StaffsPsych on Tour! Talking Conspiracy Theories, Super-recognisers & VR at Biddulph High School

By Dina Grinsted, Schools & Colleges Champion (Psychology)

On 21st May, myself and Dr Alexa Guy visited Biddulph High School to deliver some psychology outreach sessions to a group of Year 12 psychology students, in order to discuss the benefits of studying a psychology degree, and to showcase some of the research that happens here at Staffordshire University.

Dr Alexa Guy delivering a session at Biddulph High School

After starting with a talk on ‘Why Study Psychology?’ and ‘What Do Psychologists Do?’ the students then learnt about conspiracy theories, discussing some well-known conspiracy theories and what they have in common, before looking at why people might believe them, and the impact that they can have on behaviour.

The ‘Jesus in toast’ illusion

This was followed by Jesus in Toast (and other face oddities), a session asking why people are so good at seeing faces in random patterns such as clouds, or even the markings on a piece of toast! We looked at so-called ‘super recognisers’ who are extremely good at identifying faces, and Prosopagnosia – a disorder leading to the inability to recognise faces, sometimes even your own face! They then had a go at creating their own versions of the Thatcher Effect, which has recently been updated to the ‘Adele Illusion’ demonstrating how we often fail to attend to facial features when presented with an inverted face.

The ‘Adele Illusion’ based on the famous ‘Thatcher Illusion’ – this is the same picture but shown in two orientations (look at Adele’s eyes and mouth in both pictures!)

Finally, the students learnt about how Virtual Reality tricks our brain into believing that we are in a different world. After looking through some visual illusions and examples of how we can trick our brains, they saw how VR takes advantage of certain processes. To finish, they were able to try on a VR headset and have a go at diffusing a bomb in VR.

Students trying out our Virtual Reality equipment

Throughout the sessions, the students engaged in the activities, enjoying making their own version of the Thatcher Effect, testing their ability to recognise faces, trying to see pictures in patterns, and diffusing the virtual reality bomb. We are hoping that this will be followed up by a class trip to the university, watch out for future blogs!

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: