PsyPAG 2020 Virtual Annual Conference: Insights from Sophia Fedorowicz

Written by Sophia Fedorowicz, PhD researcher.

Sophia Fedorowicz

On the 31st of July I presented the preliminary findings of my PhD project ‘Experiences of talking to your GP about suicide’ at the PsyPAG annual conference, and this year the conference came with a twist. As a consequence of the coronavirus outbreak the majority of academic pursuits have moved online, including conferences. The Psychology Postgraduate Affairs Group answered the call to remote conferencing by designing a Twitter-takeover style conference, depositing delegates posters and pre-recorded presentations in an open access database facilitated by the Open Science Framework and scheduling posts and discussion around them on Twitter throughout the day. There were also workshops over zoom and a social area to network and support each other. Nice. An excellent effort by the PsyPAG team that somehow made us all feel like we were together, despite being apart.  

My Project

My PhD focusses on the patient experience of being assessed for risk of suicide in primary care with an emphasis on patient and public involvement in the project design and execution. The presentation featured at PsyPAG 2020 detailed a study that was co-created with Expert Citizens, an independent group of people who have all experienced multiple needs – combinations of mental ill health, homelessness, addiction and offending behaviour, and offer their lived experience to projects such as mine, service evaluation and many other exceptional undertakings. I presented the preliminary findings of this study seeking to understand how patients experience talking to their GPs about suicide alongside Phil Parkes, the volunteer coordinator for Expert Citizens who has played a key role in the work so far.  

The project consists of an on-line, open-ended survey asking participants questions about their experiences. Working with people who have lived experience led to designing the questions to be as trauma informed as possible and using language that was suitable for the general public. We also emphasised to the participants that they could stay up to date with the progress of the study should they wish to. The purpose of this was to allow the participant to maintain ownership of their contribution and to keep being involved as the study progressed should they wish to.  

We are currently engaged in the analysis of the responses of forty-one participants, aged between 19 and 67. Presently, a dominant theme is how much the attitude of the GP towards the patient matters to the overall experience. For example, even if the GP is not able to provide any practical support for the patient, if they are perceived to be empathic and understanding allowing the person seeking help to talk about their distress, then the patient leaves feeling more positive about the consultation. Participants commented that they felt somewhat relieved by being able to talk to someone about it and to have the potential for ongoing support from their GP. Whereas patients who received a referral to a secondary service but felt the GP was dismissive of them left feeling regretful, and in some cases worse than they did before the consultation.  

These findings are preliminary and there is much more work to be done, this project will also inform further investigation focussing on people trying to access support for suicidal thoughts and feelings using primary care services during the lockdown. If you would like to discuss any part of this project or be kept up to date as it progresses, please get in touch via email (sophia.fedorowicz@student.staffs.ac.uk) or Twitter (@Soph_Fedorowicz).


If you are currently experiencing suicidal thoughts and feelings 

Please know that you are not alone. We encourage you to seek support from someone you trust, your GP or a support service like the Samaritans. You matter.  

You can call the Samaritans on 116 123 or access their website for further support HERE (https://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help/contact-samaritan/).

You can also go to stayingsafe.net, this resource was developed in collaboration with people who have lived experience and is designed to help keep you safe.


LJ Potter joins the Psychology Department at Staffordshire University!

By LJ Potter, Lecturer in Counselling.

I joined the Psychology team at Staffs in July 2020. Previously, I’ve taught Counselling and Psychology at other institutions. Although it’s an odd time (in a pandemic) to be starting a new place of work I’ve enjoyed it so far. It’s a friendly and welcoming place to be!

About me:

I’m a genderqueer psychotherapist (with they/them pronouns) who specialises in working with queer people and topics. My Psychology career began in 2002 when I completed my BSc at Coventry University. On graduating I wasn’t ready to put studying aside, but also needed to move home to a town that did ot have easy university access, so I was really glad when Coventry introduced an online Parapsychology Master’s degree.

The study of the paranormal has always really interested me, thinking about whether these experiences are 1) something that (largely) arises from inside of us (whether it is another ‘sense’ that we don’t fully understand) or 2) whether they are experiences that exist outside of us and happen to us. The degree was fascinating and didn’t require a belief one way or the other, and spending a year unpicking some of this was really fascinating. Sadly, parapsychology is a difficult area to make a living within, and I was also interested in working with people and mental health, so this is where I started to focus my studies.

I went to the Sherwood psychotherapy training institute (SPTI) and completed a PgDip in person-centred counselling and psychotherapy. Whilst I was in training I began my own charity that provided free and low-cost counselling for people who identified as LGBT or who were in different kinds of relationship styles (such as consensually non-monogamous or kink-based relationships). My aim was to create a place where people whose sexual lives where outside of standard norms could be met with understanding. The charity became very successful, going from being just me at the start, to in 2020, having ten volunteer counsellors and a long waiting list of LGBT people wanting to access our service.

Alongside this I have been studying for a PhD in psychology looking at experiences of gender and sexuality in UK high schools and am currently in ‘writing up’, which a process that never seems to end!

My research interests are mainly focused around gender and sexuality and people’s experience of those in counselling relationships. I am interested in publishing widely in that field, including a paper that I hope will go in for publication soon on therapist disclosure of non-cisgender identities.

I’m very much looking forward to September and the start of teaching and really starting to find my feet in the team.


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.

Meet Level 5 Student Kim Buckless and her experiences of Summer Research Internships

About Me:

Hi, my name is Kim and I’m a mature student. I have just completed level 5 of aBSc Psychology and Child Development degree. Before University I had worked in nurseries, schools and children’s centres across Staffordshire but lacked the qualifications to progress in my career.

As a mature student I wanted to get the most out of my University experience, therefore I applied to be a Psychology Summer Research Intern for the last two years. The process was easy as the positions were advertised on Blackboard and the application involved explaining why you wanted to intern for your chosen project.

My Summer Research Intern Experience this Year:

This year the study I applied for is looking at the experiences of student carers, this appealed to me for two reasons. Firstly, I myself am a mum of two young boys, one of which has Autism, this made me curious to see if the experiences I have were similar to others in the same position. Secondly the research is a qualitative study. I feel that I have struggled with thematic analysis before and that this is my weak area in Psychology and I so I wanted to boost my skillset.

I was so pleased to have been selected to work with two lecturers on the project, Dr Dan Heron from Staffordshire University and Dr Jessica Runacres from Derby University. Not being particularly confident in qualitative research, and in my own abilities, they have helped me every step of the way through team meetings and regular emails.

Due to Covid-19 I have been able to join the project at the very beginning. Therefore, I have assisted with recruitment, theme generation and collating information for the introduction of the paper. Recently they have asked if I would like to be a named author on the planned publication. Not only will this look great on my C.V. but the experiences I have had will put me in a firm position to go onto further study. I definitely recommend applying for a summer research internship!


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 can we measure Self-Directed Ageing Stereotypes in Older Adults?

Dr Sarah Dean and Dr Amy Burton tell us about their Staffordshire University REF 2020 research scheme funded project into self-directed ageing stereotypes in older adults. The research was carried out with research assistant Weyinmi Demeyin and graduate Jessica Reeves.

Dr Sarah Dean and Dr Amy Burton

The population is ageing, but while average life expectancy continues to increase, healthy life expectancy has not necessarily matched this. Health psychologists are interested in health across the lifespan and we wanted to explore health in older adulthood to identify some of the barriers to healthy ageing, specifically those relating to ageing stereotypes.

There are lots of stereotypes surrounding ageing, which are often very negative. If an older adult internalises these negative stereotypes, meaning that they believe them to be true for themselves, this may have a negative effect on their health and wellbeing.

To explore ageing stereotypes in older adults we needed a way of measuring if people had internalised these beliefs. We found that lots of different measures existed and it was unclear which was the best measure to use. Therefore, we carried out a systematic review to identify measures of self-directed ageing stereotype in older adults and to evaluate their quality.

We identified 109 papers for inclusion in our review. Over 25 different terms were used to describe internalisation of ageing stereotypes in older adults. We therefore suggest that for consistency the term “self-directed ageing stereotype” is used and we found 40 different measures of this existed.

The most commonly used measures were the Philadelphia Geriatric Centre Morale Scale Attitude Towards Own Ageing (ATOA) subscale, Ageing Perceptions Questionnaire (APQ) and Attitudes to Ageing Questionnaire. However, although it was the most frequently used, the ATOA was developed to measure morale in older adults and not self-directed ageing stereotypes.

Across measures, poor reporting of psychometric properties made it difficult to assess scale quality and more research is needed to fully assess measures before conclusions can be drawn as to the best tool; however, the Brief-APQ appears to hold most promise. Future research must address this issue before interventions to reduce negative self-directed ageing stereotypes can be developed and fully evaluated. Our research also highlighted the importance of researchers making sure that the measure they have chosen is suitable for their purpose.

We are really pleased that our article has been published in the European Journal of Ageing. The article can be accessed here if you would like to read about the research in more detail (DOI: 10.1007/s10433-020-00574-7).


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 @HealthPsyStaffs and via the #HealthPsychStaffs hashtag.

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


How do care providers’ view and experience supporting people with a learning difficulty and dementia?

Dr Daniel Herron

Dr Daniel Herron discusses his recent research findings on supporting people with an intellectual disability and dementia.

Why is it important?

Supporting the changing needs and increasing dependency of someone with a learning difficulty (also known as learning disability or intellectual disability) and dementia can be challenging for carers and may impact on their wellbeing. Our own study (see Herron & Priest, 2013) has demonstrated carers’ lack of knowledge and understanding of the symptoms and progression of dementia, which may contribute to delay in referral to services, diagnosis, post‐diagnosis support and planning for life with dementia.

It is of the utmost importance that carers’ own needs are planned for and met. In reality, this may not be the case. To address the dual needs of learning difficulties and dementia, and to ensure carers are appropriately supported, some UK NHS services have developed specialised Learning Difficulty Dementia Care Pathways (LDDCPs), where existing learning difficulty staff are employed specifically in multidisciplinary teams to provide services for those service users developing dementia alongside their other non‐dementia services. We know little of how carers’ experience supporting people with a learning difficulty and dementia, and the role of LDDCPs. Therefore, this study aimed to:

  • Explore family and paid carers’ views and experiences of supporting someone with a learning difficulty and dementia.
  • Explore the role of healthcare professionals and support systems, with a focus on one Learning Difficulty Dementia Care Pathway, in the support of family and paid carers and people with a learning difficulty and dementia.

This is the first study to explore family carers, paid carers, and healthcare professionals’ views of the role of a LDDCP.

What did our research involve?

We recruited two family carers, eight paid carers and eight healthcare professionals (six DCP healthcare professionals [including a psychiatrist, community nurses and an occupational therapist] and two working in a housing and care organization [community nurses]). All participants took part in at least one interview each and were asked about their experiences and views of supporting someone with a learning difficulty and dementia, and the role of an LDDCP.

I worked closely with people with a learning difficulty to develop material for this study, which helped the study to reflect their own questions.

Stock image of 2 people talking (https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-men-having-conversation-935949/)

What were the main findings?

We used Constructivist Grounded Theory to thoroughly analyse what participants were telling us in interviews. Several findings were developed from the data.

The difficulty of obtaining a timely diagnosis and its impact on care

There were many factors which contributed to a lengthy, challenging diagnosis process which was underpinned by uncertainty for people with a learning difficulty and their carers. It was common for people to initially attribute any dementia-related changes to the person’s learning difficulty rather than dementia:

…it’s hard to know whether it’s just a problem with their [learning] difficulty…or it’s the start of dementia. I think we had a few years where we were very unsure. (Robin, Family Carer)

Carers’ lack of knowledge of the symptoms and signs of dementia also meant it was not until the later stages of dementia until a referral was made to the LDDCP.

There are many conditions which may mimic some of the symptoms of the dementia, making it a challenge to provide certainty of the underlying cause. At the time of this study, the LDDCP used a reactive approach to the assessment of dementia, which relied on carers and others noticing changes (something they found challenging), and then referring the person to the LDDCP for an assessment. However, reactive assessments may reduce the reliability and usefulness of assessments when baseline information (from when the person is healthy) is not available to compare the assessments against (BPS & RCP, 2015; McKenzie, Metcalfe, Michie, & Murray, 2018). Consequently, within the LDDCP, as baseline assessments had not been proactively obtained, it was sometimes difficult to make a clear diagnosis of dementia

The need for inclusive support

The participants highlighted the importance of meeting the person’s needs through a person-centred approach. However, not all carers found it easy to understand and implement the principles and approaches advocated within dementia support, which sometimes contradicted the support they provided to people with a learning difficulty:

…Coming from a learning difficulty background, when somebody believes or thinks something that’s not true, you try to explain to somebody that it’s not true…it kind of goes against the grain [not correcting person]…that’s a totally different way of supporting somebody…it’s something I found quite hard. (Glen, Paid Carer)

Paid carers were able to draw on a range of formal (LDDCP) and informal (peers) support which alleviated their burden and enabled them to provide the necessary dementia support. In contrast, family carer participants highlighted their challenges with accessing of formal support (LDDCP) and relied heavily on their other family members to share the burden.

Stock image of two women on a beach (https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-standing-beside-woman-on-white-wooden-chair-facing-body-of-water-160767/)

Carer knowledge and training needs

Effective dementia care relied on understanding both dementia and learning difficulty. Carers and healthcare professionals illustrated the importance of proper training. Though paid carers had a developing understand of dementia care, prior to training they had poor knowledge of dementia and dementia care, and how this translated into caring for the person’s dementia needs; this had implications for support:

I didn’t understand much about dementia…in our heads it was just something that happened to old people, not younger people with learning disability and Down syndrome…I think we just managed. (Glen, Paid Carer)

Family carers, who had no support from the LDDCP, had a poorer understanding of dementia, which was reflected in their sometimes lack of understanding of how to appropriately care for their family member’s dementia needs.

