photo-elicitation, and allowing our participants to be much more involved in directing the interview discussions, produced some rich data participant-focused data which demonstrated the complexity of living with both paraplegia and chronic pain. Had we just used a standard set of written questions we would not have uncovered such complexity in our participants’ experiences. The use of photographs to guide the interviews could be incorporated into healthcare communication practices as it may help healthcare professionals to better understand their patients’ experiences, particularly of chronic pain which can be difficult to communicate verbally.

It was a pleasure to work with one of our MSc in Health Psychology students (Melanie Hughes), who led the data collection, and one of our Health Psychologist colleagues (Dr Amy Burton) on this analysis. This project represents one of a number of published studies and papers produced with students as part of our BPS Accredited Stage 1 MSc in Health Psychology course here at Staffordshire University.

We have published two papers based on this research, including a commentary paper reflecting on the use of photo-elicitation as an interview tool and our recent paper detailing our analysis of the interviews (click here). Links to the papers can be found below:


Staffordshire University – The Home of Health Psychology

Staffordshire University’s Centre for Health Psychology is a centre of excellence for teaching and research in Health Psychology, and is home to Staffordshire’s BPS Accredited Stage 1 MSc in Health Psychology and Stage 2 Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology. The Centre for Health Psychology is part of the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research.

Keep updated with the latest Health Psychology news from Staffordshire University via following us on @StaffsPsych and via the #HealthPsychStaffs hashtag.

For further information about Health Psychology courses and research at Staffordshire University please visit the following webpages:

Pack away (some of) the Christmas toys!

Did your child get lots of toys for Christmas? Are you struggling to find places to store them all?

Dr Sarah Rose, Director of the Psychology Children’s Lab at Staffordshire University reports on some new research suggesting that having fewer toys may actually be better!

Researchers at the University of Toledo in Ohio gave 36 toddlers either 4 or 16 toys to play with for a 30-minute period. Their play was observed and analysed for indicators of play quality. It was concluded that when fewer toys were present children spent longer playing with each toy, showed better concentration, and were more creative as they expanded and developed their play ideas.

This study is a useful reminder to parents, and anyone working with children, that toddlers are easily distracted. Toddlers are developing their ability to focus their attention and steps that can be taken to support this are likely to have long term positive consequences. Attention is vital for academic success and young children with better attentional skills maintain this advantage as they get older.

Not only was having fewer toys found to beneficial to helping toddlers to sustain their attention it also encouraged them to explore and be more creative with the toys. Creativity is another skill that is developed in early childhood and as associated with many positive attributes such as educational achievement, well-being and success at work.

This evidence supports the idea of toy rotation. This involves small collections of toys being rotated into play while the majority are stored away. This provides opportunities for developing sustained attention and creativity while still providing children with novel and varied play experiences.

Further research in this area is needed, particularly relating to play in the home environment, where there are often additional distractions such as background Television and other screen media. The impact of screen time on children’s developing creativity is a topic that we are investigating within our Psychology Children’s Lab. If you are a parent of a 3 to 8 year old child please do consider taking part in our online survey – further details can be found here.

Dr Sarah Rose was also featured in The Sentinel newspaper providing commentary on this recent research finding (click here to read the full story).


The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent.

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

For more information about the Psychology degrees on offer at Staffordshire University please visit the below pages:

Christmas Drinking: New research explores the effects of an appearance-focused intervention for alcohol use

By Dr Alison Owen, Lecturer in Psychology.

Research by Cancer Research UK suggests that young adults will drink an average of 62 units – the equivalent of 30 glasses of wine or 22 pints of beer – in the run-up to Christmas. As Christmas party season approaches, researchers in the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research & Centre for Health Psychology are looking into ways to encourage people to stick to the government’s recommended alcohol guidelines. Myself and Dr Keira Flett are in the initial stages of analysing research from a pilot study, looking at the impact of an appearance-focussed intervention designed to encourage safer alcohol consumption in students. The researchers are focusing on appearance following their previous research looking at smoking and UV exposure behaviours (Grogan et al., 2011a, 2011b; Flett et al., 2013, 2017; Williams et al., 2012, 2013a, 2013b, 2013c, 2014), which found that young people are more likely to be persuaded to change their health behaviours if they believe that carrying out that particular behaviour will damage their appearance.

