The Third joint Keele-Staffs Psychology Postgraduate conference held in May 2022.

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!

Tanya Schrader presenting their research

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.

Matt Kimberley presenting their research

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


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.

Meet StaffsPsych PhD researcher Matthew Kimberley

Written by Matthew Kimberley, Psychology PhD Researcher

I am currently in the second year of my PhD at Staffordshire University. Every PhD at Staffs is completely different and is tailored to the researcher. You choose your own research area and much of the design and the direction of the PhD is directed by the research, with support offered by your supervisors.

The wide range of research being conducted within the department at Staffordshire University allows you to interact with researchers with different research interests and methodologies. Through interactions with your fellow researchers, you are able to share your experiences and learn from one another. This may include sharing methodology/analysis experiences or methods of recruitment.

During a PhD at Staffordshire University, you work closely with your supervision team at all stages of research and receive a great deal of feedback. My supervision team consists of Doctor Jade Elliott, Doctor Samuel Jones and Doctor Zachary Parker. During your PhD, you gain a great deal of support and mentorship from your supervisors. Having more than supervisor allows you to gain insight from several viewpoints which is useful when shaping your research.

Completing a PhD allows you to dedicate a large proportion of your time to your research and to focus your attention to answering your research question. My research examines the factors which influence whether an individual shares their sexual fantasies with their partner. To accomplish this, I am primarily using quantitative research methods, such as quantitative content analysis and multiple regression analysis.

Alongside my PhD, I also teach part-time in the Psychology department. This has allowed me to gain valuable teaching experience and provided me with a number of training opportunities. I am particularly interested in gaining HEA associate fellowship in the near future.

My research:

Working alongside my supervisors, my research currently focuses on the disclosure of sexual fantasies. In particular, I am interested in examining which factors may influence how likely individuals are to share their fantasies with an intimate partner.

During the initial year of my PhD at Staffordshire University, I conducted a systematic review which aimed to examine which factors influenced self-disclosure within sexual and/or romantic relationships (Kimberley et al., in preparation). This review highlighted that very little research has examined which factors influence the disclosure of sexual fantasies.

Given that a large proportion of individuals regularly experience sexual fantasies (97%- Lehmiller, 2018) and that sexual fantasies and sexual self-disclosure act as relationship maintenance and enhancement tools, it is important to conduct research to examine which factors may inhibit or promote the disclosure of sexual fantasies.  

Drawing upon methodologies commonly used by HIV research, my first study aimed to identify the reasons participants provided for disclosing (or not disclosing) their sexual fantasies. This study also asked participants how their partner responded (or how they believed their partner would respond) to these disclosures. Recruitment has recently ended for this study, and I am now beginning to start analysis of the data using content analysis. Understanding the reasons people hold for hiding their sexual fantasies from a partner is crucial for developing an understanding of why some people disclose and others do not.

I have also recently received ethical approval for a second study, which examines how relationship characteristics (e.g. trust, love or perceptions of one’s partner) may influence an individual’s likelihood of disclosing their sexual fantasies. Recruitment for this study has started recently. Within this study, participants are asked to reflect on their relationship with a regular partner and to respond to hypothetical scenarios involving the disclosure of various sexual fantasies. To participate, you must be aged over 18 and currently in a sexual and/or romantic relationship. You do not need to have previously disclosed (or had) a sexual fantasy to take part.

If you would be interested in taking part, you can do so by accessing the following link (

If you are a Staffordshire University student, you may also take part in the study through sona, where you can earn 2 sona credits. If you have any questions, please contact me (

Exterior Science Centre

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.

Etched in the skin: Grief on a living canvas, memorial tattoos as expressions of grief

Written by PhD researcher Bee Swann-Thomas.

Bee Swann-Thomas

I am Bee Swann-Thomas and I am currently in my second year of studying for a PhD in Psychology. My research interest is exploring whether having a memorial tattoo has an impact upon the grieving process.

I have previously researched this topic for my MSc in Psychotherapeutic Counselling at Staffordshire University. What sparked my interest was the death of my Dad and having a memorial tattoo in his memory. Memorial tattoos have a very personal meaning to me, and I am pleased to have recently had my paper published in Mortality Journal.

The findings from this research showed that memorial tattoos can be a valuable therapeutic aid in the grieving process. They can serve as a permanent physical reminder of a loved one, help with continuing bonds, allow the deceased a virtual afterlife, help in the adjustment to loss, serve as a tool of communication, and be an embodied representation of change. Memorial tattoos empower the bereaved to emerge from the loss of a loved one with a ‘beautiful scar’.

Conducting my MSc research was really fascinating, and it was an honour to hear peoples’ stories of love and loss. As a result, I have decided to continue my research for my PhD.

I would like to invite you to participate in my research that is being conducted in the Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University. I am interested in the experience of individuals (aged 18 years or over) who have experienced the loss of a loved one and have had a memorial tattoo in their memory. I will be researching five different categories of bereavement: Perinatal loss, Loss through suicide, Military Loss, Cremation ashes tattoos and Loss through Covid-19.

The research will involve a one-to-one interview conducted remotely via the Microsoft Teams platform. The interview will last approximately 1 hour, where you will be asked questions relating to your loved one and your memorial tattoo. You will also be asked to provide a photograph of your memorial tattoo which will be included within the research.

If you are interested in taking part in the research or would like to request further information please contact the me at

If you are affected by any of the bereavements outlined and would like to access a grief support service please contact one of the following:

  • Sands – Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Charity, Helpline: 0808 164 332, Email:
  • Suviviors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS), Helpline: 0300 111 5065, Email:
  • Supporting the Military Family, Cruse Bereavement Care Helpline: 0808 808 1677, Email:
  • The Lullaby Trust, Helpline: 0808 802 6868, Email:
  • Covid-19 Bereavement Support, Cruse Bereavement Care Helpline: 0808 808 1677, Email:

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.

My experience completing the Staffs Psychology research internship and how it helped me!

Written by Matt Kimberley, BSc Psychology 2020 Graduate and Psychology PhD student

My name is Matt and I have just finished my undergraduate degree in Psychology with a first and I started my PhD in psychology in September (also at Staffs). During my time at Staffs I have fallen in love with the research side of psychology and this helped me set my sights on completing a PhD in psychology. To do this I knew research experience would be extremely helpful!  Thanks to the experience gained from completing the research internships (and one terrifying interview!) I have been accepted onto the Psychology PhD course at Staffordshire University and am due to start my research into the barriers people face in the disclosure of their sexual fantasies.

My experience completing two research internship during my undergraduate studies:

The first of these was during the summer of 2019 where I assisted Dr. Jade Elliott and Dr. Erica Lucas with their project which examined the influence of glucose on reasoning. This involved assisting with the transcription and coding of audio recordings of participants. Scores were then inputted into a spreadsheet. This internship really helped me to improve my skills in the management and organisation of data. This was incredibly useful during the data analysis stage of my third-year project which produced a very large database.

This year I applied for a research internship with Dr Sam Jones. This project looks at Digital Literacy. Through this summer, I have been helping Sam to find research into digital literacy and summarise and present this in a clear manner. I have found tables especially helpful for this as a means of presenting all the studies and the key information associated. As this is a new area of research for both myself and Sam, I have particularly enjoyed learning more about the area alongside Sam and sharing our findings through weekly teams meetings. Through this internship and my meetings with Sam, I feel my literature searching skills and the way that I organise research has improved massively. This will be very helpful next year when I am conducting a literature review for my own research! Through my work on this internship, I am being made a named author on the upcoming first journal article.

Through completing both research internships, my skills in literature searching and the management of research and data have improved. This has proved incredibly useful during my studies and will be useful when conducting my own research next year. If anyone is considering doing a research internship next year, I highly recommend it! Especially if you will be completing your third-year project the following year or are considering a career in research. The skills you will gain working alongside the lecturers will be incredibly helpful!

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.

Research Assistant during Covid-19

Written by Gina Halliwell, BSc Psychology and Child Development 2020 graduate.

BSc Psychology and Child Development graduate 2020! YAY! Not the most ideal year to graduate but made it there successfully in the end!

Graduate, check.

Research Assistant position during coronavirus, check!

Who would have thought with all the difficulties of 2020 I would complete my degree and get the chance to be a Research Assistant with Staffs! Coronavirus couldn’t have been a better opportunity really, being able to investigate children’s experiences of the pandemic through collecting their drawings.

This opportunity appeared when my Level 6 Project Supervisor Dr Sarah Rose emailed me to say she was involved in planning some research into children’s experiences of coronavirus and if the ethics and funding were approved would I like to be their Research Assistant? Of course! What an incredible opportunity!

Example drawing submitted for the research

When the project was approved we had our first virtual meeting as a project team, over Microsoft Teams! I got to meet and discuss the project with Dr Richard Jolley, Dr Claire Barlow, Dr Romina Vivaldi and of course Dr Sarah Rose. All of the meetings and communication took place online via email and Microsoft Teams, having always had face-to-face meetings throughout university this was a very odd change! Despite a few device and connectivity issues we managed, and everything worked out.

As the project began I was given responsibility for a number of tasks including background research, recruitment (both sourcing contacts and contacting those contacts), responding to queries and writing up the background research to begin forming the report’s introduction. Recruitment for the project was aimed at the whole of the UK so an important part of my role was to reach out to organisations, schools and social media groups from across the UK. This was difficult due to the varying school term times of the four countries and the general closing down of society due to the pandemic.

Example drawing submitted for the research.

Once recruitment was on its way I was able to get into the background research in preparation for the introduction. Having taken the Children’s Drawings module at Level 6 I already had an understanding of how children’s drawings are investigated and analysed and so I could focus on research more specific to the project such as research that focused on children’s drawings of illness, disease outbreaks and trauma. When conducting the background research searching I was able to use all of the literature searching skills I have gained over my 3 years at Staffs. If you are looking for an easy way to gather research with all the key information in one place I recommended putting it into a table, a tip that Dr Sarah Rose shared with me!

An example table of how to organise literature

If you get the opportunity to do any sort of Research Assistant position, go for it! It’s great work experience, it looks amazing on your CV and it’s fascinating to be able to work alongside the lecturers you see all the time!

If you would like more information on the project please do have a look at the project’s website ( or if you have any questions please email (we are still recruiting!). You can also read more about the project in a recent blog by Dr Richard Jolley.

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.

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.

New Study into Pathological Demand Avoidance & Parental Wellbeing

Jan 16 Sarah Rose

Dr Sarah Rose

Dr Sarah Rose, Lecturer in Psychology & Course Leader for Staffordshire University’s BSc in Psychology & Child Development, blogs on her current research in Developmental Psychology including a new study being conducted with a Masters student:

If I said to you that I knew a child who had been diagnosed as having autism you would probably have some idea of the type of behaviour that this child might display. But what if I said to you that I knew a child with suspected Pathological Demand Avoidance… you probably would be less sure.

Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) is a recently recognised sub-type of autism. Children, and adults, with this disorder appear to be socially quite adept, can engage in role play and pretending but have extreme difficulty with demands and expectations from others. Consequently, even the simplest daily activities, such as getting dressed when asked to, can become a huge drama.

As PDA has only recently been recognised, many clinicians and educators seem to know little about it and there has only been a handful of research articles published on the topic. Parents of these children are likely to need a lot of support, as their children can often present severe behavioural challenges. A quick look on forums for parents tell us that many have struggled to get a diagnoses and many feel that they have been wrongly accused of poor parenting.

Jan 16 Mandi Baker

Amanda Baker

At Staffordshire University Amanda Baker, a student studying for her MSc in Applied Research in Psychology, is investigating the associations between children with suspected and diagnosed Autism and PDA and the parent’s well-being along with the impact it has on the family.

(August 2016 update) We have completed recruitment for this study and are currently in the process of analysing the data with a view to publicising the findings in the near future.


Dr Sarah Rose is a Lecturer in Psychology and a member of the School of Psychology, Sport and Exercise at Staffordshire University, a leading School in the UK for Psychology degrees 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. For further information about our MSc by Applied Research please visit our course page.

Follow the latest news and updates from Staffordshire University’s Centre for Psychological Research via the #StaffsPsyRes twitter hashtag.