Are you expecting a child or have a child aged 3 years or younger? Participants needed for a new online study!

By Darel Cookson, PhD Student (Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research)

I am currently recruiting participants to take part in an online questionnaire study, which is part of my Social Psychology PhD. I am using an experimental design, investigating people’s reactions to an excerpt from some online articles which discuss childhood vaccinations. We want to understand what specifically influences people’s opinions on childhood vaccinations.

In order to take part in this study participants must be:

  • Aged 18 or over
  • British and living in the UK
  • Have a child aged 3 years or younger OR be
    currently expecting a baby.

To take part, you can click on the link here: http://bit.ly/ChildhoodVaccQ

This study has research full ethical approval from Staffordshire University; all data is anonymous, and participants can stop completing the questionnaire at any point by selecting ‘exit’.

Thank you, and if you have any questions, please email:
darel.cookson@research.staffs.ac.uk


The Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research is home to research activity in the Psychology Department at Staffordshire University. The Centre houses a number of research-active psychologists who are engaged in research across a wide range of psychological subdisciplines.

For more details about the Centre, its research activities, events and consultancy, please visit our website (click here).

Student Blog: Applied Research MSc and beyond

By Sophia Fedorowicz, MSc by Applied Research student

What is master’s study all about? Twelve months ago, I would have described it as a stepping stone to PhD. As a way of expanding knowledge before committing to a PhD or perhaps a way of qualifying for some kinds of clinical practice, such as occupational therapy masters courses. I think many students think about masters courses that way and some even hop over that stage of study completely and go straight for PhD. I completed an MSc taught course one week ago and now I feel very different about master’s level study. Yes, it is training course to give you skills for what comes next, whether that be PhD or practice, but it is also an arena for growth and experimentation. I wish I had known this before I started so here I am to pass on the hard won knowledge.

A level 7 course situates you in a place where you are free to try new approaches, explore new ideas and network the dickens out of conferences whilst developing your professional identity. Here is a place where you can explore the culture of the discipline you have chosen, read outside the curriculum, outside of seminal texts, even cult pamphlets if you want to, so you can understand more about your area, what is happening in that area and where you want to fit into it.

My broad area of interest is mental health and I went into my master’s from a psychology undergraduate course not really knowing where I would go with it. I just knew that I wanted to learn more. In the past year I have undertaken two applied experience placements, written blogs, spoken to people from every area of mental health from academics to practitioners in many different areas to people in the third sector supporting people with mental distress. I have presented at a conference and gone on a trip to York University to volunteer with the Cochrane Common Mental Disorders Group and written so many essays. I have taken every opportunity to explore what kind of researcher I want to be, what my passion is and how I want to develop after the course. All of this would not have been possible without the support of my small group of peers, this experience had taught me the value of connecting with other students and how powerful just meeting up for a coffee is in terms of personal wellbeing. I have been exceptionally busy for months and months at a time and have developed some tried and tested, armour-clad stress management strategies as a result.

Moving forward, I am starting a PhD this year and I couldn’t be more sure that it is the right thing for me to do. The topic is right, the approach is right, the supervisors are right, and I feel like a different person from my undergraduate self. I feel like an early career researcher with a point of view, connections under my belt and a career ahead of me. From my perspective, that’s what master’s study is all about.


Bio: Sophia Fedorowicz is a PhD student exploring experiences of suicide risk assessments, bringing experts by experience into the research process and working to develop guidelines to improve the assessments. Areas of interest include public and patient involvement and engagement and how individuals experience and communicate experiences of mental distress. She loves collaboration and coffee so get in touch if you want to connect.

Twitter: @Soph_Fedorowicz / @_LESRA_

Website: www.sophiafedorowicz.com


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.

PhD Student Blog: Attending the PsyPAG 2019 Annual Conference

By Darel Cookson, PhD Student (Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research)

The PsyPAG 34th Annual Conference took place from Tuesday 23rd – Friday 26th July 2019 at Sheffield Hallam University. This year, the conference theme was to promote the health and wellbeing of delegates while they had the opportunity to meet, network and share their research with peers. I was lucky enough to attend along with fellow PhD researcher Tanya Schrader where we shared our research on belief in conspiracy theories.

PsyPAG is the Psychology Postgraduate Affairs Group and is funded by the Research Board of the British Psychological Society. PsyPAG is run purely by postgraduates for the benefit of postgraduate psychology students at UK institutions. Each year PsyPAG organises an annual conference where, across three days, psychology postgraduate students meet, share their work via oral and poster presentations, provide feedback, attend workshops and keynotes, and build support systems and even collaborations! This was my second year attending PsyPAG and it was a fantastic conference where I could share the first few studies of my PhD, receive feedback from peers, and build friendships with fellow postgraduate students.

A highlight of the conference was the keynote presentations, thoughtfully selected by the organisation committee to align with the conference theme of promoting health and wellbeing. The first keynote was from Professor Sir Chris Husbands, who discussed academic careers in the 21st century. We were urged to think about what the big issues were that our research was interested in and to use this to maximise our impact. Cognitive Psychologist, Dr Dan Smith, told the story of their research, detailing a series of elegant experiments probing the relationship between the motor system and cognitive processes.

The second day of the conference began with a keynote from Professor
Madelynne Arden, who discussed their impressive body of work exploring adherence
to medication in Cystic Fibrosis, using a behaviour science approach to
intervention research. Dr Emma Norris then shared her journey from PhD to
postdoctoral researcher and discussed the differences moving from independent
research in a PhD programme to working on a large multi-disciplinary project. The
final keynote was from Dr Jennie Drabble, a Forensic Psychologist who also
discussed life after PhD. Dr Drabble emphasised the importance of taking time
for yourself outside of academia and motivated the room to help change the
culture of academia from within.

A further highlight of PsyPAG 2019 was the workshop; ‘Bringing Reproduceable Science to the People – The Story of Change’ produced and delivered by Olly Robertson and Dr Jon Sutton. This workshop was focussed on how we can best communicate our research to wider audiences in an interesting and accurate way. The onus was put on researchers to take opportunities to communicate their work and we discussed how to do this with both accuracy and elegance. Then we had 5 minutes and no more than 10 sentences to summarise our PhD research and then share it with the group – quite a challenge! I took a lot away from this session and it was so helpful to receive advice from the editor of The Psychologist (albeit a bit daunting!).

Tanya presenting her PhD research

Tanya and I shared our research in the ‘Social Psychology’ symposium. Tanya kicked the session off with her fascinating work exploring the darker side of conspiracy theories. Tanya is interested in potential predictors and consequences of conspiracy belief, particularly around violence and crime. Using hierarchical regression analysis, Tanya has found that conspiracy beliefs play a unique role in predicting acceptance of violence. Tanya is clearly passionate about this subject and used several real-life examples of the potential violent consequences of conspiracy beliefs. I then presented the first two studies of my PhD, exploring the role of perceived social norms in motivating conspiracy beliefs. Currently, my research is showing that we over-estimate the extent to which other people endorse conspiracy theories and we are significantly influenced by the perceived beliefs others. My next job is to try to use this knowledge reduce belief in dangerous conspiracy theories – which is proving to be most difficult!

Me presenting my PhD research

There were several excellent presentations throughout the three days at PsyPAG and it is always exciting to see what your peers are studying. Madeleine Pownall, a first year PhD student from The University of Leeds explained a theory she is currently working on to ask; can positive self-objectification diffuse stereotype threat effects in women? Madeleine has amalgamated three theories in social psychology with sophistication and is now developing a body of research to test these ideas. It was inspiring to see such innovative ideas from your peers! Another stand out presentation was from Ed Noon from Sheffield Hallam University who is investigating how adolescents use social media, particularly Instagram and how this can influence social comparisons and thus identity development.

The organisers from Sheffield Hallam University, Suzy Hodgson, Martine
Lamb and Nikki Dean Marshall, were incredible and did such a fantastic job this
year, so thank you very much! I am very grateful to have attended PsyPAG 2019
and to have the opportunity to share my research.


Exterior Science Centre

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.

The Second Joint Keele-Staffs Psychology Postgraduate Conference held in June 2019

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

After the success of the first Joint Keele and Staffordshire University Psychology Postgraduate Conference in 2018, we teamed up with the Keele School of Psychology again to host the 2nd Conference. This year, the event took place at Staffordshire University.

Dr Richard Jolley welcoming everyone to the conference

The conference was directed by Dr Richard Jolley (Associate Professor in Psychology, Staffordshire University) and Dr Masi Noor (Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Keele University). The organisation was led by the student committee which consisted of myself and Charlotte Bagnall and Kimberley Dundas (Keele Psychology PhD students). Collaborating with fellow PhD students from Keele for a second time was immensely enjoyable and has helped build a supportive Psychology PhD community across our neighbouring universities.

The morning began with an introduction and welcome from Dr Richard Jolley, after which our first speaker, first year Staffordshire University PhD researcher, Tanya Schrader, began the talks. Tanya gave a brilliant overview of their first PhD study, investigating whether there is a relationship between belief in conspiracy theories, aggression and acceptance of violence.

The next PGR presenter was Olly Robertson from Keele University. Olly presented the findings from an experimental study assessing the moderating role of swearing on emotional regulation; and this was all explained through Harry Potter! Francesca Cornwall from Staffordshire University presented next and gave an engaging overview of their PhD plans, consisting of three stages with the aim of understanding how adults can elicit higher order thinking skills from two-year-olds during their playful activities and physical signs of pleasure. The final PGR presentation from the morning session was from Megan Hermolle from Keele University. Megan is a first year PhD student and presented thought-provoking findings from a huge survey conducted, exploring the extent of Rape Myth Acceptance in the UK at present, in a gender inclusive manner.

We then welcomed our first Keynote speaker, Dr Andrew Stewart from The University of Manchester. Dr Stewart delivered a fascinating keynote, discussing how Open Science and reproducibility is changing the nature of psychological research. This was really useful for PGR students to understand the importance of Open Science practices and how we can incorporate this into our PhD research. Dr Stewart was incredibly generous with his time, answering several questions, in what became a discussion, and sharing resources which will be tremendously helpful.

Lunch was accompanied by poster presentations, which made a great backdrop for our group photo!

There was a wide variety of psychology sub-disciplines represented by the posters from both Staffordshire and Keele PGR students. This included school bullying, social norms and belief in conspiracy theories, maximising uptake and retention of participants in Type 2 Diabetes prevention programme and the social context of medial frontal negativity (MFN). 

The afternoon session began with an introduction and welcome by Dr Masi Noor, proceeded by the first afternoon speaker Charlotte Bagnall from Keele University. Charlotte’s research focuses on transitioning from primary school to secondary school. Charlotte delivered an excellent presentation, discussing the findings of research conducted in the USA, contrasting differences in school transition preparations and experiences reflective of the age and type of transition negotiated. The second speaker of the afternoon session was Halime Unver from Keele University. Halime presented the first two studies from her PhD, assessing the role of Secondary Transfer Effect of Intergroup Contact in the context of acceptance of Syrian refugees in Turkey. Halime presented extremely interesting findings with clear applications, particularly for activists in Turkey. The next presenter was Anthony Miller from Staffordshire University, who presented the findings from an experimental study manipulating challenge and threat states through social identity leadership. Anthony discussed how enactment of social identity leadership principles can improve performance and how this can be applied to sporting teams and workplace teams.

After a caffeine refuel, the afternoon session continued with Pattaramon Worawichayawongsa from Keele University, who presented their research investigating fear of happiness and its relationships with childhood adversity, attachment, self-esteem and emotion regulation. The final PGR presenter was Daniella Hult Khazaie from Keele University, who is investigating how social identity theory can explain health risk perceptions in mass gatherings, and their relation to identification with the crowd.

We then moved on to our second Keynote presentation from Professor Claire Fox (Keele University). Claire gave a fascinating and honest presentation discussing firstly the path to professor and then Claire’s main research interests, focussing on school bullying and relationship abuse. Claire also shared some ‘top tips’ for this journey which were incredibly inspiring and invaluable to the PGR’s in the audience.

There was brilliant, challenging and incredibly important research shared from a wide variety of sub-disciplines in Psychology, demonstrating the diversity of research being conducted across Staffordshire and Keele Psychology. The day drew to an end with a poster and presentation competition, where delegates could vote for the winners. Huge congratulations to Olly Robertson and Emma Harrison who won best presentation and best poster respectively! The prizes were very well deserved.

Thank you to all who attended the 2nd Joint Keele and Staffordshire University Psychology Postgraduate Conference and for making it a success.


