Our recently published paper reports an international comparison of university students’ perceptions of the effectiveness of 11 alcohol control strategies, such as, increasing the cost of alcohol or teaching people skills to refuse alcohol. University students were recruited from Denmark, England, Germany, Italy, Portugal, and Switzerland because these countries reflect a range of different drinking cultures for students. For example, Danish and English students don’t drink that often, but when they do, they can drink a lot, like binge drinking in a pub, bar, or nightclub. In contrast, Italian and Portuguese students often drink every day but in small amounts, like a glass of wine with a meal.
The paper was based on previous research by Dr Richard de Visser from the University of Sussex, which showed UK adolescents and university students rated restrictive strategies, like increasing the cost of alcohol, as less effective than educational strategies, like teaching people skills to refuse alcohol. These results are interesting because they contradict high-quality epidemiological evidence that restrictive strategies are more effective at reducing alcohol-related harm than educational strategies. Our paper sought to extend these results to see if ratings of effectiveness were affected by drinking culture.
Our paper had three key findings:
1. We replicated Richard’s results from 2014 – university students rated restrictive strategies as less effective than educational strategies.
2. We found that ratings of effectiveness were affected by country of residence. For example, Italian and Portuguese students rated restrictive strategies as more effective than students in other countries. Alternatively, Danish students rated educational strategies as less effective than students from other countries.
3. We also found that different psychological factors predicted ratings of effectiveness for different strategy types. Students who reported less positive alcohol outcomes (beliefs about the effects of drinking) reported higher ratings for restrictive strategies, while students who reported higher drinking refusal self-efficacy (finding it easier to refuse the offer of an alcoholic drink) reported higher ratings for educational strategies.
There are three takeaway messages from this paper. First, we confirmed that university students’ view restrictive alcohol control strategies—like increasing the price of alcohol—as less effective than educational strategies at reducing alcohol-related harm. This result is completely in contrast to the epidemiological evidence, which favours restrictive strategies. Implementing unpopular, but effective, strategies that restrict students’ ability to drink alcohol, is going to be challenging. Second, we found country of residence affected ratings of strategy effectiveness. Southern European students gave more favourable ratings of restrictive strategies than students in other European countries, while Danish students gave the least favourable ratings of educational strategies. We need to conduct new research to explore these differences. Finally, we found that two psychological factors, alcohol expectancies and drinking refusal self-efficacy, predicted strategy ratings. It may be possible to target these factors in interventions to increase students’ ratings of the effectiveness of alcohol control strategies. This is one way to increase support for implementation of these strategies.
Staffordshire University – The Home of Health Psychology
Written by Dr Amy Burton, Senior Lecturer in Qualitative Psychological Research Methods
The World Health Organization and UK Policy recommend breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months of life, followed by breastfeeding alongside complementary foods for up to two years and beyond. However, levels of exclusive breastfeeding at 6-8 weeks are only around 32% in England and Scotland and breastfeeding initiation is particularly low in Stoke on Trent, falling below the England average.
At Staffordshire University we have a group of researchers who are interested in learning about the experience of breastfeeding and finding new ways to develop and improve breastfeeding support. On the 26th May 2022 we held an event to discuss our breastfeeding research and establish new networks with breastfeeding stakeholders.
We then facilitated a guided discussion with two breastfeeding mothers about their own experiences and thoughts about our research.
World Café discussions
Attendees then took part in a World Café. World Café is a collaborative research approach where group discussions are focussed on a series of questions. For our World Café we asked:
What stood out for you in the research and experiences that have been discussed today, and what do you hope to do with this new knowledge?
What do you feel are the immediate breastfeeding research priorities?
What do you feel are the biggest barriers to breastfeeding research influencing policy and practice, and how might we overcome these?
After each question a few attendees from each group moved to another table where the discussions continued. This resulted in further exchange of knowledge and summaries of previous discussions with the aim of reaching a group-led ‘world view’ of each issue. Discussion points were noted on poster paper and audio-recorded.
After the event the attendees were given opportunity to feedback on the key outcomes of these discussions as part of a follow up evaluation survey.
Our World Café highlighted a number of breastfeeding priorities. Some of these include:
Breastfeeding information and support needs to be introduced earlier in pregnancy than is taking place in current practice.
[Breastfeeding is] touched on at booking to have a look at it further down the line, but then, and then at 34 weeks as well when we sort of go through the birth plan it’s briefly touched on, but like yourself, premature deliveries, you’ve missed that conversation, if you’re before 36 weeks you’ve missed that conversation so you’ve missed all that information, and as well if you’re premature obviously you’re encouraged to breastfeed or express and then it’s like but actually you’ve not had any education about that at all, so you’ve missed a lot. I think it needs to be a lot sooner.
If someone’s on the fence, they’re unsure, they don’t know what they wanna do [breastfeed or use formula], you know there’s not much information about it, you’re almost gonna guarantee they are gonna be buying formula as a back-up.
Pregnant women need to be informed, empowered, and prepared to overcome breastfeeding barriers and challenges.
If more women understand, either antenatally or postnatally, you know typical challenges and tips on how to overcome these or they are aware of myths and that you know? For example just giving them a bottle isn’t going to necessarily make a baby sleep longer, or the myth about mastitis. If women know these things then actually when, if a challenge arises, either they know where to seek support from you know? A peer supporter, peer support group or a healthcare professional, and maybe it’s just gonna help their confidence a little bit more if they think actually this isn’t the right information, and we’re just kind of arming these women a little bit better.
Intervention needs to include family members and social contacts who can support or create barriers for breastfeeding.
My mum, even though she breastfed till eighteen months with me and my sister, I think when my son was a couple of months old, she said “oh we’ve got family coming round, family friends coming round, if you want to come round for tea you can but can you just go into the living room if you’re gonna feed” and I said no, and she said “well we’ll have to go out for a meal with them instead and you won’t be able to come”, and it’s like fine, fine […] My mum isn’t bad in general, but I said to her, she said “I know what you’re gonna say because I know how passionate you are about it”, but I was like “I’m not just going into another room because I’m feeding him”.
Education and training about breastfeeding needs to be improved for healthcare professionals.
I’ve heard some absolute horror stories of terrible advice received from various professionals, health visitors, outdated advice, midwives, doctors, I’ve even received terrible advice myself when I needed some antibiotics, I’m allergic to penicillin, “ooh you need to stop breastfeeding cause if we need to give you antibiotics”, “we won’t have very many to give you”, and it’s like well, I don’t plan on needing antibiotics anytime soon, but you know I’ll manage, thanks. And that’s not true anyway, there’s plenty of antibiotics I could receive-
Speaker 2: Yeah, and it’s always so surprising when you hear stories like that-
Speaker 1: I know, I know.
Speaker 2: You just think I don’t understand how people in the medical profession have got all of these wrong ideas. Like where’s the training for them?
Our event helped to inform the work of attendees who were working in breastfeeding services:
“[the event provided] good links to evidence to use in discussion/promotion”
“I am going to think about encouraging pregnant families to Baby Cafe, to help inform them before their baby arrive as early education can help de-bunk some of those myths [about breastfeeding]”
“[I am going to] incorporate [the research findings] as we plan future volunteer peer support training and groups for families”.
In addition, our event helped to establish useful networks within the city of Stoke on Trent and beyond creating new links for future collaborative work to support breastfeeding:
“(I) definitely hope to use this as a springboard to developing new connections and projects”
For the Breastfeeding Network (BfN) in Stoke on Trent our event highlighted a need to improve healthcare professional awareness of their services to increase referral. Attending our event helped to achieve this and BfN have seen an increase in healthcare professionals making contact including some requests from midwives and health visitors to attend their support groups to see how they work.
Our event was very well received by attendees. We are continuing to analyse the data collected to identify themes and priorities for policy and future research. We want to thank everyone who has been involved and are excited about our new connections and networks. We look forward to working with these networks on future projects to enhance breastfeeding support and ultimately improve breastfeeding rates across the city of Stoke on Trent and beyond.
If you are interested in this work or would like to talk more about breastfeeding research, please get in contact with me at amy.burton@Staffs.ac.uk or over on Twitter @DrAmyBurton
Staffordshire University – The Home of Health Psychology
The BPS Research Assistantship Scheme is highly competitive, so the Department is proud to be successful in being awarded two summer internships in 2022 to Dr Alison Owen and Dr Sarah Rose.
One of the award holders, Heather Cassidy, who is working with Dr Alison Owen, has written a blog piece about her experiences studying BSc Psychology and Child Development and the focus for the research.
I have completed year 2 of BSc Psychology and Child Development and I am currently in my final year. During the second year I was really excited to have the opportunity to choose the research assistantship module to build experience to suit my future career plans.
I want to get as much research experience during my time at Staffs as I can, unlike some of the other option modules it had a limited number of spaces and I had to achieve a certain grade in research modules in year 1 to get one of the spaces. I had my fingers crossed that I got a place, and it did not disappoint. In fact, it was more than I could have imagined it was going to be. To be trusted to work on the research with the health psychology team was an amazing experience and opened doors of opportunity that have really made my journey at staffs both unique and tailored to me. The research I worked on was looking at breastfeeding and body image, I created adverts online to recruit participants, scheduled video appointments, wrote questions to ask and interviewed the participants for the study. I then transcribed the interviews and wrote my thoughts down of the generated themes to pass on to other researchers. As well as being my first experience of qualitative research, which helped with a further qualitative lab report on a core module in semester 2, the assistantship module provides an opportunity for reflection which will come in handy having had experience writing this ready for the year 3 project.
Wednesdays were my favourite day, I would have an occasional research assistantship lecture first thing, followed by a child development module. At the start of year 2 the first child development lecture asked the whole group what we wanted from the module as individuals. We all scribbled on post it notes and thought nothing of it, we studied the core material in semester 1 and then semester 2 arrived and the module had been set out each week to cover the topics the group had asked for in relation to careers. Each week we covered a different topic and various speakers came in to tell us how it related to their jobs, we heard from speakers working in various child psychology careers. We were taught how this connected to the material from semester 1 and how their diary looked in a typical week from clinical psychologists to family support workers. It was eye opening, and I know the group all enjoyed learning from people working in roles that they aspire to achieve after graduating next year. The child development lecturers always go above and beyond, and for me personally it really supported the notion of my experience being about me. I do not feel like I am a number on a register, my course is shaping my knowledge and putting the building blocks in place for my future career.
Year 2 has also demonstrated just how far I have come. I have done various other courses over the years, and I have never felt confident writing an essay before. At the start of year 1 I had used references in previous work, but I was still clueless about it, I just did it and hoped for the best. I remember my feedback from my first essay at staffs, my marker had written where is the intro? I was so confused, I had done a starting paragraph, nobody had ever pulled me up on my introduction style before. This allowed me to question what it was I needed to do, and it all fell in to place. I finally know how to write an essay. That may not be an achievement for others but for me it has been such a huge step and my marks have increased a lot as the course has gone on through all the teaching and feedback I have received at Staffs.
Outside of the planned lessons there is other support available to teach people study skills such as referencing and searching for journals, there is a section on the website where you can book in for any additional help you need. It is through the extra support available that it was finally picked up this year that I have ADHD. With this extra support it has enabled me to not only receive extra support, but it also puts the pieces into place for me of why I have always been capable of doing work, but the reason why I have struggled. This year has been life changing in so many ways academically and Staffs have truly supported and nurtured my development.
The golden egg moment for me this year was being put forward for a BPS award to take on a summer internship. I cried when I found out I had received it, but even if I had not received it, the fact that I was being able to put my own ideas forward for research and have people acknowledge that and have confidence in me to put me forward was an award in itself. The research I am currently working on is on the experiences of parents breastfeeding twins and multiples. During the assistantship module I interviewed around 15 women, only one was breastfeeding twins, based on her experience it opened my eyes to the differences she was experiencing as a mum of twins, and I suggested a twin study on the back of the research I had carried out in year 2. I have had the pleasure of working alongside Dr Alison Owen, Dr Jenny Taylor and Dr Amy Burton, all from Staffs health psychology department with experience in breastfeeding and qualitative research. Even just from writing the proposal to put forward to be considered I was able to learn how proposals are put forward, how to fill in ethics forms and carry out a literature review to use in the study. In August, I finished the literature searches, written the introduction, written questions, recruited participants, used Qualtrics as part of the recruiting process where there are around 170 detailed responses to use for the study as well as 19 video interviews I have carried out. I have been transcribing the videos ready to start the thematic analysis of both the videos and written responses over the next few weeks. I could not have pictured where this year would have gone, but it has been far greater than I could have imagined, and I am so thankful for the support I have received. I do not feel like I am at university to just get a degree and enter the job market, I truly feel like I am being given the skills I need to have a successful career in Psychology.
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.
Staffordshire University recently held the Learning and Teaching Festival (LTF [Monday 6 June to Friday 10 June 2022]). The festival provided an opportunity for the University community to share and develop innovative learning and teaching practices from across the University. The day consisted of a variety of different styles of talks (e.g. presentations, simulations, workshops, demonstrations, discussions, and 5-minute pecha kucha) across diverse topic areas. There were also opportunities for networking as people from across the University came together to share practice. The festival talks covered several key themes, including: Learning support; Co-creation between peers, staff, and students; Digital technology; Social mobility and resilience; Innovative pedagogies; Employment; and Addressing differential outcomes for students.
Several talks were provided by members of the Psychology department. Dr Dan Herron and MSc Foundations in Clinical Psychology student, Jack Beardmore, discussed experiences of using a world café to understand student feedback. Dr Jenny Taylor and Dr Nikki Street delivered an interactive session providing attendees with a taster of the mindfulness intervention they recently facilitated for Psychology students which was aimed at improving a range of outcomes including wellbeing, resilience and student experience.
Using a world café to gain a rich understanding of student feedback
By Dr Dan Herron & Jack Beardmore
When I (Dan) saw the abstract call for the LTF I thought my recent experiences of gaining rich feedback from students was an example of good practice which would be useful to share across the University. Jack and I wanted to provide an interactive demonstration of how I gained a deeper understanding of MSc student feedback (mid-course) using a world café technique.
Before jumping into my reflections of the workshop, it is important to reflect on the reasons for why I decided to collect this feedback and in this format. The main driving force was that the previous years end of course feedback did not provide the reasoning behind the student scores. For example, students identify on a scale from definitely agree to definitely disagree with written responses, where students can provide reasons, being optional. Therefore, from my experiences with world cafes, I thought this method would be ideal and provide rich insight, which would allow for informed changes to the course.
It is also important to understand a little bit about what world cafés are and how I applied them. How world cafés are utilised varies based on their purpose- for gaining student feedback, I had two one-hour world cafés (same time and same place but a week apart) because of the availability of students. As illustrated in Diagram 1, world cafés can consist of several tables, and on each table, there is a host who facilitates the discussion, and 4-5 participants. We had one question per round (all students, across all tables, discussed the same question at the same time) and there were seven rounds across the two sessions. After each round, students moved (as randomly as possible) to different tables.
Jack and I worked collaboratively to develop and deliver the workshop. I asked Jack to come along and provide his perspective (as a participant) of world cafés to gain student feedback. We had planned for it to be an interactive workshop, where the audience took part in a mini- world café, but due to the amount of people in the audience (less than needed) we decided to go to plan B and focus more on our experiences of the world café sessions. For different, but interlinked reasons, we both found usefulness in world cafes- for me, they helped to provide rich insight which was developed through collaborative discussion between students; for Jack, it provided the space and opportunity to dive deeper into their issues, share perspectives and give feedback as a community. We shared these views and experiences with the audience.
We had interesting and useful feedback about the content of the talk and suggestions of how it could be used beyond feedback (something I have previously done when teaching thematic analysis). I feel Jack’s perspective, as a participant, really added value to the talk.
Mindful Students: Mindfulness interventions to improve student outcomes
By Dr Jenny Taylor and Dr Nikki Street
This interactive workshop discussed the background research exploring how and why mindfulness interventions may have had a positive impact on student experience as well as providing a taster of a mindfulness intervention in the form of a guided meditation recently delivered to a small group of our undergraduate psychology students. The benefits of mindfulness are well known, particularly in terms of health and wellbeing. The general benefits of engaging in mindfulness for students in a learning context are also well documented but we know less about its impact on specific constructs such as resilience, perceived academic control, and sense of belonging. The research also is lacking more qualitative insight into the impact of mindfulness therefore our study looks at not only quantitative changes across an intervention but also explored students individual experiences in qualitative interviews to offer further understanding of the potential benefits that practice can have.
Both Nikki and Jenny are trained Mindfulness Now practitioners (a version of mindfulness that is approved by the British Psychological Society) and, as academics, are particularly interested in how mindfulness can help our students.
Nikki and Jenny were awarded funding from the Staffordshire Centre of Learning and Pedagogic practice (SCoLLP) to explore the impact of an 8-week mindfulness intervention on a range of student outcomes including wellbeing, resilience, belongingness, perceived academic control, and student experience. The weekly sessions involved Nikki and Jenny facilitating a small group of students to engage with mindfulness in a variety of different formats including meditation, activities, stories and poems, as well as providing space for personal enquiry and reflection. Students were also encouraged to engage in some mindfulness ‘homework’ each week in order to further enhance their practice.
To assess its impact, students were asked to complete a survey pre and post intervention as well as taking part in a follow up interview about their experiences. This data will be analysed in conjunction with data we collect from the additional roll out of the intervention. To date, feedback from the students has been overwhelmingly positive with one student commenting on their general enjoyment of the intervention:
Another student commented specifically on how they felt the intervention had helped them during the examination period:
The workshop delivered for the LTF presented an overview of the project, our reflections so far, as well as a taster of some of the practices that we guide our students through. The workshop led to some interesting discussions around the potential use of mindfulness for students across different contexts and discussion around potential cross discipline applications.
As part of our series of StaffsPsych Graduate Success Stories, we are pleased to introduce Emma who completed her BSc (Hons) Psychology and Counselling degree here at Staffordshire University in 2022. Find out about Emma’s experiences on her course and her plans for the future:
Please tell us a little about your background before coming to study at Staffordshire University:
I decided to study psychology at university on my first day at sixth form! I started studying psychology at sixth form in 2017 and my teacher was a real inspiration to me. As soon as I stepped into the classroom on my first day I knew it was what I wanted to study and I became very dedicated to those studies. This set me on the path to where I am now!
What attracted you to studying Psychology at Staffordshire University?
Staffordshire University was the first place I went to an open day when choosing a university. As soon as I arrived at the university I felt at home and was comfortable walking around. During the talks given by the lecturers on the day I was enthralled by the topics and was very engaged in these talks. I felt that I could gain a lot from the experience that Staffordshire University could give me and what they had to offer and I knew it was the place for me to be for the next 3 years at least!
What were the best parts of your experience at Staffordshire?
During my time at university we went into lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic so my experience was somewhat interrupted due to this. In spite of this I managed to make the most of the experiences the university had to offer with day trips to Alton Towers to meet people on my course and other extra-curricular activities on offer (the club nights in the LRV and karaoke in the Ember Lounge!). I was also part of the university badminton club for my 3 years of studying and made some wonderful friends there and gained experience in running clubs – highly recommend being part of as many clubs and societies as you can – this is what gives you that full university experience!
What was the biggest challenge(s) that you overcame whilst studying at Staffordshire?
The biggest challenge I faced at university was the change in learning styles from starting with face-to-face lectures in first year to only online lectures in second year and then a mix of everything in my final year. Due to the online learning bought about by the pandemic communication with peers was limited as discussions during lectures were difficult due to often unstable internet connections and difficulty in communicating online. Also arranging meetings with mentors and lecturers meant a stable internet connection which was sometimes hard to find in a student house when everyone was studying online! Due to not being on campus access to resources was limited for a while as not all textbooks/articles were available online, however this was resolved quickly by the university in difficult times! These challenges were overcome through perseverance of online lectures and many emails to and from (very) patient lecturers discussing any questions that students had.
What have you done since leaving Staffordshire?How did you course help you with this?
Since finishing my undergraduate degree in May 2022 I have been busy completing a summer internship with lecturers at the university. This internship has been based within Health Psychology, the area in which I am most interested and has consisted of a systematic review. As part of the review team I have been searching across multiple databases, completing data extraction and quality appraisal of articles. This kind of review is not something I had been able to complete as part of the course and so gaining this experience has been invaluable. This has been a really wonderful experience and has given me many skills that will prove useful in my future career in Health Psychology.
I am starting a master’s in Health Psychology at Staffordshire University in September 2022, during which I will be undertaking a placement module which will give me a great deal of experience working within the industry alongside my studies.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about applying to study Psychology at Staffordshire University?
Go for it! Studying psychology at Staffordshire University was one of the best decisions I have ever made. The experiences I have been given and the people I have met have allowed me to develop skills and create lifelong bonds with some amazing people, whether this be the lecturers being great mentors or friends that I have made along the way. All these things make me Proud to be Staffs.
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.
A small team from Staffordshire University, including Lisa Kyte (a current level 5 BSc Psychology and Child Development student at Staffordshire University) and Dr Dan Herron (Lecturer in Psychology at Staffordshire University) are carrying out some research exploring how the cost-of-living crisis is experienced by unpaid carers of people living with dementia.
Research has shown the potential financial challenges associated with being a carer (Gott et al., 2015) and specifically being an unpaid carer of a person living with dementia (Bayley et al., 2021). Being a carer has additional costs that can significantly impact their financial situation. Carers are likely to have been further negatively impacted by the recent cost-of-living crisis (Carers UK, 2022).