Students taking part in the current study were shown how their skin may age if they drank in excess of the recommended guidelines, compared to how their skin may age if they drank within the considered healthy limits. They were able to see themselves ageing from their current age, up to the age of 72 years. Participants were recorded during the sessions, so that the researchers could hear how participants responded to the intervention as they viewed it. The researchers are currently in the process of analysing and writing up their findings. In the future, we plan to expand the research to compare the effectiveness of the appearance-focussed intervention with a health-focussed intervention, where participants read about the health impacts of binge drinking and drinking above the recommended alcohol limits.

The UK government guidelines state that to keep health risks from alcohol to a low level it is safest not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis, and that if you regularly drink as much as this, it is best to spread your drinking evenly over three or more days. If you are interested in finding out more about the recommendations or have any concerns about your alcohol consumption during this festive season and beyond, then please visit www.drinkaware.co.uk


Staffordshire University – The Home of Health Psychology

Staffordshire University’s Centre for Health Psychology is a centre of excellence for teaching and research in Health Psychology, and is home to Staffordshire’s BPS Accredited Stage 1 MSc in Health Psychology and Stage 2 Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology. The Centre for Health Psychology is part of the Stafford shire Centre for Psychological Research.

Keep updated with the latest Health Psychology news from Staffordshire University via following us on @StaffsPsych and via the #HealthPsychStaffs hashtag.

For further information about Health Psychology courses and research at Staffordshire University please visit the following webpages:

The Department of Psychology Celebrate Staff Success!

By Dr Robert Dempsey, Senior Lecturer in Psychology.

In October 2017, the Department of Psychology were pleased to celebrate winning three awards at Staffordshire University’s Celebrating Staff Success Ceremony held at the Kings Hall in Stoke-on-Trent. This yearly awards ceremony recognises the contributions and successes of staff working at the University across a range of roles.

The Department of Psychology had a number of nominated staff across a variety of award categories, including nominations for our Psychology and Me event (for public engagement), research impact (with both Professor Karen Rodham & Dr Amy Burton receiving nominations), as well as a People’s Choice Award nomination for Judy David‘s valued contributions to the successful running of the Department of Psychology.

The team were ecstatic to win three highly competitive University awards for: Living our Values – Brilliant and Friendly (Sarah Higgins), Best Newcomer (Dr Michael Batashvili), and Innovative and Applied Learning (Dr Robert Dempsey).

“I was so surprised to be nominated and then to win it was incredible. It felt amazing to receive the award, mainly because it reminded me how much I love my job and the people I work with, both students and staff.”

Dr Michael Batashvili, Lecturer in Psychology & Winner – Best Newcomer Award

 

“I am delighted and very proud to have received this award. I feel that the award is a reflection of the supportive and encouraging environment that I work in with my many brilliant colleagues and students. A big thank you to the nominator and to everyone that made achieving this award possible. The event was a lovely opportunity to celebrate and reflect on so many achievements from colleagues over the past year.”

Sarah Higgins, Technical Skills Specialist in Psychology & Winner – Living our Values – Brilliant & Friendly Award.

“It was a pleasure just to be nominated and invited to attend the ceremony. To win the award was a very nice surprise and motivates me to keep improving my teaching approaches and develop my students as independent learners, whilst also challenging them and having fun at the same time”

Dr Robert Dempsey, Senior Lecturer in Psychology & Winner – The Innovative and Applied Learning Award

 

“While it was fabulous to see some of our LSE staff winning awards at the CSS event, it was really pleasing to see so many LSE  nominations, and for both academic and professional staff. It was a really enjoyable event – connecting with staff from the many different parts of the University. A  much valued opportunity to reflect on and celebrate the many individual and team achievements within the School and across the wider University”

Dr Nigel Thomas, Head of the School of Life Sciences & Education

 


The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent.

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

For more information about the Psychology degrees on offer at Staffordshire University please visit the below pages:

Keith Walmsley-Smith discusses mid-life crises on BBC Radio Derby

Keith Walmsley-Smith (Lecturer in Psychotherapeutic Counselling) was featured on BBC Radio Derby’s Sally Pepper Show (Monday 20th November 2017) discussing why some people experience a ‘mid-life crisis’ and whether there are any possible benefits to behaving younger than your actual age.

 

You can hear Keith’s interview via the BBC iPlayer link below (from 1 hour, 16 minutes approx. into the show):

BBC Radio Derby: Sally Pepper Show (20/11/17)

Keith teaches counselling to students studying Staffordshire University’s BSc (Hons) Psychology & Counselling degree and professional postgraduate counselling courses.


The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent.

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

For more information about the Psychology degrees on offer at Staffordshire University please visit the below pages: