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.

PhD Student Sian publishes her first paper in the journal Obesity Reviews!

Sian Calvert

Congratulations to our PhD Student Sian Calvert on publishing the first paper from her PhD research, a systematic review in the leading journal Obesity Reviews! Sian, supervised by Dr Robert Dempsey and Dr Rachel Povey, is one of a number of PhD students based in the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research at Staffordshire University.

Sian’s PhD programme, which funded by the University, aims to develop and test the feasibility of conducting a Social Norms Approach intervention with high school students to improve adolescents’ eating behaviours by challenging some of the misperceptions of the acceptability and amount of healthy foodstuffs eaten by their fellow student peers. The Social Norms Approach is a means of promoting healthier behaviours based on informational feedback which challenges common misperceptions (i.e. the over- and under-estimation of peer behaviours) to reduce the perceived social pressure to conform to potentially unhealthy norms. Sian’s primary supervisor, Dr Robert Dempsey, leads a programme of research evaluating the Social Norms Approach at Staffordshire University and has recently published a critical review of the use of the approach as a health behaviour approach (click here to read this review).

Sian’s paper, a systematic review of the use of in-school interventions to promote healthier eating amongst 11-16 year olds, is the first to evaluate the range, format and outcomes of healthy eating interventions delivered in high school settings in the UK and around the world. The start of secondary education (or its equivalent in non-UK countries) marks a time where many students become more independent, have greater control over their dietary behaviours, and is a key period where dietary habits can form which last into adulthood. Also, there are numerous reports of increases in unhealthy eating behaviours (e.g. snacking, meal-skipping) and decreases in more healthy eating behaviours (e.g. fruit and vegetable consumption, drinking regular amounts of water) amongst this age group. The high school environment forms a key target for dietary behaviour interventions given that schools have extensive contact with students, that the school environment is relatively well controlled (meaning that interventions can be appropriately tested and controlled), and behaviours can be monitored. Sian’s review makes several recommendations for future best practice with this group of individuals, including the need for future interventions to consider the influence of peers on dietary behaviours (e.g. by including student peers in intervention campaigns and activities) as well as better evaluating the potential role of personalised, individual, feedback on dietary behaviour choices.

Dr Robert Dempsey, Sian’s supervisor, commented:

“Sian did a great job reviewing a complex and very varied literature, and this systematic review is a key part of her PhD research which has directly informed the follow-up studies she is currently analysing and writing up. To publish her work in a very competitive and highly ranked global journal before the completion of her PhD studies is a great achievement for Sian!”

Sian is currently analysing and writing up a series of qualitative and quantitative papers based on her PhD studies investigating the feasibility of the Social Norms Approach as a means of encouraging more positive healthy behaviours amongst high school students. A link to Sian’s systematic review paper can be found below:

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: