Dr Megan Birney joins the Psychology Department at Staffordshire University!

The Psychology Academic team are pleased to welcome Dr Megan Birney who joined the University as a Senior Lecturer in Social Psychology and Individual Differences in June 2021. Megan introduces herself below:

I am so excited to be joining the vibrant and friendly Psychology Department at Staffordshire University as a Senior Lecturer in Social Psychology and Individual Differences.

I am a social psychologist at heart! My research centres around identity processes, intergroup contact, communication, social stigma, obedience, and social exclusion; I love teaching about how these theories can be applied to real-world problems in society and passing some of my passion for these topics on to my students.

I completed my undergraduate degree in Psychology and Interdisciplinary Studies (specialising in International Studies and Business Leadership) from Virginia Tech (USA). I went on to receive an MSc (with distinction) in Social and Organisational Psychology in 2010 and a PhD in Psychology in 2015, both from the University of Exeter. My research during this time focused on understanding how perceptions of non-native accents influence the relationship between immigrants and host country natives. After my PhD, I worked as a Research Fellow at the University of St. Andrews investigating the role that identity processes play within variants of the Milgram paradigm. I am still involved in these projects today.

Prior to coming to Staffordshire, I spent 6 years at the University of Chester helping develop the psychology provision at undergraduate and postgraduate level at their campus in Shrewsbury. I both taught and led modules there in areas related to Social Psychology, Organisational Psychology, and Quantitative Research Methods, and in 2016, I became a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Throughout this time, I remained an active researcher. Some highlights include co-editing a special issue in the Journal of Language and Social Psychology and starting as an Associate Editor at the open-access journal, Psychology of Language and Communication.

Currently, I have several ongoing projects with various collaborators and with the community organisation Climbing Out. I’m always keen to get students involved in these projects where I can so if you’re interested do get in touch via email (megan.birney@staffs.ac.uk) or my Twitter account: @meganebirney

My first couple of weeks at Staffordshire have been really exciting; I’ve loved meeting the colleagues I’ll be working with and am looking forward to getting ‘stuck in’ to the modules I’ll be teaching on. Staffordshire University has such an excellent balance between producing innovative research and their value on high-quality teaching. I am truly honoured to be a part of it all!

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.

Dr Amy Burton contributes to an edited collection of chapters on physical activity and visual impairment

Dr Amy Burton

Dr Amy Burton has contributed to an edited collection of chapters on physical activity and visual impairment. The book, entitled Movement and Visual Impairment: Research across Disciplines has been edited by Dr Justin Haegele and is an in-depth review of research spanning a range of disciplines including biomechanics, physical education and Paralympic sport.

Dr Burton’s chapter reviews the research evidence regarding physical activity interventions for older adults with vision impairment. The chapter includes an over view of her own work highlighting how engaging in physical activity in later-life can be particularly challenging for those with vision loss (Burton et al, 2016) with a number of psychological, social and societal factors contributing to low levels of engagement (Burton et al, 2018).

Visually impaired person walking

The chapter provides a detailed overview and critique of interventions designed to promote physical activity for older adults with sight loss. The majority of these have been dedicated to reducing falls risk and have shown limited success. In the chapter Dr Burton highlights how a focus on functional limitations in research has been at the expense of acknowledging other psychological, cultural, and societal barriers to engagement. The chapter ends with a call for researchers to further engage with the social motivators for exercise in older adults with sight loss and to pay greater attention to the potential for the psychological, in addition to physical, benefits of being more active.

To learn more or purchase a copy of this book visit: https://www.routledge.com/Movement-and-Visual-Impairment-Research-across-Disciplines/Haegele/p/book/9780367434397

Staffordshire University – The Home of Health Psychology

Staffordshire University has a history of excellence in teaching and research in Health Psychology, and is home to Staffordshire’s BPS Accredited Stage 1 MSc in Health Psychology and Stage 2 Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology. The Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research has active team of Health Psychologists who conduct research and provide consultancy in a range of health-related issues.

Keep updated with the latest Health Psychology news from Staffordshire University via following us on @StaffsPsych @HealthPsyStaffs and via the #HealthPsychStaffs hashtag.

For further information about Health Psychology courses and research at Staffordshire University please visit the following webpages:

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.

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.

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

Positive Parenting in a Pandemic: 6 tips

I am Dr. Sarah Rose, Senior Lecturer in Psychology and Child Development, and Course Leader for our BSc Undergraduate course in Psychology and Child Development. Also, I am mum to a 4- and 6-year-old, who knows that parenting is hard. Especially, in the time of a pandemic when usual routines and support networks are suddenly taken away.

Although this has been going on for several weeks now and it looks like restrictions are beginning to relax, possibly even with some children going back to school next month, this is not necessarily making the strain on families any easier.

So, I am going to give you six tips based on psychology evidence and theory.

They won’t necessarily make parenting any easier, but I hope they may give you something useful to think about – and maybe make you feel a little more confident about some of the decisions that you make as a parent.

Tip 1: Show connection

A large body of evidence suggests that feeling “securely attached”, connected and loved is important for children’s development and wellbeing.

For young children, physical touch is very important and can reduce stress. Furthermore, there is no evidence that being more affectionate with your children will make them clingy, in fact to the contrary it will help them feel safe and build their emotional resilience.

Older children may not want you to show them physical affection, but it is important to still find time to connect with them. Maybe making some time to exercise together, or sitting down to watch a film as family, may provide an opportunity for this.

Tip 2: Be a balanced parent

While it is important that we listen to and respond to our children’s needs it is also important that we place reasonable, age appropriate demands on them. Psychology evidence suggests that we should aim to be an “authoritative” parent who sets the boundaries and has clear expectations of our children while also being supportive and responsive to our children.

Tip 3: Manage anger (own, child and between children!)

It is completely normal for both us and our children to feel angry sometimes, especially during the stress of a pandemic. Remember that anger is often a symptom of stress and the demands of the environment we find ourselves in.

This means that you should not feel cross with yourself, or your child for showing signs of anger. Instead see it as a symptom, a sign that you, or your child, need to try and take some time to calm down and reduce your stress levels. Maybe now would be a good time to go outside and run around the garden (whatever your age) or lock yourself in the toilet (maybe just for adults this one!).

Tip 4: Develop routine

This pandemic is affecting everybody, but it is affecting people in different ways.

  • You might be at home trying to work or worrying about whether you will have a job to go back to after furlough while also feeling pressured to entertain your children and support their learning.
  • Or you might be a key worker, working extra hours, feeling stressed about the risks to yourself and your family as you drop your child off at school or nursery.

Whatever your circumstances, all our experiences, both as parents and as children, are likely to be very different to what they were. This can be very unsettling for everyone. However, routines can help to give us a sense of control and a sense of predictability within our lives. So, try and develop a routine that works for your family.

There may have to be adjustments and flexibility but knowing that there are certain times during the day when parents will focus on work, children will focus on school work, entertain themselves or everyone will focus on having fun, or maybe exercising together, can be very reassuring for everyone. This can also help with those feelings of parent guilt as you try and meet the demands of working and meeting your children’s needs.

Tip 5: Manage screen time

Something that you may be worrying about is the amount of time that your child is spending in front of a screen, especially as more and more providers are making educational resources available online for free.
Evidence suggests that screen time can be part of a balanced childhood, and indeed it may be very useful to make it part of your daily routine.

I have heard some lovely stories of extended family and friends interacting with children over screens, for example helping out with some schoolwork or reading a story, and evidence suggest that connecting with others in this way is very positive for children.

Furthermore, evidence suggests that although children learn best through interacting with others screen content can support their development. So do not feel guilty about using screen time within your daily routine. With children and young people spending more time online, many parents may be worried about their online safety. Through talking to your child, voicing your concerns and regularly checking in with them when they are online you can support them through promoting dialogue about online safety and what they should do if they feel unsure or threatened.

Tip 6: Build “emotional resilience

It is a fact of life that things are not always easy, we want to try and develop our children so that they have the inner strength to cope with this, I think my dad would have called this having a thick skin!

The suggestions that I have given already will help your child to develop this emotional resilience, or thick skin. Other things that are important are talking to your child, try and let them know what to expect:

  • Talk about times of change that they have experienced – explain that this will be a time of change.
  • Provide clear answers to questions, that are as truthful and as age appropriate as possible.
  • It is okay to tell them that you are worried too, or that you do not know when the virus will end or when they will be able to see Nana and Grandad again.
  • But also reassure them that you will look after them and help them feel safe and help them to keep perspective, for example by shifting beyond the current situation to a time when families will be able to be together again.

Of course, talking may not be easy, but try and open conversations and look for opportunities when your child may feel under less pressure, for example maybe while you are watching TV, taking some exercise together or engaging in a craft activity. Ask them their opinion about what is happening and listen to their answer.


Parenting is hard and I certainly make lots of mistakes. But do not be hard on yourself, try and praise yourself and your children when things are going well. Notice and remember the good times as evidence suggests that praise and positive memories are much better for promoting good behaviour than punishment.

Here are some resources that you might find useful:

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.

Psychology and the Brain

The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University is delighted to invite you to Psychology and the Brain, a fun and interactive evening where you will be given the opportunity to get hands-on with some of our fascinating equipment and hear from experts in the field.

Psychology and the Brain will take place at Staffordshire University’s Science Centre, Leek Road, Stoke-on-Trent, on Thursday 15th March 6 – 8:30 pm. Click here to view the location of the Science Centre on Staffordshire University’s Stoke-on-Trent campus. Includes free parking on site and refreshments.

Psychology and the Brain: Listen

Have you ever wondered… how we measure brain activity? How does VR trick our eyes into thinking what we’re seeing is reality? A series of short expert talks will explore these and other fascinating questions.

Psychology and the Brain: Hands-on

Try your hand at learning how our equipment works such as how we tell if you are stressed, how we can uncover if you are lying and how we test your reaction skills in our driving simulator, amongst other fun demonstrations.

Psychology and the Brain: A chance to win

Having taken part in the hands-on activities, you have a chance to win some Love2Shop vouchers. Entry information and winners announced on the night.

Follow the Psychology and the Brain event via our twitter hashtag #StaffsPsychBrain, including live tweets on the night.

Book Tickets: All welcome. Reserve your (free) space at https://psychologyandthebrain.eventbrite.co.uk or contact psychologyevents@staffs.ac.uk for more information.

Psychology and the Brain is part of a series of events organised in connection with the Psychology Society to celebrate Brain Awareness Week. Full details can be found here.

How does psychology and the brain apply to you and your life? Come along and find out.

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:

Dr Daniel Jolley appears on the Adam Ruins Everything podcast discussing psychology of conspiracy theories

On this week’s Adam Ruins Everything podcast, Dr Daniel Jolley, Lecturer in Psychology at Staffordshire University, was an invited guest to discuss the topic of conspiracy theories.

Daniel is a social psychologist in the Department of Psychology whose primary research interest involves examining the psychology of conspiracy theories.  In his research, he is interested in why people believe in conspiracy theories and what potential consequences exposure to conspiracy theories may have on individuals and society.

On the podcast, the host Adam Conover interviewed Daniel where they discussed why so many millions of people subscribe to conspiracy theories and what tools can be developed to alleviate their potential harm, such as with the use of counter-arguments against the conspiracy account.

This interview was a follow up to Daniel’s appearance on the hit-US TV Show also called Adam Ruins Everything on the American channel Tru TV. Daniel was a guest on the show, which aired on US TV in October 2017, where the show showcased the topic of conspiracy theories with the help of scientific research.

You can listen to the podcast here and also catch up with the TV series on the show’s website.

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:

The Department of Psychology Celebrate Staff Success!

By Dr Robert Dempsey, Senior Lecturer in Psychology.

In October 2017, the Department of Psychology were pleased to celebrate winning three awards at Staffordshire University’s Celebrating Staff Success Ceremony held at the Kings Hall in Stoke-on-Trent. This yearly awards ceremony recognises the contributions and successes of staff working at the University across a range of roles.

The Department of Psychology had a number of nominated staff across a variety of award categories, including nominations for our Psychology and Me event (for public engagement), research impact (with both Professor Karen Rodham & Dr Amy Burton receiving nominations), as well as a People’s Choice Award nomination for Judy David‘s valued contributions to the successful running of the Department of Psychology.

The team were ecstatic to win three highly competitive University awards for: Living our Values – Brilliant and Friendly (Sarah Higgins), Best Newcomer (Dr Michael Batashvili), and Innovative and Applied Learning (Dr Robert Dempsey).

“I was so surprised to be nominated and then to win it was incredible. It felt amazing to receive the award, mainly because it reminded me how much I love my job and the people I work with, both students and staff.”

Dr Michael Batashvili, Lecturer in Psychology & Winner – Best Newcomer Award


“I am delighted and very proud to have received this award. I feel that the award is a reflection of the supportive and encouraging environment that I work in with my many brilliant colleagues and students. A big thank you to the nominator and to everyone that made achieving this award possible. The event was a lovely opportunity to celebrate and reflect on so many achievements from colleagues over the past year.”

Sarah Higgins, Technical Skills Specialist in Psychology & Winner – Living our Values – Brilliant & Friendly Award.

“It was a pleasure just to be nominated and invited to attend the ceremony. To win the award was a very nice surprise and motivates me to keep improving my teaching approaches and develop my students as independent learners, whilst also challenging them and having fun at the same time”

Dr Robert Dempsey, Senior Lecturer in Psychology & Winner – The Innovative and Applied Learning Award


“While it was fabulous to see some of our LSE staff winning awards at the CSS event, it was really pleasing to see so many LSE  nominations, and for both academic and professional staff. It was a really enjoyable event – connecting with staff from the many different parts of the University. A  much valued opportunity to reflect on and celebrate the many individual and team achievements within the School and across the wider University”

Dr Nigel Thomas, Head of the School of Life Sciences & Education


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:

Dr Andrew Edmonds featured on BBC Radio Stoke discussing the “Adele Illusion”

Dr Andrew Edmonds, Lecturer in Psychology at Staffordshire University, was featured on BBC Radio Stoke discussing the recent “Adele” illusion – listen to Dr Edmonds’ interview via the below link:

BBC Radio Stoke iPlayer: Perry Spiller Show (From 02:27:40)

Read about Dr Edmonds’ explanation of the “Adele Illusion” via our InPsych blog: The Psychology of the “Adele Illusion”

The School of Psychology, Sport and Exercise at Staffordshire University is a leading School in the UK for Psychology degrees and is situated in the heart of England.  We produce internationally recognized research which is driving knowledge in this area forward and we work with a variety of healthcare providers, charities, international sports teams and private sector organisations.

For more information or details of the wide range of Psychology degrees on offer at Staffordshire University please visit our website and our courses page.

Nichola Street Joins the Psychology Department at Staffordshire University.

The Psychology Academic team are pleased to welcome Nichola Street who joined the University as a Lecturer in Psychology in August 2015. Nichola introduces herself below:

I am delighted to be joining the team at Staffordshire University as a Lecturer in Psychology. My first week here was full of happy, friendly faces and learning my way around the building and campus!

NStreet Aug 15To give you a bit of background to my journey here, I began studying psychology at high school, and was hooked on the subject from the beginning. I went on to complete my undergraduate degree in Applied Psychology and PG Cert in Counselling and Psychotherapy at Liverpool John Moores University.

I had discovered a love of research during my degree and I started my PhD at Aberystwyth University in 2010 under the supervision of Dr Alex Forsythe. My PhD examined perceptions of visual beauty, focusing on the role that individual difference plays in aesthetic responses to natural shapes (fractals). I’d always been fascinated by the draw and hypnotic qualities of nature, and wanted to explore some of the factors that made these scenes so appealing to so many people. I transferred my PhD studies to University of Liverpool to complete my thesis. During the final year of my PhD I also worked as a Research Fellow at University of Salford with Dr Sarah Norgate (lead) on an EPSRC Digital Economy/ Energy 6th Sense Transport research in collaboration with Lancaster University and 3 other UK universities investigating travel behaviour. Our particular focus was the concept of ‘Walking School Buses’ and exploring how to reduce barriers to uptake with the support of a smartphone application ‘goWSB’. Most recently, over the last year, I have been working at University of Liverpool as a Lecturer in the School of Psychology. My role at Liverpool involved coordination for the international psychology module and working on the Online MSc Programmes in a Quality Assurance position. My time at Liverpool taught me many things but one stands outs, that there is an international need for psychological studies and education which should be encouraged as much as possible as psychologists often hold the key to helping tackle global issues in this increasingly global world.

My research focuses on some key underlying questions, namely how the environment in which we spend time can impact our behaviour and wellbeing. I enjoy interdisciplinary working and am currently collaborating with artists and scientists from a number of disciplines to explore this question further. The team and expertise here at Staffordshire is something that attracted me to the university. I was also drawn to the teaching and student-focus here at Staffordshire as I see supporting the next generation of psychologists is such an important task. Alongside my teaching, I’m excited to be taking on some public engagement responsibilities including organising the ‘Weird and Wonderful Psychology’ event to be held later in the year. I enjoy creative and collaborative events and find them very inspiring, so I am hoping to bring some of this passion to the students and wider Stoke population about the wonderful subject that is psychology!

Finally if you like social media, please follow me on twitter @NikkiCMJones, I try to tweet regularly mainly work and research related content alongside some personal stuff (mostly expect pictures of art/animals/food & drink!) and always appreciate making new connections. I’m looking forward to getting stuck into teaching and meeting more of the students and staff here at Staffordshire, so far so good and I’m very glad to be new to the team!