Achieving “ageing in place”

Those providing care felt that the wellbeing of the person with a learning difficulty and dementia was best achieved by adapting care to the individual’s changing needs within their own home- this is referred to as ageing in place (Watchman, 2008). Participants had a strong commitment, strengthened by their close relationship the person, to ensuring they remained within their home for as long as possible, and felt that moving the individual would have a negative impact of the person’s wellbeing:

…it’s not home for them [dementia home]…they’ve all said it would have such a dramatic negative effect on their well‐being, it’s likely to increase the deterioration. (Pat, Paid Carer).

There was recognition that keeping the individual in their home was not always possible, and there may be times when the individual would need to be moved, to ensure their wellbeing. Without the necessary support, family carers did not feel they had the ability to safely support their family member in their home, and had to move them into a residential home with 24-hour support:

It was the best thing for them, you know. [Family member] was much better off. (Robin, Family Carer)

Stock image of two people walking (https://pixabay.com/photos/dependent-dementia-woman-old-age-441408/)

What are the recommendations of this study

  • There is a need for local health services to develop inclusive specialized learning difficulty Dementia Care Pathways.
  • There is the need to development of a comprehensive, accessible training package, which is informed by the study findings and the concept of person‐centred care (Brooker & Latham, 2016; Kitwood, 1997).
  • Organizations and services need to address the reactive culture that is sometimes seen and implement processes for effective dementia care planning.
  • To better ensure a reliable, timely diagnosis and early dementia care planning, there is a need for a combination of reactive assessments, proactive baselining and screening, and associated guidance.

If you would like to discuss any of this blog and/or my paper further, please do contact me at daniel.herron1@staffs.ac.uk or on Twitter @DannyLeeHerron


Ambassadors Open Day Staffs Uni

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.

Staffs Student Stories – Meet Sophie Jarrett, Level 5 BSc (Hons) Psychology Student

Why did you apply and how did you get a place on the course?

I am originally from Stoke-on-Trent and locally studied A-Levels at my school’s sixth form college. I decided to come to an open day at the university after visiting a handful of others around the country. When I came to Staffordshire University, I saw that the facilities here were incredible, that the accommodation was much nicer than other universities, and the Psychology Department was lovely. When I realised, I could have the same independence living away from home on campus, but also being a 15-minute drive away from family, it was an obvious first choice. I received an unconditional offer and I’ve never looked back!

What has been the best part of the course? 

In my first year, I enjoyed my ‘People Behaving Badly’ module, which taught reasoning behind abnormal behaviours. It was interesting to understand why people may behave in a different way. In my second year, I have really enjoyed my ‘Contemporary Issues in Psychology’ module, as it allowed me to see how the knowledge from my lectures and seminars can be applied to real-life scenarios as a Psychologist.  

What are the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome and how have you overcome them, while studying with us? 

A challenge I have had at university is getting used to presentations. I have an Autistic Spectrum Condition, so presenting to others has never come to me naturally. Nevertheless, I started by just presenting to my lecturers and now by the end of my second year, I can engage in class discussions and lead presentations in front of my classes. Initially I also struggled with statistics and working with numbers. I could never get my head around the different statistical tests and what they were for. But my seminar leader, Dr Zachary Parker, really helped break down what each statistical test is used for, which really aided my understanding of psychological statistics.  

What are your next steps and plans for the future? 

I am an aspiring Clinical Psychologist. I would like to work in the National Health Service and therefore my aims after my undergraduate degree is to continue on to postgraduate study in the hope of a place on the highly-competitive Clinical Psychology Professional Doctorate here at Staffordshire University.

Would you recommend our course to others? 

Psychology is the study of mind and behaviour so it can be used in any career. I’d recommend this course to anyone with an interest in psychology, especially if you would like a hands-on experience, as at Staffordshire University, you get practical experiences which you can use for your final year project or research throughout your time at Staffordshire University. 


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.

Experiences of lockdown during Covid-19: Recruiting for an online research study

Dr Jade Elliott and Dr Amy Burton would like to invite you to participate in a research project that is being conducted in the department of Psychology at Staffordshire Univeristy.

As a thank you, participants who complete the study will be entered into a prize draw to win one of 2 x £50 Amazon gift vouchers.

The research team are interested in the experiences of individuals (aged 18 years or over) during the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions that have been imposed across the UK.

The research will involve providing some information about yourself, answering a questionnaire online about your wellbeing and coping, before taking photographs (using a phone or digital camera) over one week that represent your experiences of life during the Covid-19 pandemic.

You will be asked to choose and send 4-7 of these photographs to the research team and complete a further questionnaire about your wellbeing.

A selection of participants will subsequently be invited to have an interview with a member of the research team to talk about your photographs and develop an understanding of your experiences.

To get further information and take part in this study please click: covid19 photo study. If you have any questions about the research, please contact the research team at covid19photostudy@staffs.ac.uk

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.

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.

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