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Ryan McGrath interviews: Dr Gemma Taylor

3rd Year Psychology student Ryan McGrath interviewed Psychology Lecturer, Dr. Gemma Taylor, who began working at the University in 2016.


Gemma completed her PhD at Sheffield University in 2013. She specialises in developmental psychology, particularly research in children’s learning, memory and language development, with a focus on different media, such as TV, storybooks, and touchscreen apps. Gemma currently teaches on the modules Introduction to Developmental and Social Psychology, Developmental Psychology and Introduction to Individual Differences.


  1. How did you get into Psychology? I don’t really know, I always thought Psychology would be a fascinating subject to study so I chose to study Psychology at A-Level and I’ve not stopped studying Psychology since then. My intuition was right though, Psychology is an incredibly broad and interesting subject.


  1. Who is your favourite Psychologist and why? Endel Tulving, he made the distinction between episodic and semantic [memory], based on theoretical grounds before research evidence was conducted to support the idea.


  1. What psychological concept/topic/issue are you most passionate about? Children and screen media. Children are using screen media for large portions of time on a daily basis but we know so little about the influence that screen media may have on their cognitive development. Given that we’re moving into a digital age, I want to explore how we can make screen media educational for young children so their time spent with screen media can be beneficial for their cognitive development.


  1. What was the focus of your PhD work? I studied infant learning and memory development. I worked with infants 3.5 – 15 months of age. Within that broad topic I investigated the role of infant looking behaviour during learning on their later learning outcomes and the role of maternal wellbeing on infant interest in their mother’s and a stranger’s face.


  1. What does an average day of a psychology lecturer entail? Emails, lots and lots of emails! A typical day will involve preparing any teaching materials for that day/week, teaching lectures/seminars/personal tutor sessions, responding to emails from staff and students, and co-ordinating the day to day running of different modules. Finding time to do research is also essential and can include planning research projects, ethics applications, running studies, analysing data and writing up data. This is all fuelled by lots of cups of peppermint tea!


  1. What makes the Psychology department at the University of Salford unique? The people, the staff and students are all incredibly friendly and welcoming. It’s a really lovely environment to work in.


  1. If you could choose another profession, what would it be? If I had to choose another profession I would choose something involving either food or yoga because I’m passionate about both. The most important thing for me though is that there is constant opportunity to learn new and interesting things, that’s one of the things that I love about Psychology – there’s always more to learn.


  1. Do you have a favourite quote? “Learn to appreciate what you have before time makes you appreciate what you had”


  1. Facebook or Twitter, and Why? I try to use Twitter because it’s a brilliant outlet to share information in a quick and accessible way.


  1. Which book is a must have for Psychology students? Field, A. (2013). Discovering statistics using IBM SPSS statistics. Sage. I don’t run any analyses without this book by my side!


  1. What advice would you give to SalfordPsych students? Enjoy your studies, don’t just work toward assignments or exams but work to fuel your own interest in the subject.


  1. What do you hope for Psychology in the future? I hope that the field continues to grow and to address current questions applicable to our daily lives.

Interviewed by Ryan McGrath: @ryanmcgrath1

Dr. Gemma Taylor: @Gemma_Taylor1


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What’s your desk like?

Dr Sarah Norgate, Reader in Applied Developmental Psychology


As you start thinking about semester 2 assignments, your inner antenna may be detecting at least one of these emotions…

  • Overwhelmed by a disarray of piles of papers, reports, stationery and paraphernalia on your desk
  • ‘At home’ with an assorted array of photos, pictures and travel souvenirs.
  • Empty at the sight of a clear expanse of sterile hot-desk surface
  • Relieved to be back to study
  • Reassured to find the things you need on your desk, amongst a few warm reminders of ‘home’ life and home-life transition
  • Connected, your smartphone or device is a brain extension of your ‘desk’

Interwoven with our desk habits around physical order and displays of personal identity, comes further emotional fabric about whether you feel friction or resonate with your organisation’s culture around personalization. And if you study or work from home, you will already have been stamping your beliefs on your workspace. But have you been doing so informed by research?

When we are already submerged in popular quotes like ‘tidy desk, tidy mind’ and Einstein’s “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” why not just simply choose whichever suits. One limitation of these quotes is that they run the risk of a making a judgement about the occupier of the space having a fixed trait, and this corresponds to a supposed desired outcome. And so, instead, let’s cast the net wider to look at how the environment can influence behaviours.

Taking a systematic approach, Kathleen Vohs and team at the University of Minnesota1 investigated how differences in physical conditions of an workspace may influence behavioural outcomes.   At the heart of their study’s focus was the concept that an ‘ordered’ physical environment would activate a mind-set showing a tendency to follow convention, tradition and ‘playing it safe’ by upholding the status quo. In contrast, cues from a more ‘messy and disordered’ environment would promote both novelty-seeking and unconventionality.

