Grégory Dessart joins the Department of Psychology on a six-month research visit!

The Department of Psychology is pleased to welcome Grégory Dessart, an international researcher who has joined the Department’s Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research for a six month visit to work with researchers based in the Centre. Grégory introduces himself below:

It is a pleasure for me to work at Staffordshire University as a visiting academic scholar until the beginning of April 2018. I am receiving supervision from Dr. Richard Jolley. My current and main research interests lie in the visual symbolization of abstract notions and their individual development.

More specifically, I am exploring children’s drawings of God through their socio-normative, conceptual and emotional aspects as part of my PhD at the University of Lausanne (Switzerland), under the supervision of Prof. Pierre-Yves Brandt. The research lies at the crossroads between developmental psychology, gender studies and the psychology of religion. My main focus has been on data from French-speaking Switzerland. However, my thesis is part of an international project – “Drawings of gods” – funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation for which over 6,000 drawings from eight different countries have so far been collected (

It is the emotional messages in drawings of God from the Swiss sample that I will be examining during this research visit, and is the key reason I contacted Dr. Jolley because of his research expertise in the expressive aspects of children’s drawings. For instance, we will be examining a range of questions about the emotional intensity, valence and anthropomorphism in pictures such as the one below, and whether they vary according to age, gender, religious schooling and religious practice of the children.

Prior to my PhD, I obtained a degree in psychology from the University of Liège (Belgium) in 2010 where I specialized in CBT and clinical neuropsychology. My primary field of research was then rooted in cognitive psychopathology and the observation of sub-clinical symptoms in the general population. My Master’s thesis explored the effects of childhood trauma on the proneness to face psychotic-like experiences in adulthood through the mediation of stress sensitivity and emotion regulation strategies.

Setting off on a new journey to analyze children’s drawings has been quite refreshing.  In fact, inspecting the data was fun before even looking to have them scored into numbers and stats. Drawings are likely to be read on many different levels, which makes them all the more attractive as a researcher, but also very challenging. This can sometimes feel like wearing many hats at the same time and trying to keep them in balance. However, I am happy to have embarked on this fascinating journey and to have met Dr. Richard Jolley whose long expertise in the field is very beneficial to my work and myself as a drawing researcher-to-be.

I am also fortunate to work in a vibrant research department that boasts several drawings researchers, including Dr. Sarah Rose, Dr. Claire Barlow and Dr. Romina Vivaldi (another visiting academic researcher whose visit you can read about here). I would be glad also to bounce research ideas with you, but also to chat about the meaning of life or whatever over a cup of coffee. Feel free to drop me an email (

Grégory first emailed me in July last year expressing an interest to spend some research time in the Department of Psychology, inviting me to work with him on the ‘Drawings of gods’ project. How children depict God has been a long-standing interest of mine, and Grégory’s proposal presented an opportunity to do some collaborative research on a large sample of drawings already collected. So, it is with great pleasure that we have been able to make this research visit happen. Although I hadn’t had any previous contact with Grégory before, we both attended the BPS Developmental Psychology Section conference in Belfast a couple of months later, and then I was invited to give a research talk at the University of Lausanne in April this year (you can read about my visit here). These opportunities to meet helped us to initiate potential research ideas, and since Grégory arrived in the Department in early October we have been working on formulating a coherent set of research questions about the expressive aspects of the 500 or so drawings from the Swiss sample. We intend to involve artists (and potentially non-experts) to score the drawings, which will be funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation.

Dr. Richard Jolley, Senior Lecturer in Psychology.

The Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research is home to research activity in the Psychology Department at Staffordshire University. The Centre is home to a number of research-active psychologists who are engaged in research across a wide range of psychological subdisciplines. The Centre has two overarching research streams: Health and Behaviour Change and Applied Perception and Cognition.

The Centre provides training for PhD students, Research Masters degrees, as well as Professional Doctorates in Clinical and Health Psychology (click here for more details). The Centre also provides bespoke training to private and public organisations, as well as expertise for consultancy research opportunities. For more details about the Centre, its research activities, events and consultancy, please visit our website (click here).