Children’s drawings of their coronavirus experience

Dr Richard Jolley writes about recent coviddrawings research and how you could help!

How has the current coronavirus situation changed the lives of children? What would the children themselves tell us?

The current coronavirus situation presents a unique opportunity to discover the diverse characteristics and consequences of a pandemic upon children. When children are facing changes and challenges to their lives it’s important to allow them to communicate how they are thinking and feeling. Sometimes they’re happy to talk about their experience, but sometimes they prefer to express themselves in other more creative ways, such as making a picture.

Dr Richard Jolley

Since June of this year a group of researchers in the Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University have been asking children and parents across the UK to help us understand how children are experiencing the coronavirus situation through their drawings. It is being led by myself, Dr Richard Jolley, with co-investigators Dr Sarah Rose, Dr Claire Barlow and Dr Romina Vivaldi. It has been funded by the School of Life Sciences and Education (LSE). This has enabled us not only to purchase a dedicated website and database for the project but also to employ a final year student (Gina Halliwell) as a research assistant to manage the day-to-day running of the project. You may like to read Gina’s own blog on her research experience on the project!

So what is involved in the project?

Parents are directed to the website www.coviddrawings.org.uk where all the information about the project and what they need to do is provided. We even have made a video just for children to explain the project! In essence, children are asked to think about their life since the coronavirus entered the UK, how it might have changed their lives, how they have felt about that, and then to draw a picture about it. There is a comments box provided if the child wishes to write about their drawing (potentially with the parent’s help).  A parent then takes a picture of the drawing and uploads it to the website.

So, what themes might you expect children to show in their drawings? The highly transferable nature of the virus? Or perhaps the behaviours we have all been asked to do to limit the risk of transmission – washing hands, social distancing, wearing masks, and self-isolation? Then, there is the psychosocial impact upon the children, particularly the isolation from friends during the lockdown. Will children show psychological reactions of fear, sadness or loneliness? And what about the changes in the routine of their lives, such as disruption to school attendance and different family dynamics at home? Has this led to boredom and restlessness, or presented an opportunity to spend more time on activities and family they love? Despite the challenges the current situation has brought children we are seeing children communicate more positive aspects through their drawings. 

What themes can you see in this drawing?

Whatever themes the children communicate we are interested in whether they vary across the ages of the sample, which might indicate that developmentally children have experienced the current situation differently. Also, will there be differences in the themes communicated between boys and girls? In addition to age and gender, we will be exploring whether the themes vary according to a set of demographic and situational variables. For instance, which country the child lives in, whether they live in a rural or urban environment, if either parent is a key worker, and whether the child returned to school – all of these could have an impact on how the child draws their experience of the coronavirus. In addition, we ask the parents to indicate on a scale the extent in which the family health has been affected by the coronavirus situation, and ask the child to choose from a series of faces how they have felt about their life in these times.

Would you like to participate?

And here is the good news – we are very keen to recruit more children and parents! If you are reading this blog as a parent of a child between 4 and 14 years, and you live in the UK, do you think your child would like to draw their own experience of the coronavirus situation? In which case please have a look at the project’s website www.coviddrawings.org.uk If you have any further questions please contact the project email address research@coviddrawings.org.uk and we will respond as quickly as we can to your query.


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.

Theory of Mind experiments to do at home with your children

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

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

Background

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

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


False Belief Task 1: Sally and Ann

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

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

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

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

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


False Belief Task 2: Smarties Tube

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

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

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

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


Diverse Desire Task

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

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

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

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


Real – Apparent Emotion Task

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

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

Now you are ready to read the story:

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

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

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


Finally, some reflections on these tests…

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

Let us know what you think!


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Experiments to do at home with your children

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

Background

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

Task 1: Conservation of quantity

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

Instructions:

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

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

This is how my two children got on:

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

Task 2: Conservation of number

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

Instructions:

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

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

Conservation of number – 4-year old

Task 3: Conservation of mass

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

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.


Finally…

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.

Student blog: Raising awareness of autism in children

It is World Autism Awareness Week 2020 and today, 2nd April 2020 is World Autism Awarenss Day. We asked our level four BSc Psychology and Child Development student, Claire, a mother of children with autism, to write a blog on her experiences of children with autism.

What is autism?

The National Autistic Society defines autism as a “lifelong, developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them”.

A little about my children:

I have two beautiful little boys and two older children.

  • One of my little boys is diagnosed with high functioning autism spectrum condition.
  • My other little boy is currently undergoing assessment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and dyspraxia.

Our journey for an autism diagnosis:

At the age of 9 my son was diagnosed with high functioning autism. The journey to get the diagnosis was challenging. From the age of 4 my son:

  • Had temper tantrums that would last for hours after school
  • Became restless and was struggling with the children at school

Each parent’s evening, I would have the same feedback that my son was “academically really intelligent, but he lacks concentration and fidgets too much!”.

Until one teacher at a parent’s evening said, “I believe you, I can see traits of autism, but they are very subtle”. Due to this teacher acknowledging these traits in my son and adapting his learning environment he:

  • Had fewer major tantrums after school
  • Seemed happy again and was sharing stories about his day

My son is now 12 and has moved from primary school to secondary school. During the transition we are trying to raise awareness of autism and support him, and other children, to achieve their potential.

Why I chose to study Psychology and Child Development:

Based on the journey that I have been on with my boys I decided that I wanted to be able to help other children, caregivers, families and schools during the diagnosis and support of autism conditions.

I am completing my course as a mature student and I am really looking forward to graduating with this degree to put what I am learning into action!

You can read more about autism on the National Autistic Society’s webpage.


Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

What do children know about online safety?

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

What did our research involve?

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

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

What were our main findings?

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

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

Child typing at a PC to an unknown user.

How could people build on our research?

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

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

Student Blog: Undertaking my BPS Undergraduate Research Assistantship

By Megan Lomas, BSc (Hons) Psychology & Child Development student

The BPS Undergraduate Assistantship Award marks out a student as a future researcher and potential academic. It allows students to work alongside a senior researcher to develop skills in research development as well as research measures. With the support and supervision of Dr. Sarah Rose, I decided to apply for this Award to carry out research into the potential of mindfulness colouring for reducing exam anxiety among A-Level pupils.

Although I was nervous when applying for the Assistantship, the application process was also exciting as I could focus on a topic that was of great interest to me. My interest in reducing anxiety felt by A-level pupils preparing for their exams came in part from my own experience. A-level exams are one of the most crucial points in education; pressure to do well is increased as the next stages is to move on to study at University, apply for a job or for an apprenticeship, all of which require good grades. The colouring aspect of this research came from the expertise of Dr Sarah Rose. Sarah’s expertise gave me the confidence to want to assess mindfulness-based colouring as a means of reducing the anxiety induced by exams.

As I prepared the application form, I enjoyed carrying out in depth reading about exam anxiety and mindfulness-based colouring interventions. It was also a great opportunity to put my knowledge of research design that I had already developed during the first 18 months of my degree in Psychology and Child Development into practice. I not only to think of what research I wanted to conduct but, also how I would go about measuring and collecting the data from participants. In particular, the experience that I had gained during the Research Assistantship Module, which had allowed me to develop skill in data collection, helped me to plan what I would need to do.

When choosing the materials for the study I wanted to take measures as accurately as possible, so I decided to combine self-report measures and physiological measures. This led me to use a BioPac, this was a great opportunity to learn about a new piece of equipment under the guidance of Paul Gallimore, one of the Psychology Technicians. Under the guidance of Dr. Sarah Rose, I selected questionnaires to assess state anxiety and mindfulness. The conditions were constructed based on past research and past interventions including mindfulness colouring. This led me to use mandala colouring, both with and without the addition of mindfulness instructions, and a control condition in which participants spent time doing a free drawing.

Originally we had planned to try and collect data from 90 A-level pupils but due to various delays this was not possible as the exam period was almost over when we began data collection. So, although I collected a small amount of pilot data which gave me valuable experience in working with colleges, I plan to collect data again next summer.   

To make the most of the Research Assistantship we decided to write up our plan for the research as a preregistered report. This means that we have submitted the introduction and method sections to a journal and are now awaiting their feedback. Writing this was interesting as it differed more than I expected to the write up of a laboratory report. It requires a lot more references to past research as well as a description of how we intended to analyse the data.

We have also submitted a poster for the BPS Annual conference next year. I found this more interesting and fun to create as I was able to think about how to make the deign engaging. The poster required an outline of why the research was being conducted, what we expected to find, how we were going to collect and analyse the data. Both the preregistered report and the poster have helped me to learn how to write more concisely and to report research in an accurate and detailed manor. The Research Assistantship has given me an insight into what being a researcher is like and helped me to develop skills that will be useful for my third-year project and my future research career.


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.

Dr Sarah Rose comments on the Momo Challenge hoax for The Sentinel

Dr Sarah Rose (Senior Lecturer in Psychology & Child Development, Award Leader – BSc (Hons) Psychology & Child Development) was featured in The Sentinel commenting on the Momo Challenge hoax. Dr Rose, who has conducted research into the effects of viewing TV on children’s creative play, comments on the possible effects of viewing the Momo hoax on both children and their parents, and the implications for children’s online behaviours.

You can read the reports of the Momo hoax, including Dr Rose’s comments, via The Sentinel website:

The Sentinel: Stoke-on-Trent schools warn parents about ‘sick’ Momo challenge – but is it all a hoax?


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.

Nuffield Placement Blog: Investigating the impact of TV viewing on children’s creativity

We have recently hosted a local college student on a Nuffield Research Placement. The student worked with Dr Sarah Rose (Senior Lecturer in Psychology & Director of the Children’s Lab, part of the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research) to develop a project investigating the impact of watching TV on children’s creativity. Here Manvir writes about his experience.

After a rigorous application process, I  was pleased to have been granted a 4-week placement at Staffordshire University in Psychology, provided by the Nuffield Research Foundation. My placement consisted of carrying out research within the field of child development, where I had to plan and set up a pilot study on the effects of television on 3- to 5-year-old children’s creativity.

My first week was very welcoming, I got a tour around the campus and got to meet many people such as members of staff, IT technicians, whom all aided me through my placement by providing me with the appropriate equipment, guidance etc. I received my workspace and received all the information I needed from my supervisor on the history and aims of my project.

The first couple days were just a matter of settling into the University and summoning the psychologist inside me! My first tasks were to plan out the step-by-step procedures we would use to collect the data. This involved me finding and editing suitable TV episode and audiobook which would appeal to the children at the nursery, writing a script, gathering relevant materials and creating data scoring sheets. Since the research involved working with young children, parental consent was required. The staff at the University Nursery, who were very kind and welcoming, distributed the forms to the children.

The two weeks of preparation flew by and before I knew it, it was time to begin the first day of the experiment! Me, Sarah and 3rd year Psychology Student Charlotte headed to the nursery where we set up and began the experiment in a separate quiet room. One by one children were introduced and taken through various fun activities such as naming everything they can think of that makes a noise, finding as many uses as they can for paper cups, acting like different animals, the list goes on. This was all done to measure their creativity prior and after either listening to or watching a magical story from CBeebies. The children all reacted differently, some thought hard, some laughed, some were confused, but nevertheless they all came up with some great ideas and just watching the children actively engage in the tasks was so thrilling to watch as a researcher. All the procedures went to plan, phew!

After three days of conducting the experiment, it was then my job to score and tally the results and present them on a chart. Finally, on my last week of the placement my task was to write up and create a poster on everything I done in my placement, this included the aims, methodology, results, references, etc. I found it so difficult to sum up such an action packed few weeks in one poster that I struggled to fit everything in!

Overall, I am very grateful for the opportunity to work with Staffordshire University, I am proud to of been a part of the research and grateful for Nuffield Research on providing me with the placement and if possible, I would do it all again!


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:

Pack away (some of) the Christmas toys!

Did your child get lots of toys for Christmas? Are you struggling to find places to store them all?

Dr Sarah Rose, Director of the Psychology Children’s Lab at Staffordshire University reports on some new research suggesting that having fewer toys may actually be better!

Researchers at the University of Toledo in Ohio gave 36 toddlers either 4 or 16 toys to play with for a 30-minute period. Their play was observed and analysed for indicators of play quality. It was concluded that when fewer toys were present children spent longer playing with each toy, showed better concentration, and were more creative as they expanded and developed their play ideas.

This study is a useful reminder to parents, and anyone working with children, that toddlers are easily distracted. Toddlers are developing their ability to focus their attention and steps that can be taken to support this are likely to have long term positive consequences. Attention is vital for academic success and young children with better attentional skills maintain this advantage as they get older.

Not only was having fewer toys found to beneficial to helping toddlers to sustain their attention it also encouraged them to explore and be more creative with the toys. Creativity is another skill that is developed in early childhood and as associated with many positive attributes such as educational achievement, well-being and success at work.

This evidence supports the idea of toy rotation. This involves small collections of toys being rotated into play while the majority are stored away. This provides opportunities for developing sustained attention and creativity while still providing children with novel and varied play experiences.

Further research in this area is needed, particularly relating to play in the home environment, where there are often additional distractions such as background Television and other screen media. The impact of screen time on children’s developing creativity is a topic that we are investigating within our Psychology Children’s Lab. If you are a parent of a 3 to 8 year old child please do consider taking part in our online survey – further details can be found here.

Dr Sarah Rose was also featured in The Sentinel newspaper providing commentary on this recent research finding (click here to read the full story).


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: