Q&A with Jess Bannister, BSc (Hons) Psychology and Counselling Graduate

By Jan.29, 2015

Jess BannisterJessica Bannister graduated with a BSc (Hons) Psychology and Counselling degree from the University of Salford in 2014. Jess’s dissertation research led to opportunities to speak at local colleges on her experiences of university life and being an undergraduate student. Jess is currently working full time to finance her postgraduate studies in September. Jenna interviewed Jess to find out more.

  1. Hi Jess, you went to talk to Loreto college students about being a psychology student. How did that talk come about?  

Originally I was meant to go to Loretto College to recruit participants for my dissertation project, which explored social media use by college students and apprentices. However, the best time for them to participate was June (my dissertation was due in May) so I thought rather than ending correspondence there, I wanted to at least give a discussion or something about what a dissertation is like.

2. What key points did you make in your talk? 

I mainly talked about the process of completing my dissertation, making sure I expressed the process of ethics, as that was something I had no idea about going into planning my dissertation. I think that a lot of the beliefs around dissertations is that you can just go away and do something, which is definitely not the case. I also wanted to point out to students that while it is one of the most stressful times in your education, that you can/should still have fun while doing it. The dissertation is often on a topic based around your interests and something that you enjoy, so have some fun with it.

 3. Did college students ask you any interesting questions? Can you tell me about some of them. 

I was surprised at how engaged the students were in the talk. I was expecting them to be quiet and not wanting to talk to the stranger that’s giving a talk in their class.  Through my experiences of  being in college, we would have done the same thing. A lot of students were asking how stressful it was doing the dissertation, and asking general questions about university life. A lot wanted to know as well what I was planning to do now that I had left university and now I’m in the wider world.

4. What would you do differently if you were to do another talk? 

I definitely wouldn’t be so nervous leading up to the talk. Before I set off on my drive to the college I was so nervous to the point of panicking. While my parents and boyfriend were trying to convince me everything would be ok, I was adamant that everything would go wrong, and everyone would hate me. But obviously I was wrong. I think if I wasn’t as nervous I probably would have included more content in the talk, elaborating more where I needed to instead of just discussing key points because I was worried I would be boring people.

 5. What advice did you give to college students thinking about studying psychology at degree level? 

I would definitely advise students to read around the subject from day 1. I definitely did not do enough reading around subjects, and only properly opened a book when it was assignment time, and you can tell as that reflects in my feedback. Be a step ahead of your module and it will benefit. Take part in student and lecturers studies as well. If you have no idea what a degree level research project is like, taking part in one can show you what goes on, and also with the amount of equipment there is at university, you can get some amazing ideas for a future research study. The main piece of advice I have though is to have fun. Don’t just be a book worm or spend all your time doing assignments, have some fun too. Uni is the best time for socialising and meeting new people, so get out and meet your peers.

 6. How did you find it being a university psychology student? Positives and negatives!

Going to uni has been the best thing I have ever done. It was a hard transition going from college with all my friends to somewhere completely new with people I didn’t know, but I’ve met some of the best friends in the world, and uni has given me a new sense of independence I never knew I could have. I’ll admit sometimes it has been hard, and I’ve thought what’s the point if I’m not doing well, but when you read that email at the end of 3rd year saying ‘Congratulations’, you know that every minute, every moment you felt stressed or upset, or like you couldn’t do it was worth it, because you have earned yourself a degree.

 7. What was it like doing your dissertation project? Why did you choose that topic?  

Going into my project I thought I was just going to plan what I was doing, then go out and do it, so it came as a surprise to me to hear all these rules and regulations about what you had to do, like applying for ethical approval, and all the materials that had to be included with that. I felt like I had to know what I was doing before I actually had a full idea. But on the whole it was an amazing experience to undertake my own research, and in the midst of conducting research you kind of forget you’re doing this for a 10,000 word report, but you’re actually doing it to extend knowledge in your chosen topic.

I chose my subject for a number of reasons. Firstly, I had done an assignment similar to this one in my level 5 social psychology module, and wanted to extend this, and use participants outside of university to gain more of a generalised view. My supervisor helped me to gain a clearer topic to focus on. I chose social media as my topic because it is such a vastly growing phenomenon that views are constantly changing on it, and it is being utilised for more and more things every day. I had read journals on how students use it for everyday purposes, so I wanted to research how it could be used in an educational setting, and how teachers and peers can use it to give support to other students.

 8. What are your next steps?

A. For me, it will be to gain some experience in counselling and mental health, since this is the career path I wish to take. I’ve taken a year out from my studies, which was hard at first adjusting to life outside of education. Since I was a child I have been in education, so it was different not to be. I have expanded my skills, through working full time and volunteering at mental health clinics, and I now feel ready to go back to university and complete my Masters and Diploma in Counselling and Psychotherapy. I have been looking into finance and funding, and have even opened a crowdfunding page, to see if that gets me anywhere. I think the psychologist in me is using it as some kind of social experiment, but we’ll see if anything happens with that. The Masters is a major opportunity for me as not only do I get a placement on the course, but I shadow real life counselling sessions, which will help me pick up the skills I can’t learn in a seminar room or a lecture theatre. I have a long road ahead of me to get there, but I know once I am there, all the hard work will have paid of for me, and also for my fellow students in whatever they’re pursuing.

Best of luck Jess! Keep us all posted :)



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The endless possibilities of Psychology…

By Nov.26, 2014

To describe the BPS North West of England Branch Conference (co-hosted with Psychology at Salford) in three words would be; insightful, empowering, thought provoking, intelligent, educative and informative. Now I know that’s more than three words but you can’t sum up a day that covers social change, social psychology of parenting, insights from eye tracking, media representations of breast cancer survivorship and more, all in one sitting. A day that covered a spectrum of subjects, the intake of information was explosive. We journeyed together through contemporary Psychology and how a science that has such a broad history is being applied and redefined in the 21st Century.

I believe that the day had something that would interest everyone but what really caught my attention were the talks given by Dr Abigail Locke (University of Huddersfield), Dr Adam Galpin and Cathy Ure.

We ventured through the world of parenthood with Dr Abigail Locke (University of Huddersfield) who discussed ‘The Social Psychology of Parenthood’ .Parenting is something many of our students, myself included, can relate to. We are constantly bombarded with information on the latest representations of how the perfect mother should parent. In her talk, Dr Locke explored the social representations of mothers and how over time, the social norm of what being a mother consists of has changed. For example how the working mother is now considered a normality and how parenting guides and books relating to parenthood had accompanied that change. How stay at home fathers are now more common, how they are perceived and how they perceive themselves. I found myself becoming immersed in the talk, mentally ticking the list of parenting styles I agreed and disagreed with, and the latest fad that was all the rage. Saying to myself ‘well my partner had to go back to work, he earned three times as much as i did”. I think it’s always a positive side effect of a good talk if you become involved in their contents.

Dr Adam Galpin (University of Salford) gave an insightful (excuse the pun!) talk on how we take information using infrared light to track peoples eye movements. I may be slightly biased as I actually had the pleasure of taking part in an eye-tracking study in my first week at Salford. It could also be due to the fact I studied media and advertising in further education which drew me in. Nevertheless I became engrossed as Dr Galpin talked over how this information is taken and evaluated so that we can then understand what information the viewer is taking in. Speaking from both sides of the study, it was really interesting to compare what the participant (myself) experienced, and what information was considered and assessed. I would encourage anyone to participate in such research if the opportunity presents itself.

On a subject that affects many people – , Cathy Ure (University of Salford) discussed her research on the media representations of breast cancer survivorship . We discovered how the media depicts breast cancer survivorship and how we interpret survivorship. Cathy Ure talked about ‘the spiral of silence’ theory, the idea that the media dominate representations of survival, so that alternative views and experiences will not be articulated, how ‘survivors’ may feel in fear of being rejected and how they tend to conform with the majority representations. In Lorna Paterson’s recent L4 lecture on Social Groups, we were introduced to this very same theory of social influence and the exercise of social power by a person or group to change the attitudes or behaviours of others in a particular direction (Cialdini & Goldstein, 2004). This drew me in, not just as a subject matter close to my heart, but also how the basic fundamentals I am learning about in class, can be applied and understood in the ‘real’ world.

Another presentation that wasn’t initially on my agenda, but I found interesting nonetheless, had to be Sharon Coen’s (University of Salford) talk on how we can utilise the growth of social media and incorporate our knowledge of psychology to learn, and consolidate this information to instigate social change. She gave a personal account of how she used social media to create a platform for a neutral ground of speech for friends from Palestine and Israel in their time of current conflict. I found this really empowering, to see how we can use social media for good in the world.

Now if what I’ve discussed doesn’t set your intellectual tastebuds tingling then rest assured there would have been something to suit you elsewhere during the day. One thing I did find disheartening was the low attendance at the conference on the day. Maybe more advertising and student involvement would help for next year’s conference? The peel hall is a beautiful setting and the content for the day of a vast spectrum, but the numbers didn’t start of as high as one would have hoped, and began to dwindle towards the end of the day. I’m not sure the reason for this? The conference held up its side of the deal, even a free lunch (which was lovely by the way). Is there a reason you were a no show? Or if you decided to leave early, why? If there was a reason you left, tell us, so we can improve and make future events more enjoyable.
What I did notice and thought this was a really inventive idea and hope to see repeated again at next years conference, was the we had invited some perspective A level students considering Psychology as their next step. From what i gather, A level and university level psychology differ significantly and these types of events could help bridge the gap. And, if I had one other suggestion, it would be that in parts, the momentum lacked slightly and lost its ‘umph’, to retain the visitors attention I would suggest the possibility of more interaction, within the presentations themselves and during the course of the day.

So what did i take away from today? The answer…a lot! When I arrived this morning I expected to sit through talks that felt beyond me, discussing subjects I didn’t fully understand, and feeling almost out of my depth.What I found was that even though I’m new to psychology, having only been here at Salford for 5 weeks, the topics discussed were relatable. I understood their value and I related to them. More than that, I understood why the speakers were in front of me presenting their work. Because psychology matters and it is relevant, and makes a difference to how we view and participate in our world. Attending the conference opened my eyes to how the possibilities in psychology are endless. The horizon of social issues available to investigate and those that are still to be uncovered is mind-blowing. It excited me, it ignited a need to find out more and I can’t wait to get started.

To find out more or to register for the next event in our Free Seminar Series follow the link:


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Volunteering, an idea worth spreading

By Nov.13, 2014

By Nikki Street and Tom Mayers

nikki tom

Here’s the obligatory #selfie of us on the day!

The SalfordPsych Engagement Team asked if I (Nikki) could write a blog after spotting some photos of me volunteering at TEDxSalford this year. I of course said yes, who wouldn’t want to write a blog (?!) but immediately invited my friend Tom on board.  Whilst I can take some credit (and the benefits) for volunteering on the day, Tom has been a part of the TEDxSalford team and blogging for them for over 2 years now. We have written this post together to explore our different experiences and highlights from the day.

Two years ago, we were delegates at TEDxSalford 2012 and found the whole thing so inspirational. We are both Psychology graduates and even though our research interests are pretty different, we both enjoy the TED events. Another similarity between us is that we volunteered for different organizations during our undergraduate Psychology studies. I volunteered and continue to volunteer at the Samaritan’s offering emotional support to people struggling to cope and training for new volunteers. Tom volunteered at the Manchester probation service and is now working for the organisation full time in a job he loves.

You might have heard of TED before, or watched hours of these amazing lectures online. The pretense is to give an 18 minute talk with the aim to inspire. TEDxSalford is a locally organized event bringing people together in Salford to share their work and ideas. Mishal Saeed is the Curator and Licensee for TEDxSalford and also a previous President of the University of Salford Student Union. TEDxSalford is now the largest independent TEDx organization in the UK.


What was our best part of TEDxSalford this year?

Nikki – A noble peace prize-winner, a teenage nuclear scientist and a psychoanalyst walk into the Lowry…I know this sounds like the start to a very strange joke but this is the reason why I loved volunteering for TEDxSalford so much. The event brings together so many different people from different backgrounds. Being part of the team meant I met many of the speakers, which really highlighted how they are just ordinary people doing extraordinary things – their stories show the goodness in the world!

I can’t pick one talk that I enjoyed the most, but my 3 favourite were:

  1. Tawakkol Karmen, the Noble Peace Prize winner for her peaceful protests and non-violent attempts towards peace building and women’s rights in Yemen. Listening to her talk and hearing (and being part of) the longest standing ovation on TEDxSalford record gave me goose pimples. She is an inspiration human being. Fact.
  2. I heard, from the side of stage, Sophia Wallace speaking about her artwork ‘Cliteracy’. Once I got over the repeated taboo word ‘clit’, a word that, according to Sophia, has become needlessly taboo I listened to the message. Whilst male sexuality is often discussed and widely acknowledged, female sexuality is often limited to menstruation and reproduction. We need to rethink women’s sexuality, particularly in sex education. Vagina literally means sword holder and Sophia’s artwork tries to ask questions about this ingrained inequality in our society.
  3. Lucy Hawking was also a highlight, she tries to break down the barriers of communication and science using children’s stories to engage and identify with children living lives not represented in ‘standard’ family dynamics. Although I only managed to catch the end of her talk, it was definitely in my top 3 of the day!


Robin Ince Tom

Robin Ince- Comedian, Actor & Writer with Tom

Tom- I am a big fan of Robin Ince. Both Nikki and I have been to see him twice at the Lowry theatre over the years and we both listen to his BBC Radio 4 show with Professor Brian Cox “The Infinite Monkey Cage”. I mithered, badgered and queried until I was allocated as Ince’s speaker liaison for the day. I was responsible for making his TEDxSalford experience as comfortable and as easy as possible. It was great to converse with him on a wide variety of subjects. Even more amazing was that Ince needed to get to Piccadilly station quickly after his talk and the best scenario was for me to take him in my car. Imagine having your hero in the front seat of your car! As amazing as the experience was, it was also one of dread as I didn’t really know how to get to the station! I had to “be cool”, as if this was a normal experience. I had to actively listen to what Ince was saying and respond accordingly, read the road signs, try not to crash and get to the destination in one piece. Needless to say, we did get there, on time and in one piece. Who says men can’t multitask?


What was our take away from the experience?

Nikki- Working on the ticketing team throughout the day, we saw pretty much everyone attending the event. The mix of attendees astounded me with parents, children, students, and all the people in between. TED brings together a range of people and I believe that is the beauty of the event. My main takeaway of the day was how spreading ideas about science in different ways is particularly important (children, art & individual stories). I believe in the power of interdisciplinary collaborations in science and this is where some of the best work happens. Jack Sim a.k.a. ‘Mr. Toilet’ in his 18 min slot reflected on his rationale for trying to make a difference by highlighting the importance of proper sanitation in a society. Jack Sim worked out on average how many days he had to live and wanted to do something useful with the rest of his days. Following this, I found myself working out my average days left in my life. In the UK life expectancy for women is 82.3 years and 78.2 years for men- on this logic I have 20,160 days left to live and the day made me determined to fill them with meeting my own goals and strive to help others.

Tom- Besides taking away the memories of meeting interesting people such as Lucy Hawking, Jack Sim and Robin Ince, one of the positive impacts of being involved with TEDxSalford is the skills that the opportunity develops. Throughout my two year experience as a volunteer, I have developed many skills and experiences such as: writing articles, editing, writing code, marketing, event management, and communicating with high profile individuals to name a few. The above skills and experiences are things that I probably wouldn’t be able to develop in a normal full-time role, perhaps because TEDx isn’t a normal voluntary opportunity. But it is one I would actively encourage someone to get involved with.


Everybody has his/her own TED talk- what would you say?

Nikki- I don’t think anyone has seen or been to a TED event and not considered what they would say in 18 minutes to inspire. My research based in empirical aesthetics has ties with many areas of psychology including perception, cognition and environmental psychology. Whilst investigating the power of art and beauty was once a main domain of psychologists but has fallen out of favour partly because of the associated experimental difficulty. I believe the Arts and Science should be reunited to engage and inspire others and change the stuffy perception of science into the more accessible field of Art. I am particularly interested in using art as science communication to make research accessible to everyone.

Tom-Of course, if something disastrous happened within TEDxSalford and as a matter of last resort the curators said to me “Tom, you’re going to have to talk for 10 minutes, we’re desperate!”. There is a lot I could probably talk about, although, I am very passionate about education and the concept of intelligence. As a psychology student at university, I became interested and passionate about the concept of intelligence, especially in relation to how creativity plays a role. Personally, I believe that creativity is equally important to the role of intelligence as academic abilities like mathematics. Without creativity, our knowledge is useless as we would not know how to use it constructively or think in abstract ways. Behind every great human achievement whether it is the wheel, pyramids, medicine or technology, creativity worked hand in hand with classical characteristics associated with intelligence. At university, I was attracted to reading around Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences and believe that creativity has a seat at the table of intelligence. This interest also helped shape my first ever article for TEDxSalford which can be found here.


nikki volunteerInspired to become a TEDxSalford volunteer?

Driving home pumped and full of inspiration, we can’t highlight enough the enjoyment of our day volunteering at TEDxSalford.  It really was a festival of the mind and trying to turn off that inspiration to get to sleep was a challenge. Volunteering at TEDxSalford certainly fits the brief and spirit of the event “ideas worth spreading”.

If you think volunteering at TEDxSalford is something you might be interested in, keep an eye on the website or follow on twitter (@TEDxSalford) for updates. If you are thinking about volunteering in any area we would urge you to go for it! The benefits and experiences gained in volunteering such as meeting people you would never encounter, building your confidence and career prospects in the future can’t be underestimated!

Our twitter names…







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Ivett Interviews: Marina Andrielli

By Nov.10, 2014

Ivett interviewed Marina Andrielli this week! Marina is an intern at the University of Salford and she came all the way from Italy to work on one of  Dr Sharon Coen’s projects with her. She obtained her Master Degree in Business Psychology at the University of “La Sapienza” in Rome.

1. How did you get into Psychology?

I read Freud when I was 12 years old. By studying it, I realized that this is my area of interest.

2. Who is your favourite Psychologist and why?

During my University Study I came across many psychologists who I either loved or not. But I met one Psychologist during my studies and I really loved him. He is Prof. Francesco Avallone He was in charge of Work Psychology, Organizational Development, Organizational Culture, Organizational Effectiveness, Human Resource Development, Employee Training, and Employee Wellness. He has published many books about Business Psychology and in each of them, as in every lesson; there was a lesson in life. A practical and pragmatic connection between his subject and what in the world and of the world, we students would have to learn. Vice Rector, then Rector in “La Sapienza” Unibersity of Rome, in an opening speech of the year he said: “(…) My students are very diligent … ordered … too much ordered … too diligent ..and this order and all this diligence is due in part to the difficulty of thinking about the future. We must not stop thinking about the future. Depending on the future that we imagine we can really change our action today. ”  You can see Prof Avallone’s  profile here.

3. What psychological concept/topic/issue are you most passionate about?

I am very interested in Subliminal Persuasion in the media. Specifically, I conducted a literature search for my Master Thesis about subliminal audio messages. I believe there is more research to be done in this area. It is a very stimulating topic!

4. What makes Psychology Department at Salford unique?

I still do not know the Salford of University well but I can say I got used to a more formal university system in Italy.  Surely I can say I got used to a more formal university system in Italy. Enhancement of sharing areas through specific structures,  colours, passions and ideas … this is that comes to my mind when I think of the University of Salford.

5. If you could work anywhere, which University would you pick and why?

I would not change my university education.  I think I would choose to enrol in “La Sapienza” and redo the path ( winding) that brought me here to make this experience.

6. What was the most fascinating research/project you were involved in/conducted?

The research on subliminal audio messages to which I referred in point 3. I would liked to explore this topic further in the future.

7. What are you working on at the moment?

I am Intern in the School of Health Sciences at the University of Salford. I am following one of  Dr. Sharon Coen’s project: Member of Communication, Cultural & Media Studies Research Centre. It is a work in Progress!

8. If you could choose another Profession, what would it be?

I would choose to be a musician.

9. Do you have a favourite quote?

“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” T.S.Elliot

10. Facebook or Twitter?

Facebook. But I’m throwing on Twitter !

11. Which book is a must have for Psychology students?

I believe that there is one for each area of interest.

12. What advice would you give to SalfordPsych students?

Studying psychology can be a double edged sword. Maybe I advise them not to fall into the traps of the mind! No, It’s a joke……I don’t feel able to give advice to SalfordPsych students. I hope that they take as much as they can from their experience, because it is unique and unrepeatable.  

13. What do you hope for Psychology in the future?

More and more Research!

You can contact Marina via email: aram.andrielli@gmail.com

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“Thoughts on Psychology at Salford’s new seminar series “Applying Psychology in the 21st Century”

By Nov.04, 2014

It is rare these days that we get something for nothing. As level 4 students will know from John Allbutt’s recent Lecture on Affiliation, attraction and love, some people are motivated on a cost/reward basis. Well, what costs nothing, and then rewards you with an insightful view of applying psychology? The first in our ‘Free Seminar Series on Applying Psychology in the 21st century’ that is what.

The series kicked off with Sam Grogan (Researcher and Dean of students), offering a penetrating view of ‘absorption’ for the performer resulting in the potential of them encountering ‘optimal experience’. Some Level 4 students were quoted as being ‘mind blown’ and others ‘mindful’. The general feedback was that the experience was a great insight into what we may expect to see in the future of contemporary Psychology. The presentation engaged the viewer, and kept your attention causing participation and development in your own ideas and opinions.

Theories that explained how performers become lost in the performance they are giving, are no longer just the performer but merged with the objects they are encountering which in turn offers the possibility of ‘optimal experience” for the performer, how this can be effected by repetition, causing the performer to loosen their ‘grip’ and how these methodologies can be considered in other fields were just some of what was covered. These theories were reinforced by memorable narrative quotes from such books as ‘winnie the pooh’; this may sound odd, but during the presentation made perfect sense.

The session ended with an invitation to take part in a practical focus session allowing the audience to become ’absorbed’ through techniques used within Grogan’s own practical work. By focussing on only music and allowing the subconscious to take the lead on our physical movement creating movement in its own way: dance.

I would definitely recommend, if you haven’t already, that you see for yourself. You may not follow the narrative 100% but you will understand the general theme of what it being presented and this can only lead to an increase our knowledge and help us become more independent in our thoughts and ideas in psychology. It is not going to cost anything other than your time for what could be an invaluable session. I have registered for the next one, have you?

Heres how;


Also, If you would like to take a look at the presentation by Sam Grogan you can do so here;




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Ivett Interviews: Mike Lomas

By Nov.03, 2014



Ivett interviewed Mike Lomas this week.  

Mike is a  Phd Student and a Part-Time Lecturer here at Salford University. 


1. How did you get into Psychology?

I actually discovered the subject by accident. I was originally studying to become a physiotherapist, but my modules in human anatomy and physiology were not sufficient to get me onto my desired degree. My tutor then advised I study psychology alongside them and it was here that I fell in love with it. I began to develop a more comprehensive understanding of ‘health’ beyond physical wellbeing, and how psychology can be of huge benefit to people’s lives.

2. Who is your favourite Psychologist and why?

That is a very good question! I guess I have never really thought about choosing a favourite. A name that springs to mind is Philip Zimbardo. Obviously his work is ground-breaking and he is very well known, but I am a huge admirer of his passion and enthusiasm. His recent work with the Heroic Imagination Project has great potential to be a real force for good. You can read more about Philip Zimbardo’s work on Heroic Imagination here.

3. What psychological concept/topic/issue are you most passionate about?

My main interest is mental health and the promotion of well-being. Broadly speaking, I look to use psychology to have a positive impact of

people’s lives. The beauty of this issue is that it can be applied in almost any context, be it healthcare, education, employment, or just about any human environment.

4. What makes Psychology Department at Salford unique?

I would have to say the applied nature of the work conducted by the staff. The department consists of experts covering broad range of topics, not only theoretically, but also working in the field. This means that they are actively putting their knowledge in the practice to benefit people’s lives and also using this experience to further inform their teaching.

5. If you could work anywhere, which University would you pick and why?

This sounds like a cop out, but Salford. I was born and raised here, so I have a strong attachment with the area and it certainly forms part of my identity. If I were forced to study elsewhere then I would probably choose the University of Copenhagen. I have for a long time been fascinated by Scandinavian culture and this is the oldest and largest university in Denmark. They also have a highly regarded psychology department! We frequently see nations in this region scoring highly in terms of quality of life and I believe that from a psychological perspective there is a lot to be learned from the Scandinavian model, which could be used to inform practice here in the UK.

6. What was the most fascinating research/project you were involved in/conducted?

I couldn’t really single out a single project, but I have recently been working as a research associate at the Sustainable Housing and Urban Studies Unit (SHUSU), here at the University of Salford . They do a lot of work with marginalised and invisible groups such as gypsy and travelling communities, the homeless, and asylum seekers. Whenever you see such individuals discussed it’s usually from an outsider’s perspective and I’ve found that working with them provides a real insight into their lives and experiences. Find more information about Sustainable Housing and Urban Studies Unit here.

7. What are you working on at the moment?

I recently began working towards my PhD here at Salford. It’s a multidisciplinary project covering such areas as environmental and social psychology, urban studies, human geography and mental health. Specifically I am looking at urban regeneration and how this may impact on identity. Many of the ways in which we define ourselves are embedded in physical structure and I’m investigating whether changes to an environment can impact on self-concept. Also, as with much of my work, I will be exploring the impact of such projects on mental health and wellbeing.

8. If you could choose another Profession, what would it be?

Definitely investigative journalism. George Orwell once said that; “Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.” So, yes. I guess I would enjoy being a professional trouble-maker. I’d also like to think I’d still consider things from a psychological perspective.

9. Do you have a favourite quote?

I don’t have a favourite, but one that I recently stumbled across is:

“If the human brain were simple enough for us to understand, we would be too simple to understand it.”

I feel it nicely highlights the paradox that is human psychology. It’s also a good, go to quote if a question from a particularly insightful student has you stumped!

10. Facebook or Twitter?

Twitter, absolutely. I find people are often cynical about social media use, but I believe it is down to how you choose to interact with it. Scratch the surface and you have an excellent source of information, resources, discussion, and debate. I certainly wish I had discovered it earlier into my academic career.

 11. Which book is a must have for Psychology students?

I couldn’t really recommend a particular book, but rather any research methods book than you feel is helpful to you. I find this area, particularly stats, is one that can cause a great deal of anxiety for students. A good research methods book that you find easy to understand can prove a real life-saver.

12. What advice would you give to SalfordPsych students?

Think ahead. Graduation may seem a long way off, but once you’re into your studies, three years will fly by. Ideally you want a plan of what’s next, so you can hit the ground running on graduation.

13. What do you hope for Psychology in the future?

I know it isn’t much to ask, but I want it to help save the world. Climate change, war, famine; these are all human-based problems with human-based solutions, which I’d very much like to see solved.


If you would like to know more about Mike, please find his blog here.  You can also find Mike on Twitter @MikeLomas_ .


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Thinking like an educator! Educational Psychology in the final year of undergraduate studies

By Oct.24, 2014

For the Educational Psychology module in the final year of our undergraduate programmes, students are required to think like an educator and produce a seminar proposal for teachers on a selected topic from the field of Educational Psychology. Last year we decided to showcase students’ work for the module (see here). The post was very popular so we’ve decided to do it again.


Carmen-Florentina Ionita

Carmen-Florentina Ionita, BSc (Hons) Psychology graduate (and winner of  Best Psychology Student 2014), developed a seminar proposal for teachers on the socio-emotional development of gifted and talented children. Carmen is now studying her MSc in Neuroimaging for Clinical and Cognitive Neurosciences at the University of Manchester and kindly agreed for her Educational Psychology work to be showcased on our blog (see below).

Educational Psychology can be “…loosely defined here as the application of psychological theories, research and techniques to the educational development of young people in the context of the home, school and community” Holliman (2013, p. xxii).  More broadly, educational psychology also considers how people of all ages learn, how teaching and learning practice can be improved, whether different people should be taught differently, and how learning can transform the person and impact upon their lives.  The Educational Psychology module assignment focuses on the application of theory to teaching practice.

Happy reading!

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Ivett Interviews: Dr Catherine Thompson

By Oct.20, 2014

This week Ivett interviewed Dr Catherine Thompson,  Lecturer in Psychology. Catherine is the  module leader for the Cognitive modules on the undergraduate Psychology programmes. Catherine’s research focuses on visual cognition and her main areas of interest include how observers allocate their attention effectively and what factors influence selection; limits in the control of attention and the impact of a preceding task on the allocation of attention; and the influence of environmental factors on cognitive performance.



  1. How did you get into Psychology?

I kind of just fell into Psychology. It wasn’t something I planned – more the fact that there were very few a-level choices available in my sixth form and Psychology appealed to me. It worked out well though!


  1. Who is your favourite Psychologist and why?

I’m not sure I have a favourite Psychologist. I’ve read the work of so many fantastic researchers and I’ve met some really great people from the field that I don’t think I could pick one in particular. Having said that, I really admire the work completed by Alan Baddeley and Graham Hitch on working memory. It is such an important concept that relates to so many aspects of human behaviour. The working memory model has been very influential in identifying how and why people differ in cognitive ability, and the work in this area has led to improvements in functioning for a number of populations and in a variety of settings. I am also very much in awe of Daniel Kahneman. A Nobel Prize winner (in economic sciences, despite being a Psychologist), his research and the way in which he communicates this work have made a huge impact on our understanding and recognition of thought processes.


  1. What psychological concept/topic/issue are you most passionate about?

I am most interested in Cognition, and within Cognition my preferred topic is visual attention. I find it so interesting that we don’t process the external environment in the way that we think we do, and what we attend to is influenced by our previous experiences. It really does show that every person has a unique and individual view of the world.


  1. What makes the Psychology Department at Salford unique?

I think our department is unique in two ways. The first is the staff – we always go that extra mile to support our students. The second is our students (obviously!). We have a really diverse mix of students and they each bring something special to the department.


  1. If you could work anywhere, which University would you pick and why?

I really enjoy my job so I think I would be happy working in any Psychology department. My answer would therefore be based on where I would most like to live – either Manchester (I love living in Manchester, so any uni in this area would suit me) or Edinburgh (I really like the city of Edinburgh and my Mum was born there so it feels very special).


  1. What was the most fascinating research/project you were involved in/conducted?

From my own perspective the most fascinating project I was involved in was the work I conducted for my PhD. The work was very theoretical and although I’m in favour of applying research to the real world it was a real privilege to investigate something purely for the purpose of expanding knowledge within a specific area – who knows where that sort of thing could lead! I wouldn’t expect many people to be fascinated by the topic though (!) so another very interesting project I was involved in was the ‘Thrill Laboratory’ which investigated different aspects of thrill-seeking behaviour. We were based at Alton Towers for two days taking all sorts of behavioural and physiological recordings from people as they went on a roller coaster – completely different to the sort of work I am usually involved in.


  1. What are you working on at the moment?

I am currently working with my lovely intern from Italy (Alessia Pasquini) and we are just about to run an experiment investigating how the demands of one task can affect attention and performance in a second task. This is an effect I’ve termed “carry-over” and it reveals the importance of attentional control in everyday tasks. As soon as the task demands change we should update our attentional settings, but findings show that we don’t always do this, which results in attention and resources being directed towards irrelevant information. I am also in the process of writing up a previous experiment in this area to submit for publication so my mind is fully focused on carry-over at the moment! I have other data that is waiting to be written up and submitted (some work on the influence of emotion on attention and another study that one of my dissertation students completed looking at how mind wandering – or daydreaming – narrows our spread of attention). I am also focusing on teaching at the moment because most of my modules run this semester and I’m trying to get to know the new Psychology and Criminology students and my new personal tutees. It’s a busy time, but it is challenging and fun.


  1. If you could choose another Profession, what would it be?

I have absolutely no clue! I don’t really spend time thinking about alternative options, and “what ifs”, I prefer to focus on the present. If I didn’t enjoy my job I might think about other options but so far I’ve been very happy in my chosen profession.


  1. Do you have a favourite quote?

“Those who give too much attention to trifling things become generally incapable of great things” (La Rochefoucauld)

10.  Facebook or Twitter?

Anyone who knows me will be aware that I’m pretty ‘anti’ social media so my answer would be “neither”. I do have a Twitter account though so I guess if I had to choose it would be Twitter. I definitely don’t do Facebook!


11.   Which book is a must have for Psychology students?

We give students recommended textbooks on each module so I don’t want to repeat texts that have already been suggested. Instead I would recommend some ‘lighter’ reading for those spare moments, and I’ll suggest two. The first is “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat” by Oliver Sachs, which covers a whole range of case studies of patients suffering from neurological disorders. The second is “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman; not an easy book to read but it provides so much information about the process of thinking and reasoning. It will give you a whole new perspective on Psychology and the importance of studying the mind.


12.  What advice would you give to SalfordPsych students?

Can I give two pieces of advice? 1. Read journal articles (please!). 2. Keep an open mind – just because you may be more interested in one specific topic area in Psychology it doesn’t mean that other areas are less valuable. Every area within Psychology has a role in our understanding of behaviour and human performance.


13.  What do you hope for Psychology in the future?

I hope it continues to thrive and I really hope that as Psychologists we can continue to develop theories and apply these theories to real-world settings – I see both as integral to the field and equally important. Also, I hope that Psychology continues to interest me for many years because as you can see above I don’t really know what else I would be doing!


If you would like to know more about Catherine Thompson, please check her Profile out on the Hub.

You can also find Adam on Twitter @catthompson1



Mind Bending Books: Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Mind Bending Books
“It is what you read when you don’t have to
that determines what you will be when you can’t help it”
Oscar Wilde
Welcome to a new series about those books that change the way we think for ever, those books you try to persuade your friends to read, and whose ideas come back to you in the night when you can’t sleep. Here at SalfordPsych we are offering you a captive audience of like-minded students and staff with whom to share your treasures…
Zen book
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values by Robert M Pirsig (1974)
ISBN 0-688-00230-7 (418pp)
Zen’ is a modern classic. It is the fictional (but highly autobiographical) account of a father and son’s road trip across the USA in the 1960s. The manuscript was rejected by a record breaking 121 publishers before going on to sell over 5m copies worldwide.
This book will not teach you Zen Buddhist practice, or how to keep your motorbike on the road. It is actually a philosophical riff on Pirsig’s Metaphysics of Quality. This includes discussion of epistemology and the philosophy of science and logic. The title refers to an extended metaphor relating mechanical understanding to rational analysis and a Classical outlook on life (as opposed to a Romantic, gestalt one). The journey is towards reconciliation of the dichotomy between the two ‘ways of being’.
‘Quality’ is a Big Idea. So big, that the narrator’s pursuit of it drove him insane. Interspersed with hard-core rational philosophy is a challenging , personal and highly intelligent account of the experience and treatment of mania, disassociation, ECT, and of societal responses to mental illness. The book also tackles the worst fear of many a sufferer –  the horrific suspicion that you have passed your condition on to your children.
This book changed the way I think about Quality, and about the fine line between genius and madness. When Big Ideas challenge established authority, the exponent can be marginalised. Plato, Darwin, Freud and Pirsig battled on with perseverance and resilience to pass their Big Ideas on to us so that we might use them to have Big Ideas of our own.
Although more philosophy than psychology, this book will be of interest to anyone interested in the ingredients of ‘peace of mind’, in the philosophy of science, or in experiences of mental illness.
Ease of Reading: 2 (where 5 is pool-side, and 1 is alone in silence)
Health Warning: take regular fresh air breaks; don’t read it all in one go! Depressing but worth it.
Review by Sophie (@gluepotgluepot) Level 4 Psych & Counselling
Which book changed your thinking?
To submit a review, please email it to s.lavin@edu.salford.ac.uk and keep it within these guidelines:
  • 350 words or fewer
  • Include title, author, ISBN
  • Include how/why it changed your life and why you think SalfordPsych readers will like it
  • Rate it on the ease of reading scale (where 5 is light and fluffy for reading on the beach or by the pool, and 1 is difficult and gives you a headache)
  • Include your name, course and level of study.
Have you read this book? Tell us what you thought of it in the Comments section below…
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Ivett Interviews: Ansah Yakub (BSc Psychology Graduate)

By Oct.13, 2014

Ivett Interviewed Ansah Yakub (BSc Psychology Graduate) this week.  Anash has graduated this year and she is getting some fantastic interviews in the first stages of trying to get on in the graduate job market.

1.   How did you get into Psychology?

I actually started off by doing psychology as an A level as it was a subject that I had always taken an interest in. However, I soon realised that this only skimmed the surface and I wanted to know about the subject more in depth. Therefore, I decided to take it further by studying the subject at university.

2.    Who is your favourite Psychologist and why?

Henri Tajfel (1979) – The Social Identity Theory. I think this theory is still very relevant and current regarding issues in the media which can be applied to identity and in-groups and out-groups.

3.   What psychological concept/topic/issue are you most passionate about?

Media representation as it a topic that I can relate to in regards to my ethnicity/religion.

4.   What makes Psychology Department at Salford unique?

The University of Salford has a lot of useful resources specifically for the psychology students, for example, the labs, computers with the SPSS program and many useful psychology books. Also, many of the lecturers are always on hand to help with any specific issues that you may have throughout your years and are always willing to go the extra mile.

5.   If you could work anywhere, where would you pick and why?

London! There are always more opportunities down south regarding psychology. Also, the environment is very fast paced so it would be interesting to see how the work differs.

6.   What was the most fascinating research/project you were involved in/conducted?

My dissertation – as it was my own project, I had the opportunity to research anything that I took a particular interest in. This project takes up a lot of time in your final year so it is essential that you enjoy the topic that you are researching.

7.   What are you doing at the moment?

I am currently trying to find a job or even some voluntary work to get a bit of experience behind me. I have been attending job fairs and recruitment days to see what is out there and how I can utilise my skills that I have gained through university to mould to specific job roles.

8.   If you could choose another Profession, what would it be?

Physiotherapist, but I have never been good at science! So health sciences it was.

9.   Do you have a favourite quote?

“It is literature which for me opened the mysterious and decisive doors of imagination and understanding. To see the way others see. To think the way others think. And, above all, to feel.” – Salman Rushdie

10.   Facebook or Twitter?


11.   Which book is a must have for Psychology students?

Research Methods and Statistics in Psychology – Hugh Coolican

12.   What advice would you give to SalfordPsych students?

There is always room to improve, use the resources around you to help you improve your skills whether it may be written or verbal. It is important to read the feedback that the lecturers give to you on assignments or presentations as this could help you essentially get better marks. As well as talking to lecturers, talk to other students as you can always help each other out!

13.   What do you hope for Psychology in the future?

Psychology is regularly undermined but I think people need to realise that this subject provides a wide variety of options and it all depends on how people use their degree. I would love for people to see how psychology can open so many doors and how much you can gain from such a degree.

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Ivett Interviews: Dr Adam Galpin

By Oct.06, 2014

This week Ivett Interviewed Dr Adam Galpin, Senior Lecturer in Psychology.  Adam is the programme leader for the UK’s first MSc in Media Psychology taught at Salford’s new campus at MediaCity UK. Adam teaches modules on media psychology and technology use at postgraduate level, and contributes to undergraduate modules in cognitive psychology and individual differences.

1. How did you get into Psychology?

I’ve studied Psychology since I took the A-Level back in 1993, and I can’t really remember what the main motivation was then, but there were quite a few Psychologists depicted in fiction on TV and film at the time. I’m thinking of Cracker, and of Psychological thrillers like Basic Instinct (Sharon Stone had studied Psychology as I recall!). I think these were something of an influence. Like lots of people, at this stage I didn’t really have a good understanding of what Psychology was, and thought it was all about reading minds!

2. Who is your favourite Psychologist and why?

This is really tricky. I’m tempted to say William James because he observed a considerable amount of what we now know in Cognitive Psychology back in the 19th Century without access to modern experimental technology. I’m also impressed by thinkers who can see passed the dominant paradigms of the time. For instance, Maslow and Rogers departed from the deterministic perspectives of Psychoanalysis and Behaviourism to paint a more positive picture of human motivation. Of living Psychologists, Bandura has written one of the most influential articles that I’ve read recently (Bandura, A. (2001). Social cognitive theory of mass communication. Media Psychology, 3, 265-298).

3. What psychological concept/topic/issue are you most passionate about?

Cognitive and emotional engagement with media and technology, or how we pay attention to and become absorbed in experiences and narratives. This really fascinates me because such experiences are very powerful in both positive and threatening ways. Creators of media technology are increasingly interested in understanding audience responses so they can design appealing experiences. This area is diverse and includes narrative transportation, wearable technology, prosthetics, VR, user experience; but underlying all of these topics are cognition and emotion.

4. What makes Psychology Department at Salford unique?

Media Psychology! We run the UK’s first and only MSc in Media Psychology, so that makes us pretty unique. I’ve worked at other larger Psychology departments and I definitely think we have a much more applied emphasis here at Salford, which is reflected in our research projects and in the courses we offer.


5. If you could work anywhere, which University would you pick and why?

I couldn’t do what I do here anywhere else, so I wouldn’t move to anywhere else in the UK. But perhaps I could be tempted away to somewhere completely different to experience different cultures and ways of thinking.

6. What was the most fascinating research/project you were involved in/conducted?

I’ve been working in the area of upper-limb prosthetics with biomechanical engineers for the past 3 or 4 years. The project is really interesting and truly inter-disciplinary, so I would say this one.

7. What are you working on at the moment?

See above! But also, I have recently launched a consultancy with my colleague Jenna Condie called ‘Media Psychology Services’ providing psychological insight into media use for industry. We’ve had some really good projects so far…

8. If you could choose another Profession, what would it be?

Easy – Zoologist. I’m really into spiders for some reason. Not sure what Freud would say about that.

9. Do you have a favourite quote?

No, actually!

10. Facebook or Twitter?

Facebook for social use, Twitter for professional use.

11. Which book is a must have for Psychology students?

As an introductory text I found Gleitman really useful.

12. What advice would you give to SalfordPsych students?

Get involved. There is so much going at Salford, from talks, to societies, social media, to volunteering for research studies, to employment and voluntary opportunities. Do everything you can.

13. What do you hope for Psychology in the future?

That we find a way to eye-track spiders.


If you would like to know more about Adam Galpin, please check his Profile out on the Hub.

You can also find Adam on Twitter 


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Salford psychology students create newspaper articles about the brain and behaviour

By Oct.02, 2014

Last year we published two “newspaper style” articles, assignments submitted for the Brain and Behaviour module, here on the Psychology blog. The assignment allows final year students the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to translate a complex set of ideas into a readily understandable form aimed at the non-specialist reader. Students are also encouraged to be creative in the presentation of their work. In 2013, the articles, by Joanne Pritchard (Foetal Alcohol Syndrome: the Ladette Legacy?) and Clayton Clough (Are We Biologically Predisposed To Believe In God) were well received and great fun to read. This year, we have chosen to publish two more: Bankers Behaving Badly, by Robert Smith, investigates gender differences in the risk taking behaviours of the men and women who run our financial institutions, whilst The Jewels of Fatherhood, by Ethar Bashir, considers whether testicle size and testosterone affect male parenting behaviours. These two very different articles address interesting and important topics within psychology and we hope you enjoy reading them. Both articles are featured below…read all about it!


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Ivett Interviews : Clare Allely

By Sep.29, 2014

1. How did you get into Psychology?

I have always been interested in why people do things and disorders such as autism so psychology seemed the most appropriate degree to study!

2. Who is your favourite Psychologist and why?

One of my favourite psychologists is Professor John Read based at the University of Liverpool. Professor Read’s research shows that genes are not the main cause of schizophrenia and that drugs should not be the automatic treatment of choice. In fact, he shows that some two-thirds of individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia have suffered physical or sexual abuse which is, if not the major, then a major cause of the illness.

Here is a link to Professor Read’s research publications.

3. What psychological concept/topic/issue are you most passionate about?

I am most passionate about developmental psychology and forensic psychology and bringing these two specialist fields of research together. Currently there are enormous gaps in our understanding of the actual mechanisms underlying the development of a serial killer or mass murderer and this is what I am currently investigating.

4. What makes Psychology Department at Salford unique?

What definitely makes the Psychology Department at Salford unique is how is combines technology and media into psychology. The department really encourages the application of the theory to real-world settings.

5. If you could work anywhere, which University would you pick and why?

If I had to work in a place other than Salford University, I would have to say Harvard University. The field of Psychology first emerged at Harvard in the late 1800′s under the scholarship of William James, and ever since then Harvard has been at the forefront of the field. So many of the most prominent psychologists have worked in the psychology department at Harvard over the years including: B.F. Skinner, Gordon Allport, Jerome Bruner, George Miller and Henry Murray.

6. What was the most fascinating research/project you were involved in/conducted?

The most fascinating project I was involved in was one which investigated the neurodevelopmental and psychosocial risk factors in serial killers and mass murderers. The work was published in the Journal of Aggression and Violent Behavior and since its publication I was invited to become a member of a team of serial murder experts who participate in the Multidisciplinary Collaborative on Sexual Crime and Violence. One product of the collaboration is the Serial Killer Database Project, a catalogue of serial murderers who fit the FBI definition. It really is amazing where research can lead and the connections and collaborations which can result!

7. What are you working on at the moment?

I am currently working on a really interesting empirical project with colleagues from the Gillberg Neuropsychiatry Centre including Professor

David Cooke; Dr Sebastian Lundström; Dr Eva Billstedt and Professor Christopher Gillberg looking at the rate of psychopathy traits and neurodevelopmental disorders in an adult prison population and an adolescent population. The data is derived from Swedish data records.

I am also working on a number of book chapters in a variety of areas including one for the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Child Development which is looking at damage resulting from perinatal complications and childhood accidents. Another explores the neurobiology of single and multiple homicide and brain injury for The Wiley Handbook of Forensic Neuroscience.

8. If you could choose another Profession, what would it be?

It would probably be a Forensic Psychologist. I just completed my masters in forensic psychology earlier this year but realised I loved research and teaching too much!

9. Do you have a favourite quote?

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world” (Albert Einstein).

10. Facebook or Twitter?

Currently Facebook but I just got a Twitter account this summer so I suspect that might change.

11. Which book is a must have for Psychology students?

I would have to recommend three.

For the statistics part of the psychology programme, while other SPSS books are recommended, I have personally found ‘SPSS for

Psychologists’ written by Nicola Brace, Rosemary Snelgar and Richard Kemp to be particularly helpful and an absolute must have: http://www.amazon.co.uk/SPSS-Psychologists-Dr-Nicola-Brace/dp/0230362729

Another book I would recommend is ‘Phantoms in the Brain: Human Nature and the Architecture of the Mind’ by Professor Vilayanur Ramachandran. I read this myself while a first year student and found it fascinating! It is now available as an audio download: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Phantoms-Brain-Probing-Mysteries-Unabridged/dp/B00HD0JI2G/ref=la_B001IGHMGU_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1407145594&sr=1-3 ….or you can watch him online giving a TED talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/vilayanur_ramachandran_on_your_mind

A book I would recommend based on my own area of research is one called ‘The Autisms’ written by Mary Coleman and Christopher Gillberg. It explores autism from a number of different fields including neuropsychology; neuroanatomy and genetics.

12. What advice would you give to SalfordPsych students?

Don’t leave things to the last minute! Start well in advance. This allows you time to reflect on what you have read and written. Also don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for advice.

It is a good idea to build up work experience as soon as you can. In most cases you will have to gain experience on a voluntary basis before you can apply for a paid position. Consider what type of people you want to work with, whether it be with young offenders or individuals with depression and/or anxiety and contact relevant local organisations and charities. When I was an undergraduate student I was a volunteer for Headway which is an organisation for individuals with acquired brain injury. I found the experience invaluable.

13. What do you hope for Psychology in the future?

More psychology in the courtroom!

Professor Penny Cooper (Kingston Law School, Kingston University London) has invited me to collaborate with her as a ‘research expert’ for The Advocate’s Gateway (theadvocatesgateway.org) in order to raise awareness and understanding of autism spectrum disorders amongst legal practitioners. The field of developmental forensic psychology, in particular, is an area that really deserves more research attention and one of my main aims is to increase understanding of the importance of focusing on this area (primarily due to the importance of developing early identification and early preventative measures).


If you would like to know more about Clare Alley, please check her Profile out on the Hub. You can also find Clare on Twitter @ClareAllely .

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Psychology Summer Reading

By Aug.01, 2014

By Ashley Weinberg

I recently discovered that Charles Darwin dropped out of his first university course (in medicine) and found fame following his childhood hobby of collecting things and that the great painter Thomas Gainsborough didn’t enjoy school half as much as the countryside so forged his father’s signature so he could head off to paint instead.  Perhaps the message is that doing what we enjoy is important.

musicophiliaSo if reading about psychology, but not reading textbooks about psychology is what you had in mind this summer, then ‘Musicchimpophilia’ by Oliver Sacks is a fascinating insight into how music is processed by more places in our brains than language to produce astounding effects – including the capacity to bring back memories for those with dementia (see Nordoff-Robbins website for therapeutic examples).  For those who are enjoying this summer of sport – or if you are simply seeking motivation for your next challenge – then the psychiatrist Steve Peters’ ‘Chimp Paradox’ is heralded as a must-read.

However for those who are looking for a meaty book to test those little grey cells – or to carry around something which will look good – then ‘The War Inside’ by Michal Shapira examines how psychoanalysis in Britain after the Second World War has helped to shape our society.  Its historical approach brings together the concepts of rebuilding society after conflict with a positive contribution from psychology – themes likely to be uppermost in our minds in 2014.

Whatever you choose it’s important to read something you enjoy – have a great summer!

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Graduation 2014 – Celebrating the success of our final year students

By Jul.31, 2014

By Catherine Thompson

Twitter ejpetalGraduation is a very special time of year, when all the hard work finally pays off. As a student you get to breathe a sigh of relief, safe in the knowledge that you have completed your degree and never have to look at SPSS again (unless you want to of course!). Walking across the stage to collect your certificate is a defining moment and really does mark the point where your degree journey ends and a new chapter begins, and you can look to the future knowing that you have already achieved so much. As a family member or friend you get the chance to share in the celebrations of your loved one, and you get a sense of just how much effort they have put into their studies and how much it means to have completed a degree. And as a lecturer you get to see how far each student has progressed– from that first tentative meeting in a research methods seminar when the simple mention of the word “median” led to panicked looks, to a group of confident individuals who are relishing the next challenge.

Twitter salfordpsychThis year we had so much to celebrate – including the fact that the sun came out for graduation (although it sure is hot in a cap and gown!). The students graduating in July 2014 were the largest cohort to have studied Psychology, Psychology and Criminology, and Psychology and Counselling at the University of Salford. This year we delivered our widest ever offering of final year modules (logistically challenging but academically rewarding!). We also witnessed some outstanding achievements from our students, both in terms of assessed work (the quality and creativity of student work was commended by our external examiners) and the success of many students in extra-curricular activities (for example taking part in volunteering work, and completing the Salford Advantage Award). All students who have graduated this year have achieved a great deal, and a special mention must go to our prize winners:

  • British Psychological Society prize for Best Student – Rachel Gribbin (Psychology and Criminology)
  • Best Non-Commissioned Student in the School of Health Sciences – Rachel Gribbin (Psychology and Criminology)
  • Best Psychology Student – Carmen-Florentina Ionita
  • Best Psychology and Counselling Student – Zander Claassen
  • The Endeavour Award – Nikki-Ann Cohen (Psychology)

BSc (Hons) Psychology graduate Danielle Butler has also been shortlisted for the Jonathan Sime Award, an award for dissertation research focused on people-environment issues. Good luck Danielle!

On behalf of the Psychology team I would like to wish all our Graduates every success for the future. Your achievements are well deserved and you are a credit to the University of Salford.

Catherine Thompson
Programme Leader for Psychology and Criminology

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Why does Transition Matter? Studying Psychology in Higher Education

By Feb.10, 2014

By Jenna Condie

Whether you’ve just done your A levels, an Access course, or you’ve been out of formal education for a few years, studying psychology at undergraduate level involves adapting to new places, new people, new teachers and new situations.  The Higher Education Academy (HEA) is currently trying to identify ways to make university a less daunting, more enjoyable experience for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) undergraduates.

For that to happen, those teaching psychology across the different education systems need to get better at talking to one another. HE lecturers don’t necessarily know what is taught at GCSE, A Level, and on Access Courses, and in turn, what their new students expect of psychology.  Students come to undergraduate psychology from diverse educational backgrounds. Furthermore, there are a number of A Level exam boards (e.g. OCR, Pearson, AQA) with different syllabi.  Even if HE lecturers were familiar with all syllabi, 40% of psychology undergraduates haven’t studied psychology before (HEA, 2013). So how can you create first year modules that don’t confuse some students and bore others?

Similarly, how can school and college teachers prepare students for undergraduate psychology when universities have greater freedom over what to teach and how to assess students? How can they prepare students for the kinds of learning activities they will experience at university (e.g. carrying out a research project) when there is seemingly less and less opportunity to deviate from an overloaded curriculum?

