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:

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).

“Children often misread fear in dogs” – Dr Sarah Rose writes for The Conversation

Dr Sarah Rose (Senior Lecturer in Psychology & Course Leader for the BSc Psychology & Child Development course at Staffordshire University) has recently written a piece for The Conversation UK based on her recent research investigating how young children perceive dogs’ behaviour and their intentions to approach happy, frightened and/or angry dogs.

It is well known that young children are at high risk of being bitten by a dog but there was a lack of research into how well young children recognised dogs’ emotional states and how this relates to their intentions to approach a dog.

Dr Rose conducted a study with one of our Psychology graduates to investigate this issue – you can read more about Dr Rose’s study via The Conversation (click on the below link for details):

The Conversation: Children often misread fear in dogs – making a bite more likely


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).

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.

Staffordshire’s Department of Psychology leaps up the Complete University Guide rankings

Following Staffordshire University’s rise up the Complete University Guide (CUG) league tables – where the University was the highest climber in the rankings and in the Top Ten nationally for student satisfaction – we are delighted that the Department of Psychology has had a similar rise in this year’s CUG league tables.

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.

The Department was one of the highest climbers in the national Psychology league table (click here to view the league table) and joint-fourth in the rankings for student satisfaction nationally for Psychology (click here).

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”

Dr Emily Buckley, Head of the Department of Psychology

“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”

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

We were delighted to see such a rise in the league tables and recognition for the quality of our courses and the student experience on our Psychology 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. 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.

Mental Health Awareness Week 2019: New research into masculinity and men’s help seeking behaviours

A new study by Dr Robert Dempsey (Senior Lecturer in Psychology & Mental Health, Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research) and Jessie Rocton, a student on the MSc Psychology (Conversion) course, is seeking to understand the psychological factors associated with men’s help-seeking intentions. This research coincides with the Mental Health Foundation‘s 2019 Mental Health Awareness Week, a week-long series of events which aim to improve knowledge of various mental health experiences, reduce stigma, and promote help-seeking amongst those experiencing significant health challenges.

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!).

For further details about this online study, please visit the study’s website (click here).


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 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.

MSc Health Psychology Graduate Wins National Prize for their Dissertation!

By Dr Sarah Dean & Dr Gemma Hurst (Co-Directors, MSc Health Psychology)

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!

Supervisor Dr. Heather Semper commented:

“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”

Sophie says:

“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.


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.

“Oh, I’m really sorry, the jacket potato took ages to arrive…” Do you feel guilty about taking a lunch break?

By Mike Oliver, Trainee Health Psychologist.

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.

Mike currently in his third year studies in his Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology at Staffordshire University, which he combines with working in the Public Health team in a Local Authority. Mike can be contacted via: m.oliver@student.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.

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.