Student Blog: The importance of incorporating public and patient involvement in my MSc Research

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.


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.

For further information about the Psychology degrees on offer at Staffordshire University please visit the below pages:

Psychology and Me: Interactive evening of Psychology for the general public!

The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University is delighted to invite you to Psychology and Me, a fun and interactive evening where you will be given the opportunity to get hands-on with some of our state-of-the-art equipment used in our psychological research, as well as hear about the latest research findings from a variety of experts working in psychology.

Psychology and Me will take place at Staffordshire University’s Science Centre, Leek Road, Stoke-on-Trent, on Wednesday 27th February 6 – 8:30 pm. Click here to view the location of the Science Centre on Staffordshire University’s Stoke-on-Trent campus. Tickets include free parking on site and refreshments.

This year’s Psychology and Me event includes a number of activities:

Psychology and Me: Listen

Have you ever wondered… why people fall for fake news? What do your children’s drawings really mean? Will seeing a future ‘you’ encourage a healthier lifestyle? A series of short expert talks will explore these and other fascinating questions.

Psychology and Me: Hands-on

Try your hand at learning how our equipment works such as how virtual reality can change our world, how we can know what you are thinking without asking and how we test your reaction skills in our driving simulator, amongst other fun demonstrations.

Psychology and Me: A chance to win

Having taken part in the hands-on activities, you have a chance to win some Love2Shop vouchers. Entry information and winners announced on the night.

How does psychology apply to you and your life? Come along and find out.


Reserve your place at Psychology and Me

Reserve your (free) ticket(s) for this year’s Psychology and Me event please visit our Eventbrite page: https://psychologyandme19.eventbrite.co.uk or contact psychologyevents@staffs.ac.uk for more information.


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.

For further information about the Psychology degrees on offer at Staffordshire University please visit the below pages:

PhD Student Blog: My Journey to studying for a PhD

By Tanya Schrader, PhD Student in Psychology (Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research).

As a first-year undergraduate, one of our assignments was to write a reflective essay with SMART goals. My first thought was “Argh!”. My second thought was “Why, why, why?”. I’m happy to report that it turned out well and I’ve come to appreciate reflection both in my academic and personal life. Reflective practices have not only benefitted my academic work but also reminds me to acknowledge my achievements, big and small, that have aided me in my endeavours. Reflecting on my achievements has proved a valuable method to avoid becoming overwhelmed by the experiences of undertaking a degree.

 

The last time I wrote on this blog was at the end of my BPS Research Assistantship in 2017. I had my final year ahead of me and had made the decision to continue to post-graduate study. I had no idea how I was going to overcome the logistical and financial challenges, but I was determined to find a way (Did I mention that my husband is also doing a degree at Staffs?). I reflected over the many challenges I’d overcome to get into university, and the achievements I’d made up to that point. This gave me the determination I needed to stay positive and focussed.

First and foremost, I knew I needed to put everything I had into my final year. I set out my academic goals (and yes, they were SMART), put my head down and went full steam ahead. It was intense, and I could not have done it without the support of my peers and the best academic staff in the world. My project supervisor, Dr Dan Jolley, showed unwavering faith in my abilities even when I was very much in doubt. My project, which investigated the relationship between rape myth acceptance and feminist conspiracy theories, produced a significant result and I knew that this research needed to be extended. I presented my findings at the Staffordshire University Psychology Student Conference, followed by the British Psychological Society’s Midlands conference. I received valuable feedback on both counts, which informed the direction of my postgraduate study.

I put forward a PhD proposal and it was accepted. Together with my supervisors, Dr Daniel Jolley and Dr Sarah Krähenbühl, I am currently in the early stages of my program of researching the darker outcomes of conspiracy theory beliefs. We are investigating the unjust treatment of people who belong to groups that are perceived to be involved in conspiracies. In particular, if this relates to increased online and offline aggression, the justification of violent acts, and if such group membership affects people’s experiences within the criminal justice system.

Again, I find myself at a point where I need to reflect upon my journey thus far to reassure myself that I have what it takes.

As 2018 gave way to 2019, while I was planning the upcoming year and feeling slightly anxious about the challenges ahead, I received news that I was to be published!  The study that was conducted as part of my BPS Assistantship project, culminated in a paper which I co-authored with Dr Daniel Jolley, Prof Karen Douglas and Dr Ana Leite.  The paper, titled Belief in conspiracy theories and intentions to engage in everyday crime, has just been accepted for publication by the British Journal of Social Psychology. What a splendid way to begin the new year. So now, whenever the inevitable doubts creep in, I have this achievement to remind myself that I have what it takes to be a PhD student.