Since late 2021, the UK has been experiencing a cost-of-living crisis which has been driven by sharp increases in energy prices and the prices of everyday basics such as food. Carers UK (2022), early in the crisis, carried out a survey and the results illustrated the negative impact of increased prices on carers, with carers having to make tough decisions between food or heating. No research (to the our knowledge) has explored the views and experiences of unpaid carers of people living with dementia during the cost-of-living crisis.
Our study involves taking part in an interview (informal chat) about unpaid carers’ experiences during the cost-of-living crisis this can be in person (depending on location) or by telephone or online chat. If you are 18 years or over, and care and live with a person living with dementia, and are interested in taking part, please read the Cost of living Information Sheet. Please do share this information with anyone you think will be interested.
If you want to take part in this research, discuss it further or have any questions, please do get in touch with Dan (email@example.com or 01782 295866)
The BPS Research Assistantship Scheme is highly competitive, so the Department is proud to be successful in being awarded two summer internships to Dr Alison Owen and Dr Sarah Rose. We wish both students the best of luck in their Summer Research Assistantships!
One of the award holders, Louise Middling, who is working with Dr Sarah Rose, has written a blog piece about her experiences studying BSc Psychology and Child Development and the focus for the research.
If you’d have told me 5 years ago that I would be a mature student at staffs studying BSc Psychology and Child Development I would never have believed you. I can honestly say though that it has been one of the best decisions that I have ever made. The course has opened up a wealth of opportunities for me that I could never have envisaged before I started, and I have met some amazing people along the way.
Having worked as an intervention specialist in a primary school, I have always been interested in exploring new ideas about how children learn and develop and so when the Research Assistantship Module came up as an option module in Level 5, I knew I wanted to take part. I read all of the project proposals hoping to find a project I could really resonate with and learn some new skills that I could benefit from in my final year project. I found myself drawn to a project with Dr. Sarah Rose on the use of social media among young children. I had to admit that my knowledge of social media was scant, and part of me knew that as well as an interesting project, I would need to know all I could to learn to navigate this with my own children in the future!
Luckily I was accepted onto the project and under the guidance of Dr. Rose set about identifying and researching social media platforms designed for use by young children and researching how they interact with each other on these platforms, while looking for relevant research into this topic area. Over the course of the assistantship, I learned so much that has really benefitted me both personally and professionally, and have built skills that I can take forward into the future.
I was delighted when Dr. Rose put me forward for the Undergraduate Research Assistantship Scheme with the British Psychological Society, and was so happy to hear that we had won one of the awards grants. This has enabled us to extend our research and work with Dr. Beatrice Hayes of Royal Holloway in London into completing a scoping review on perceptions of young children’s SNS use over the summer. I can’t wait to see where this research will lead. If you are reading this and wondering whether to complete the Research Assistantship Module, I definitely recommend it. I’d like to thank Dr. Rose for her mentorship and support throughout.
Matthew Kimberly (Psychology PhD student) blogs about the third annual Keele-Staffs psychology postgraduate conference, with postscript from Dr Richard Jolley (PhD psychology course leader)
Following from the success of the first two joint conferences and a forced hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic, the third joint Keele-Staffs psychology conference was hosted at Keele University in May 2022. The conference was organised by Dr Richard Jolley (Staffordshire University), Dr Sue Sherman (Keele University) with the help of a conference committee. The event offered an ideal opportunity for postgraduate researchers at both universities to network and share their research with an audience. It was also a great opportunity to practice their presentation skills in a supportive environment!
The conference commenced with an introduction from Professor Abigail Locke (Head of School of Psychology, Keele University) and Dr Richard Jolley. The first presenter in the morning session was Krystian Ciesielski from Keele University, who gave an informative overview of his research on whether visual information is used differently in functional and taxonomic scene categorisation. The second presenter was Tanya Schrader from Staffordshire University, who gave a dynamic talk about the dark side of conspiracy theory belief and how this may influence violence towards groups of people. Tanya was followed by Keele University’s Sebastian Nikolas Tustanowski, who discussed a study he was planning on the role of perceptual and cognitive factors (such as salience and consistency) on long-term memory of objects within a scene. Next, Darel Cookson from Staffordshire University discussed how social norm interventions may be used to reduce anti-vaccine conspiracy theory beliefs.
Following the morning presentations there was a short break before the Keynote speaker – Professor Lindsay O’Dell who is the director of the graduate school at the Open University. Lindsay reflected upon her own PhD journey – giving some wise tips for the PhD students – and then discussed some of the challenges she had experienced in a research project on disabled children and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic and how these were addressed.
Following the Keynote speaker, there was time for lunch, poster presentations and a group photo! Posters were presented by Sian Calvert (Staffordshire University), Iwan Dinnick (Keele University), Chloe Fahey (Keele University) and Chloe Pritchard (Keele University). Sian’s poster examined how social norms can be used to reduce unhealthy snacking in secondary school students. Iwan’s poster examined how characteristics of ingroup identity can reduce forgiveness of outgroup members. Chloe Fahey’s poster focused on the experiences of female sexual health services amongst individuals with autism. Chloe Pritchard’s poster examined public perceptions of child witnesses.
The afternoon session started with a presentation by myself discussing a recent study which examined the influence of relationship characteristics on the disclosure of sexual fantasies. The next talk was by Sonia Begum from Staffordshire University, who discussed some of the factors highlighted within her research to affect uptake and completion of Diabetes prevention programmes in the UK. Next Jamie Holmes from Keele University discussed a planned study examining the role of cognitive porousness in identity construction within players and characters within games such as Dungeons and Dragons.
In the final session Shwetha Davis from Keele University examined the experiences of teachers using trauma informed practices within educational settings. Next, Angela Bonner from Staffordshire University discussed how type 2 diabetes risk influences cognition. The final talk of the conference was by Stuart Moore from Keele University, who discussed how dimension switching can impair visual short-term memory resource allocation.
After Stuart’s talk, Professor Abigail Locke presented the prizes to the winners. Warm congratulations to Shwetha Davis for winning best talk presentation, Sian Calvert for winning best poster presentation and Stuart Moore and Iwan Dinnick for winning best open science research!
And finally a trip to the Keele Postgraduate Association (KPA) for a much deserved refreshment (or two!)
Matt Kimberley, PhD researcher
After the covid-enforced break from this joint postgraduate conference with the School of Psychology at Keele University I was delighted to offer this opportunity to our PhD students to present their research and network with fellow PhD students from our neighbouring institution. Furthermore, the talk from our external keynote speaker provided a very useful personal reflection on conducting research.
In the psychology the Staffordshire University we have around 10 PhD students. As a body of research scholars they provide a significant contribution to the Psychology Department’s research output, and more generally to our research culture. If you are reading this blog and are interested in studying for a PhD in the psychology department at Staffordshire University please get in touch with me for further information. We very much welcome applications.
Dr Richard Jolley
Associate Professor of Developmental Psychology and PhD Psychology Course Leader
The Psychology Academic team are pleased to welcome Abigail Finnegan who joined the University as a Lecturer in Counselling and Psychology in 2022. Abigail introduces herself below:
Coming to Staffordshire University has been a pivotal moment in my career which allows me to blend my two passions – education and psychotherapy, and the welcome here at Staffordshire University has been simply beautiful from both the staff and students alike.
I have a long history of teaching and training, and I have worked in the field of counselling and psychotherapy in various guises in the third sector and the NHS, and now privately. I have been fortunate to train with world leaders in the field of psychological trauma which has supported me in my development of trauma informed practice which I am looking forward to bringing to my role here at Staffs.
Eighteen years ago I founded a counselling organisation providing specialist therapeutic support to children and families affected by sexual and domestic violence, and from there went on to work within Primary Care developing a specialist service for patients with Complex Trauma and persistent physical symptoms. This service was shortlisted in the National GP Awards for clinical practice. I have also chaired various specialist groups working with Child Sexual Exploitation and other areas of sexual violence, and sat on a governmental advisory panel working for Victims of Crime within the Office for Criminal Justice Reform (OCJR).
At Staffs I am currently Level 4 Module Lead on the BSc in Counselling, and I’m looking forward to teaching across both undergraduate and post graduate courses, and supporting students who have an interest in further research on Trauma at dissertation level. My research interests lie in understanding the delicate interplay between the stories we hold and which need to be heard, and the impact on our bodies and minds of our untold stories. I am interested in widening and unifying an understanding of the fragile process which lies beneath the familiar diagnostic labels of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD), ADHD, Emotionally Unstable/Borderline Personality Disorders, and other similar emotional health diagnoses in a way that has utility to both client and clinician through practice-based inquiry. In line with this I am presently developing trauma informed courses for working with and supporting people with fragile processes that draws on what we now understand about the neurobiology of stress and distress.
Qualifications: MA (Hons), PGCE, PGDip (Psych), MSc (Psych)
Susan Fleming, Course Director for Counselling and CBT at Staffordshire University was featured on BBC Radio Derby discussing Blue Monday with Ian Skye’s radio show on 17th January 2022.
During the interview Susan shared some background to Blue Monday, the need for us all to check in with ourselves and with each other to determine whether we need access to support services. She shared insights into cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and how to become a trained CBT therapist. Incase you missed the radio show Susan has summarised the interview to share as part of this years’ university mental health day.
Blue Monday is a term coined in the early 2000s to name the 3rd
Monday in January. The name suggests it’s a low mood Monday however the
scientific evidence behind it is open to critique. A number of factors including
number of daylight hours, financial status after seasonal spending and how many
days there are before the next public holiday are allegedly part of the
equation. There is a question mark over whether it was linked to a travel
firm’s publicity campaign for the new year.
With over 2 years of uncertainty and loss in this global covid-19 pandemic,
it may be that the term Blue Monday has run its course. Haven’t there been more
difficult days that we have collectively endured than just one Monday in
The Samaritans say ‘biscuits’ to the term Blue Monday. They have campaigned to change the term to Brew Monday instead. Let’s turn this into a day to focus on talking to each other and reaching out, maybe over a cuppa and plan more of these days into our calendars every week, not just the 3rd week in January.
It is helpful to talk about mood throughout the year and the opportunity to talk about mental health, mood and how we are feeling can really help people. Therefore, whatever your stance on this nominated day, it provides the opportunity to discuss feelings and mental health.
Checking in with ourselves
Blue Monday provides us all with the opportunity to check in with
ourselves, assess how we are coping and to identify the impact that our mood is
having on our lives. This is a continual process that we should engage with
regularly throughout the year. Checking in with ourselves can help us to assess
whether we can cope on our own, or whether we need to seek help.
You can do this for yourself. Consider your mood on a scale from 0 meaning worst mood to 10 meaning best mood and think about where you are. Over time review your ratings and how they change day-to-day, week-to-week and month-to-month.
This process of checking in allows us to consider what has had an impact on how we are feeling. This helps us to identify whether we are able to manage on our own, or whether we would benefit from professional help by working with a professional to help us manage.
Susan recommends to not hesitate in reaching out for help as soon as you identify changes towards mental ill health and that this is really important so that things do not continue in the same pattern. Therefore, it is really important to reach out as early as possible to gain access to the support that you may need.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
From a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) perspective, we can use
this calendar day as an opportunity to consider feelings and how our thoughts
and what we are doing might be leading to vicious cycles of increasingly
CBT is a theory that looks at how we think and our behaviour and
how this impacts on our mood. It is used with success in the treatment for
depression, anxiety and other mental ill health conditions.
CBT is based on how a thought can impact on how we feel and then
has an impact on what we do and vice versa. This can become a vicious cycle as
these negative thoughts, behaviours and feelings can continually impact each
other which can lead to feelings of being unable to manage.
CBT focuses on breaking the cycle to help to improve how we feel
and think. These changes can be made with therapeutic support and is one way in
which you can start to move out of the vicious cycle.
Need access to support?
Please do reach out to your GP and they can refer you to support services. There are also mental health charities and organisations who work throughout the UK who can offer mental health support including the Samaritans:
Online services, such as www.getselfhelp.co.uk and apps
can offer you the opportunity to engage in some of the aspects of CBT theory
and track your mood so that you can keep checking in with yourself and see how
your thoughts, feelings and behaviours change over time.
Our University has a range of support, creating an inclusive community for talking about our mental health together.
Help others – CBT training
There has never been a better time to train in therapy, including
CBT, to support mental health services which can struggle to meet the demands. This
is especially critical given the unknown impact the covid pandemic has had on
mental ill health. After being trained you may help in 1-1 or group therapy for
a charity or organisation, or for self-help online or phone support services.
Due to the shortages, there is a growing need for people to join and contribute
to supporting people with their mental ill health.
There has never been a better time to train on our therapy courses with good prospects for future skills demand and an opportunity to contribute to more than 15,000 hours of therapy that we offer to the community through our courses.
Critically, ‘blue’ or ‘brew’ Monday offers us all the opportunity
to keep the conversation open regarding mental health. So please do take the
time to check in with yourself, your family, your friends, your co-workers,
everyone who you know so that we can all support each other. Perhaps this day
can act as a reminder for us all to make contact with support services that we
have been meaning to for some time.