After the success of last year’s inaugural conference at Keele University I was delighted to be able to host this year’s psychology postgraduate conference at Staffordshire University. It presented an exciting opportunity for our PhD students to present their research and network with fellow PhD students from our neighbouring institution.  Furthermore, the talks from our two external speakers provided a very useful combination of big picture and personal reflection perspectives on conducting research. It attracted an audience of over 50 staff and students, and the unanimous feeling was that the conference was a great success! The conference was again professionally organised by the conference committee, and my heartfelt thanks go to them. 

If you are reading this blog and are interested in studying for a PhD in the Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University please get in touch with me for further information. We very much welcome applications.

Dr Richard Jolley

Associate Professor in Psychology and PhD Psychology Course Leader

Email: r.jolley@staffs.ac.uk


The Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research is home to research activity in the Psychology Department at Staffordshire University. The Centre houses a number of research-active psychologists who are engaged in research across a wide range of psychological subdisciplines.

For more details about the Centre, its research activities, events and consultancy, please visit our website (click here).

The Second Keele-Staffs Psychology Postgraduate Research Conference

In April 2018, Staffordshire University joined up with Keele University to deliver the first Joint Keele-Staffs Psychology Postgraduate Research Conference. The event was a success and a great opportunity to share research and build networks with our neighbouring university.

This year, we are delighted that the 2nd Keele-Staffs Joint Psychology PGR Conference is being held at Staffordshire University on Wednesday 15th May 2019. The conference will take place at Staffordshire University in the Science Centre, R001, from 9:30am – 4:00pm.

Please come and enjoy the wide variety of presentations and posters showcasing the diverse assortment of research that our PGR students are currently conducting. From social identity leadership, to conspiracy theories, and childhood adversity, to refugee integration, we can guarantee there will be something to interest all! We are also very excited to be welcoming Dr Andrew Stewart from the University of Manchester and Professor Claire Fox from Keele University who will be giving Keynote presentations.

It will be wonderful to see you there to support our PGR students. Lunch will be provided and you can register your attendance here. Of course you can just show up too!


For further information about the Conference, please contact the organisers via:


The Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research is home to research activity in the Psychology Department at Staffordshire University. The Centre is home to a number of research-active psychologists who are engaged in research across a wide range of psychological subdisciplines

For more details about the Centre, its research activities, events and consultancy, please visit our website (click here).


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:

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:

Funded PhD opportunity in the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, Department of Psychology

We are delighted to welcome applications for a funded PhD opportunity in the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, Department of Psychology, for an anticipated September 2017 start date.

The PhD project is titled The role of social norms in reducing belief in conspiracy theories and will be supervised by Dr Daniel Jolley (Principal Supervisor, Lecturer in Psychology), Dr Robert Dempsey (Lecturer in Psychology) and Dr Rachel Povey (Associate Professor in Health Psychology).

Project Background:

Belief in conspiracy theories is widespread in society. Whilst belief in conspiracy theories may fulfil needs such as control (e.g., Whitson, et al., 2015), they are potentially dangerous; exposure to conspiracy theories reduces people’s engagement in a variety of behaviours, including vaccinations (e.g., Jolley & Douglas, 2014a, 2014b). Examining tools to address conspiracy theories is therefore timely. Broadly speaking, this novel project will therefore build on existing research by exploring the relationship between perceived social norms and conspiracy beliefs and develop interventions that will help combat the effects of conspiracy theories.

This PhD project has three phases:

  1. a systematic literature review,
  2. empirical studies understanding the psychological mechanisms underlying social norms and conspiracy beliefs,
  3. the development of attitudinal and behaviour change interventions (e.g., improving vaccine uptake).

This three year funded PhD and includes a fee waiver equivalent to the home/EU rate and a tax-free stipend of £14,553 p.a. over the three years of the project. In addition to their PhD studies, the successful applicant will also deliver up to six hours per week of teaching or teaching-related support and will join the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research which provides a supportive research environment in the Department of Psychology.

We recommend that you make contact with the Principal Supervisor (Dr Daniel Jolley, daniel.jolley@staffs.ac.uk), to receive the full project outline and/or to enquire about this PhD opportunity.

Applications

Details on how to apply (alongside qualification requirements) for the funded PhD opportunity can be found here. Applications (a CV and a covering letter) need to emailed to the Staffordshire University Graduate School by 4th August 2017 (details and the email address for the Graduate School can be found here).


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).

World Suicide Prevention Day 2015: New research with people with Bipolar Disorder

Rebecca Owen, PhD Student

Rebecca Owen, PhD Student

Rebecca Owen, a PhD Student co-supervised by Dr Rob Dempsey (Lecturer in Psychology, Staffordshire University), reports on her current research investigating the role of psychosocial factors:

With this week being National Suicide Prevention Week, I thought it might be interesting for psychology students and the general public to see how a topic as sensitive as suicide is tackled from a psychological research perspective. Our work is investigating experience of suicidal thoughts, feelings and behaviours or attempts (also known as, “suicidality”), in people with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Despite numerous suicide prevention efforts from various sources including, the NHS and charities such as Samaritans, suicide remains the leading cause of death amongst men aged 15 to 44 in the UK. Every four minutes someone makes a suicide attempt and every hour and a half someone dies – so it really is an epidemic.

2015_wspd_banner_englishSuicide tends to be investigated in terms of risk factors. Research studies will try to identify factors which put an individual at a greater risk of either becoming suicidal or attempting to end their life. Common risk factors include gender (being male is typically associated with greater risk), age, employment status, marital status, a previous suicide attempt and a mental health diagnosis. Although these factors can help to predict who might become suicidal, they don’t really tell us anything about why someone became suicidal. For example, simply being male and unemployed doesn’t give us any explanation of the underlying psychological processes and pathways which led to the development of suicidal feelings.

This is where our work comes in – we’re interested in finding out more about these underlying psychological processes. For example, feeling hopeless, feeling defeated and trapped within a situation, feeling like you can’t cope. By understanding more about these processes, we hope that we’ll be able to better inform psychological interventions which specifically aim to change these processes in order to reduce suicide risk in bipolar disorder.

This type of research is a relatively new area in the field of bipolar disorder, so we started off by conducting an exploratory qualitative study with 20 participants (click here to view the paper’s abstract). We found that factors which protected against suicidal behaviour included, (1) thinking about the impact that suicide would have upon family members and friends, and (2) having a strong social support system. We found that triggers for suicidal thoughts included, (1) experiencing mental health stigma, and (2) feeling like a burden to other people.

Participants sought: Do you have a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder?

These qualitative findings have informed a larger, quantitative, questionnaire based study which we are currently recruiting volunteers for. Recruitment for the questionnaire study will close by February 2016. If anyone would like any more information about our work or would like to take part, please get in touch with me directly by email at Rebecca.owen-6@postgrad.manchester.ac.uk or by phone on 0161 275 2593.

World Suicide Prevention Day 2015


Fully Funded PhDs in Psychology at Staffordshire University!

The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University are pleased to be offering four fully funded PhD Studentships. These studentships will involve conducting a major research project (see below for details) as well as some light teaching duties.

Staffordshire University's £30 million Science Centre, home of the Psychology Department

Staffordshire University’s £30 million Science Centre, home of the Psychology Department

The studentships include a fee waiver, a tax-free stipend of £14,057, and six hours per week of teaching duties.

Interested parties are recommended to contact the respective Principal Supervisors for further details about their studentship. Further details about the application process for these PhD studentships is available here.

Please note that the closing date for applications is Monday 14th September 2015.


1. The design, development and evaluation of a diabetes prevention programme

Principal Supervisor: Dr Rachel Povey (email R.Povey@staffs.ac.uk).

Diabetes is a significant health issue within the UK, with over 3 million diagnosed and an estimated 590,000 as yet undiagnosed with Type 2 diabetes (Diabetes UK, 2015), costing the NHS approximately £10 billion per year. As Type 2 diabetes can be preventable, the NHS, Public Health England and Diabetes UK have recently launched a national Diabetes Prevention Programme, which will be piloted in seven sites around the UK.   The proposed PhD studentship has been developed through ongoing collaboration between PSE researchers and Public Health England (PHE). It will be supervised by Dr Rachel Povey, Dr Chris Gidlow and Dr Naomi Ellis and will involve the development, support and evaluation of aspects of the Diabetes Prevention Programme. Although this will be driven, in part, by the needs of PHE, the first months will be spent defining the PhD based on the available opportunities, in addition to the student’s own ideas, experience and expertise

Supervisory Team: Dr Rachel Povey, Dr Chris Gidlow & Dr Naomi Ellis.


2. Applying the social norms approach to improve dietary behaviours amongst high school students

Principal Supervisor: Dr Robert Dempsey (email Robert.Dempsey@staffs.ac.uk)

Rates of obesity and the consumption of unhealthy, “junk”, foods are rising amongst young adolescents. This PhD project will involve the development and evaluation of a social norms-informed intervention to promote healthy eating amongst high school children. The intervention will be based on the Social Norms Approach, an intervention strategy used to elicit positive behaviour and attitudinal change by challenging commonly held misperceptions of peer behaviours and attitudes. Social norms interventions have been primarily conducted in the USA and have focused on reducing substance use by university students, with few studies investigating the presence of normative misperceptions of healthy eating amongst young adolescents and whether these misperceptions can be challenged via normative feedback.

Aims:

  • Conduct a systematic literature review of existing studies.
  • Develop a social norms-informed intervention which can be used in-class (using a cluster randomised controlled design) with input from children from the intervention site.
  • Investigate the extent of normative misperceptions of peer healthy eating behaviours and attitudes amongst high school students.
  • Conduct a small-scale study (a cluster randomised controlled trial) to investigate whether the social norms intervention has a significant impact on normative misperceptions and healthy eating behaviours and attitudes.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness and acceptability of the intervention (using both qualitative and quantitative methodologies).

The successful candidate will be expected to make an original contribution to the design of the project and be capable of working independently. This is an exciting project which is ideally suited for a bright, motivated and enthusiastic graduate with interests in health psychology, behaviour change and in evaluating the Social Norms Approach.

Supervisory Team: Dr Robert Dempsey, Dr Rachel Povey, & Prof Tony Stewart.


3. The role of attention and negative emotion in the production of false memories

Principal Supervisor: Dr. Louise Humphreys (email L.Humphreys@staffs.ac.uk)

Research suggests that memory is enhanced for emotionally negative events (Humphreys, Underwood, & Chapman, 2010), yet negative emotion can lead to heightened susceptibility to false memory (Porter et al., 2010). Whilst research has examined the role of attention in emotional memory (typically results show that emotional stimuli capture more attention than neutral stimuli and are preferentially attended to despite other task demands), few studies have addressed what role attention plays in emotional false memories. Van Damme and Smets (2013) is one of only a few studies that have examined this. They found that negative valence inhibited central false information but increased peripheral false information, suggesting that attention is drawn to emotionally arousing features (with fewer resources available for processing peripheral details). Based on these findings a measure of attention should show differences in attention allocation between central and peripheral details. However, to our knowledge no research has directly measured the role of attention in false memory production.

The role of attention in emotional false memory will be examined by 1) manipulating attention at study, and 2) measuring attention using eye-tracking methodology. This research has important implications for the courts, where false memories are a perennial problem. Presenters of fact (e.g., barristers, solicitors) as well as triers of fact (e.g., judges, jurors) need to become aware of factors that can influence people’s susceptibility to false memories. This research aims to examine attention to emotionally negative events, and how this impacts on people’s susceptibility to false memories.

Supervisory Team: Dr Louise Humphreys & Dr Sarah Krähenbühl


4. Portraits of Pain: The use of pain drawings to meaningfully communicate pain experiences

Principal Supervisor: Professor Karen Rodham (email: Karen.Rodham@staffs.ac.uk)

There is evidence that pain drawings may be a method by which people in pain can meaningfully communicate, understand and potentially alter their pain experiences. This study follows a protocol established and tested by Loduca and colleagues (2014) in Brazil, which incorporates pain portraits into the rehabilitation process. Understanding more about a person’s experience of pain will facilitate the development of more individualised and patient-centred treatment plans.

We are currently completing a feasibility study exploring how best to incorporate the Pain Portrait process into a UK NHS-based pain management programme. The PhD builds on this feasibility study.

Aim: To explore whether replicating and implementing the pain portrait process in clinic in the UK can:

  • help patients communicate and cope better with their pain;
  • help staff understand more about their patients’ pain experience
  • improve patient outcomes
  • provide insight into cultural (UK-Brazil) differences in pain experiences

Supervisory Team: Prof Karen Rodham, Dr Amy Burton and Prof Tony Stewart.


Further details about our courses in Psychology can be found here. Please click on the following links for further details of Staffordshire University’s research centres in Psychology, including our Centre for Health Psychology and Centre for Psychological Research.