How do care providers’ view and experience supporting people with a learning difficulty and dementia?

Dr Daniel Herron

Dr Daniel Herron discusses his recent research findings on supporting people with an intellectual disability and dementia.

Why is it important?

Supporting the changing needs and increasing dependency of someone with a learning difficulty (also known as learning disability or intellectual disability) and dementia can be challenging for carers and may impact on their wellbeing. Our own study (see Herron & Priest, 2013) has demonstrated carers’ lack of knowledge and understanding of the symptoms and progression of dementia, which may contribute to delay in referral to services, diagnosis, post‐diagnosis support and planning for life with dementia.

It is of the utmost importance that carers’ own needs are planned for and met. In reality, this may not be the case. To address the dual needs of learning difficulties and dementia, and to ensure carers are appropriately supported, some UK NHS services have developed specialised Learning Difficulty Dementia Care Pathways (LDDCPs), where existing learning difficulty staff are employed specifically in multidisciplinary teams to provide services for those service users developing dementia alongside their other non‐dementia services. We know little of how carers’ experience supporting people with a learning difficulty and dementia, and the role of LDDCPs. Therefore, this study aimed to:

  • Explore family and paid carers’ views and experiences of supporting someone with a learning difficulty and dementia.
  • Explore the role of healthcare professionals and support systems, with a focus on one Learning Difficulty Dementia Care Pathway, in the support of family and paid carers and people with a learning difficulty and dementia.

This is the first study to explore family carers, paid carers, and healthcare professionals’ views of the role of a LDDCP.

What did our research involve?

We recruited two family carers, eight paid carers and eight healthcare professionals (six DCP healthcare professionals [including a psychiatrist, community nurses and an occupational therapist] and two working in a housing and care organization [community nurses]). All participants took part in at least one interview each and were asked about their experiences and views of supporting someone with a learning difficulty and dementia, and the role of an LDDCP.

I worked closely with people with a learning difficulty to develop material for this study, which helped the study to reflect their own questions.

Stock image of 2 people talking (https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-men-having-conversation-935949/)

What were the main findings?

We used Constructivist Grounded Theory to thoroughly analyse what participants were telling us in interviews. Several findings were developed from the data.

The difficulty of obtaining a timely diagnosis and its impact on care

There were many factors which contributed to a lengthy, challenging diagnosis process which was underpinned by uncertainty for people with a learning difficulty and their carers. It was common for people to initially attribute any dementia-related changes to the person’s learning difficulty rather than dementia:

…it’s hard to know whether it’s just a problem with their [learning] difficulty…or it’s the start of dementia. I think we had a few years where we were very unsure. (Robin, Family Carer)

Carers’ lack of knowledge of the symptoms and signs of dementia also meant it was not until the later stages of dementia until a referral was made to the LDDCP.

There are many conditions which may mimic some of the symptoms of the dementia, making it a challenge to provide certainty of the underlying cause. At the time of this study, the LDDCP used a reactive approach to the assessment of dementia, which relied on carers and others noticing changes (something they found challenging), and then referring the person to the LDDCP for an assessment. However, reactive assessments may reduce the reliability and usefulness of assessments when baseline information (from when the person is healthy) is not available to compare the assessments against (BPS & RCP, 2015; McKenzie, Metcalfe, Michie, & Murray, 2018). Consequently, within the LDDCP, as baseline assessments had not been proactively obtained, it was sometimes difficult to make a clear diagnosis of dementia

The need for inclusive support

The participants highlighted the importance of meeting the person’s needs through a person-centred approach. However, not all carers found it easy to understand and implement the principles and approaches advocated within dementia support, which sometimes contradicted the support they provided to people with a learning difficulty:

…Coming from a learning difficulty background, when somebody believes or thinks something that’s not true, you try to explain to somebody that it’s not true…it kind of goes against the grain [not correcting person]…that’s a totally different way of supporting somebody…it’s something I found quite hard. (Glen, Paid Carer)

Paid carers were able to draw on a range of formal (LDDCP) and informal (peers) support which alleviated their burden and enabled them to provide the necessary dementia support. In contrast, family carer participants highlighted their challenges with accessing of formal support (LDDCP) and relied heavily on their other family members to share the burden.

Stock image of two women on a beach (https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-standing-beside-woman-on-white-wooden-chair-facing-body-of-water-160767/)

Carer knowledge and training needs

Effective dementia care relied on understanding both dementia and learning difficulty. Carers and healthcare professionals illustrated the importance of proper training. Though paid carers had a developing understand of dementia care, prior to training they had poor knowledge of dementia and dementia care, and how this translated into caring for the person’s dementia needs; this had implications for support:

I didn’t understand much about dementia…in our heads it was just something that happened to old people, not younger people with learning disability and Down syndrome…I think we just managed. (Glen, Paid Carer)

Family carers, who had no support from the LDDCP, had a poorer understanding of dementia, which was reflected in their sometimes lack of understanding of how to appropriately care for their family member’s dementia needs.

Achieving “ageing in place”

Those providing care felt that the wellbeing of the person with a learning difficulty and dementia was best achieved by adapting care to the individual’s changing needs within their own home- this is referred to as ageing in place (Watchman, 2008). Participants had a strong commitment, strengthened by their close relationship the person, to ensuring they remained within their home for as long as possible, and felt that moving the individual would have a negative impact of the person’s wellbeing:

…it’s not home for them [dementia home]…they’ve all said it would have such a dramatic negative effect on their well‐being, it’s likely to increase the deterioration. (Pat, Paid Carer).

There was recognition that keeping the individual in their home was not always possible, and there may be times when the individual would need to be moved, to ensure their wellbeing. Without the necessary support, family carers did not feel they had the ability to safely support their family member in their home, and had to move them into a residential home with 24-hour support:

It was the best thing for them, you know. [Family member] was much better off. (Robin, Family Carer)

Stock image of two people walking (https://pixabay.com/photos/dependent-dementia-woman-old-age-441408/)

What are the recommendations of this study

  • There is a need for local health services to develop inclusive specialized learning difficulty Dementia Care Pathways.
  • There is the need to development of a comprehensive, accessible training package, which is informed by the study findings and the concept of person‐centred care (Brooker & Latham, 2016; Kitwood, 1997).
  • Organizations and services need to address the reactive culture that is sometimes seen and implement processes for effective dementia care planning.
  • To better ensure a reliable, timely diagnosis and early dementia care planning, there is a need for a combination of reactive assessments, proactive baselining and screening, and associated guidance.

If you would like to discuss any of this blog and/or my paper further, please do contact me at daniel.herron1@staffs.ac.uk or on Twitter @DannyLeeHerron


Ambassadors Open Day Staffs Uni

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.

Staffs Student Stories: My Placement Year Experience: Pros and … Pros!

My name is Meredith Danks and if you’re reading this, I guess you might be wondering whether a placement year is for you?

Well I can only begin by saying YES – deciding to complete a placement year was, without a doubt, the best educational decision I have made. Over the last 6-8 months I have gained invaluable experiences, that will guide me through both my working and academic career.

However, hindsight really is a wonderful thing; if you had asked me the ‘placement’ question a year ago I would have shared my doubts. My biggest worries were whether I should take a year out and if it would be worth it? If you are feeling like this now my advice would be to make sure that you find a placement that suits you and it will be 100% worth it!

Now, finding the right placement can be a tricky business. I wanted to benefit from a year out by finding a placement that offered the experiences that I was looking for. I contacted over 30 organisations(!) to try to find a suitable placement, with the majority of them ignoring me. This was a tough time, but you need to persevere! It wasn’t until a guest lecturer mentioned “Midlands Psychology CIC” that I actually had some luck in finding my placement! So, I guess the moral of the story is to always listen during lectures!!

During my placement with Midlands Psychology CIC I had the opportunity to gain experiences that an undergraduate student could only dream of. I shadowed and worked closely with some INCREDIBLE clinicians, who have taught me more than I ever thought possible. Furthermore, I gained experience within the Looked After Children Service and Supported Living Service. Working with these services has given me many fond memories and broadened my interests beyond the fields that I already knew.

I also spent time working in the admin team, this was invaluable at showing me the other side to Psychology, whilst developing my confidence and resilience. In addition, I attended various courses and workshops which have helped to extend my knowledge in preparation for 3rd year and beyond!

For me, the best thing about my placement was, of course the invaluable experiences, but also having the chance to work within an incredible team of professionals. They have taught me so many things that I will never forget. I am truly so grateful to them all.

So, my advice to you?:
1. Considering a placement year? You might be delaying graduating by a year, but the experiences and skills that you gain outweigh this concern one thousand times over!
2. Looking for a placement? Be patient, do your research and don’t settle for something if it’s not what you want.

A year might seem like a long time, but when you’re on a placement that you love, it flies by and this was definitely the case for me!


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.

How do teachers perceive and respond to cyberbullying in the school environment?

Our Peter Macaulay writes about his recent publication on cyberbullying, looking at teachers’ perceptions of its severity and publicity, and how these influence their intervention behaviour in the school environment.

Why is this important?

Bullying in the school environment is a challenge that teachers have been expected to address within their role. There are growing fears about the rise of cyberbullying and its impact on children. My article in The Conversation suggests that children need help dealing with it and teachers have a role in addressing the issue.

The aim of this study is to explore teachers’ perceptions towards cyberbullying, specifically addressing the roles of publicity and severity. This is the first known study to address teachers’ perceptions in this area.

What did our research involve?

We recruited teachers from 10 schools in England, across primary (5 focus groups, 31 teachers), secondary (2 focus groups, 11 teachers), and college (3 focus groups, 21 teachers) educational levels. A total of 63 teachers (10 males) participated across the 10 focus groups.

The focus groups explored teachers’ perceptions and responses towards cyberbullying, particularly around the roles of publicity and severity in cyberbullying. Prompt questions included: ‘Would you respond differently depending on how severe the cyberbullying act was, and why would you respond that way?’ and ‘What circumstances would you be more likely to intervene in an act of cyberbullying?’. 


What were our main findings?

Three themes were identified from the reflexive thematic analysis: (a) role of severity, (b) differential roles of publicity, and (c) bystander intentions.

Theme 1: Role of Severity

We found teachers perceived visual acts of cyberbullying as more severe, although the content of the act was more important in determining perceived severity.

“I think if it’s relentless as well. If it’s happened over and over again, then that would be treated more seriously than if somebody had said one comment, it’s still bad, but if its, more relentless then its more severe” (P7, focus group 4)

Differences in reported management strategies according to the type of cyberbullying was also suggested by primary school teachers.

“There’s a difference, text-messaging, in which we would meet and do a cyberbullying session and have a chat. But then that’s different to a photo being sent over which is sexually explicit and actually needs a criminal investigation as well” (P6, focus group 5)

3 people looking and smiling at content on a phone from pexels

Theme 2: Differential Roles of Publicity

We found that teachers tailored their response strategies across levels of publicity, using discussion-based solutions for private incidents compared to whole school strategies (e.g., assemblies) for cyberbullying incidents of wider publicity.

“[Public] has the potential to literally go viral and to go global, but a WhatsApp message between six friends, its semi-public. But, but more containable. Somebody would have to step outside of that and share it elsewhere, to become more public” (P5, focus group 2)

Although some primary teachers respond immediately to public acts of cyberbullying due to the wider audience and potential impact for the victim, other teachers suggested cyberbullying perpetrated privately is just as important to address.

“Yeah, I was just thinking like it might be a bit more, deep-seated if it’s just between the two people and you might need to unpick it a bit more than something as obvious as like a group and everybody’s just joined in, jumped on the bandwagon” (P2, focus group 4)

Theme 3: Bystander Intentions

We found that while most teachers recognised the propensity for negative or positive bystander intentions when victims are targeted in the public domain, primary teachers suggested the challenge to support victims targeted privately.

“Although, if its private it’s just between them, those two individuals, then nobody else knows about it. If its public, yes, you’ve got lots of negative from other people but there’s also the option to have support from other people as well. Whereas if it’s just you and them, nobody else might know about it, nobody’s there to help you” (P3, focus group 5)


What do the findings mean for implications?

  1. Our findings suggest those in the educational community responsible for addressing cyberbullying should take a more cautious approach when interpreting cyberbullying.
  2. They also suggest that schools need to ensure all teachers respond to cyberbullying immediately, through appropriate reporting mechanisms. Teachers should also review the contextual information when managing different types of cyberbullying behaviours.
  3. Our findings suggest a need for strategies to mobilise bystander support in the online environment.

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.

Staffs Student Stories – Meet Sophie Jarrett, Level 5 BSc (Hons) Psychology Student

Why did you apply and how did you get a place on the course?

I am originally from Stoke-on-Trent and locally studied A-Levels at my school’s sixth form college. I decided to come to an open day at the university after visiting a handful of others around the country. When I came to Staffordshire University, I saw that the facilities here were incredible, that the accommodation was much nicer than other universities, and the Psychology Department was lovely. When I realised, I could have the same independence living away from home on campus, but also being a 15-minute drive away from family, it was an obvious first choice. I received an unconditional offer and I’ve never looked back!

What has been the best part of the course? 

In my first year, I enjoyed my ‘People Behaving Badly’ module, which taught reasoning behind abnormal behaviours. It was interesting to understand why people may behave in a different way. In my second year, I have really enjoyed my ‘Contemporary Issues in Psychology’ module, as it allowed me to see how the knowledge from my lectures and seminars can be applied to real-life scenarios as a Psychologist.  

What are the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome and how have you overcome them, while studying with us? 

A challenge I have had at university is getting used to presentations. I have an Autistic Spectrum Condition, so presenting to others has never come to me naturally. Nevertheless, I started by just presenting to my lecturers and now by the end of my second year, I can engage in class discussions and lead presentations in front of my classes. Initially I also struggled with statistics and working with numbers. I could never get my head around the different statistical tests and what they were for. But my seminar leader, Dr Zachary Parker, really helped break down what each statistical test is used for, which really aided my understanding of psychological statistics.  

What are your next steps and plans for the future? 

I am an aspiring Clinical Psychologist. I would like to work in the National Health Service and therefore my aims after my undergraduate degree is to continue on to postgraduate study in the hope of a place on the highly-competitive Clinical Psychology Professional Doctorate here at Staffordshire University.

Would you recommend our course to others? 

Psychology is the study of mind and behaviour so it can be used in any career. I’d recommend this course to anyone with an interest in psychology, especially if you would like a hands-on experience, as at Staffordshire University, you get practical experiences which you can use for your final year project or research throughout your time at Staffordshire University. 


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.

Theory of Mind experiments to do at home with your children

Last week Dr Sarah Rose, course leader for BSc Psychology and Child Development Award blogged about recreating some of the Piagetian Experiments with her children.

This week they have been having a go at some Theory of Mind tasks. These tasks are particularly suitable for children between the ages of about 3- and 7-years-old. We would love to hear how your children got on with these experiments, please tweet us @StaffsPsych or add your comments to this post!

Background

Psychologists are interested in how humans make sense of the world, this includes how they make sense of what others think. This ability to theorise and predict what someone else might be thinking develops with age and is called ‘Theory of Mind’.

This skill of predicting what another person may desire, believe, or feel usually develops between 3 and 7 years of age. The more psychologists have studied the development of theory of mind the more they have realised that it is not a single skill, instead it is a series of complex skills which develop over time.


False Belief Task 1: Sally and Ann

First we have had a go at recreating some of the classic Theory of Mind tasks testing ‘false beliefs’. These tasks require a child to understand that others may not have knowledge that they do, and which is correct. Therefore, they are called ‘false belief’ tasks as they require the child to recognise that someone else may have a ‘false belief’ about a situation.

One of the most famous of these false belief tasks is the story about two dolls, Sally and Anne:

Sally has a marble which she puts in a basket. She then goes on a walk. While she is on the walk Anne moves the marble to a box. Sally comes back from her walk and the child is asked where Sally will look for her marble.

To ‘pass’ this task the child needs to respond that Sally will look in the basket as she doesn’t know that the marble has been moved to the box.

Both my 4- and 6-year old seemed to enjoy this and found it relatively easy. If you would like to see the videos do have a look here. I used a paper prompt for the story about Sally and Anne, if you look on google you will find a few to choose from.


False Belief Task 2: Smarties Tube

Other versions of the false belief task have also been developed. Probably the most famous of these is the Smarties tube task. In this a child is shown a smarties tube (or some other familiar container, we used a pencil box).

The child is asked what they think is inside, as long as you have chosen something the child is familiar with, they should give you the expected answer, e.g. Smarties (or in my case pencils).

However, what the child doesn’t know is that prior to the experiment you have taken the expected contents out and replaced them with something unexpected! You then show the child the unexpected contents, this often gives them a good giggle. Then you close the container again and ask them what someone else, who hasn’t seen inside the container, would think was inside.

My 6-year old really enjoyed this task as he found it very funny. My 4-year old was a little more confused by it though (video can be found here). She thought that Nana would think there were sweeties in the pencil box! I did wonder if this might reflected the box that I had chosen as maybe she thought Nana would not be familiar with the box and therefore that it contained pencils Alternatively, maybe there is something about this task that she just found more difficult than the task about Sally and Anne?


Diverse Desire Task

Since the development of the false belief tasks it has become recognised that these tasks test just one aspect of Theory of Mind. If we are interested in children’s understanding of the minds of others, then we need more tasks as people’s minds are very complex. We need tasks that test children’s understanding of different types of thoughts, not just someone’s knowledge and beliefs.

One of these more recent tasks has been designed to test children’s understanding that the likes and desires of others may differ to their own. To test this, you will need a picture of two possible snacks (we used pictures of a cookie and a carrot) and a soft toy who can be the character in the story.
Now you are ready to engage in the following conversation with your child.

  • Here are two different snacks, a carrot, and a cookie (show them the pictures). Which would you like best?
  • Here is Farmer Tom (the name of the toy we used), and it is his snack time!
  • Farmer Tom really likes (opposite to what child said). He does not like (what the child says), he likes (opposite to what the child said).
  • So now it is snack time, Farmer Tom can choose what he would like to eat. Which snack will they choose, a cookie or a carrot?

To ‘pass’ this task the child needs to choose the snack for the toy character that the character likes – rather than the one that they would choose. Both of my children found this quite easy, you can see them having a go here. I was not surprised by this as understanding of diverse desires has been found to be one of the first Theory of Mind skills to develop, usually before the understanding of false belief


Real – Apparent Emotion Task

As well has having beliefs and desires we have emotions too. Some more recent Theory of Mind tasks, such as this story about Sam have aimed to investigate children’s understanding of the emotions that another person might feel and show – and that these may not always be the same as people can try and hide their emotions.

To test this understanding of emotion you will need a couple of paper props: a silhouette, or outline of a boy, and three face emojis (happy, neutral and sad). Make sure that your child is confident about the feelings that each of three faces represent and introduce the silhouette of the boy explaining that it is ‘Sam’ the boy in the story that you are about to read.

Now you are ready to read the story:

This story is about Sam. I am going to ask you some questions about how Sam is feeling, how he is really feeling on the inside, and how he looks on his face. He might feel one way inside but look a different way on his face. I want you to tell me how he really feels inside AND then how he looks on his face, okay?

  • Sam’s friends were playing together and telling jokes.
  • One of the older children, Rosie, told a mean, unkind joke about Sam and everyone laughed.
  • Everyone thought it was very funny but Sam didn’t.
  • But he didn’t want the other children to see how he felt about the joke, so Sam tried to hide how he felt.
  • So, how do you think Sam felt on the inside when everyone else laughed at the joke?
  • AND how did Sam try to look on his face?

To pass this test children need to recognise that although Sam felt sad inside, he tried to disguise his feelings by looking neutral or happy. I was surprised at how easy both of my children found this task as understanding of emotion has generally been found to be one of the later Theory of Mind skills to develop. This led me to wonder whether maybe taking the ‘test’ in a familiar environment with a familiar adult who they are used to listening to made it easier for them to pass the test?


Finally, some reflections on these tests…

Although the theory of mind tasks are tests of social cognition they also require good language skills as children really have to listen and understand what you are saying otherwise they would be likely to give the wrong answers. I think, like the Piagetian tasks I wrote about last week, that when we are able to present these tasks in a child friendly way that makes sense to the child we may find that some abilities develop slightly sooner than the theorist originally thought. These reminds us how important the environment and context is for children, if they feel comfortable and relaxed they may be better able to show us their true cognitive abilities.

Let us know what you think!


Ambassadors Open Day Staffs Uni

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.

Experiences of lockdown during Covid-19: Recruiting for an online research study

Dr Jade Elliott and Dr Amy Burton would like to invite you to participate in a research project that is being conducted in the department of Psychology at Staffordshire Univeristy.

As a thank you, participants who complete the study will be entered into a prize draw to win one of 2 x £50 Amazon gift vouchers.

The research team are interested in the experiences of individuals (aged 18 years or over) during the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions that have been imposed across the UK.

The research will involve providing some information about yourself, answering a questionnaire online about your wellbeing and coping, before taking photographs (using a phone or digital camera) over one week that represent your experiences of life during the Covid-19 pandemic.

You will be asked to choose and send 4-7 of these photographs to the research team and complete a further questionnaire about your wellbeing.

A selection of participants will subsequently be invited to have an interview with a member of the research team to talk about your photographs and develop an understanding of your experiences.

To get further information and take part in this study please click: covid19 photo study. If you have any questions about the research, please contact the research team at covid19photostudy@staffs.ac.uk

Experiments to do at home with your children

I am Sarah Rose, the Course Leader for the BSc Psychology and Child Development Award and while I have been at home with my children, I have been having a go at recreating some classic cognitive psychology experiments with them. Today we had a go at some of the classical Piagetian Tasks. These tasks are particularly suitable for children between the ages of about 4 and 8 years old. We would love to hear how your children got on with these experiments, please tweet us @StaffsPsych or add your comments to this post!

Background

Jean Piaget developed an influential theory of cognitive development, suggesting that as children grow older the way that they understand and think about the world alters. He was one of the first the argue that the way that young children understand the world is not just an immature version of adult understanding, instead he argued that it was fundamentally different. He developed a series of tasks, known as conservation tasks, which demonstrated this. I have had a go at recreating these tasks at home with my 4- and 6-year-old. If you cannot load any of the videos within the blog piece please watch them here.

Task 1: Conservation of quantity

Materials: Traditionally this task is done with water, but to make tidying up easier we used rice. In addition to this some plastic glasses (ideally transparent) of different shapes and sizes, although two of them need to be the same size, are needed.

Instructions:

  1. First, put an approximately equal amount of rice in the two glasses that are the same size.
  2. Ask your child if there is the same amount of rice in both.
  3. If they say ‘no’ encourage them to move a little from one to the other until they are happy that there is the same amount in both.
  4. Once they are happy with this ask them to pour the rice from one of the glasses into another one (ideally one that is noticeably taller and narrower, or fatter and wider).
  5. Now ask them if there is the same amount in both glasses, or if one glass now has more rice in than the other.
  6. You might be surprised by their answer, you could ask them to explain it to you.

Results: According to Piaget, and also my recreation of this experiment with my own children, under the age of about 6-years might struggle with this, and believe that by pouring the rice from one container to another the amount has actually changed. This suggests that their mental representation and understanding of quantity might be quite different to ours. I was interested to see how my 6-year old’s understanding was clearly still shifting and developing as he explained why it looked like there was more in one glass than the other but actually it was the same amount.

This is how my two children got on:

Conservation of quantity – 4-years old
Conservation of quantity – 6-years old

Task 2: Conservation of number

Materials: 14 counters of equal size, we used pennies as I could not find the counters. You might also like a Teddy Bear to act as an assistant!

Instructions:

  1. Place the counters in two rows so that both rows have the same number of counters and they are equally spaced.
  2. Ask your child if both rows have the same number of counters (hopefully, they will agree that they do but if they do not, just remove a counter from both rows until they agree that there is the same number).
  3. Now either you, or that cheeky Teddy assisting you, could move the counters in one of the rows so that they are spaced further apart. This will make one of the rows appear to be longer.
  4. Now ask your child whether there are the same number of counters in both rows, or whether one row has more counters than the other.
  5. Again, you might be surprised by their answer and you could ask them to explain their thinking to you.

Results: Again, children under the age of about 6-years old may struggle with this. It has been found that making slight adaptions to Piaget’s original task, such as having a naughty Teddy assist, can help children of a younger age to pass this task. It was still a bit tricky for my 4-year-old though!

Conservation of number – 4-year old

Task 3: Conservation of mass

Materials: Two balls of play dough that are different colours. A surface that you can roll the play dough on.

Instructions: Take the two balls of play dough and roll them into balls. These two balls should be the same size, and you should check with your child to make sure that they think they are the same size too! If they do not adjust the size by removing small amounts from the one that they think is biggest until they are happy that they are both the same size. Now, while your child watches, take one of the balls and roll it so that it becomes more of a cylinder shape. Once you have done this ask your child whether both shapes have the same amount of playdough, or whether one has more than the other. Again, you might be surprised by their answer and you could ask them to explain their thinking to you.

Results: Children younger than about 7-years-old are likely to tell you that the amount has changed. Piaget found that children did not show adult understanding all his conservation tasks at the same point, rather as they developed, they would ‘pass’ some before they passed others. This task involving mass is often passed later than those involving quantity or number. Again I found it really interesting to see the difference in my 4 and 6-year olds understanding.

Conservation of mass – 6-year old
Conservation of mass – 4-year old

We would love to hear how your children got on with these experiments. Please tweet us @StaffsPsych!

If you have not been able to view the videos within the blog piece you can find them all here.


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.

5 things to get involved in whilst studying with us!

There are many things that you can get involved in whilst studying a Psychology degree with us! Here are 5 ideas of what you can do outside of your academic workload.

5 things to get involved in whilst studying for your Psychology degree!

#1: We have lots of events and opportunities for you to get involved in throughout the year!
For example you could:

  • Write a blog piece on your experiences or an event you have supported.
  • Run a demonstration at one of our events such as ‘Psychology and Me’!
  • Present your research at one of the Psychology Research conferences.
PitP expert talk

#2: You can attend expert talks

These take place on campus as part of our visiting speaker series and as part of Psychology in the Pub! You can hear about research and different Psychology fields who are invited to talk about their interests.

Group PsychMe

#3: Become a Psychology Advocate!

Learn more about the field of Psychology and develop your transferable skills by delivering workshops, tours and supporting events within the department!

EEG
EEG

#4: Develop your practical research skills

Conduct your own studies, support academic researchers and participate in studies. These might use our amazing technical resources!
You can put your learning into practice on a placement year or one of your option modules.

#5: Join the Psychology society!

Socialise with students from across our Psychology degrees and become part of a wider Psychology community!


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.

What do children know about online safety?

Our Peter Macaulay writes about his recent publication on children’s online safety knowledge and attitudes towards e-safety education.

What did our research involve?

We asked 329 children aged 8 to 11 years old to complete questionnaires which had questions on:

  1. Perceived online safety;
  2. Subjective knowledge of online safety and dangers;
  3. Objective knowledge of online safety and dangers;
  4. Attitudes towards e-safety education.

What were our main findings?

  • We found that the children generally reported feeling safe online.
  • The children perceived that they had a good awareness of online dangers and how to avoid them (subjective knowledge).
    • This subjective knowledge predicted the child’s perceived online safety.
  • However, the children tended to be poorer at saying exactly what those dangers were and how they personally could avoid them (objective knowledge).
    • This was especially true of boys and the younger children who took part in our research.

Together, these findings suggest that some children may think that they know how to stay safe online, but lack, or atleast may be unable to say, objective knowledge that could actually keep them safe.

Child typing at a PC to an unknown user.

How could people build on our research?

  1. Our findings show that there is a need to assess children’s objective knowledge of online safety and dangers.
  2. Having further insights into this knowledge will help to design and provide appropriate e-safety education for children who currently lack this knowledge.

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.

Understanding suicidal ideation and behaviour in individuals with chronic pain

Our Professor Karen Rodham explains the background, findings and future directions for her recent published review.

Why did we conduct our review?

Some research suggests that those who live with chronic pain are at higher risk of engaging in suicidal behaviour.

Much work has explored how different psychological factors might influence suicidal behaviour in helpful as well as unhelpful ways. Similarly much work has looked at how different psychological factors might help as well as hinder those who are trying to cope with chronic pain. Very little work has compared both pain and suicidal behaviour research areas.

Professor Karen Rodham

What did we focus on?

We wanted to explore this gap and look closely at the research in the chronic pain and suicidal behaviour fields to see if there were any common factors on which researchers could focus their attention in future studies.

How did we conduct our searches?

Our search of the research published between 2008 and 2018 produced 21,392 possible articles. After we had screened the papers for their relevance we identified 52 to include in our review. While we were reviewing them a further 17 papers were identified. This meant that we looked in depth at total of 69 papers.

Table with the word research written on with people sat around working together.

What were our findings?

We found that there were three promising areas that cut across both the suicide and the chronic pain research fields:

  1. Future Orientation: How people feel about their expected and imagined future
  2. Mental Imagery: How certain kinds of images in our mind’s eye can impact on how we feel.
  3. Psychological Flexibility: How our ability to accept our situation can impact on how we feel.

How you could use this research:

We suggest that greater cross over between the chronic pain and suicide research fields is really important if we are to increase our understanding of why some people with chronic pain are at greater risk of engaging in suicidal behaviour. These three areas would be a good place to start.


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.