Successful BPS Accreditation Visit for Health Psychology at Staffordshire University

By Dr Rachel Povey, Associate Professor in Health Psychology.

Staffordshire University’s Health Psychology team are delighted to announce that their postgraduate Health Psychology programmes have been accredited for a further five years by the British Psychological Society (BPS), and were awarded nine commendations with no conditions. The British Psychological Society visited the University for two days in March, where they interviewed students, staff, placement providers, service users, and the senior management team.

“We had the first accredited Health Psychology programmes at both Stage 1 and 2, and so it is fantastic to have confirmation from the BPS that we continue to provide first class training in this area”.

Dr Emily Buckley, Head of the Department of Psychology

In particular, the Health Psychology programmes were commended for having a positive and strong ethos of developing reflective practice in students and for providing exemplary support to help foster positive and professional relationships with students.  The senior management team was also commended for their commitment and understanding of health psychology.

Health Psychology has a long and successful history at Staffordshire University with both programmes being the first to be accredited by the BPS in the UK, and being consistently commended for good practice. The MSc in Health Psychology (directed by Dr Gemma Hurst and Dr Sarah Dean) was also commended for embedding employability, developing applied skills and using real world assessments.

Some of our Health Psychology team celebrating after the recent BPS accreditation visit

The Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology (directed by Professor Karen Rodham and Dr Rachel Povey) provides applied training for students wanting to become Health Psychologists. All students gain professional skills in health-related placements, varying from NHS pain management services, to public health settings, to pupil referral units. The Professional Doctorate was commended for its widening access agenda (including providing training bursaries), the constructive engagement with placement providers, and the positive relationship with service users and carers.

Dr Nigel Thomas, Dean of School of Life Sciences and Education commended both teams for their hard work and commitment and stated:

“I’m delighted to see the health psychology programmes at Staffordshire University receiving such high praise from the BPS, this is a result of the level of dedication and commitment of the team”


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:

Student Blog: Presenting Summer Research Assistantship work at the BPS Annual Conference

Last summer, two of our Undergraduate Psychology students were awarded British Psychological Society Undergraduate Research Assistantships. This award enabled them to attend the British Psychological Society’s Annual Conference in Nottingham to present the research that they had carried out as part of their summer assistantship. One of the successful students, Ruth, reflects on her experience of the conference.

I had the pleasure of accompanying my course leader, Dr Sarah Rose to the BPS Annual Conference at the East Midlands Conference Centre in Nottingham recently to present our work on “Divergent thinking and pretend play in pre-schoolers. This day summed up what a fantastic experience the BPS Research Assistantship has been for me. It was a proud moment to see my name on the poster representing Staffordshire University amongst many other interesting displays of research that have been conducted all over the world in the last year.

Ruth with Dr Sarah Rose at the BPS Annual Conference

The conference was held at a fantastic venue and there were plenty of oral presentations to attend which were based on many different areas of psychology. I particularly enjoyed the Award presentation on “Puberty and the developing adolescent brain” and having just studied this topic as part of the Typical and Atypical module in level 6, this excellent presentation provided a brilliant consolidation to my knowledge and understanding of the subject. Other fascinating talks were given by the joint Spearman Medal award winners on “Observational to dynamic genetics” and “facial expression communication across cultures”, which were incredibly impressive, using ground-breaking technology within the research.

I had a very enjoyable day and came away feeling inspired and looking forward to Post Graduate study at Staffs in September, where I am hoping to complete the Masters degree in Applied Research.

Ruth Pettitt, Level 6 student, BSc Hons Psychology & Child Development.


Dr Sarah Rose (Lecturer in Psychology) supervised Ruth’s research and attended the conference with her. She writes:

Attending the BPS Annul Conference with Ruth was a real opportunity to feel proud of what our Students at Staffordshire University can achieve. Ruth completed the Foundation Year in Psychology before starting the BSc Psychology and Child Development. Throughout both courses Ruth has grown in confidence and has made the most of the opportunities available to her. This has included applying for, and being successfully awarded, a BPS Undergraduate Research Assistantship last summer. This enabled her to undertake the research which we presented at the conference.

Ruth, Dr Sarah Rose, and our other successful BPS Summer Research Assistantship recipient Tanya

Ruth has also successfully carried out an ambitious and innovative Final Year Project investigating the use of drawing to enhance young children’s memory. She is continuing to gain valuable research experience as over the summer she is working for the Behavioural Insights Team collecting data for a large-scale project aiming to assess an intervention to improve the language skills of children.


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:

Meet the StaffsPsych Graduates – Sian (BSc Psychology & Child Development including a Foundation Year)

As part of our new series of StaffsPsych Graduate Success Stories, we are pleased to introduce Sian who graduated from our BSc Psychology & Child Development course in 2015 after also successfully completing a Foundation Year.

Sian introduces herself and talks about her experiences studying Psychology and Child Development at Staffordshire University, and tells us how her degree has helped her  pursue a PhD in Psychology:


Please tell us a little about your background before coming to study at Staffordshire University:

When I left school at 16 years old, I trained to be a hairdresser and worked full time for several years. I decided to have a career change in my mid-twenties, so I completed an Open University course to help me get back into education.

What attracted you to studying Psychology at Staffordshire University?

I was interested in child psychology and Staffordshire University was one of the only universities to offer this type of course.

Furthermore, Staffordshire University gave me the option to complete a Foundation Year as I had taken extended time out of education. I think this was beneficial as this year gave me the tools to succeed at University.

What were the best parts of your experience at Staffs?

The staff in the Psychology Department were very approachable which made my time at Staffordshire University more enjoyable. In addition, I gained training in all the latest equipment and software related to psychology research. The Science Centre, where the Psychology department is based, has state-of-the-art equipment that is available to all students.

What was the biggest challenge(s) that you overcame whilst studying at Staffs?

I think the biggest challenge that I faced at university was time management. I had a young child and trying to juggle all my commitments was difficult sometimes. However, I found planning my timetable in advance really helped.

What have you done since leaving Staffs (e.g. volunteering, working, travelling…)? How did your course help you with this?

After graduating, I spent a short time working as a research assistant investigating the effects of watching television on children’s creative thinking. Subsequently to that, I worked for Leeds University, on a longitudinal smoking prevention project investigating adolescents’ views on smoking. Currently, I am undertaking a PhD looking at improving eating behaviours in high school students using the social norms approach.

What are your plans for the future?

My plans for the future include conducting more research in to children’s eating behaviours and potentially teaching in Psychology.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about applying to study Psychology at Staffordshire University?

Staffordshire University offers a supportive learning environment which will give you transferrable skills that can be used in any job setting. The advice I would give to someone applying to Staffordshire University is embrace every opportunity offered to you. The Psychology Department at Staffordshire University offer a fantastic curriculum with additional opportunities outside of the course for learning.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about your time at Staffs?

My time at Staffordshire University has given me so many skills that are transferable to an array of different jobs and I am really grateful for being given the opportunity to study at Staffs.


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:

PhD Student Blog: Attending the 1st Keele-Staffs Joint Psychology Postgraduate Conference

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

On the 25th April, 2018 the first Joint Keele and Staffordshire University Psychology Postgraduate Conference was held at Keele University. Although Keele have been running the conference for a number of years, this was the first time the event was organised and ran in collaboration with Staffordshire University. Consequently the event was an ideal opportunity for postgraduate researchers at the neighbouring institutions to share their research and build networks.

The conference was directed by Professor Claire Fox (Postgraduate Research Co-ordinator in Psychology at Keele University) and Dr Richard Jolley (Senior Lecturer in Psychology and PhD course leader at Staffordshire University). The organisation was led by the student committee which consisted of myself from Staffordshire University and Emma Harrison and Charlotte Bagnall, second and first year Keele Psychology PhD students, respectively. Collaborating with fellow PhD students from Keele was an immensely enjoyable and rewarding experience.

The morning began with an introduction and welcome from Professor Claire Fox, before the postgraduate speakers commenced. The first presenter was Keele PhD researcher, Olly Robertson, who gave a dynamic and informative overview of her current study. Olly is investigating whether perceived deficits in emotional regulation are associated with heart rate variance; who knew that the time between heart beats was so important? I gave the second presentation discussing the antecedents and consequences of belief in conspiracy theories, while revealing the rationale for my initial PhD investigations. This was followed by a thought-provoking account of the implementation of an innovative domestic abuse prevention programme by Keele MSc student Jess McElwee. Her research assessed student responses to a ‘Love Hurts’ play, aimed at addressing teenage relationship abuse and found that students felt theatre was an effective means of delivery, while further exploration into issues of trust and gender were suggested. The final presentation of the morning session was by Keele PhD student Angela Blanchard. Angela is conducting an autoethnography of childhood emotional neglect, and provided a compelling description of her data collection process and the resultant model she is developing. The model comprises ten themes evolved from thematic analysis.

Lunch was accompanied by poster presentations and of course we had time for a group photo too.

Figure 1. Did you even attend a conference if you didn’t pose in front of the posters?

There was a wide-variety of psychology sub-disciplines represented by the posters:

  • Recollection and familiarity- Memory for pictures and words. Jamie Adams (Keele).
  • The effects of early and late sleep on false memory. Zainab Alyobi (Keele).
  • Student Bullying in Higher Education: The Story So Far. Emma Harrison (Keele).
  • How do we attribute blame and responsibility for alcohol addiction? Claire Melia (Keele).
  • Utilizing eye-tracking to investigate the role of attention in emotional false memory formation. Emma Roberts (Staffordshire).

The afternoon session began with an introduction and welcome by Dr Richard Jolley, proceeded by the first afternoon speaker. Angela Bonner, a PhD student from Staffordshire University, gave an engaging and informative review of her current research. Angela is investigating the impact of glucoregulatory control on emotional recognition memory, when blood glucose is elevated. The second speaker of the afternoon was Kara Holloway, a PhD researcher from Keele. Kara shared her research; implementing a video-based student alcohol intervention, delivered through an app. The intervention included personalised feedback on the harms of drinking and social norming information and preliminary findings were shared. Charlotte Bagnall then discussed how her BSc and MSc research has informed her current PhD study: Improving children’s emotional well-being over primary-secondary school transition. Charlotte has conducted case study research and focus groups to inform her targeted emotional-resilience support intervention aimed at improving children’s experiences of this transition.

After a caffeine re-fuel, the afternoon session continued with Amelia Rout, a part-time PhD student from Staffordshire University, presenting her current research exploring the success of non-traditional students in higher education. Amelia’s research uses mixed methods to examine the influence of self-esteem and self-efficacy on academic success and preliminary findings show that issues around self-confidence and study skills of non-traditional students are often interlocking. The final presenter of the day was Daniella Hult-Khazaie, a PhD researcher from Keele University who provided an in-depth and engaging overview of her PhD area and planned studies. Daniella is investigating the effect of a shared social identity on health risk perceptions in mass gathering; does the sense of a shared social identity influence people’s perceptions of susceptibility to health risks at mass gathering?

Dr Sarah Rose’s keynote

As is illustrated above, there was great research shared from a wide-variety of sub-disciplines in Psychology. The day closed with an honest, informative and engaging Keynote from Dr Sarah Rose. Dr Sarah Rose is a Psychology Lecturer and Course leader for the BSc Psychology and Child Development degree at Staffordshire University and gave an overview of her career pathway which has led her from Staffordshire, to Keele and back! For all the PhD students listening, Sarah’s talk was invaluable and inspiring; thank you for sharing Sarah!

Thank you to all who attended the first Joint Keele and Staffordshire University Psychology Postgraduate Conference and for making it a success. And a huge congratulations to Kara Holloway and Claire Melia, who won best presentation and best poster respectively!


As course leader of the Psychology PhD students at Staffordshire University I was delighted to be offered the opportunity by our Keele colleagues to develop the first joint postgraduate conference between our two universities. Professor Claire Fox commented that this year’s event was the best ever, and we will certainly be working together to continue and develop this conference on a yearly basis. Next year it may well be held at Staffordshire University, watch this space!

This year’s inaugural conference was very professionally organised by the committee of PhD students.The schedule of talks was perfectly organised, with a very good balance of topics and talks from both departments, with well-placed breaks. Professional event organisers could not have done a better job!

If you are interested in studying for a PhD in the Department of Psychology we have nearly 50 academic members of staff, with expertise covering the full range of subdisciplines in psychology: biological, cognitive, developmental, individual differences, and social.  In addition, we have expertise in clinical, counselling and health psychology, running professional programmes in all of these subjects. A range of quantitative and qualitative methodologies is employed throughout the department.

Please contact me at r.jolley@staffs.ac.uk for all PhD enquiries.

Dr. Richard Jolley


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:

Meet the StaffsPsych Graduates – Andrew (BSc Psychology & Counselling)

As part of our new series of StaffsPsych Graduate  Success Stories, we’re pleased to introduce Andrew who graduated from our BSc Psychology & Counselling course in 2017.

Andrew introduces himself and talks about his experience studying Psychology and Counselling at Staffordshire University, and tells us how his degree has helped him pursue his dream career as a Health Psychologist:


Before coming to Staffs, I lived in the small southern town of Dunstable, Bedfordshire. Up until the time I was going to university open days, I had not travelled any further north than Northampton, so coming to Staffordshire was quite the trek initially! I studied Biology, English Literature, Chemistry, and of course Psychology at A Levels, and fell in love with the subject. Not only because I find what makes people tick so interesting, but because of it could offer me. Like many young people, I have struggled with my mental health. By being a person to lean on for my friends back in school, as well as going to seek therapy myself, I knew that pursuing a career in Psychology was my calling.

What attracted you to studying Psychology at Staffordshire University?

I wanted to study psychology, but to also specialise in counselling and therapeutic skills. As one of the only universities in the country at the time that was offering a counselling specific course at a bachelors level, Staffs was an easy pick. After going to an open day, seeing all of the equipment and facilities on offer, and feeling so welcomed by both staff and current students, I knew that I could work well there (and I did!).

What were the best parts of your experience at Staffs?

Where do I begin! Of course, on the campus life side of things I enjoyed heading out to the student union bar with my friends. I got involved with anything and everything that I could, including setting up societies, running liberation networks, and being a part of student projects where I could. But mostly I am proud of what I achieved, and ultimately getting the best degree I could, graduating with a 1st Class.

What was the biggest challenge that you overcame whilst studying at Staffs?

Putting myself first and being confident in my abilities. I have always been a people pleaser, and while that has its benefits, often times my tendency to help others would come at a detriment to my own wellbeing. By going through the process of earning a degree and getting the much-needed support from my personal tutors and peers, I developed an appreciation for being much more introspective, and realising that my needs needed to be met too. Thanks to that, my confidence in myself and what I can offer as a graduate is at an all-time high, and I do not think I would have turned out like this had it not been for the course I chose, and the people who helped me along the way.

What have you done since leaving Staffs?

I came right back! As someone pursuing a career in Psychology I require further training, and it just made sense to return to Staffs to do just that. I am currently studying the MSc Health Psychology course which I love! It has been a slight detour from my initial counselling path, but I could not be happier studying in an area that will enable me to make change, helping as many people as I can to live a healthier and happier life.

What are your plans for the future?

Ultimately, I wish to reach that doctoral level, and I plan on doing a Health Psychology Professional Doctorate sometime in the future to achieve that. In doing so, I hope to one day open my own practice, working with people to achieve their health goals and reach the best self that they can be.

At the moment however, I plan on slowing down after 4 straight years of intense studying. I have a volunteer position set up at a local health and wellbeing service back home, and I have applied for a casual research assistant role to keep me in the world of psychology but will allow me to relax for a few months.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about applying to study Psychology at Staffordshire University?

Do not think that just because you do not know the ins and outs of every theory you’ve come across that you are not worthy to study a psychology degree. Be true to yourself, and let the university know what studying psychology would mean to you. If you are passionate about the area and want to use it in a way to help people, be expressive about it. If you just find the topic interesting and want to know more purely for your own gain, be expressive about that too. Good luck!

Finally, is there anything else you’d like to tell us about your time at Staffs?

I would not trade my time being at Staffs for anything, and I hope that whoever is reading this will consider making Staffs their home for the next 3 years. I am certainly #ProudToBeStaffs


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:

Student Success! MSc Health Psychology Student Publishes her Dissertation Research

By Dr Sarah Dean, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Staffordshire University.

Lucy Field

Lucy Field completed the MSc in Health Psychology at  Staffordshire University in 2017 and has recently had her dissertation research, which was supervised by Dr Sarah Dean, published as an open access article in the Global Journal of Health Science.

It has been recognised that stress can have a very negative impact on people’s health and wellbeing and it is therefore important that interventions are designed to help people deal with stressors effectively. One way of doing this is to use interventions that help people to become more aware of their bodies, their response to stress and how to regulate this. Lucy’s work explored the effectiveness of a biofeedback intervention, using the HeartMath training programme, to reduce a person’s physiological response to stressors. It was found that the intervention had positive effects for participants. Participants reported feeling less stressed and more relaxed after taking part in the intervention and Lucy’s physiological data supported this. Future research is needed to explore the use of HeartMath further.

This is what Lucy had to say about her time on the MSc:

“I really enjoyed my MSc in Health Psychology at Staffordshire University. Health promotion and stress have become areas of specialty for me. I completed my research on stress using a  biofeedback technique with support from my tutor and other researchers in the field. This has been published! I would not have believed this to be something I could have accomplished at the beginning of the course. I am now looking forward to starting the Prof Doc in Health Psychology!”

Please click here to read Lucy’s published article.

Field, L. H., Edwards, S. D., Edwards, D. J., & Dean, S. E. (2018). Influence of HeartMath Training Programme on Physiological and Psychological Variables. Global Journal of Health Science, 10(2), 126-133.


Thinking about postgraduate study in Health Psychology?

If you are interested in studying our BPS Accredited Stage 1 MSc in Health Psychology why not sign up to our next Open Afternoon on Tuesday 3rd July?

For more information about the Open Afternoon, please email the MSc Health Psychology  Course Directors Dr Sarah Dean s.dean@staffs.ac.uk or Dr Gemma Hurst G.L.Hurst@staffs.ac.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 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 & The Brain 2018… on tour!

By Dr Sarah Rose, Lecturer in Psychology, Staffordshire University.

A ‘brain hat’ coloured in by one of our guests at the Potteries Museum

Brain Awareness week is a worldwide celebration of the brain, encouraging people of all ages to appreciate the importance of what our brains do for us. As well as a very successful Psychology and the Brain event held at the University, a smaller event was also held at The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent. This was led by myself and five of our Psychology and Child Development Students. The aim of the event was to provide some interactive activities for families to take part in, to learn together about the marvels of the brain.

The students found the experience of running the event and engaging with the public to be rewarding and had fun making their own ‘brain hats’ (see above for a picture).

“It was great to incorporate the information learned from my Psychology and  Child Development course into various activities. Also, being able to teach children about what the brain does and how it works was a truly worthwhile experience.” (Ingrid, Level 5 student)

“Demonstrating to local children at the Psychology and the Brain event what is involved in psychology using child friendly engaging activities was so much fun! As a Psychology and Child Development student, being given the volunteering opportunity has enabled me to demonstrate skills learnt on the course and helped towards building the perfect foundation for working with young people in my future psychology career.” (Rebecca, Level 6 student)

 “I found it very helpful how we were able to use the knowledge we already had but adapt this to suit children. For example, changing the “normal” Stroop task for one that children would find engaging and easier to comprehend. I think applying AND adapting knowledge enhances learning even more, as you really get to grips with the theory underpinning it.’ (Zoe, Level 6 student)

In addition to the students enjoying the event, I also had a great time! It was great to work with this group of students outside of the classroom. Seeing them share the knowledge that they have developed during their degree with families was very rewarding. They worked really well together and demonstrated that they could put what they were learning into practice as they explained the marvels of the brain to young children and their families.

Dr Sarah Rose is planning to organise similar events in the future if you are interested in finding out more about these please do get in touch (click here for Sarah’s contact details).


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:

Psychology and the Brain 2018

By Dr Daniel Jolley, Lecturer in Psychology, Staffordshire University.

During this year’s Brain Awareness Week, the Department of Psychology organised an event called Psychology and the Brain.

Psychology and the Brain was an interactive evening where guests first enjoyed short talks from experts in the Department, such as how we measure brain activity and how Virtual Reality can trick our minds. Next, guests were invited to get hands-on with some of the latest technology in the Department – as such our Virtual Reality headsets, eye-tracking, EEG, driving simulator, and many other interactive demonstrations. We also had colleagues from Biology who joined us to run a demonstration for the guests. To end the evening, guests who had visited 3 or more demonstrations were invited to enter a prize draw to win some Love2Shop vouchers.

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At the end of the evening, guests were invited to give feedback on their experiences… some of the comments are included below:

“A mix of information and interaction. Very enjoyable and well planned”

“Thanks for setting up so many different tasks to have a go at – very interesting”

“MINT”

“I’ve loved this, I learnt how the brain works and I played on a game and beat a 30 year old (Henry, age 9)”

“Fantastic evening. Great technology and amazing demonstrations”

“It was an amazing experience and will love to come back next year!”

Psychology and the Brain was only possible with the support of many staff and students throughout the University. Dr Emily Buckley, Head of the Psychology Department, who led the thanks on the evening has said:

“We love hosting these kinds of events as it’s great for us to be able meet members of the local (and not so local) community and introduce them to psychology, as well as specifically what we do here at Staffs.  We welcomed a wide variety of guests from young children to those of the older generations, and from all different walks of life. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with people really enjoying the opportunity to get ‘hands on’ with our kit as well as the free cake and chance to win prizes.” 

Highlights from the Psychology and the Brain event, including photos and videos of the evening’s activities, can be viewed by our ‘Psychology and the Brain‘ twitter moment (click here).

We are excited for our next public engagement event – keep your eyes out for advertisements!


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:

Student Blog: What do you think about when you hear the term ‘body image’?

By Alexandra Morley Hewitt, MSc by Applied Research student

When you are asked about body image, what is the first thing that comes to your mind?

When asked about their body image, most people will tend to focus on the negatives and things that they don’t like about themselves, such as “my bum is too big” or “I don’t like my nose”. We are all able to think about the negative aspects of our body very quickly, however, how we view our own bodies has seemed to change in the past few decades and people are now beginning to think more positively about themselves and their bodies.

Likewise, body image research has tended to focus on the negatives (i.e. what we dislike about our bodies or find embarrassing), but there has started to be a shift towards understanding positive body image. Initially research saw positive body image as simply being at the other end of the scale from negative body image. So, if you didn’t think positively about your body, then it meant you had a negative body image (Avalos, Tylka, & Wood-Barcalow, 2005). This could be an oversimplification of the complex nature of body image which could be a combination of both positive and negative facets. This old way of thinking about body image potentially delayed advancing the understanding of positive body image, especially as there has been a lack of measurement tools available to examine positive body image (such as validated psychometric self-report questionnaires).

In 2005, the creation of the Body Appreciation Scale (Tiggemann, 2015) provided this opportunity for better understanding more positive aspects of body image. This scale allows positive body image to be measured and examined in a new way, facilitating more nuanced body image research. Positive body image was no longer seen as having no negative body image thoughts, rather, positive body image became a widely acknowledged concept that included factors such as body appreciation, body acceptance, and inner positivity (Tylka & Wood-Barcalow, 2015). With researchers using a mixture of methods, the definition of positive body image developed, further theories were created and measurement tools adjusted, such as the further refinement of the Body Appreciation Scale.

Alongside my supervisor (Dr Alison Owen, Lecturer in Psychology), we are aiming to build upon this area of research by examining how a number of individual differences factors, ranging from age to physical disability to personality, are predictive of positive body image. If you are interested in participating in this study, please click here to find out more information about the study.


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:


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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.

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