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.

For more information about the Psychology degrees on offer at Staffordshire University please visit the below pages:

Body Esteem & Social Media use: StaffsPsych Graduate Hollie publishes her undergraduate research!

By Dr. Alison Owen (Lecturer in Health Psychology, Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research).

As you’re probably already aware, social media is widely used nowadays. For example, the last recorded statistics of this year showed that Facebook alone had 2.27 billion monthly active users and one billion people were using Instagram in June 2018.

Researchers at the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research decided to look into whether using social media has an impact on a person’s feelings towards their body. Staffordshire University Undergraduate student Hollie Ormsby, along with her supervisors (Dr. Alison Owen and collaborator Dr. Manpal Bhogal from the University of Wolverhampton), surveyed 100 students, with participants completing measures of social media use and body esteem. The body esteem measure looks at how people feel about their body, and includes statements such as ‘I am proud of my body’. Hollie and her supervisors found that social media use and intensity of use (the amount of time people spent on social media) did not predict a person’s body esteem. However, they did find that the women had significantly lower body esteem compared to men. Whilst it might seem disappointing not to replicate previous studies’ findings in relation to body esteem and social media use, this study provides useful evidence indicating that the assumed negative effects of social media use may be more complicated than previously thought, especially in relation to body esteem.

Hollie and her supervisors have recently published their findings in the journal Current Psychology (click here to view the paper) and Hollie is progressing her studies at Staffordshire University on the Department of Psychology’s new MSc Foundations in Clinical Psychology course after completing her BSc (Hons) Psychology degree in 2018.


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.

For more information about the Psychology degrees on offer at Staffordshire University please visit the below pages:

PhD Student Sian publishes her first paper in the journal Obesity Reviews!

Sian Calvert

Congratulations to our PhD Student Sian Calvert on publishing the first paper from her PhD research, a systematic review in the leading journal Obesity Reviews! Sian, supervised by Dr Robert Dempsey and Dr Rachel Povey, is one of a number of PhD students based in the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research at Staffordshire University.

Sian’s PhD programme, which funded by the University, aims to develop and test the feasibility of conducting a Social Norms Approach intervention with high school students to improve adolescents’ eating behaviours by challenging some of the misperceptions of the acceptability and amount of healthy foodstuffs eaten by their fellow student peers. The Social Norms Approach is a means of promoting healthier behaviours based on informational feedback which challenges common misperceptions (i.e. the over- and under-estimation of peer behaviours) to reduce the perceived social pressure to conform to potentially unhealthy norms. Sian’s primary supervisor, Dr Robert Dempsey, leads a programme of research evaluating the Social Norms Approach at Staffordshire University and has recently published a critical review of the use of the approach as a health behaviour approach (click here to read this review).

Sian’s paper, a systematic review of the use of in-school interventions to promote healthier eating amongst 11-16 year olds, is the first to evaluate the range, format and outcomes of healthy eating interventions delivered in high school settings in the UK and around the world. The start of secondary education (or its equivalent in non-UK countries) marks a time where many students become more independent, have greater control over their dietary behaviours, and is a key period where dietary habits can form which last into adulthood. Also, there are numerous reports of increases in unhealthy eating behaviours (e.g. snacking, meal-skipping) and decreases in more healthy eating behaviours (e.g. fruit and vegetable consumption, drinking regular amounts of water) amongst this age group. The high school environment forms a key target for dietary behaviour interventions given that schools have extensive contact with students, that the school environment is relatively well controlled (meaning that interventions can be appropriately tested and controlled), and behaviours can be monitored. Sian’s review makes several recommendations for future best practice with this group of individuals, including the need for future interventions to consider the influence of peers on dietary behaviours (e.g. by including student peers in intervention campaigns and activities) as well as better evaluating the potential role of personalised, individual, feedback on dietary behaviour choices.

Dr Robert Dempsey, Sian’s supervisor, commented:

“Sian did a great job reviewing a complex and very varied literature, and this systematic review is a key part of her PhD research which has directly informed the follow-up studies she is currently analysing and writing up. To publish her work in a very competitive and highly ranked global journal before the completion of her PhD studies is a great achievement for Sian!”

Sian is currently analysing and writing up a series of qualitative and quantitative papers based on her PhD studies investigating the feasibility of the Social Norms Approach as a means of encouraging more positive healthy behaviours amongst high school students. A link to Sian’s systematic review paper can be found below:


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:

100% PTES Student Satisfaction on Staffordshire University’s MSc Psychology Conversion Course!

According to the Post Graduate Taught Experience Survey (PTES) 2018 results, the first cohort of students who completed the MSc Psychology Conversion course were 100% satisfied with the overall quality of their course. The Higher Education Academy’s annual Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey (PTES) is the only sector-wide survey to gain insight from taught postgraduate students about their learning and teaching experiences.

Dr. Louise Humphreys, Course Leader for the MSc Psychology conversion degree, comments:

“This is fantastic news and I am delighted that students were highly satisfied with the course. These students started the course with little or no knowledge of Psychology, and it was great to see the students’ progress throughout the year. In addition, 83% of the students achieved a Merit or Distinction for their degree, which is fantastic. Our team of academic staff work very hard to ensure that students receive an excellent experience here at Staffordshire University, and we are extremely pleased with the success of the course in its first year.  The team are currently continuing this hard work to ensure that the second cohort get the very best out of the course and receive a stimulating and rewarding experience.”

The MSc Psychology conversion course is designed for students who wish to pursue a career in Psychology, but do not have a British Psychological Society (BPS) accredited undergraduate degree. The course allows students to gain Graduate Basis for Chartership (GBC). This is a means by which the BPS ensures that those working towards Chartered Status have studied Psychology at the appropriate breadth and standard to equip them for postgraduate training. Upon completing the course students will have covered all the core areas of Psychology defined by the BPS. Graduates from this course can go on to apply for BPS accredited professional psychology training courses (such as Clinical, Health, Forensic, and Educational Psychology, amongst others) and eventual achievement of Chartered Status.


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.

For more information about the Psychology degrees on offer at Staffordshire University please visit the below pages:

Meet the StaffsPsych Graduates – Fozia (BSc Hons Psychology)

As part of our series of StaffsPsych Graduate Success Stories, we are pleased to introduce Fozia who completed her BSc (Hons) Psychology degree here at Staffordshire University. Find out about Fozia’s experiences on her course and her plans for the future:


What attracted you to studying Psychology at Staffordshire University?

Great course offer, great friendly teaching staff and great student population. I also wanted somewhere not too far from my home town of Birmingham so Stoke-on-Trent was a great location with fantastic transport links. The surrounding area was quiet and friendly.

What were the best parts of your experience at Staffs?

Student life as a whole – studying aspect, socialising, great resources to support studying and living, great community of people to make me feel safe whilst living away from home

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

How small the campus and city of Stoke-on-Trent is so I was able to get about easily compared to living in a busy large city, feeling safe as well as independent. When studying late in the library or on campus, my living accommodation was only few roads away so I was able to walk in the dark very late at night without the fear of anything happening. The security staff/fellow students were happy to walk with me a short distance if they were able to.

What have you done since leaving Staffs?

Lots of work experience and employment. Studying MSc in Health Psychology and then going onto do my PhD which I was awarded in 2013 from Aston University. Alongside my PhD I completed my BPS Chartership Stage 2 in Health Psychology qualification and am now continuing with my HCPC membership as a Registered Psychologist.  I have had many clinical roles mainly in smoking cessation and acute health, embarking on project management at Birmingham Children’s Hospital as a Research Fellow and Project Manager for the CLARCH 1 project. I then moved on to Primary Care Transformation Team Project Manager working for HEE. I now work as the Clinical Engagement Manager for Wolverhampton CCG/WMCA on an innovative health led trial testing IPS employment support in primary care.

What are your plans for the future? 

Continue to work on health led trials and develop my leadership skills within NHS/WMCA

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

Do it! No matter what background you are from or whatever the situation you will be able to develop yourself as a person at your own pace with plenty of support. Studying at Staffordshire University gave me my first opportunity to learn about health psychology and I have never looked back. My passion and dedication to health psychology has surfaced in all the different roles I have had since leaving Staffs clinical as well as none clinical, and I have been able to keep up with a lot of the new innovative ideas in health promotion as it all stems from health psychology i.e. behaviour change. I may not be working as a Health Psychologist as I once aimed for, but I am working in a role where I can use my health psychology knowledge and PhD skills to work to the best of my ability and to help to tackle wider determinants of health and achieve better health outcomes.

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

I started off as a very quiet and introverted person contrary to my character as I was in a new place for the first time on my own. However by the second year I gained the confidence to socialise more as well as working with others to study harder and efficiently. I became better in decision making and problem solving as well a financial more savvy! My times at Staffs was a huge step for me but one I have never regretted!


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.

For more information about the Psychology degrees on offer at Staffordshire University please visit the below pages:

Meet the StaffsPsych Graduates – Szilvia (MSc & Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology)

As part of our series of StaffsPsych Graduate Success Stories, we are pleased to introduce Szilvia who completed her MSc in Health Psychology and her Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology here at Staffordshire University. Find out about Szilvia’s experiences at on her course and her plans for the future:


Before studying at Staffordshire, I had completed previous Psychology-related courses and obtained various certificates, such as a BSc in Psychology (in Hungary), PGDip in Psychodrama and Creative Counselling. I then worked as a health care assistant in Staffordshire before starting my Health Psychology studies here at Staffordshire.

What attracted you to studying Psychology at Staffordshire University?

I was interested in Health Psychology, and Staffordshire University offered the MSc and Professional Doctorate courses in Health Psychology which other universities in the region didn’t offer.

What were the best parts of your experience at Staffs?

I really loved the interactive aspects of teaching; we received a great amount of support from the lecturers. The lecturers were always friendly, very well prepared and made the sessions enjoyable. I learned a lot about research methods during the MSc in Health Psychology, and because of that I felt confident to continue with the Doctorate in Health Psychology. Thanks to these good foundations, my critical analytical thinking and problem-solving skills have further developed during the doctorate. I found that these things are super important for people who work in health-related jobs, as science and societies are changing constantly. Also, the other major ‘best part’ was being with like-minded students, I made some friends for life at Staffs.

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

To work and study at the same time, but I was given lots of support and advice how to work with these difficulties (e.g. book blocks of time off), so it all worked out at the end.

What have you done since leaving Staffs?

Because I became very interested in health behaviour interventions and I worked with insomnia patients during the doctorate, I enrolled into a graduate part-time course in Sleep Medicine at Oxford. Through this course I met Prof. Colin Espie (who is one of the directors of the Sleep Medicine Centre at Oxford) who developed the evidence-based CBTi – cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia patients. We talked about a possible research project in which I could utilise his CBTi approach and apply it to develop a new form of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for insomnia patients. Also, I’ve spent a week training retreat in Massachusetts with Jon Kabat-Zinn (the developer of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction programme). In terms of work, currently I’m working bank hours for an agency, which is part of the NHS, I’m in the process of relocating to New York.

What are your plans for the future?

In about five years I would like to take the ‘somnologist’ exam (sleep medicine specialist). Also, I would like to write a book about how to use Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for sleeping difficulties.

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

There are lots of different kinds of support to help with literally anything. For example, there are lots of materials and even seminars to help with academic writing. Make sure to use those and listen to tips about time management and so forth.


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:

BSc Psychology & Counselling – Field trip to Beaudesert Care Farm

By Julie Faulkner, Course Leader – BSc (Hons) Psychology & Counselling

During the winter this year, we offered our Psychology and Counselling undergraduates the chance to don a pair of wellies and enter the hills of Cannock to experience the eco-therapeutic value of care farming at Beaudesert Park Farm. This is family-run cereal and cattle farm, in a beautiful setting on the edge of Cannock Chase. Fifteen of us travelled by coach to spend the afternoon with staff, members and volunteers, who offered a warm welcome and a range of taster activities.

What are care farms?

Due to increasing financial pressures on the British farming industry, many farmers need to explore alternative income streams to survive. Care farming is one example of this, based on the principles of ecotherapy, where the natural environment offers a therapeutic space. In the case of Beaudesert, this involved structured farm-based activities for people from vulnerable groups and extends to carpentry, crafts, preparing food for the team and walking. Many volunteers of the project are previous members who now support others. This work is funded by health, social care and education agencies, but this funding is not always available. Mary Cope, one of the farm’s owners explained how this type of purposeful activity has had a profound impact on the quality of life for people with mental health difficulties and their families. We heard how some members had previously been isolated in their homes without structure or social contact before attending the farm.

Sadly, funding for these programmes is becoming increasingly scarce. The Seeds of Hope Programme that supported these members came to an end due to lack of funds. But rather than leave them unsupported, the staff team decided to set up a weekly walking group, which is now exploring new locations for walks within the local countryside.

Our time at the farm

When we arrived, we were introduced to the ‘Rolls Royce’ of composting toilets! Then we were greeted by the group of members and volunteers in a modern, purpose-built educational facility. Mary told us about the work of the care farm, which also included a project for people with dementia and activities for school children. We were taken on a tour of the farm to feed goats, see the rare breed cattle and talk to members and workers about their experiences on the farm. Incidentally, most of the volunteers are previous members of the care farm’s programmes. John Hegarty, a keen eco-psychologist took us through a mindfulness exercise as we stood among the woodland. I could feel the tension of the day giving way to the calm of the present moment. Later, we were treated to home made cakes and hot drinks, whilst mingling with the team and weaving with corn. The students were able to ask questions and give their feedback about what had impacted them about the experience.

Final reflections

As we walked around the farm in coat and wellies and chatted with members, I could see how this setting created a sense of peace and how the people’s lives had been changed through coming in to this space, whether spending time alone in the beautiful setting or through practical tasks and being together in the rural setting.

This field trip was also a chance for students from all levels of the undergraduate course to take some time out of their studies to be together. In their own words, her are some of their thoughts:

“It was a great place to be with nature and to see how it helped the people who used the service”

“It was inspiring to witness how an environment offering a supportive network, acceptance and purposeful activity impacted and improved the lives of the people at the farm.”

It was such a success that we plan to repeat this trip in the coming year for any students on the BSc Psychology and Counselling Degree course.


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 Conspiracy Theory Research Training School

By Darel Cookson (PhD Student in Psychology; Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research).

This summer I was lucky enough to attend a training school in Canterbury (at the University of Kent), organised by the COST Comparative Analysis of Conspiracy Theories action group, which focussed on quantitative methods in conspiracy theory research. My PhD research is investigating belief in conspiracy theories and exploring how understanding why people believe in conspiracy theories could help us develop interventions to reduce harmful beliefs. Therefore, this training school was an invaluable opportunity to develop my understanding of the research area and to work with both pioneers and fellow postgraduate students in the field.

The week did not disappoint! Each day was jam-packed with seminars from experts in the field, group-work with peers and challenging discussions and debates. Everyone was completely engaged with the topics, meaning that discussions often ended with new and exciting research opportunities we are now working on. The social schedule was bursting too, with several ideas being developed over fish and chips and a can of pop!

The social schedule also included a walking tour where we visited Canterbury Cathedral

The week kicked off with an introduction to the Psychology of Conspiracy Theories from the training school organiser, Professor Karen Douglas. Professor Douglas discussed the developments in the field, summarising that conspiracy beliefs are often a natural response to psychological needs and threats. For example our epistemic, existential and social needs can all drive people towards conspiracy theories. However, research has found that adopting these beliefs may ultimately be self-defeating.

Professor Sutton then led a seminar discussing the measurement of conspiracy beliefs and some of the pros and cons to using survey measures – extremely relevant to my work! This was followed by our first group work session, where myself and my group learned about each other’s research interests and so began our first discussion session.

The following day Dr Nefes delivered a brilliant seminar discussing his recent research using Rational Choice Theory, demonstrating how conspiratorial theorising can be used rationally in line with people’s political opinions and perceptions of threat. As I am from a psychological, rather than sociological, background it was really interesting to learn about sociological theories and my group were particularly fond of our research ideas developed in this session! We also had an engaging seminar in the afternoon by Dr Cichocka, about conspiracy theories and intergroup relations. We discussed theory development and mediation and moderation models which I think helped everyone with their current research ideas!

Dr Krouwel delivering his seminar on conspiracy beliefs and political orientation

On Wednesday, Dr Krouwel led a session focussing on politics and conspiracy beliefs; specifically the comparisons of left and right and moderate and extreme political views. Dr Krouwel was extremely generous with his time, answering all of our questions and helping us develop interesting and testable hypotheses. On Thursday we had the privilege of listening to Dr van-Prooijen discuss his recent paper on using evolutionary psychology to explain the origins of conspiracy beliefs. This new perspective is fascinating and the ideas bred from this session were definitely innovative and exciting.

By Friday I was feeling inspired but also quite sad that the week was almost over as the research group had become friends. The final seminar was led by Professor Uscinski and this focussed on the politics of conspiracy theories. Here we learned a lot about the role of partisanism in belief in conspiracy theories. Discussions then continued into Kent University’s excellent student union bar!

The training school was extremely useful for my research, particularly the focus on current research and methodological issues within the field. It was also great to collaborate with other postgraduate students and discuss and refine our research ideas. I am extremely grateful to the COST research group and Professor Douglas for organising the summer school and I am looking forward to working with the research group in the future.


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: