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The endless possibilities of Psychology…

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:
http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/psychology-seminar-series-201415-psychological-well-being-at-work-whats-the-real-problem-tickets-13456730443

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