Transition issues were the focus of a recent event ‘Tackling Transition in Psychology’ organised by the HEA at the University of Manchester.  Teachers from schools, colleges and universities, as well as current psychology undergraduates came together to discuss transition – what it is like, what are the differences and similarities between the two education systems, and what can we do about it? A key message was that although some things are beyond our control, we do have some power to make changes and have a positive impact.

In groups, we came up with a few ideas of how we can work together to help students with transitions to university study.  For example, after AS students have sat their exams, there is a 3-4 week opportunity of time to teach content and run events that might be beneficial for university study.  Our ideas were that research methods and statistics training could be co-delivered by FE and HE lecturers, we could host joint conferences where students present their work, and run ‘taster’ events for students to experience university lab facilities.  Other ideas centred on creating opportunities to participate in current research projects to give insight into undergraduate dissertation projects and what psychology looks like when it is applied.

One particular aspect of interest to me is the role that social media and digital technologies can play in adapting to university study – we could connect psychology students in schools, colleges and universities via social networking platforms, and create opportunities for school and college students to join online undergraduate psychology teaching sessions via Blackboard Collaborate.

Last year Psychology at Salford ran an Open Lecture Series where psychology students from local schools, colleges and sixth forms joined our undergraduates in their first year psychology lectures.  This was a real success and students found the experience really worthwhile.  The challenge becomes keeping these initiatives going and investing time in creating and maintaining meaningful partnerships between local psychology departments.

Although it seems that there is a long way to go to address issues of transition, student retention and success, we can act now. Attending the event and being a part of the solutions-focused conversation it created feels like a positive step forward to me.  The HEA will produce a report at the end of the year on transition issues based upon the findings of their transition workshop series.

If you have any ideas around how to support students with transitions to undergraduate psychology, please leave a comment below.

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Mindset and statistics anxiety: stick with it…

By Feb.07, 2014

By John Hudson

Do you ever feel that you’re just not a ‘statistics person’?  Well, you’re not alone because research suggests that the vast majority of students in psychology-based degrees feel exactly the same (Onwuegbuzie & Wilson, 2003).  Maybe there’s some comfort in that; I certainly remember feeling that way as an undergraduate, but just what is a ‘statistics person’ anyway?  Are some people born with a ’magical’ ability to comprehend statistics?  Now there are many things that are passed on via our genes, but if you can show me evidence that some newborns enter this world with an appreciation of skew and kurtosis, or a working knowledge of SPSS, I will give you my collection of S-Club-7 singles (*my lawyers have asked me to make it clear that this is a joke and that I will not, under any circumstances, be giving these away – but you knew that).  Sure, a decent level of cognitive ability will help when thinking is required – and some of this is indeed genetic – but, if you are accepted onto an undergraduate degree you really do have more than enough basic intelligence to handle everything that a stats/research methods course will throw at you.   However, that doesn’t mean it won’t feel confusing or intimidating sometimes, so maybe you still don’t believe there’s much you can do if you are not one of those ‘stats’ people.

Mindset matters

In fact, research from Carol Dweck suggests that this belief alone may be one of the main things holding us back.  Professor Dweck theorises that people tend to hold one of two contrasting mindsets regarding ‘the fixedness or malleability of personal characteristics’.  On the one hand, people with a ‘fixed’ mindset see personal characteristics such as intelligence, maths ability, or even shyness, as fixed traits, while people with a ‘growth’ mindset believe these can be developed through additional effort or strategy (there is a nice overview of ‘mindset’ herewhich goes into more detail).

I have to confess that before I became aware of Dweck’s theory, I think I probably had a fixed mindset; it wasn’t something I ever actually thought about, because we are often not consciously aware of these beliefs.  But they can still be highly influential; especially in the way we perceive and respond to learning situations.  There is now ample evidence to suggest that people with a growth mindset tend to show greater improvement in learning situations than those with a fixed mindset (e.g. Blackwell et al, 2007).  This makes sense, because even though learning new things can be very rewarding it can also be difficult at times – that is part of the process.  Because it can be so challenging we often need a lot of persistence to keep going, especially when things get harder or we feel like we’re not getting anywhere.  The theory suggests that with a fixed mindset – being more likely to view ability as something that cannot really be changed too much – there is less point in pushing yourself to improve because it feels like it’s not going to make that much difference.  In contrast, someone with a growth mindset has more incentive to keep trying and practicing, because – for them – there is some light at the end of the tunnel; they believe that their efforts can make a difference, even if things are getting difficult.  It is a little more complex than that, of course, but you get the idea.

Practice, and change your brain…

So far, all I’ve told you is that having a growth mindset seems to be helpful, while a fixed mindset is not.  Which means, now all you have to do is change your ‘mindset’ and away you go?  Well, yes – if you can.  But although beliefs can be highly tenacious, there is actually a lot of evidence indicating that many of those abilities commonly viewed as innate can indeed be developed, regardless of your mindset.  Long-term practice of a skill is associated with physical changes in your brain; in fact research has actually suggested that in some circumstance, detectable changes may begin to manifest themselves in as little as one week (May et al, 2007).  Nonetheless, the real benefits come from sustained effort, over a period of time, as demonstrated in relation to skills such as meditation (Hölzel et al, 2011), juggling (Driemeyer et al, 2008), and taxi-drivers’ ability to navigate London’s complex road network (Maguire et al, 2000), among many others.  In other words, these abilities are not fixed.  For example, I’m sure you’ve heard plenty of people saying that they’re not very ‘artistic’ – artistic ability might seem like one of those things some people are just born with, but I followed an inspirational thread on an online forum that shows what practice can do – this person committed to drawing and posting one picture a day and, over a period of years (that’s right, it didn’t happen overnight!), they went from relative beginner, to producing some amazing work (the original thread is here).

Sept 2002September 2002

January 2006January 2006

You could say the transformation is incredible – except it’s not really a ‘transformation’, it’s a progression.  That’s the whole point.  But I’m not really writing this for people who want an easy ride, I’m writing it for those who might feel that they just aren’t cut out for ‘stats’ (or anything else, for that matter); people who might feel that they could never learn a particular skill or ability.  But you really can. However, that example was about drawing and painting, which is not the same as stats, is it?  Well, as it happens…

Although improvements in artistic ability are much easier to see, the principle is the same.  Sigmundsson and colleagues’ (2013) study indicates that practice is also what really counts when it comes to maths-related skills, not so much what you were born with.  Meanwhile, Aydin et al (2007) showed a strong relationship between the length of time spent as a mathematician and specific brain-related changes (Aydin et al, 2007).  So, – as if I haven’t got you excited enough about this already – budding statisticians among you can look forward to “an increase in gray matter density in the right inferior parietal lobule” (Aydin et al, 2007).  Now if that is not something to get you rushing for your stats lecture notes, I don’t know what is.

Hack through the jungle: practice

A jungle

There you go – the more you practice, the stronger and more efficient these pathways in your brain become; but at first, it probably doesn’t feel like it!  If you’re learning something new, there probably aren’t too many of these paths/connections in the first place, which is why it might feel so hard; but these will develop as you study/practice. I always think of learning a new skill being similar to hacking a path through thick jungle; it can feel like a staggering amount of effort, yet all you’ve really done is make the tiniest of gaps in the ‘undergrowth’ – a path that is still a struggle to get through.  That can feel quite demotivating, but if you keep going, slowly your efforts will make the path wider, and easier to get navigate, until eventually – after a lot of work – you’ll have built a nice wide motorway that can take you from A to B in no time at all.  In other words, what previously took you a lot of effort, now feels fairly easy.  But remember, it doesn’t happen overnight – the frustration and confusion you might experience in learning are like the pain you might experience in the gym if you were trying to build up your strength or stamina: a necessary part of the process.

This is great news because it means that a decent understanding of maths and stats – or almost anything else – is with our grasp if we juststick with it and keep practicing.  That’s not to say that some of us might take longer than others, but we can do it.  However, there is a downside, because once we know this it means we can’t rely on the ‘I’m just not a maths/stats person’ excuse anymore!

So, although there isn’t a magic wand that can instantly transform your mindset (if you needed to), being aware of your own mindset, and your capacity to learn new skills, can be an important first step.


  • Aydin, K., Ucar, A., Oguz, K. K., Okur, O. O., Agayev, A., Unal, Z., … & Ozturk, C. (2007). Increased gray matter density in the parietal cortex of mathematicians: a voxel-based morphometry study.American Journal of Neuroradiology28(10), 1859-1864.
  • Blackwell, L.S., Trzesniewski, K.H., & Dweck, C.S. (2007). Implicit theories of intelligence predict achievement across an adolescent transition: A longitudinal study and an intervention. Child development, 78(1), 246-263.
  • Driemeyer J., Boyke J., Gaser C., Büchel C., May A. (2008).  Changes in Gray Matter Induced by Learning—Revisited. PLoS ONE, 3(7): e2669. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002669
  • Dweck, C.S. (2008). Can Personality Be Changed? The Role of Beliefs in Personality and Change. Current Directions in Psychological Science. 17(6), 391-394.
  • Hölzel, B.K., Carmody, J., Vangel, M., Congleton, C., Yerramsetti, S.M., Gard, T., & Lazar, S.W. (2011). Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging191(1), 36-43.
  • Maguire, E. A., Gadian, D. G., Johnsrude, I. S., Good, C. D., Ashburner, J., Frackowiak, R. S., & Frith, C. D. (2000). Navigation-related structural change in the hippocampi of taxi drivers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences97(8), 4398-4403.
  • May, A., Hajak, G., Gänssbauer, S., Steffens, T., Langguth, B., Kleinjung, T., & Eichhammer, P. (2007). Structural brain alterations following 5 days of intervention: dynamic aspects of neuroplasticity. Cerebral Cortex17(1), 205-210.
  • Onwuegbuzie, A. J., & Wilson, V. A. (2003). Statistics Anxiety: Nature, etiology, antecedents, effects, and treatments–a comprehensive review of the literature. Teaching in Higher Education8(2), 195-209.
  • Sigmundsson, H., Polman, R. C. J. & Lorås, H. (2013). Exploring individual differences in children’s mathematical skills: a correlational and dimensional approach. Psychological Reports. 113, 23-30.

This post was originally published on John’s blog.  If you would like to speak to John about this post, he can be contacted on j.h.hudson@edu.salford.ac.uk or via Twitter: @brucie_rooster.

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Psychology FM – challenging disability and embracing the community

By Feb.06, 2014

One of our psychology lecturers, Michael Richards, was awarded a public engagement grant from the British Psychological Society in 2013. In collaboration with All FM radio station and Manchester Metropolitan University, Michael will use this grant to produce 8 radio shows that embrace different psychologies including forensic, health and clinical psychology. Michael will collaborate with a group of men labelled with learning difficulties from Manchester, to help connect the community with psychology. The shows will bring psychology to a wider audience in an accessible and fun way. The shows will contain music, interviews and discussions about the main issues, positives and negatives that accompany the range of psychologies we learn on BPS courses. Below are the dates of the shows, which will take place every two weeks at 2pm and will be broadcast on All FM.

29.01.14 – 2pm – Show 1 – What is Psychology?

12.02.14 – 2pm – Show 2 – Neuropsychology

26.02.14 – 2pm – Show 3 – Clinical Psychology and Counselling Psychology

12.03.14 – 2pm – Show 4 – Health Psychology and Sport/Exercise Psychology

26.03.14 – 2pm – Show 5 – Forensic Psychology

09.04.14 – 2pm – Show 6 – Developmental Psychology

23.04.14 – 2pm – Show 7 – Community and Critical Psychology

07.05.14 – 2pm – Show 8 – The way forward for psychology – the Big Society and learning difficulties

You can contact Michael if you want to know more on M.Richards2@salford.ac.uk or via Twitter @mikepsychology or if have any ideas or views that might contribute towards the shows.


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Comment – The Many Labs Project and the importance of replication in Social Psychology

By Dec.21, 2013


The current issue of the BPS’s Psychologist magazine features an article on the Many Labs project (in press manuscript can be found here  https://openscienceframework.org/project/WX7Ck/files/ManyLabsManuscript.pdf/).

As Honorary Secretary of the Social Psychology Section of the BPS, I have been asked to provide a comment on this initiative.

Below is a more elaborate version of my comments.

There are at least two ways to assess the strength and solidity of an effect: one is performing a meta-analysis (i.e. statistically combine the results of a series of studies which included the effect of interest), the second experimentally reproducing the study and see if the same effect appears in the new sample. The present study attempted a large scale replication of some very popular effects in social psychology.
Replication is at the basis of scientific progress: the fact that we find a certain effect in a certain study does not mean the effect is present in general, it could be an oddity of the sample or it could be linked to the specific conditions in which the study was run.

Over a meta-analytical work, the project reported has the advantage of guaranteeing that standardised procedures were adopted in each replica-experiment, though it meant that at times the design had to be necessarily over-simplified. It also has the advantage of getting around the ‘file drawer effect’, that is, the fact that most studies who fail to replicate an effect do not get published, and are therefore difficult to retrieve for meta-analytic purposes.

This ambitious project shows the importance of having a scientific community which engages in collaborative research and joins forces and resources in the common pursue of knowledge. Not only, but the transparency with which the data, their origin and their analysis are shared with the public are commendable and should set the standard for future work.
Indeed, no study is perfect, and also this project has margins of improvement, but it provides some solid ground to build upon.

Some possible areas of improvement are:

- Over-simplification: the effects which are successfully replicated are very basic

- Context in/dependence: the two studies which failed to replicate might be more linked to contextual factors (e.g. the lack of support for the flag-effect could be due to the ‘Obama effect’ in US and to the fact that the political discourse in general has changed it focus since the time in which the experiment was run; as for the currency, the recent economic downturn might have negatively impacted the link between money and system justification). This does not mean that the effect does not exist: it could exist under certain circumstances.

- Westernisation: of the 36 samples, only three were non-western (Turkey, Malaysia and Brazil) and three from Eastern Europe (Two in the Czech Republic and one in Poland), thus there are still issues to be addressed re: applicability of findings outside western world

- For the study including the IAT:  being based on a contrast score we cannot tell whether the difference observed is due to a worse evaluation of maths or a better evaluation of arts which drives the results, so I am particularly unconvinced of the solidity of the Gender differences in maths attitudes study

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60 Second Interview with Dr Phil Brown, Researcher and Psychologist at the University of Salford

By Nov.07, 2013

By Danielle Butler

During the summer holidays this year, I had the opportunity to work with the team in the Salford Housing and Urban Studies Unit (SHUSU) at the University of Salford. My role involved SPSS data entry (not as scary or boring as it may seem!) from surveys conducted with the Gypsy and Traveller communities across the UK. These surveys try to understand the needs of the communities by establishing family sizes, roles, and existing problems, such as overcrowding or poor access to various services including education and health provision. Once analysed, the data is presented to local authorities to establish what kinds of shortfalls exist for Gypsy and Traveller communities and these findings can then be transferred into planning and policy, having a positive impact on the lives of many Gypsy and Traveller families. This experience left me eager to understand more about the role of a researcher so, after giving him some time to take a holiday, I approached Dr Phil Brown, a SHUSU researcher, to ask him a few of my own, and some of your questions too…


I think you are proud of different things for different reasons. I’m probably most proud of the PhD work I did, not necessarily because it had a lot of impact but because it’s the only opportunity in your career you get to actually get stuck into something in that much depth.

Sometimes it’s also about the amount of effort. So the recent work we’ve done that has been funded by JRCT on numerating the Roma populations in the UK. Really, really difficult information to obtain but when you come up with a number that people have been wanting for a long time and there are lots of different agencies that are looking for evidence to do all sorts of things. There are a few that are small in value and small in scale but which mean a lot to individuals when they use them.


There isn’t actually a single book that I would recommend because mostly the books themselves should be read for a specific purpose to a certain extent, when it comes to psychology. There’s plenty of other broader topics that you can draw on, I think, in this day and age you need to piecing your knowledge together from a variety of different sources. I once got asked this question in an interview and I said the book that Brian Keenen wrote after he’d been released from being a hostage in Lebanon with John McCarthy “An Evil Cradling”. I still think it’s a pretty good book for understanding the human condition under great constraints


Do it. Do it and make yourself known. Approach people and demonstrate that you’re competent and you’re capable and that you’re willing to learn, but also that you’re willing to do some things that are fairly low level because it’s a good way to understand how the system works. So…get yourself out there!


Stressful, enjoyable, challenging, unpredictable and worthwhile


I’m going to split and say primary school because it’s the only time you don’t realise that you’re part of a system. And my last year of my undergraduate degree because it all clicked. I got it, and after 20 years of trying to learn how to learn I finally figured it all out.


DO plan as early as possible. Stick to your timescales as much as possible. Listen to your supervisors.

DON’T be afraid of being innovative. Adapt existing work but don’t be too ambitious because you don’t need to be. It’s about balancing innovation and producing something that is doable.


Probably, inevitably, my supervisor throughout my undergraduate and post graduate stuff which was Prof Christine Horrocks, who is now the Head of Psychology at MMU. She was inevitably influential because we spoke for hours when I was there and she gave me a new way of thinking about the world, which you can’t always get from a text book. That’s the most influential real person. The most influential academic that I’ve never met, but referenced a lot, is a guy called Sunil Bhatia who is a cross-cultural psychologist in the states. I got to a point where I was writing my PhD and I was grappling for a theoretical framework and I just read one article that he had written and I was absolutely sold and then I read loads of stuff that he had done on this one idea. He basically helped to guide my PhD to the finish line, really.


I stop thinking. You have to stop thinking and move away. Do something different. Don’t keep doing it, don’t stay up all night. Close it down, wait a day and come back to it, if you’ve got the time. If you haven’t you haven’t planned enough earlier on. It’s a difficult one and everybody gets it – whether you’re an undergraduate or you’ve written 15 books you will always get mental block. Sometimes it’s just all part of trying to understand an area.

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