Pack away (some of) the Christmas toys!

Did your child get lots of toys for Christmas? Are you struggling to find places to store them all?

Dr Sarah Rose, Director of the Psychology Children’s Lab at Staffordshire University reports on some new research suggesting that having fewer toys may actually be better!

Researchers at the University of Toledo in Ohio gave 36 toddlers either 4 or 16 toys to play with for a 30-minute period. Their play was observed and analysed for indicators of play quality. It was concluded that when fewer toys were present children spent longer playing with each toy, showed better concentration, and were more creative as they expanded and developed their play ideas.

This study is a useful reminder to parents, and anyone working with children, that toddlers are easily distracted. Toddlers are developing their ability to focus their attention and steps that can be taken to support this are likely to have long term positive consequences. Attention is vital for academic success and young children with better attentional skills maintain this advantage as they get older.

Not only was having fewer toys found to beneficial to helping toddlers to sustain their attention it also encouraged them to explore and be more creative with the toys. Creativity is another skill that is developed in early childhood and as associated with many positive attributes such as educational achievement, well-being and success at work.

This evidence supports the idea of toy rotation. This involves small collections of toys being rotated into play while the majority are stored away. This provides opportunities for developing sustained attention and creativity while still providing children with novel and varied play experiences.

Further research in this area is needed, particularly relating to play in the home environment, where there are often additional distractions such as background Television and other screen media. The impact of screen time on children’s developing creativity is a topic that we are investigating within our Psychology Children’s Lab. If you are a parent of a 3 to 8 year old child please do consider taking part in our online survey – further details can be found here.

Dr Sarah Rose was also featured in The Sentinel newspaper providing commentary on this recent research finding (click here to read the full story).


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:

Grégory Dessart joins the Department of Psychology on a six-month research visit!

The Department of Psychology is pleased to welcome Grégory Dessart, an international researcher who has joined the Department’s Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research for a six month visit to work with researchers based in the Centre. Grégory introduces himself below:

It is a pleasure for me to work at Staffordshire University as a visiting academic scholar until the beginning of April 2018. I am receiving supervision from Dr. Richard Jolley. My current and main research interests lie in the visual symbolization of abstract notions and their individual development.

More specifically, I am exploring children’s drawings of God through their socio-normative, conceptual and emotional aspects as part of my PhD at the University of Lausanne (Switzerland), under the supervision of Prof. Pierre-Yves Brandt. The research lies at the crossroads between developmental psychology, gender studies and the psychology of religion. My main focus has been on data from French-speaking Switzerland. However, my thesis is part of an international project – “Drawings of gods” – funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation for which over 6,000 drawings from eight different countries have so far been collected (http://ddd.unil.ch/).

It is the emotional messages in drawings of God from the Swiss sample that I will be examining during this research visit, and is the key reason I contacted Dr. Jolley because of his research expertise in the expressive aspects of children’s drawings. For instance, we will be examining a range of questions about the emotional intensity, valence and anthropomorphism in pictures such as the one below, and whether they vary according to age, gender, religious schooling and religious practice of the children.

Prior to my PhD, I obtained a degree in psychology from the University of Liège (Belgium) in 2010 where I specialized in CBT and clinical neuropsychology. My primary field of research was then rooted in cognitive psychopathology and the observation of sub-clinical symptoms in the general population. My Master’s thesis explored the effects of childhood trauma on the proneness to face psychotic-like experiences in adulthood through the mediation of stress sensitivity and emotion regulation strategies.

Setting off on a new journey to analyze children’s drawings has been quite refreshing.  In fact, inspecting the data was fun before even looking to have them scored into numbers and stats. Drawings are likely to be read on many different levels, which makes them all the more attractive as a researcher, but also very challenging. This can sometimes feel like wearing many hats at the same time and trying to keep them in balance. However, I am happy to have embarked on this fascinating journey and to have met Dr. Richard Jolley whose long expertise in the field is very beneficial to my work and myself as a drawing researcher-to-be.

I am also fortunate to work in a vibrant research department that boasts several drawings researchers, including Dr. Sarah Rose, Dr. Claire Barlow and Dr. Romina Vivaldi (another visiting academic researcher whose visit you can read about here). I would be glad also to bounce research ideas with you, but also to chat about the meaning of life or whatever over a cup of coffee. Feel free to drop me an email (Gregory.Dessart@staffs.ac.uk).


Grégory first emailed me in July last year expressing an interest to spend some research time in the Department of Psychology, inviting me to work with him on the ‘Drawings of gods’ project. How children depict God has been a long-standing interest of mine, and Grégory’s proposal presented an opportunity to do some collaborative research on a large sample of drawings already collected. So, it is with great pleasure that we have been able to make this research visit happen. Although I hadn’t had any previous contact with Grégory before, we both attended the BPS Developmental Psychology Section conference in Belfast a couple of months later, and then I was invited to give a research talk at the University of Lausanne in April this year (you can read about my visit here). These opportunities to meet helped us to initiate potential research ideas, and since Grégory arrived in the Department in early October we have been working on formulating a coherent set of research questions about the expressive aspects of the 500 or so drawings from the Swiss sample. We intend to involve artists (and potentially non-experts) to score the drawings, which will be funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation.

Dr. Richard Jolley, Senior Lecturer in Psychology.


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. The Centre has two overarching research streams: Health and Behaviour Change and Applied Perception and Cognition.

The Centre provides training for PhD students, Research Masters degrees, as well as Professional Doctorates in Clinical and Health Psychology (click here for more details). The Centre also provides bespoke training to private and public organisations, as well as expertise for consultancy research opportunities. For more details about the Centre, its research activities, events and consultancy, please visit our website (click here).

Dr Sarah Rose comments on children’s fussy eating for The Sentinel

Dr Sarah Rose

Dr Sarah Rose (Lecturer in Psychology & Director of the Children’s Lab at Staffordshire University) was featured in The Sentinel Newspaper commenting on a news story about children’s fussy eating behaviours and how to encourage children to eat a variety of foods.

Read the story in full via the Stoke/Staffordshire Sentinel website:

The Sentinel: Here’s what to do if your child is a fussy eater

Dr Sarah Rose is a researcher in Developmental Psychology and Course Leader for Staffordshire University’s BSc (Hons) Psychology & Child Development degree.


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:

Dr. Richard Jolley visits the University of Thessaly to present research on children’s expressive drawings

Dr Richard Jolley

In the second of two blogs, Dr Richard Jolley (Senior Lecturer in Psychology and member of the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research) blogs about a research visit to Greece:

On May 23rd I set off to Volos, Greece on an invited trip to the University of Thessaly. I had been asked to give a talk on the development of children’s expressive drawings, and to provide assistance with the Greek translation of my book, ‘Children and Pictures: Drawing and Understanding’.

I set out with some trepidation for the navigation from Athens airport to Volos using a connection of Greek buses and taxis felt like a considerable challenge.  However, the excellent instructions I’ve been given by Dr Fotini Botini, the scientific editor of the Greek translation of my book and the organiser of my talk to her students, made travelling across Greece seem very straightforward. Nevertheless, door-to-door the trip did take a full day and half the night, and I arrived shortly after midnight the next day. None of that seem consequential when I looked at the view from my hotel window the following morning!

 

My talk presented later that day was received by a group of very motivated and interested postgraduate students who certainly kept me on my toes! The talk was an overview of how children express mood in pictures, and the techniques they use (more details of these can be found in my blog about my research trip to the University of  Lausanne).

I also presented data on the pattern in which children’s expressive drawing develops. An influential and long-standing position is that children’s expressive and aesthetic drawings develop in a U-shape. That is, young children’s drawings are thought to be particularly expressive and creative, but then dip during the school years due to a focus on making realistic representations, only then for expressiveness to re-emerge for some adolescents. However, this position has been argued to depend upon measuring the drawings from a ‘modernist’ perspective which places more emphasis on how children have used abstract formal properties (colour, line, composition, etc.) for expressive and aesthetic purposes. I presented my own research conducted with colleagues from both the Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University (Dr Claire Barlow) and other institutions (Prof Ken Rotenberg, Keele University; Dr Maureen Cox, University of York). Our findings showed that expressive drawing develops in an age-incremental pattern from pre-schoolers to adult artists, but if the scores are adjusted to limit the impact of the participants’ ability to draw visually realistically then the developmental pattern does indeed tend towards a U-shape.

Immediately following the talk, I had a fascinating discussion with the students who very ably picked up some of the methodological issues in my research which we were then able to apply to their own research studies. Here are a couple of quotes:

“A while ago I was participating to a seminar in “Children Drawings Research Methodology” that Mr. R. Jolley was the main speaker.

It was revealing the way that he was explaining to the audience (us) all the details of children’s drawing that we should pay attention to in research, using several examples during his presentation that made absolutely clear what he was talking about!  He also thoroughly answered all our questions that made obvious his knowledge, interest and love that he has for his research field that transmitted clearly to us!

By the end of the seminar, I was already thinking about abstract expression, color, lines, composition, overall quality and stories that children drawings may be telling us!

Thank you for the exceptional presentation, Dr. Jolley!!”

Olga Michailidou, Grammar School teacher

 

“Professor Jolley’s lecture was well structured. He provided a review of his previous work and the learning goals for the lecture being delivered. He demonstrated enthusiasm in his presentation and he asked questions to ensure our engagement with the topic. To conclude I believe that Dr. Jolley communicated his energy and enthusiasm for his research work, he was inspirational for the students and the new researchers.”

Aspasia Mantziou, PhD Student

 

Expressive drawing is just one part of my wider interest in children’s making and understanding of pictures, and in 2010 Wiley-Blackwell published my book in this area. It has been particularly pleasing for me that the book is currently being translated both in Chinese and in Greek. Dr Bonoti is editing the Greek translation to be published by Topos Books, in which I will be writing a preface. The following day of my trip presented an opportunity for me to clarify the meaning of some sentences of the original text. Our discussion reminded me of how much metaphor and symbolism we use in language, but when translated literally into another language this can lead to confusion!

The topic of children and pictures is not just a research interests of mine, but also a subject in which students at Staffordshire University learn about.  For nearly 20 years it has been a final year option for students studying for a degree across our psychology programmes, and has always been popular and well received by the students.

References

Jolley, R.P., Barlow, C.M., Rotenberg, K.J., & Cox, M.V. (2016). Linear and U-shape trends in the development of expressive drawing from pre-schoolers to adult artists. Psychology of Creativity, Aesthetics and the Arts, 10, 309-324.

Jolley, R.P. (2010). Children and Pictures: drawing and understanding. Oxford, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.


The Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research is home to research activity in the Psychology Department at Staffordshire Centre. The Centre is home to a number of research-active psychologists who are engaged in research across a wide range of psychological subdisciplines. The Centre has two overarching research streams: Health and Behaviour Change and Applied Perception and Cognition.

The Centre provides training for PhD students, Research Masters degrees, as well as Professional Doctorates in Clinical and Health Psychology (click here for more details). The Centre also provides bespoke training to private and public organisations, as well as expertise for consultancy research opportunities. For more details about the Centre, its research activities, events and consultancy, please visit our website (click here).

New research shows a positive relationship between ADHD and autistic traits in adults

Dr Maria Panagiotidi

Dr Maria Panagiotidi (Lecturer in Psychology & member of the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research) blogs about her new research:

In a recent paper published in the “Journal of Attention Disorders”, we found that there is a positive relationship between Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) traits. Specifically, adults who reported more inattention and hyperactivity symptoms, also reported more behaviours related to autism spectrum conditions (e.g., difficulties in communication).

ADHD is the most common neurodevelopmental disorder and in roughly half of the children diagnosed with ADHD, symptoms persist into adulthood. It is characterised by attentional difficulties, hyperactive/impulsive behaviour, or both. ASD is a developmental disorder that severely affects development in three main areas: language ability, social interaction, and stereotyped or repetitive behaviours. Clinical and genetic studies suggest that these conditions often co-occur and share genetic susceptibility. ADHD and ASD can both be viewed as the extreme end of traits found in the general population.

In collaboration with Dr Tom Stafford and Professor Paul Overton from the University of Sheffield we examined the co-occurrence of ADHD and ASD traits in an adult healthy population. In total, 334 participants were recruited and were asked to complete a number of online questionnaires measuring current and retrospective (from their childhood) ADHD and ASD symptoms and behaviours. A positive relationship was found between ADHD and autistic traits. In particular, higher inattention and overall ADHD scores were associated with self-reported deficits in communication and social skills. Both childhood and current ADHD traits were associated with autistic symptoms. The only autistic symptoms not associated with ADHD scores were related to attention to detail. This finding suggests that that tendency to focus on detail might be specific to autism.

Overall, our results are similar to findings from previous studies on clinical populations, in which a significant overlap exists between the two conditions. This further supports the dimensionality of ADHD and ASD, and suggests that these disorders might share substantial aetiology.

You can read the publication via the below link:

Panagiotidi, M., Overton, P. G., & Stafford, T. (2017). Co-occurrence of ASD and ADHD traits in an adult population. Journal of Attention Disorders. Advance Online Publication. doi: 10.1177/1087054717720720


The Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research is home to research activity in the Psychology Department at Staffordshire Centre. The Centre is home to a number of research-active psychologists who are engaged in research across a wide range of psychological subdisciplines. The Centre has two overarching research streams: Health and Behaviour Change and Applied Perception and Cognition.

The Centre provides training for PhD students, Research Masters degrees, as well as Professional Doctorates in Clinical and Health Psychology (click here for more details). The Centre also provides bespoke training to private and public organisations, as well as expertise for consultancy research opportunities. For more details about the Centre, its research activities, events and consultancy, please visit our website (click here).

Is competitive (or ‘pushy’) parenting good for children? Dr Sarah Rose discusses on BBC Radio Stoke

Dr Sarah Rose (Lecturer in Psychology, Award Leader for the BSc (Hons) Psychology & Child Development) was featured on BBC Radio Stoke’s Sunday Morning Breakfast show discussing recent debates about competitive (or ‘pushy’) parenting and the effects on children’s development. Dr Rose discusses some of the psychological theory behind parenting styles which encourage competitive behaviour and whether this is beneficial for child development.

Listen to Sarah’s interview on the BBC iPlayer via the below link (from 1 hour, 8 mins in):

BBC Radio Stoke: Maxine Mallen (Sunday Breakfast Show, 7th May 2017)

Dr Rose directs the Children’s Lab which is part of the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research. The Children’s Lab is home to research in Developmental Psychology at Staffordshire University. Research conducted at the Lab informs teaching on our Undergraduate Psychology courses, including our BSc (Hons) Psychology & Child Development degree.


Interested in Psychology? Come to an Open Day & find Staffs-Uni-Hi-Res_45-1024x683out more about Psychology courses at Staffordshire University.

Thinking about taking a Psychology degree or a related course? Come to one of Staffordshire University’s Open Days and find out more! Book your place via: www.staffs.ac.uk/openyourmind/

Find out about our Psychology degrees, including our highly rated BSc Psychology & Child Development degree and our Undergraduate courses and Postgraduate awards.

Student Blog: “Help! My child’s a neophobe!”

Dr Sarah Rose (Lecturer in Psychology & Director of the Children’s Lab at Staffordshire University) introduces a blog by a current Staffordshire Psychology & Child Development Student:

Sharing the findings of research in psychology is important. To develop the skills required for this, our third year BSc Psychology and Child Development students have been writing informational blogs aimed at parents. These have been completed as part of a series of tasks designed to develop their ability to share psychological research findings in an informative and engaging way. The work below was written by current student Carol Ashley.

Help! My child’s a neophobe!

It’s official, I am a failure as a mother, I have raised a food neophobe, albeit unwittingly. Apparently, my child’s road to ruin began when she was just 14 months old. Researchers at Queensland University have indicated that the type of foods introduced at this age can determine whether or not a child will be a fussy eater (the neophobe in question) by the time they reach the (very precise) age of 3.7 years.

The 2016 study speaks grandly about “non-core foods” by which I’m assuming they mean the custard creams I gave her (I was trying to finish the ironing). However, on a serious note, I realise I may have been slightly lax when it came to introducing new vegetables and occasionally resorted to the fast food option.

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The research points out the difference between fruit and vegetables never having been offered rather than actually being refused. My daughter balked at her first taste of broccoli and turned up her nose at other vegetables too. Fruit was a different story, she liked every type I gave to her and, in my defence, she ate a lot more fruit than the dreaded non-core foods with their saturated fats, added sugars and salt. Nevertheless, the study suggests that being introduced to different vegetables at 14 months a child would later like more vegetables and fruit, yet eating fruit may not mean they will like more vegetables – still with me? Interestingly the research found no connection between the content of the diet with a toddler’s BMI score, but don’t be fooled – this could affect children as they get older.

As is usually the case there is another school of thought that restricting a child’s diet is counter-productive. In 2014, Rollins, and his colleagues suggested that there may be a link between inherited and environmental influences in the emergence of the fussy eater. So is it my fault that my daughter is partial to the odd chicken nugget or fish finger, has my horror of the “golden arches” and the eerie clown lit an unquenchable flame? Or could it be inherited from me? I cannot look a Brussels sprout in the eye!

Can this pattern be reversed? Well, Webber (2010) states that it takes 8-15 attempts before taste buds become accustomed to flavours, so armed with my trusty steam cooker, I am determined that at the grand age of 3.7 years my tiny neophobe will learn that broccoli is not the root of all evil.


Interested in Psychology? Come to an Open Day & find Staffs-Uni-Hi-Res_45-1024x683out more about Psychology courses at Staffordshire University.

Thinking about taking a Psychology degree or a related course? Come to one of Staffordshire University’s Open Days and find out more! Book your place via: www.staffs.ac.uk/openyourmind/

Find out about our Psychology degrees, including our highly rated BSc Psychology & Child Development degree and our Undergraduate and Postgraduate courses.

Guidelines on children’s screen time need to be built on evidence

Dr Sarah Rose (Lecturer in Developmental Psychology & Director of the Staffordshire Children’s Lab) blogs about a recent debate in the media regarding the effects of screen time on children’s development and wellbeing:

A letter published in the Guardian on Christmas day claimed that ‘Screen-based lifestyle harms children’s health’. This was signed by a group of forty writers, psychologists and charity heads who argued that national guidelines on screen based technology are required.

May16 SR Screen free week pic1

The claims for the links between and increasing screen-based lifestyle and children’s wellbeing are not supported by the evidence. I am delighted to have been able to add my support to this response from a group of academics and expert practitioners published by the Guardian last week. In this we argue that screen time guidelines need to be built on evidence, not hype or scaremongering.

Of course the wellbeing of children is important and the impact of screen-based lifestyle requires investigation but currently there is insufficient research evidence on which to base National Guidelines. Rather than focusing on quantity alone, evidence is needed regarding context of use (where, when and how digital media are accessed), content (what is being watched or used), and connections (whether and how relationships are facilitated or impeded).


Staffs-Uni-Hi-Res_45-1024x683Interested in Psychology? Come to an Open Day & find out more about Psychology courses at Staffordshire University.

Intrigued by Dr Sarah Rose’s research? Wonder whether screen time is actually having more negative than positive effects on child health and development? Thinking about taking a Psychology degree or a related course?

Come to one of Staffordshire University’s Open Days and find out more! Book your place via: www.staffs.ac.uk/openyourmind/

Find out about our Psychology degrees, including our highly rated BSc Psychology & Child Development degree and our Undergraduate and Postgraduate courses.

Dr Sarah Rose featured on BBC Radio Stoke discussing findings from her Children’s TV and Creativity research

Jan 16 Sarah Rose

Dr Sarah Rose

Dr Sarah Rose, Lecturer in Developmental Psychology & Award Leader for the BSc Psychology & Child Development degree, has been featured on BBC Radio Stoke discussing the latest findings from her research into the effects of Children’s TV viewing on creativity. Dr Rose also directs the Children’s Lab, home to developmental psychology research at Staffordshire University.

Sarah explained her recent findings, which suggest some time limited effects of TV on children’s creativity, on the Pete Morgan Breakfast Show on Monday 3rd October 2016:

The Children’s Lab is part of the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research which is home to psychological research at Staffordshire University.

For more information about the Children’s Lab, their research and ongoing studies seeking participants please click here.


Interested in Psychology? Come to an Open Day & find out more about Psychology courses at Staffordshire University.

Intrigued by Dr Sarah Rose’s research? Wonder whether screen time is actually having more negative than positive effects on child health and development? Staffordshire University offers a range of psychology degrees which are characterised by our research-informed teaching by active research staff.

Come to one of Staffordshire University’s Open Days and find out more! Book your place via: www.staffs.ac.uk/openyourmind/

Find out more about our Psychology degrees here!

Dr Sarah Rose blogs on attending the BPS Developmental Psychology Section Annual Conference

Dr Sarah Rose (Lecturer in Psychology and Course Leader for Staffordshire University’s BSc Psychology and Child Development) recently attended the British Psychological Society’s Developmental Psychology Section Annual Conference, and blogs about her experience of the conference:

This year’s conference was in Belfast and included a wonderful mix of applied and more theoretical developmental psychology. The Conference was preceded by an inspiring public lecture in which Dr. Suzanne Zeedyk emphasised the importance of infant parent bonds not only on the child’s developing brain but for our vision for the kind of society we wish to build. This emphasis on the connections between children and the people around them was reflected in the Conference keynotes (Prof. Susan Golombok, University of Cambridge; Prof. Peter Hobson, University College, Tavistock Clinic; and Prof. Teresa McCormack, Queens University).

While at the conference I gave two research talks, presenting my work investigating the immediate impact of television on young children’s creativity and describing a new measure of creativity that I have been working on with Dr. Elena Hoicka from the University of Sheffield. Both talks were well attended and it was a great opportunity to get some feedback from others with interests in these areas.

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Dr Sarah Rose presenting her children’s creativity research at the BPS Developmental Psychology conference (Photo credit: Dr. Sian Jones)

I also took to opportunity to present a poster showcasing work done by one of my 2015-2016 3rd year project students. This student, Grace Aldridge, developed an idea that I had become interested in when attending a talk at a previous Developmental Section Conference, this was that children have problems recognising angry dogs and this may contribute to them being at an increased risk of being bitten by a dog. Grace carried out an ambitious project in which she showed 135 young children 15 images and 15 video clips of dogs and asked them what emotion they thought each dog was experiencing and their intention to approach the dog. We found that the children were actually relatively good at recognising the dogs’ emotions. However, although the children were less likely to approach an angry dog there was no difference in their inclination to approach a happy or frightened dog. They appeared to be unaware that there might be problems approaching frightened dogs, and we think that this could contribute to the increased likelihood of them being bitten by a dog. There has been some great coverage of this research in the National and International press and we hope that our evidence can be used to emphasise the importance of teaching children how to behave safely around dogs, especially regarding approaching a frightened dog.

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Dr Sarah Rose presenting her scientific poster at the BPS Developmental Psychology Section conference (Photo credit Dr. Suzanne Zeedyk)

The BPS Developmental Psychology Section Annual Conference is very friendly and welcoming and several presenters were showcasing work that they completed during Masters and PhD study. To find out more about the Section and plans for their 2017 Conference in Stratford Upon Avon see their website. Maybe see you there?


Interested in Psychology? Come to an Open Day & find out more about Psychology courses at Staffordshire University.

Book your place at an Open Day via: www.staffs.ac.uk/openyourmind/

The School of Psychology, Sport and Exercise at Staffordshire University is a leading School in the UK for Psychology degrees and is situated in the heart of England. We produce internationally recognized research which is driving knowledge in this area forward and we work with a variety of healthcare providers, charities, international sports teams and private sector organisations. Find out more about our Undergraduate Psychology Courses and Postgraduate Research Awards.