The Psychology of Space….in Space

By Dr. Nikki Street, Dr. Gemma Hurst & Dr. Daniel Jolley

Could you live for a year or more in space? What challenges might you face living and working there? What would you miss about earth? These are the question we proposed to over 1500 attendees during the European Researchers Night at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in September 2018.

Psychologists from The Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research at Staffordshire University attended the event where our aim was to introduce the guests to the physical environment in space and together discuss the challenges with space travel on people’s wellbeing. Drs Nichola Street, Gemma Hurst and Daniel Jolley, and Dina Grinstead and Darel Cookson were on hand during the night to discuss the Psychology of Space with guests.

The event was split into different parts.  First, guests ‘travelled’ to the International Space Station (ISS) using Virtual Reality equipment to explore the living conditions of space travellers.  We asked guests to consider what they would find most challenging living on the ISS for a year and what they might miss about earth during that time. The ISS that they explored can be termed an ICE environment; those environments which are Isolated, Confined and Extreme. Spending time in these types of environments is a psychological challenge.  For those guests who were a little too young to use the Virtual Reality, they were able to view the space centre on a projected screen.Alongside the VR exploration, we asked what guests would miss the most if they had to live in space for a year. The responses from guests were heart-warming and clear patterns appeared:  People would miss their Family, Friends, Pets, Food (they had tasted space food in another Staffordshire University run activity on the night) and nature. People talked about missing the space to walk the dog or the chance to change where you are.Next, guests entered a ‘psychology relief room’ in which they were exposed to natural imagery and sound. These nature interventions have been trailed in ICE environments as a way to dampen the potentially harmful effects of physical space with success. Evidence shows that even when direct access to nature is not possible (as it would not be in space) nature substitutes can go some way to reduce psychological harm.

While the ‘extreme’ aspect may be missing from many of our experiences on earth we can certainly think of many places that fit into the isolated and confined categories such as hospitals, prisons or even your home or work places. And like our space travellers pointed out, Nature exposure can go some way towards combatting the negative effects.  The research of Drs Nikki Street & Gemma Hurst aims to shed light on the impact of physical environments on an individual’s thoughts, feelings and behaviour. To learn more about the exciting research from the department please visit The Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research‘s website.


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:

MSc Health Psychology students attend the 2018 Midlands Health Psychology Network Conference

Dr Gemma Hurst (Lecturer in Psychology & Co-Course Director MSc in Health Psychology) blogs about a recent conference trip with staff and students from the Health Psychology courses at Staffordshire University.

Staff and students recently attended the Midlands Health Psychology Network Conference. Three members of staff and five current MSc students from Staffordshire University attended the event, held at the Kettering Conference Centre on the 24th May.

A trip to the conference was built into the MSc Health Psychology teaching programme to ensure all current students had the opportunity to attend. One of our MSc students, Jessica, really valued the experience, commenting:

“A really engaging day showcasing many of the innovative ideas happening right now in Health Psychology in the Midlands

Students also valued the opportunity to meet and discuss the PhD research of Staffordshire University MSc Health Psychology Alumni, Lorna (pictured to the right).

The programme included oral and poster presentations covering a wide range of topics and methodologies, including: systematic reviews; quantitative and qualitative research; and intervention development and evaluation. Both staff and students also enthusiastically engaged in a co-creation workshop exploring creative data collection methodologies, including the use of Lego:

‘The MHPN conference provides an opportunity for our MSc students to experience an academic conference in a friendly and supportive environment. Our students took a keen interest in the wide variety of health psychology topics being presented and were able to network with other health psychologists and trainees to discuss their own research and career aspirations. Attendance at this conference will continue to be built into the MSc Health Psychology teaching programme and I look forward to future visits where I can introduce our new students to our graduates”

Dr Gemma Hurst, Co-Director MSc Health Psychology.


The Midlands Health Psychology Network

The MHPN hold a one day conference every year which is attended by around 100 members from across the Midlands and is a forum for health psychologists to share clinical and research experiences, information, knowledge and training. Existing members include MSc students, doctorate students, chartered health psychologists based at local NHS sites and regional universities, third sector employees, senior and early career academics, health practitioners and pharmacists. To learn more about the MHPN please visit their website (www.mhpn.co.uk).


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:

Watch: The Reflecting Nature Exhibition Art-Psychology exhibition now visiting Staffs University

The Reflecting Nature Exhibition, a collaboration between Dr Nichola Street (Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research) and Mark Ware (Multimedia Artist), is currently on display in the Science Centre at Staffordshire University’s Stoke City Campus. The exhibition is open to the public, and has been extended until the end of November 2016.

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Dr Nichola Street, Mark Ware, and collaborator Dr Gemma Hurst, are featured in the below interview detailing the project:

 

For more information about the exhibition please visit: The Reflecting Nature Tour: Arts and Psychology Collaboration


Staffs-Uni-Hi-Res_45-1024x683The 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).

The Reflecting Nature Tour: Arts and Psychology Collaboration

Dr Nikki Street and Dr Gemma Hurst (both members of the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research) welcome collaborator, and award winning artist, Mark Ware to Staffordshire University’s Science Centre to exhibition a series of artworks developed as part of the psychology and art collaborative project Reflecting Nature*.

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Reflecting Nature looks at whether beauty really is in the eye of the beholder as well as the impact that art can have on individual wellbeing. Visitors are invited to take part in scientific research investigating how we respond to artwork and different environments.

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Dr Nikki Street, Dr Gemma Hurst, Sara and Mark Ware – members of the Reflecting Nature team

The artwork has been touring the UK at different locations since May 2016 and has been a great way to engage the public in research. We are excited for the project to come to it’s research home and show visitors the great research emerging from the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research.

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The Reflecting Nature Artwork on display at Exeter Cathedral

The exhibition, which includes a series of prints and 3D banners, will be on display from 4th – 16th October 2016 in Staffordshire University’s Science Centre and is available for viewing by the public during normal business opening hours.

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One of the images which form part of the Reflecting Nature artwork

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Some of the activities in use at the Reflecting Nature tour

Mark, and Psychology Lecturers Dr Nikki Street and Dr Gemma Hurst, will also be giving the public an opportunity to engage with workshops associated with the exhibition. Visitors have the chance to get involved in activities using the equipment for exploring human responses including eye tracking, body movement tracking and tasks such as mirror drawing. In addition, Mark Ware is providing exciting photography workshops to enhance your photography skills. Workshops are currently scheduled for Saturday 15th October, drop along and see us in the Science Centre as part of the Big Biology Day with photograph workshops being held between 11:30-12:00 and 14:30-15:30. Contact nichola.street@staffs.ac.uk to book a place.

* The Reflecting Nature exhibition, supported using public funds by Arts Council England, is part of The Wavelength Project, an ongoing arts/science collaboration between Mark Ware and neuroscientists and psychologists at Brighton and Sussex Medical School and Staffordshire University.


Staffs-Uni-Hi-Res_45-1024x683The 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).

Gemma Hurst joins the Psychology Department at Staffordshire University

The Psychology Academic team are pleased to welcome Dr Gemma Hurst, who joined the University as a Lecturer in Psychology in September 2015. Gemma introduces herself below:

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Dr Gemma Hurst

I have made the (small) jump from the Brindley Building to the Science Centre and I am extremely pleased to have joined the Psychology team here at Staffordshire University as a Lecturer. After completing my undergraduate degree in Psychology at the University of Durham in 2005, my journey at Staffordshire University began. I completed my MSc in Health Psychology here in 2006 before starting my PhD in 2007, under the supervision of Dr Christopher Gidlow, Prof David Clark-Carter, Prof Sarah Grogan and Prof Rachel Davey. My PhD research focused on the use of a multi-component behaviour change intervention to promote physical activity in the area of Sandwell, West Midlands. My PhD was carried out in an applied setting working with Sandwell Primary Care Trust.

Following this, I was involved in the evaluation of a community development project through a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with Staffordshire University and NHS Stoke-on-Trent. The My Health Matters project focused on addressing the underlying social and environmental determinants of health using a bottom-up, asset-based approach. My role involved investigating the use of community-led interventions to reduce health inequalities relating to physical activity and healthy eating in Stoke-on-Trent using community-based participatory research and a socio-ecological approach. During this time I also began my Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology at Staffordshire University.

More recently, I was employed as a postdoctoral Research Officer in the Centre for Sport, Health and Exercise Research investigating the links between exposure to natural outdoor environments and human health and well-being across Europe – PHENOTYPE.

Gemma before her Stoke Psychology in the Pub talk on the Phenotype project (April 2015)

Gemma before her Stoke Psychology in the Pub talk on the Phenotype project (April 2015)

Therefore, I have a wide range of research interests in the field of health psychology and beyond, including: the evaluation of health promotion programs using both quantitative and qualitative research methods; reducing health inequalities through community-led interventions and partnership working; the social and environmental determinants of health; and understanding the positive health effects of different environments.

Throughout my time at Staffordshire University, both as a student and a member of staff, I have always found it to be an incredibly supportive and welcoming place to be and the Psychology team has continued this pattern. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the students over the past few weeks, they are a great bunch and I am very much looking forward to getting stuck into teaching. If you’d like to know a little more about me and my research, please follow me on twitter @gemma_hurst.


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 the area of Psychology forward and we work with a variety of healthcare providers, charities, international sports teams and private sector organisations.