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:
Dr Dempsey will be taking part in the Mental Health Zone of the ‘I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here!’ event in June 2019 with the zone sponsored by the British Psychological Society. Dr Dempsey is an experienced mental health researcher working on a variety of studies into mental health and wellbeing, including work understanding the experience of chronic ill-health and the psychological pathways implicated in suicidality.
The Complete University Guide is a national league table where universities and subject areas are ranked according to their performance across a number of measures, including: entry standards; student satisfaction; research quality; and graduate employability.
“In the recently released league table, Staffordshire’s Psychology Department has moved up 25 places in the Complete University Guide. This is our highest ever position in this particular league table, and we are delighted that we have been ranked as joint fourth in the country for student satisfaction. This acknowledges the work that our staff put into making sure students are at the heart of everything we do, and responsive to student feedback, and shows that our students are #proudtobestaffs”
“We are delighted with Psychology’s rise in the CUG League Table. This follows the positive responses to student feedback, and is a reflection of the staff team’s commitment to students and the continual improvement of their experience”
By Dina Grinsted, Schools & Colleges Champion for Psychology
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:
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.
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.”
What has the length of time it takes to queue up for a jacket potato got to do with taking breaks at work? For some people, it turns out that it’s a handy way to explain to their colleagues why they’re “late” back from lunch. And by “late”, I don’t mean “late”. All they’ve done is taken a bit longer than they feel comfortable in taking for their lunch break.
How have we got to the point where some people feel guilty about taking their legally allowable break?
Taking a break is good for your health isn’t it? So taking breaks is just common sense isn’t it? It’s certainly not common practice. At the place I work, our latest staff survey told us that 42% of our workforce, either don’t take a lunch break at all or take less than the legally required minimum time of 20 minutes. (Yes, that’s right – it is the law for your employer to allow most workers to take a 20 minute, uninterrupted break, at some point during the day). There appears to be a growing trend nationally for large numbers of people not to take breaks at work, with surveys reporting that between 66% and 82% of workers do not always take their breaks (Bupa, 2015; Mastercard/Ipsos Mori, 2016).
In my research into the psychological and social benefits of taking breaks during the working day (in office settings), I uncovered an amazing set of thoughts and behaviours linked to taking breaks (or not) during the working day. As well as review and meta-analysis of literature in the field, I was curious to find out how people thought about taking breaks. Putting it simply, I asked groups of office workers at a large employer, the following, deeply insightful, questions:
“Do you take your lunch breaks?”
“Why?” Or: “Why not?”
Using a combination of my curiosity and a structured way of analysing what people said, I found that:
Lots of people feel anxious and guilty about taking breaks
Work “wins”. Faced with a choice when they’re really busy, even if someone wants to take a break, then work “wins”
If you’ve got a great set of colleagues who all want to take lunch breaks, then guess what… you’ll take your breaks! And if you don’t have a great set of colleagues, then guess what…?
If you choose to take your break at your desk, then people acknowledge that they are “fair game” for being given work to do!
It’s not as simple as 2 groups emerging (those who do, and those who don’t take breaks) – people move from group to group depending on lots of situational factors
I’m now trying to work with these themes to look for ways to change the culture to one where people at least feel more comfortable to take a break if they want to. Clearly, if you have a job, the culture at your workplace will almost certainly be different to the one where I work, but perhaps, this blog might make you think a bit differently. Go on, stop reading this, move away from your screen… and take a break!
Mike will be sharing more about his research into the consequences of taking breaks (or not) during the working day at Psychologist in the Pub on Wednesday 1st May at The Glebe in Stoke.
The Department of Psychology recently hosted the Psychology Teacher Forum, an event aimed at psychology teachers in the West Midlands and surrounding areas. The aim of the Forum was to create a networking opportunity for teachers working in Further Education, alongside workshops focussed on teaching some of the core areas of psychology led by subject specialists at the University.
The Psychology Department welcomed 23 delegates who teach psychology on a range of different qualifications (e.g., A Levels, BTEC and Access courses). Judy David opened the event with a brief history of the Psychology Department at Staffs before Mel Hall delivered the first workshop where top tips and ideas for teaching Research Methods were shared, including happy and sad graphs!
Our Psychology technicians, Paul and Sarah, then led a tour of the Department facilities with an opportunity for delegates to take part in some demonstrations of our specialist equipment, such as the pain lab cold pressor tank.
Dr Jade Elliott then delivered a session on biological psychology, demonstrating interactive activities such as the 3-D brain app and the Wisconsin Sorting Task.
After a bit of light refreshment and networking supported by current PhD student Tanya Schrader, the final workshop covered courses and careers in Psychology delivered by Dr Claire Barlow and Dr Heather Semper.
We received some really positive feedback after the event, one attendee commented:
“thank you to all of the academic and support staff who made yesterday’s Teacher Forum such a wonderful event. My team and I all left with some brilliant ideas and we were so impressed with the facilities and knowledge of both the staff and technicians. We are now looking into bringing our students along to see how much is on offer locally for L3 provision and beyond”
Dr Claire Barlow was involved in the organisation of the event alongside Dina Grinsted (Schools & College Champion for Psychology), Claire commented:
“it was great to welcome so many fellow teachers of Psychology to the Department. One of the most positive aspects was the sharing of our experiences of teaching this fascinating subject area as well as the connections we have made. We hope to build on this event and create further opportunities to work together in the future”
Students on our BSc (Hons) Forensic Psychology course study a range of modules related to Psychology and Forensic Science, including individual modules focused on Crime Scene Investigation, the Psychology of Crime and Criminal Justice, and Forensic Applications of Psychology.
After completing their studies, many of our Forensic Psychology graduates pursue careers in the police force or a variety of roles working with offenders. As part of this work, many Forensic Psychology graduates may be working on crimes scenes or other settings where they may see a dead body. To help prepare our students for these potential future careers, we recently took a group of our Forensic Psychology students to the Keele University Mortuary. Staff at the Mortuary delivered a number of sessions for our students, including observations of a dead body, seeing how lived experiences (such as smoking or livening in a polluted environment, damage to areas of the brain, undiagnosed aneurysms) affect the body which may only become apparent post mortem, and viewing the Mortuary’s surgical equipment.
Two of our Level 5 Forensic Psychology students who attended the Mortuary visit, Emily and Emily, commented:
“We were taken into the mortuary and shown the cadavers. We were able to see different sections of the body such as the torso, the brain, legs and arms, and a full body. With these different sections we were able to explore actual organs including the brain. This was especially fascinating as psychology students as we were able to see the different areas of the brain that we learn about on our course, and how diseases can be physically shown within the brain. This was especially useful to apply to our Biological Psychology module”
“Another benefit of this trip was to prepare for potential future job areas that a Forensic Psychology student may be interested in, as some jobs may involve viewing the deceased. This also provided an insight into post mortems and anatomy which may be applicable to the forensic field. This trip was not for the faint hearted; you would need a certain mindset to attend this as some students may find this distressing. However, this was a great opportunity and we would definitely recommend that other students take part in this trip in the future.”
Dr Sarah Krahenbuhl (Course Leader, BSc Forensic Psychology) commented: “This was a unique opportunity for our Forensic Psychology students to have direct contact with bodies post mortem, to get some understanding of anatomy, and relate potential theoretical forensic-based experiences to the reality of an individual.”
The Department of Psychology at has been featured as one of Staffordshire University’s hidden gems as part of the University’s #SecretStaffs campaign.
The Department’s industry-standard facilities, labs and equipment is featured in the below #SecretStaffs as part of a tour of the Science Centre hosted by Dr Daniel Jolley and Dr Nikki Street. Watch the video, below, to see why our Department of Psychology is a #SecretStaffs hidden gem!