In addition to expertise in the more traditional research methods, we have a number of staff who apply innovative approaches to data collection and analysis. A selection of their work is highlighted below:
Using Photography & Art
Dr Nikki Street explores visual aesthetic relationships to fractals and natural patterns across cultures and sub-groups. She is interested in how environmental factors (such as nature, art, beauty and/or individual experience) can influence behaviour and psychological wellbeing.
Nikki is currently collaborating with Mark Ware (an award-winning multimedia artist and a Honorary Research Fellow at Brighton and Sussex Medical School) to explore whether beauty can be classified clearly or whether it lies ‘in the eye of the beholder’ as a product of the individual experience.
Nikki, Gemma and Mark collaborated on a project to produce a series of digital artworks collectively entitled, reflecting nature, that was exhibited throughout 2016/2017 at eight venues throughout England. This collaboration is focusing particularly on two features that are understood to contribute to visual preferences; symmetry and natural patterns. Both have been attributed to inducing positive psychological states including mood, concentration and stress-reduction responses, sometimes termed the biophilia effect. With a series of experiments Nikki and Mark aim to understand and harness this power, attempting to amplify it with research-informed artistic production with a view to result in artistic output that evokes positive psychological states.
Using Sand Trays in Therapy
This area of work is led by Doreen Fleet. Whilst many people associate a sandbox with children’s play, there is a special type of expressive therapy in which a tray of sand is used to create and explore imaginary worlds as a way to bypass the logical and intellectual parts of themselves in order to access a deeper, creative aspect.
Doreen’s work investigates the use of sand-trays in short-term person-centered therapy with adults. Doreen’s research focuses on multiple case-study research with clients.
A paper based on Doreen’s research using sand-trays has recently been published by the journal Qualitative Research in Psychology:
- Fleet, D., Burton, A., Reeves, A., & Das Gupta, M. (2016). A case for taking the dual role of counsellor-researcher in qualitative research. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 13(4), 328-346.
Understanding Children’s Drawings
Led by Dr Richard Jolley. Richard is an academic child psychologist specialising in the psychology and education of children’s making and understanding of pictures. Richard produced a successful book in 2010 (“Children and Pictures: Drawing and Understanding”)where he critiques both the historical and contemporary studies conducted in the field of children’s making and understanding of pictures.
A number of projects are running investigating how education might influence children’s drawing ability and drawing experiences.
Richard is currently heading up a cross cultural project collaborating with artists that investigates the development of expressive drawing ability in the UK and China.
Using Adults’ Pain Portraits
This area of work is led by Prof. Karen Rodham.
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.
Professor Karen Rodham is currently conducting a study following a protocol established and tested by Loduca and colleagues (2014) in Brazil, which incorporates pain portraits into the rehabilitation process when experiencing chronic pain.
Understanding more about a person’s experience of pain will facilitate the development of more individualised and patient-centred treatment plans.
Children’s TV Viewing & Creativity
Research led by Dr Sarah Rose. Although there have been anecdotal claims about the impact of watching television on young children’s imagination and creativity there has been very little scientific research into this area. Dr Sarah Rose and our Children’s Lab are conducting further investigations in this area
A recent project aimed to better understand whether viewing television increased or decreased creativity and “divergent thinking” in young children. Three-year-old children were given some novel toys to play with. The way that they played with these toys was assessed for indicators of creativity. Some of these children then watched an episode of a popular children’s television series while others looked at books and completed jigsaws. After this they all took part in a range of fun activities designed to test their creativity and imagination. By assessing creativity before and after the children watch television, the short term effects of television watching on creativity were assessed.
Using Facial-ageing Software to Promote Healthy Behaviours
Research led by Dr Alison Owen has investigated the effects of appearance-focus on promoting healthy behaviours. This work has included the use of facial-ageing software as an intervention tool to promote healthier behaviours, such as reducing the use of tobacco and alcohol as well as promoting the use of sun protection lotions.
Alison’s work using the facial-ageing software has been featured on BBC Television – you can watch a clip from the programme featuring Alison below (from 1 minute into the video):
Online Support for People with Cancer
Me-therapy was originally conceptualized by Miss Szilva Vas (one of our trainee health psychologists) and developed together with Dr Rachel Povey as a resource for improving body image and managing physical changes associated with cancer. The trial is being conducted jointly with CancerCare US, and is free for anyone who would like to take part.
“Participating in this online program is a unique opportunity for anyone facing cancer, as it gives men and women the chance to work through some of the body-image changes that they might be struggling with during or after treatment,” says CancerCare Social Work Internship Programme Director, Maria Chi.
Me-therapy was inspired through Miss Vas’ work at the Douglas MacMillan Hospice in Stoke-on-Trent. The programme includes video clips, audio resources and mindfulness exercises to teach participants how to challenge unhelpful thoughts and behaviours that characterize negative body image.
Participants are also provided with direct email support as they are provided with trained “body image buddies” to better address users’ unique needs. For more details of this trial, please visit the Cancer Research UK website.