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 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”
It is well known that men are less likely to seek professional help for a range of health related issues, inclusive of mental and physical health (e.g. Men’s Health Forum), but the reasons for this disparity is not well known. Dr Dempsey’s research focuses on how individual’s perceptions of the social environment influence their mental and physical wellbeing, and he has conducted a number of studies into mental health, experiences of living with diagnoses of various mental health conditions (particularly bipolar disorder), the role of appraisals of the social environment on experiences of suicidality, predictors of substance use behaviours, and how individuals live with and ‘make sense’ of living with complex long-term health conditions. Dr Dempsey’s research is starting to focus on men’s experiences of mental health issues, starting with understanding the factors associated with men’s accessing (or not) of support for ongoing health issues.
Men aged 18 years and above sought for a new study!
The new study by Jessie and Dr Dempsey aims to address a gap in the literature by identifying the role of masculine social norms, self-perceptions and personality traits in the likelihood of seeking help from a variety of sources (ranging from healthcare professions to friends). The researchers are seeking volunteers, men aged 18 years and above, to take part in an anonymous online survey study, and answer a series of validated questionnaires measuring perceptions of masculinity, personality and help-seeking. A summary of the findings from this initial study will be posted on the InPsych once the findings have been published (check back for more details later this year!).
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).
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:
Darel Cookson, PhD Student in Psychology. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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).
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.”
As the course directors for the MSc Health Psychology, we are delighted to announce that former Staffordshire University student Sophie Phillips has been awarded the Division of Health Psychology’s MSc Research Project Prize for the best MSc dissertation in the UK!
Her dissertation titled “Do Physical Activity Calorie Expenditure (PACE) Food Labels Help Increase Healthier Food Choices? An Eye-Tracking Investigation” beat off strong competition from candidates at other institutions. Sophie’s prize is £200 toward the registration fee for this year’s Division of Health Psychology Conference and an oral presentation to be delivered at the conference in July at Manchester.
It is really exciting that Sophie has won because our graduate Sarah Higgins was a recipient of this prize in 2016 (click here for details of Sarah’s prize). Having two wins in the past four years is brilliant and really highlights the high quality of work that our students are able to achieve!
“working with Sophie on her dissertation has been an absolute pleasure, her study was interesting and used novel innovative methodology. The findings of her study have real world implications and could be used to influence decisions about food label content. I am sure she is a rising star – one to watch in the health psychology research field”
“I am delighted to have been awarded the DHP MSc research project prize. I am very grateful to the Health Psychology team at Staffordshire University for their support throughout the whole of the masters, and for providing me with this wonderful opportunity. I am really looking forward to attending and presenting my work at the DHP conference!”
Sophie is currently carrying out her PhD research at Durham University. This primarily involves exploring options for the measurement of movement-related behaviours (physical activity, sedentary behaviours and sleep) of pre-school children from socio-economically deprived communities. The aim of this research is to develop and evaluate a measurement tool that can be used to assess the movement related behaviours of pre-school children at a population/public health level. As part of her research, Sophie is working alongside the ‘A Better Start’ team, a programme and evaluation with a focus on reducing inequalities and improving the outcomes of children from low socio-economic status backgrounds.
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.
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.”
Dr Rose and the undergraduate students will be hosting a number of activities and demonstrations for families who are interested in finding out more about the human mind. The Potteries Museum is situated in Hanley city centre, Stoke-on-Trent (click here for a map). The hands-on psychology-related activities to be demonstrated on Saturday 2nd March will be suitable for anyone aged two years and older, and for people with any level of interest in psychology and the mind!
Come along and make a brain hat, find out how new skills are learnt, improve your memory and learn about emotions!
One of our current MSc by Applied Research students, Sophia, blogs about her MSc dissertation project which is incoporating public and patient involvement into a study of experiences of local mental health services:
My current research project has been developed by myself and a team of lived experience advisors as part of a public and patient involvement (PPI) strategy. Our aims are primarily to explore the experiences of mental health service users in Stoke-on-Trent and provide a service-user perspective of these services at a local level. Secondly, we aim to add to the literature surrounding the implementation of PPI strategies and co-production in mental health research.
A PPI strategy is a plan to engage with the public and /or patient groups, depending on your research question, with a view to enhance the quality of the research. PPI teams generally offer their experience, perspective and advice through roles such as ‘advisory’ or ‘steering’ groups. But consider this. If I told you that someone I have regular contact with has helped me to develop the proposal, ethics, interview questions, participant information, analysis, dissemination plans, plain language summary, presentation, and once even provided tech support, would you describe that as an advisory role? Perhaps a co-producer is more accurate.
My area of interest is mental health; historically outcomes of importance in this area have been identified by clinicians and researchers. This has led to much research focusing on eliminating symptoms and assessing the effectiveness of psychopharmacology; and although these areas are important, outcomes such as improved quality of life are neglected and clinical trials concerning talking therapies are kin to unicorn sightings. Consequently, strategies such as that adopted by the National Institute of Health Research asking researchers to provide a plan for PPI work alongside applications for funding have become more common. However, PPI work isn’t just the concern of the NIHR. Involving the public and patient populations in your research no matter what level you are at, undergrad, MSc, PhD, or full-blown professorship with bells on, helps you to keep your research focused on population relevant questions and outcomes. That is, it allows you to investigate the things that are important to the people you are trying to help. Further to this, it provides dialogue between patient populations and researchers, allows for the exchange of knowledge and experience and develops trust in the community. It demonstrates that the research is being done, that we do care what you think about what you have been through and together we can make things better.
As students, we can contribute to a better way of conducting research and set precedents. Eliminating tokenistic steering groups and sitting down with our gran/neighbour/kids/patient/pilot participant, asking them how something was for them, really listening and making co-production the norm. I know that’s what the public and patient group I’m working with want, because I asked them.