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.

Free Resource Packs for Practice Nurses Working with patients with Type 2 Diabetes

Dr Rachel Povey (Associate Professor of Health Psychology, Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research) has some FREE Resource Packs to give away which she has designed to help practice nurses to motivate their patients with type 2 diabetes to make dietary changes. The resource packs are based on Rachel’s research funded by the European Association for the Study of Diabetes with GlaxoSmithKline which explored the beliefs of people with type 2 diabetes about healthy eating. The packs were informed by studies with both patients and nurses and include nine useful resources which have been designed specifically so that they can be copied and given out to patients. 

The Resource Pack that Rachel has developed consists of a number of psychological “tools” including resources which help patients in “weighing up the pros and cons” of eating more healthily, “estimating portion sizes”, “planning changes” and “useful techniques for keeping motivated”. Alongside the resources is a useful practical guide with suggestions and techniques for encouraging patients to make dietary changes from motivating change to making and maintaining the changes.

The Resource Pack has been used as the basis of a very successful training programme for practice nurses, and we are delighted to be able to give some away for FREE

Feedback from practitioners who have used this resource include: 

“The resources will be very useful for patients. Clear advice for them …very useful for me when talking to patients”.

“Just to let you know have seen 3 people with diabetes since Wednesday and we have used the tools and set realistic goals in dietary change”.

If you would like one of these resource packs, please email Rachel directly: r.povey@staffs.ac.uk


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 and via the #HealthPsychStaffs hashtag.

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

Are you expecting a child or have a child aged 3 years or younger? Participants needed for a new online study!

By Darel Cookson, PhD Student (Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research)

I am currently recruiting participants to take part in an online questionnaire study, which is part of my Social Psychology PhD. I am using an experimental design, investigating people’s reactions to an excerpt from some online articles which discuss childhood vaccinations. We want to understand what specifically influences people’s opinions on childhood vaccinations.

In order to take part in this study participants must be:

  • Aged 18 or over
  • British and living in the UK
  • Have a child aged 3 years or younger OR be
    currently expecting a baby.

To take part, you can click on the link here: http://bit.ly/ChildhoodVaccQ

This study has research full ethical approval from Staffordshire University; all data is anonymous, and participants can stop completing the questionnaire at any point by selecting ‘exit’.

Thank you, and if you have any questions, please email:
darel.cookson@research.staffs.ac.uk


The Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research is home to research activity in the Psychology Department at Staffordshire University. The Centre houses a number of research-active psychologists who are engaged in research across a wide range of psychological subdisciplines.

For more details about the Centre, its research activities, events and consultancy, please visit our website (click here).

PhD Student Blog: Attending the PsyPAG 2019 Annual Conference

By Darel Cookson, PhD Student (Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research)

The PsyPAG 34th Annual Conference took place from Tuesday 23rd – Friday 26th July 2019 at Sheffield Hallam University. This year, the conference theme was to promote the health and wellbeing of delegates while they had the opportunity to meet, network and share their research with peers. I was lucky enough to attend along with fellow PhD researcher Tanya Schrader where we shared our research on belief in conspiracy theories.

PsyPAG is the Psychology Postgraduate Affairs Group and is funded by the Research Board of the British Psychological Society. PsyPAG is run purely by postgraduates for the benefit of postgraduate psychology students at UK institutions. Each year PsyPAG organises an annual conference where, across three days, psychology postgraduate students meet, share their work via oral and poster presentations, provide feedback, attend workshops and keynotes, and build support systems and even collaborations! This was my second year attending PsyPAG and it was a fantastic conference where I could share the first few studies of my PhD, receive feedback from peers, and build friendships with fellow postgraduate students.

A highlight of the conference was the keynote presentations, thoughtfully selected by the organisation committee to align with the conference theme of promoting health and wellbeing. The first keynote was from Professor Sir Chris Husbands, who discussed academic careers in the 21st century. We were urged to think about what the big issues were that our research was interested in and to use this to maximise our impact. Cognitive Psychologist, Dr Dan Smith, told the story of their research, detailing a series of elegant experiments probing the relationship between the motor system and cognitive processes.

The second day of the conference began with a keynote from Professor
Madelynne Arden, who discussed their impressive body of work exploring adherence
to medication in Cystic Fibrosis, using a behaviour science approach to
intervention research. Dr Emma Norris then shared her journey from PhD to
postdoctoral researcher and discussed the differences moving from independent
research in a PhD programme to working on a large multi-disciplinary project. The
final keynote was from Dr Jennie Drabble, a Forensic Psychologist who also
discussed life after PhD. Dr Drabble emphasised the importance of taking time
for yourself outside of academia and motivated the room to help change the
culture of academia from within.

