PhD Student Blog: Attending the PsyPAG 2019 Annual Conference

By Darel Cookson, PhD Student (Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research)

The PsyPAG 34th Annual Conference took place from Tuesday 23rd – Friday 26th July 2019 at Sheffield Hallam University. This year, the conference theme was to promote the health and wellbeing of delegates while they had the opportunity to meet, network and share their research with peers. I was lucky enough to attend along with fellow PhD researcher Tanya Schrader where we shared our research on belief in conspiracy theories.

PsyPAG is the Psychology Postgraduate Affairs Group and is funded by the Research Board of the British Psychological Society. PsyPAG is run purely by postgraduates for the benefit of postgraduate psychology students at UK institutions. Each year PsyPAG organises an annual conference where, across three days, psychology postgraduate students meet, share their work via oral and poster presentations, provide feedback, attend workshops and keynotes, and build support systems and even collaborations! This was my second year attending PsyPAG and it was a fantastic conference where I could share the first few studies of my PhD, receive feedback from peers, and build friendships with fellow postgraduate students.

A highlight of the conference was the keynote presentations, thoughtfully selected by the organisation committee to align with the conference theme of promoting health and wellbeing. The first keynote was from Professor Sir Chris Husbands, who discussed academic careers in the 21st century. We were urged to think about what the big issues were that our research was interested in and to use this to maximise our impact. Cognitive Psychologist, Dr Dan Smith, told the story of their research, detailing a series of elegant experiments probing the relationship between the motor system and cognitive processes.

The second day of the conference began with a keynote from Professor
Madelynne Arden, who discussed their impressive body of work exploring adherence
to medication in Cystic Fibrosis, using a behaviour science approach to
intervention research. Dr Emma Norris then shared her journey from PhD to
postdoctoral researcher and discussed the differences moving from independent
research in a PhD programme to working on a large multi-disciplinary project. The
final keynote was from Dr Jennie Drabble, a Forensic Psychologist who also
discussed life after PhD. Dr Drabble emphasised the importance of taking time
for yourself outside of academia and motivated the room to help change the
culture of academia from within.

A further highlight of PsyPAG 2019 was the workshop; ‘Bringing Reproduceable Science to the People – The Story of Change’ produced and delivered by Olly Robertson and Dr Jon Sutton. This workshop was focussed on how we can best communicate our research to wider audiences in an interesting and accurate way. The onus was put on researchers to take opportunities to communicate their work and we discussed how to do this with both accuracy and elegance. Then we had 5 minutes and no more than 10 sentences to summarise our PhD research and then share it with the group – quite a challenge! I took a lot away from this session and it was so helpful to receive advice from the editor of The Psychologist (albeit a bit daunting!).

Tanya presenting her PhD research

Tanya and I shared our research in the ‘Social Psychology’ symposium. Tanya kicked the session off with her fascinating work exploring the darker side of conspiracy theories. Tanya is interested in potential predictors and consequences of conspiracy belief, particularly around violence and crime. Using hierarchical regression analysis, Tanya has found that conspiracy beliefs play a unique role in predicting acceptance of violence. Tanya is clearly passionate about this subject and used several real-life examples of the potential violent consequences of conspiracy beliefs. I then presented the first two studies of my PhD, exploring the role of perceived social norms in motivating conspiracy beliefs. Currently, my research is showing that we over-estimate the extent to which other people endorse conspiracy theories and we are significantly influenced by the perceived beliefs others. My next job is to try to use this knowledge reduce belief in dangerous conspiracy theories – which is proving to be most difficult!

Me presenting my PhD research

There were several excellent presentations throughout the three days at
PsyPAG and it is always exciting to see what your peers are studying. Madeleine
Pownall, a first year PhD student from The University of Leeds explained a
theory she is currently working on to ask; can positive self-objectification
diffuse stereotype threat effects in women? Madeleine has amalgamated three
theories in social psychology with sophistication and is now developing a body
of research to test these ideas. It was inspiring to see such innovative ideas
from your peers! Another stand out presentation was from Ed Noon from Sheffield
Hallam University who is investigating how adolescents use social media,
particularly Instagram and how this can influence social comparisons and thus
identity development.

The organisers from Sheffield Hallam University, Suzy Hodgson, Martine
Lamb and Nikki Dean Marshall, were incredible and did such a fantastic job this
year, so thank you very much! I am very grateful to have attended PsyPAG 2019
and to have the opportunity to share my research.


Exterior Science Centre

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. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

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.

“Conspiracy theories: Are they damaging democracy?” Dr Daniel Jolley featured on TRT World’s Roundtable

Dr Daniel Jolley (Senior Lecturer in Social Psychology & member of the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research) was featured on TRT World’s Roundtable television programme discussing the psychology and consequences of beliefs in conspiracy theories as part of a discussion panel. Dr Jolley discussed some of his recent research into the potential negative effects of believing in conspiracy theories with other leading experts researching why individuals believe in conspiracies.

You can view the Roundtable programme featuring Dr Jolley via the below Youtube video:


Exterior Science Centre

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. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

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.

Staffs Health Psychology team visit the 2019 Midlands Health Psychology Network Conference

By Dr Sarah Dean & Dr Gemma Hurst (Senior Lecturers in Health Psychology)

Staff and students once again enjoyed their trip to the Midlands Health Psychology Network Conference which this year was held in Derby. A mixture of students from our MSc in Health Psychology and Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology attended the MHPN Conference, with MSc graduate Jessica Boot delivering an excellent poster presentation on her dissertation research. There was an interesting programme of posters and presentations and some great interactive workshops too!

Part time MSc student Vicky says:

“I really enjoyed attending the Midlands Health Psychology Conference in Derby this year and am grateful to the University for providing me with the opportunity. I found the research presentations most beneficial, as they were a great way of demonstrating the breadth of topics covered by Health Psychology and helped me to understand the research process from beginning to end. The presentations gave me some exciting ideas for my own project next year. It was a great opportunity to network with fellow students and Health Psychologists, who offered tips and peer support whilst completing my own professional training. This conference is a must if you are considering a career in Health Psychology. I will look forward to returning again next year hopefully to present some of my own work!”

Health Psychology staff and students at this year’s MHPN conference

“We really enjoy attending the MHPN conference each year. For many of our MSc students it is their first experience of an academic conference and they gain a lot from listening to the presentations and chatting to the delegates. This year former MSc student Jess Boot presented a poster of her dissertation work, which was well received and has hopefully encouraged some of our current students to consider presenting their work next year. We are already looking forward to next year’s conference!”

MSc Course Co-Directors Dr Sarah Dean & Dr Gemma HURST


Staffordshire University – The Home of Health Psychology

Staffordshire University has a history of excellence in 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 Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research has active team of Health Psychologists who conduct research and provide consultancy in a range of health-related issues.

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:

Dr Rob Dempsey wins ‘I’m a Scientist… Get Me Out of Here!’ Mental Health Zone (June 2019)

Dr Rob Dempsey (Senior Lecturer in Psychology & Mental Health, Course Leader – MSc Foundations of Clinical Psychology) took part in June 2019’s ‘I’m a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here!’ public engagement event for schools and colleges. ‘I’m a Scientist’ is a two-week long online event where scientists working in a variety of fields answer a variety of questions posed to them by students in primary and secondary school through to 6th form. Students and scientists discuss topics in a series of online chats, with students also able to post questions online for scientists to answer.

Dr Dempsey took part in the British Psychological Society sponsored Mental Health Zone in June 2019 and was one of six psychologists working in mental health-related fields who took part in a number of live online chats over a two week period. The second week of the contest takes the form of an X-Factor style knock-out competition, where the scientist with the fewest number of student votes is eliminated each day with the victor announced at the end of the week. In a close contest, Dr Dempsey received the highest number of nominations and was crowned winner of the Mental Health Zone:

I was delighted to win I’m a Scientist’s Mental Health Zone, especially as this is based on nominations from students we chatted to over a two week period. The event is a great way for students of various ages to interact with scientists working in various fields and have their questions answered about our research and work in Mental Health. I hope that we managed to inspire some of the students to pursue careers working in Mental Health, and personally I hope that some will consider studying Psychology at A-Level and Degree level and pursuing careers in Psychology and Mental Health

Dr Rob Dempsey, Senior Lecturer in Psychology & Mental Health

Dr Dempsey wins a prize of £500 to spend on public engagement activities and is planning on producing a free video resource with supporting materials for use by high school and college teachers – the aim being to highlight why psychological approaches to understanding mental health-related issues are needed and how students can pursue careers in this area. Dr Dempsey conducts research focusing on understanding the psychological pathways implicated in the experience of common mental health-related complaints, and is hoping that this resource will help others to pursue similar careers in this area.


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. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

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.

The Second Joint Keele-Staffs Psychology Postgraduate Conference held in June 2019

Darel Cookson (Psychology PhD student, Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research) blogs about the Second Annual Keele-Staffs Psychology Postgraduate Conference, with postscript from Dr. Richard Jolley (PhD Psychology course leader).

After the success of the first Joint Keele and Staffordshire University Psychology Postgraduate Conference in 2018, we teamed up with the Keele School of Psychology again to host the 2nd Conference. This year, the event took place at Staffordshire University.

Dr Richard Jolley welcoming everyone to the conference

The conference was directed by Dr Richard Jolley (Associate Professor in Psychology, Staffordshire University) and Dr Masi Noor (Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Keele University). The organisation was led by the student committee which consisted of myself and Charlotte Bagnall and Kimberley Dundas (Keele Psychology PhD students). Collaborating with fellow PhD students from Keele for a second time was immensely enjoyable and has helped build a supportive Psychology PhD community across our neighbouring universities.

The morning began with an introduction and welcome from Dr Richard Jolley, after which our first speaker, first year Staffordshire University PhD researcher, Tanya Schrader, began the talks. Tanya gave a brilliant overview of their first PhD study, investigating whether there is a relationship between belief in conspiracy theories, aggression and acceptance of violence.

The next PGR presenter was Olly Robertson from Keele University. Olly presented the findings from an experimental study assessing the moderating role of swearing on emotional regulation; and this was all explained through Harry Potter! Francesca Cornwall from Staffordshire University presented next and gave an engaging overview of their PhD plans, consisting of three stages with the aim of understanding how adults can elicit higher order thinking skills from two-year-olds during their playful activities and physical signs of pleasure. The final PGR presentation from the morning session was from Megan Hermolle from Keele University. Megan is a first year PhD student and presented thought-provoking findings from a huge survey conducted, exploring the extent of Rape Myth Acceptance in the UK at present, in a gender inclusive manner.

We then welcomed our first Keynote speaker, Dr Andrew Stewart from The University of Manchester. Dr Stewart delivered a fascinating keynote, discussing how Open Science and reproducibility is changing the nature of psychological research. This was really useful for PGR students to understand the importance of Open Science practices and how we can incorporate this into our PhD research. Dr Stewart was incredibly generous with his time, answering several questions, in what became a discussion, and sharing resources which will be tremendously helpful.

Lunch was accompanied by poster presentations, which made a great backdrop for our group photo!

There was a wide variety of psychology sub-disciplines represented by the posters from both Staffordshire and Keele PGR students. This included school bullying, social norms and belief in conspiracy theories, maximising uptake and retention of participants in Type 2 Diabetes prevention programme and the social context of medial frontal negativity (MFN). 

The afternoon session began with an introduction and welcome by Dr Masi Noor, proceeded by the first afternoon speaker Charlotte Bagnall from Keele University. Charlotte’s research focuses on transitioning from primary school to secondary school. Charlotte delivered an excellent presentation, discussing the findings of research conducted in the USA, contrasting differences in school transition preparations and experiences reflective of the age and type of transition negotiated. The second speaker of the afternoon session was Halime Unver from Keele University. Halime presented the first two studies from her PhD, assessing the role of Secondary Transfer Effect of Intergroup Contact in the context of acceptance of Syrian refugees in Turkey. Halime presented extremely interesting findings with clear applications, particularly for activists in Turkey. The next presenter was Anthony Miller from Staffordshire University, who presented the findings from an experimental study manipulating challenge and threat states through social identity leadership. Anthony discussed how enactment of social identity leadership principles can improve performance and how this can be applied to sporting teams and workplace teams.

After a caffeine refuel, the afternoon session continued with Pattaramon Worawichayawongsa from Keele University, who presented their research investigating fear of happiness and its relationships with childhood adversity, attachment, self-esteem and emotion regulation. The final PGR presenter was Daniella Hult Khazaie from Keele University, who is investigating how social identity theory can explain health risk perceptions in mass gatherings, and their relation to identification with the crowd.

We then moved on to our second Keynote presentation from Professor Claire Fox (Keele University). Claire gave a fascinating and honest presentation discussing firstly the path to professor and then Claire’s main research interests, focussing on school bullying and relationship abuse. Claire also shared some ‘top tips’ for this journey which were incredibly inspiring and invaluable to the PGR’s in the audience.

There was brilliant, challenging and incredibly important research shared from a wide variety of sub-disciplines in Psychology, demonstrating the diversity of research being conducted across Staffordshire and Keele Psychology. The day drew to an end with a poster and presentation competition, where delegates could vote for the winners. Huge congratulations to Olly Robertson and Emma Harrison who won best presentation and best poster respectively! The prizes were very well deserved.

Thank you to all who attended the 2nd Joint Keele and Staffordshire University Psychology Postgraduate Conference and for making it a success.


After the success of last year’s inaugural conference at Keele University I was delighted to be able to host this year’s psychology postgraduate conference at Staffordshire University. It presented an exciting opportunity for our PhD students to present their research and network with fellow PhD students from our neighbouring institution.  Furthermore, the talks from our two external speakers provided a very useful combination of big picture and personal reflection perspectives on conducting research. It attracted an audience of over 50 staff and students, and the unanimous feeling was that the conference was a great success! The conference was again professionally organised by the conference committee, and my heartfelt thanks go to them. 

If you are reading this blog and are interested in studying for a PhD in the Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University please get in touch with me for further information. We very much welcome applications.

Dr Richard Jolley

Associate Professor in Psychology and PhD Psychology Course Leader

Email: r.jolley@staffs.ac.uk


The Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research is home to research activity in the Psychology Department at Staffordshire University. The Centre houses a number of research-active psychologists who are engaged in research across a wide range of psychological subdisciplines.

For more details about the Centre, its research activities, events and consultancy, please visit our website (click here).

Are you “Research Ready?” An introductory course to quantitative and qualitative methods

Dr Sarah Dean, Dr Jennifer Taylor, Dr Gemma Hurst and Dr Andrew Edmonds from the Psychology department at Staffordshire University are running a short introductory research methods course called “Research Ready”.

The course will introduce attendees to quantitative and qualitative research, covering topics such as: research design, research questions, qualitative analysis (thematic) and quantitative analysis (t-tests, correlations and ANOVAs using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS)).

The course will be delivered over two days, with day one focusing on research design and qualitative analysis, and day two quantitative data analysis. You have the option of signing up for a single day or both days. The course will be delivered in an interactive format with plenty of opportunities to ‘have a go’ and practice what you learn with friendly and experienced staff to support you!

The course takes place on Wednesday 14th and Thursday 15th August 2019 and will be suitable for those who are completely new to research methods or for those simply wanting a refresher. Perhaps you have just graduated and feel as though you need a refresher before starting postgraduate study? Or you may be a current student who would find this helpful as revision over the summer? Maybe you have got no research experience but would like to learn to develop and expand your research knowledge and future opportunities? Whilst the course will be delivered by Psychology staff experienced in teaching research methods, the course will also be appropriate for those within other disciplines. Everyone is welcome!

The cost of attending the full two-day course is £250 and for attendance at one day is £175. You will receive a certificate of attendance and light refreshments will be provided. 

To sign up to the course please click here

For further information and for any enquiries please contact researchready@staffs.ac.uk


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. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

Exterior Science Centre

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.

VIDEO: Sixth Annual Staffordshire Psychology Student Conference 2019

The Department of Psychology held its Annual Psychology Student Conference in April 2019 where our final year students presented the findings from their research projects. Our students gave either an oral or a poster presentation to their peers and an audience of academic staff, including their project supervisors.

A wide variety of research topics were presented by our students, including studies investigating the role of Youtube videos in conspiracy theory beliefs, the relationship between dark personality traits and students’ academic stress levels, the effects of children’s screen time on creativity, how viewing virtual reality environments influences pain, the ‘weapons focus’ effect, the relationship between personality traits and mate poaching behaviours, amongst others.

Highlights from this year’s Annual Psychology Student Conference can be viewed via the below video:


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. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

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.

The Second Keele-Staffs Psychology Postgraduate Research Conference

In April 2018, Staffordshire University joined up with Keele University to deliver the first Joint Keele-Staffs Psychology Postgraduate Research Conference. The event was a success and a great opportunity to share research and build networks with our neighbouring university.

This year, we are delighted that the 2nd Keele-Staffs Joint Psychology PGR Conference is being held at Staffordshire University on Wednesday 15th May 2019. The conference will take place at Staffordshire University in the Science Centre, R001, from 9:30am – 4:00pm.

Please come and enjoy the wide variety of presentations and posters showcasing the diverse assortment of research that our PGR students are currently conducting. From social identity leadership, to conspiracy theories, and childhood adversity, to refugee integration, we can guarantee there will be something to interest all! We are also very excited to be welcoming Dr Andrew Stewart from the University of Manchester and Professor Claire Fox from Keele University who will be giving Keynote presentations.

It will be wonderful to see you there to support our PGR students. Lunch will be provided and you can register your attendance here. Of course you can just show up too!


For further information about the Conference, please contact the organisers via:


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

For more details about the Centre, its research activities, events and consultancy, please visit our website (click here).


The Big Bang West Midlands Fair returns to Staffordshire University in 2019!

By Dina Grinsted, Schools & Colleges Champion for Psychology

Some of the Department of Psychology in attendance at last year’s Big Bang Fair

In June 2018, Staffordshire University welcomed the Big Bang West Midlands for the first time, celebrating STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Maths) subjects. Over 2000 students and teachers visited the campus throughout the day, and enjoyed a wide variety of STEAM activities, including nine psychology stands!

Ahead of the return of the Big Bang Fair to Staffordshire University in 2019, here is a brief review of the Department of Psychology’s presence at the 2018 fair:

Dr Emily Buckley, Judy David, and Masters student Charlotte Stock try on the VR headsets

The ‘Virtual Reality in Psychology’ stand allowed visitors to experience dinosaurs in VR, and learn about how we can use virtual environments in psychology. This was a very popular stand, with many people trying out the dinosaur experience! Guests also had the chance to test their memory, and learnt how to improve it through techniques such as the Method of Loci and mnemonics on our Memory Test stand.

Third year BSc Psychology student Jaime-Lee Cunningham and Dr Andrew Edmonds on the ‘Memory Test’ stand

The event was a great success, with a huge number of visitors taking part and enjoying the activities. Staffordshire University has been confirmed as the home for the 2019 event, which will take place on Tuesday 18th June 2019. Come along to find out about all things STEM, including Psychology activities. Book your free visit here.

On the ‘Detecting Stress Responses’ stand, guests were connected to a BioPac, and had their Galvanic Skin Response tested whilst doing moderately stressful activities. This measures the level of sweat on the fingertips as an indicator of stress, so the aim was to attempt to keep your stress levels down.

One student advocate who helped to run this stand said

“I was particularly happy to see so many young girls expressing enthusiasm and engagement with some of the scientific principles that we were demonstrating to them on the Detecting Stress Responses stand.  Great to see that STEM engagement with girls is improving.”


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. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

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.