A further highlight of PsyPAG 2019 was the workshop; ‘Bringing Reproduceable Science to the People – The Story of Change’ produced and delivered by Olly Robertson and Dr Jon Sutton. This workshop was focussed on how we can best communicate our research to wider audiences in an interesting and accurate way. The onus was put on researchers to take opportunities to communicate their work and we discussed how to do this with both accuracy and elegance. Then we had 5 minutes and no more than 10 sentences to summarise our PhD research and then share it with the group – quite a challenge! I took a lot away from this session and it was so helpful to receive advice from the editor of The Psychologist (albeit a bit daunting!).

Tanya presenting her PhD research

Tanya and I shared our research in the ‘Social Psychology’ symposium. Tanya kicked the session off with her fascinating work exploring the darker side of conspiracy theories. Tanya is interested in potential predictors and consequences of conspiracy belief, particularly around violence and crime. Using hierarchical regression analysis, Tanya has found that conspiracy beliefs play a unique role in predicting acceptance of violence. Tanya is clearly passionate about this subject and used several real-life examples of the potential violent consequences of conspiracy beliefs. I then presented the first two studies of my PhD, exploring the role of perceived social norms in motivating conspiracy beliefs. Currently, my research is showing that we over-estimate the extent to which other people endorse conspiracy theories and we are significantly influenced by the perceived beliefs others. My next job is to try to use this knowledge reduce belief in dangerous conspiracy theories – which is proving to be most difficult!

Me presenting my PhD research

There were several excellent presentations throughout the three days at PsyPAG and it is always exciting to see what your peers are studying. Madeleine Pownall, a first year PhD student from The University of Leeds explained a theory she is currently working on to ask; can positive self-objectification diffuse stereotype threat effects in women? Madeleine has amalgamated three theories in social psychology with sophistication and is now developing a body of research to test these ideas. It was inspiring to see such innovative ideas from your peers! Another stand out presentation was from Ed Noon from Sheffield Hallam University who is investigating how adolescents use social media, particularly Instagram and how this can influence social comparisons and thus identity development.

The organisers from Sheffield Hallam University, Suzy Hodgson, Martine
Lamb and Nikki Dean Marshall, were incredible and did such a fantastic job this
year, so thank you very much! I am very grateful to have attended PsyPAG 2019
and to have the opportunity to share my research.


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.

Dr Daniel Jolley featured on BBC Radio Stoke discussing what makes a conspiracy theory…

Dr Daniel Jolley (Senior Lecturer in Social Psychology & member of the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research) was featured on BBC Radio Stoke’s Lucas Yeomans Evening show discussing the psychology of conspiracy theories and how he got into researching why people believe in conspiracies.

You can listen to Dr Jolley’s interview via the below link:

BBC Sounds: BBC Radio Stoke Lucas Yeomans Evening Show (29/7/2019) [from 17 mins 3 seconds in]


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.

“Conspiracy theories: Are they damaging democracy?” Dr Daniel Jolley featured on TRT World’s Roundtable

Dr Daniel Jolley (Senior Lecturer in Social Psychology & member of the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research) was featured on TRT World’s Roundtable television programme discussing the psychology and consequences of beliefs in conspiracy theories as part of a discussion panel. Dr Jolley discussed some of his recent research into the potential negative effects of believing in conspiracy theories with other leading experts researching why individuals believe in conspiracies.

You can view the Roundtable programme featuring Dr Jolley via the below Youtube video:


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.

World Breastfeeding Week 2019 – New research understanding mothers’ experiences of breastfeeding

By Dr Sarah Dean (Health Psychologist & Senior Lecturer in Health Psychology).

Dr Sarah Dean

A large amount of research has shown that breastfeeding has several health benefits for both the parent and the child. For example, mothers who breastfeed are less likely to develop conditions such as ovarian cancer, breast cancer and diabetes, and breastfeeding protects infants from a range of health problems and illness. Benefits can continue across the lifespan with breastfed individuals having lower rates of obesity and diabetes when they are adolescents and adults (WHO, NHS).

Breastfeeding can also help with bonding and attachment and when women have positive experiences with breastfeeding it can support their mental health.

Lots of people are surprised to learn that the World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months and that breastfeeding continues alongside appropriate complementary food until the child is aged 2 years and beyond!

Unfortunately, even though a lot of new mums would like to breastfeed their babies, many find it difficult. There are various different things that can make breastfeeding hard, for example, finding it painful, being unsure if baby is getting enough milk, not wanting to breastfeed in public, having a lack of support, feeling worried that other people might have negative views towards breastfeeding and not being able to carry on breastfeeding when going back to work.

At the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, here at Staffordshire University, we are carrying out research to try and understand more about people’s experiences of feeding their children so that we can work towards removing some of these barriers. This will hopefully mean that more women, who want to, can breastfeed for longer and more women could consider breastfeeding as a realistic option.

Staffordshire University Psychology Breastfeeding Research:

We have a growing number of staff and students carrying out research into breastfeeding.

Dr. Amy Burton, Dr. Jenny Taylor, Dr. Alison Owen and myself are currently involved in a study exploring the experiences of mums who are breastfeeding a child over the age of 1 year. In this exciting research mums took pictures of their breastfeeding experiences and were then interviewed about these. So many people wanted to take part that we are also collecting additional pictures and information online! We are currently planning the next phase of the research, where we will develop and evaluate an intervention to help change and improve people’s attitudes towards breastfeeding.

Images taken by mothers for our breastfeeding research

Sarah is working on a joint project with Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology graduate Dr Sarah Thurgood, to explore the experiences that new Mums in Stoke have of feeding their babies. This research is important because the UK has some of the lowest rates of breastfeeding in the world and Stoke-on-Trent has low rates compared to other areas of the country. Sarah Thurgood is also working with Jenny and Amy to publish her doctorate research that explored the breastfeeding support experiences of first time mothers.

Alison and MSc by Applied Research Graduate Alex Morley-Hewitt recently published a paper that reviewed research into body image and breastfeeding (click here to view the published paper). They found that women who had negative feelings towards their bodies were less likely to start breastfeeding and those who did were less likely to carry on breastfeeding compared to women with more positive feelings towards their bodies.

Another Masters student, on our MSc Foundations of Clinical Psychology course, Lucy Pudsey, is working with Sarah and Jenny to write up her dissertation research that explored the experiences of women who breastfeed a child for over 12 months.

We are keen for more of our UG and PG students to join us in researching breastfeeding!


World Breastfeeding Week 2019

For more information about this year’s World Breastfeeding Week, which runs each year from 1st to 7th August 2019, please visit the WHO website (click here).


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 and via the #HealthPsychStaffs hashtag.

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

Dr Daniel Jolley featured on BBC Radio 5 Live discussing why people believe in conspiracy theories

Dr Daniel Jolley (Senior Lecturer in Social Psychology & member of the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research) was featured on BBC Radio 5 Live’s Sarah Brett show discussing the reasons why people believe in conspiracy theories, whether more conspiracy theories are being believed today compared to the past, and whether conspiracy theory beliefs are resistant to change.

You can listen to Dr Jolley’s interview via the below link:

BBC Sounds: BBC Radio 5 Live Sarah Brett show – 9/7/2019 (from 36:20)


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.

Screen time and effects on children’s wellbeing: Dr Sarah Rose discusses on BBC Radio 5 Live

Dr Sarah Rose (Senior Lecturer in Psychology & Child Development, Award Leader – BSc (Hons) Psychology & Child Development) was featured on BBC Radio 5 Live’s Stephen Nolan show discussing recent research suggesting that screen time may not be as harmful for children’s health and wellbeing as commonly assumed. Dr Rose was featured discussing these findings and recommendations for screen time use for children.

You can listen to Dr Rose’s contributions to the debate via the BBC Sounds website and app:

BBC Sounds – BBC Radio 5 Live: Steven Nolan show with Adrian Goldberg (from 1 hour, 7 mins)


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.

Staffs Health Psychology team visit the 2019 Midlands Health Psychology Network Conference

By Dr Sarah Dean & Dr Gemma Hurst (Senior Lecturers in Health Psychology)

Staff and students once again enjoyed their trip to the Midlands Health Psychology Network Conference which this year was held in Derby. A mixture of students from our MSc in Health Psychology and Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology attended the MHPN Conference, with MSc graduate Jessica Boot delivering an excellent poster presentation on her dissertation research. There was an interesting programme of posters and presentations and some great interactive workshops too!

Part time MSc student Vicky says:

“I really enjoyed attending the Midlands Health Psychology Conference in Derby this year and am grateful to the University for providing me with the opportunity. I found the research presentations most beneficial, as they were a great way of demonstrating the breadth of topics covered by Health Psychology and helped me to understand the research process from beginning to end. The presentations gave me some exciting ideas for my own project next year. It was a great opportunity to network with fellow students and Health Psychologists, who offered tips and peer support whilst completing my own professional training. This conference is a must if you are considering a career in Health Psychology. I will look forward to returning again next year hopefully to present some of my own work!”

Health Psychology staff and students at this year’s MHPN conference

“We really enjoy attending the MHPN conference each year. For many of our MSc students it is their first experience of an academic conference and they gain a lot from listening to the presentations and chatting to the delegates. This year former MSc student Jess Boot presented a poster of her dissertation work, which was well received and has hopefully encouraged some of our current students to consider presenting their work next year. We are already looking forward to next year’s conference!”

MSc Course Co-Directors Dr Sarah Dean & Dr Gemma HURST


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 and via the #HealthPsychStaffs hashtag.

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