Involving European and American students as well as adults from the community Voh and her team set up a series of carefully selected test rooms which were variant on being set up as ‘messy and disorderly’ or ‘orderly’ but otherwise nothing to distinguish between them by way of size or light. When tested, not only did participants turn out to generate more creative solutions than did participants in an orderly room, but they also generated more ideas rated as ‘highly’ creative. This was known not to be attributable to making effort in the ‘messy’ room as the number of ideas generated stayed even across the two rooms. Taking their work further, the researchers checked findings across a range of different behaviours, and found initial evidence for:

Cues from an orderly environment being associated with healthy behavior, charitable donations, convention and ‘playing it safe’ with social norms.

Cues of messy and disorder environment can be associated with taking the risk of ‘unknown’ and fresh insights which may boost innovation.

But so far this research looked only at ‘solo’ behaviour from the perspective of an individualistic mode of personal achievement.  Also, given the experimental nature, participants had no reported familiarity or emotional attachment with the items in the ‘test’ offices, the objects were not possessions. Given that high performance global business innovation involves multi-cultural teams distributed by time and space where personal possessions afford conversations, fresh insights are needed for countries hoping to leap up the 2017 Global Innovation Index rankings.

In the meantime, given Vohs’ research showed that the situational cues of our local environment can impact on our performance, it may be a time to explore being a little more playful with your own workspace and any judgements about the habits of co-workers.



1Vohs, K.D., Redden, J.P., & Rahinel, R., (2013) Physical Order Produces Healthy Choices, Generosity, and Conventionality, Whereas Disorder Produces Creativity. Psychological Science, 24(9), 1860-1867.


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Health and Wellbeing Social Media Designathon

University of Salford: Health and Wellbeing

Social Media Designathon

  • Are you interested in using innovation to help people?
  • Can you use your skills to design, evaluate or pitch a social media-based health or well-being resource?
  • Do you want to work with people from different disciplines?
  • Would you like to bolster your CV and be in with a chance to win £500?

If so, register for our multi-disciplinary social media Designathon.

The NHS, mental health and social services are buckling under the demand for their services; tackling this problem head on is important to improve the lives and health of the nation in the longer term. This includes disease prevention, earlier disease detection and the promotion of healthy living. Technology offers incredible potential to support this aim by providing effective and engaging on-line information, peer support networks and self-help tools.

This Designathon will bring together students from across a range of disciplines to design an on-line resource for a specific group of people (e.g. those with dementia, young people with mental health problems, cancer screening populations and those at high risk of cardiovascular disease).

The Designathon will take place over semester 2, 2017 and students will work within multidisciplinary groups in an introductory workshop, producing a design pitch and then presenting to industry.

As well as the obvious benefits of working on a creative brief with students from other disciplines and enhancing your CV, the winning group will be awarded £500 prize and the potential to develop their ideas further.

The Designathon is open to ANY student who thinks they have something to offer. You will need to be free on the following dates:

  • Thursday 9th March from 2pm
  • Thursday 23rd March from 3pm
  • First week of June (one day to be confirmed)


If you are interested in taking part in the Designathon please register at before Friday the 17th of February.

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A Student’s Day in the Life of a Science Communicator: The Manchester Science Festival #MSF16.

By Alicia Erskine

STEM Ambassador and Undergraduate, BSc (Hons) Psychology and Criminology, University of Salford



Atalicia-erskine-science-festival-2 the heart of the Manchester Science Festival Science Jam 2016, MediaCityUK were 100 volunteers who engaged creatively with around 1800 visitors. As one of the volunteers from Psychology, I loved taking part, and my involvement in the Jam opened my eyes in a number of ways.

On the day, my role was communicating the health related benefits of using mobile technology for the school run. These benefits were from first hand research led by Dr Sarah Norgate and team, who I was lucky enough to volunteer with. Here are four skills or insights I developed from being a volunteer science communicator:



1. Adapting science communication to engage visitors of diverse ages

As the visitors to #MSF2016 were of diverse ages, ranging from young children to grandparents, I learned to adapt my science communication skills across the lifespan!

2. Using observational skills to meet family communication preferences

For each visiting family, I gained perspectives on their reactions to the ‘hands on’ activities, and adapted my approach depending on what they said or did. Sometimes parents wanted us to engage with all siblings, and sometimes respond to a parent-child dyad.

3. Developing empathy skills to attune to different temperaments

Taking part in this event gave me confidence in dealing with a range of different temperaments of children. Some children had many questions, others were quiet. Being able to see children with different temperaments learn made it very rewarding.

4. Applying the experience to my own career path

As a final year undergraduate psychology student, experience is fundamental not only for credibility but also to determine which area of psychology interests you for future studies or job prospects. In the second year of my degree, the module in developmental psychology (led by Dr Sarah Norgate) involved studying children’s scientific learning in museums, and registering to be a Stem Ambassador. Being able to participate in the Science Jam allowed me to put theory into practice and gave me an insight of first hand research out in the community. As a science communicator this is one of the events which has made me realise how much I want to continue studying in the area of psychology. This event gave me experience with children which has fully prepared me for my final year dissertation which will occur in a school. Overall, this event not only opened my eyes to the fantastic research occurring, but also completely made my mind up about future prospects and wanting to push myself to fulfil my dreams of a PhD.

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Clare Allely: Working with Fathers of At-risk Children: Targeting the Invisible Population

‘Fathers have a substantial impact on child development, wellbeing, and family functioning, yet parenting interventions rarely target men, or make a dedicated effort to include them’ (Panter-Brick et al., 2014: 1209).

The Rarity ofather-son-playing-checkersf Parenting Programmes for Fathers in the United Kingdom

The Fatherhood Institute ( highlights the need for family services to target fathers directly given that fathers are remaining marginal and overlooked in family interventions (McAllister et al., 2012). Father are hard to recruit into voluntary parenting programmes. It is predominantly mothers who engage in Parenting programmes and also evaluate them (Salinas et al., 2011; Glynn & Dale, 2015). Also, group work programmes which have been specifically developed for fathers are rare (Lundahl et al., 2008). Health and social care practitioners, and the Department of Health has recognised the reluctance of fathers to engage in parenting programmes and identified the engagement of fathers into such programmes as a ‘key service target’ (Bayley, Wallace, & Choudhry, 2009).

Positive Impact of Fathers on Child Development and Behaviour

The difficulty in engaging fathers with parenting programmes is something that urgently needs addressed given the significant number of studies which have demonstrated the positive impact that fathers have on their child’s behaviour and development (e.g., school readiness, cognitive development and pro-social behaviours) (e.g., Fabiano, 2007; Berlyn et al., 2008). Even more importantly, it has been shown that, when both parents engage in parenting programmes, the outcomes for children are even more positive (Glynn & Dale, 2015). It has even been found that, compared to mothers, fathers have a greater influence on a child’s misbehaviours (Lundahl, Tollefson, Risser, & Lovejoy, 2008).

Barriers to Fathers Engagement in Parenting Support Services: Recommendations for Best Practice

Bayley and colleagues (2009) carried out a review and a study investigating the barriers which exist to fathers’ engaging with parenting support services. Numerous sources were examined, including published academic peer-reviewed literature, government and community organisation reports and empirical data which was gathered through interviews with nine parenting experts and focus groups and questionnaires with 29 fathers. Barriers identified included: lack of awareness, work commitments, female-orientated services, lack of organisational support and concerns over the content of the programme. Recommendations identified for best practice for fathers included: actively promoting services specifically to fathers as opposed to parents more generally, offering alternative forms of provision, making fathers a priority within organisations and taking different cultural and ethnic perspectives into account. An increased understanding of the perspectives of fathers is crucial to help increase the engagement of father in parenting programmes (Bayley, Wallace, & Choudhry, 2009).

Using data from an online questionnaire, Glynn and Dale (2015) examined the views of social workers regarding about the issues which are impacting on fathers’ decisions to engage in parenting programmes. The findings suggested that participants considered the most important factors which impact of fathers’ participation in parenting programmes include: the qualities of the programme leader, the programme content and the philosophy of the service delivery organisation. The importance of group work/parenting programmes for fathers being specifically tailored for fathers as opposed to simply utilising a generic parenting programme was identified as key by McAllister and colleagues (2012) as the needs of fathers are going to be different from mothers in relation to their parenting.

Mellow Parenting Programmes

Initially developed for use with children under age five years, Mellow Parenting ( has since, without deviating from the core intervention format, been modified for use with infants (Mellow Babies), antenatally (Mellow Bumps), and with fathers (Mellow Dads). Early years practitioners support Mellow Parenting and Mellow Babies and they are both recommended in United Kingdom national guidelines for evidence-based parenting interventions and the California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare (http://

Importantly, Mellow Parenting is an intervention which aims to target vulnerable, hard-to-engage families, and in some occasions the collation of explicit consent for anonymised data collection may be significantly challenging. As a result, this leads to an under-representation of the most of needy families in the research literature (Barlow, Smailagic, Ferriter, Bennett, & Jones, 2012; MacBeth, Law, McGowan, Norrie, Thompson, & Wilson, 2015).

One of the key things to highlight with the Mellow Parenting programmes ( is that they are viewed as a ‘preventative intervention’, helping to prevent the risk of the development of conduct disorders in children (Goldsack & Hall, 2010). The programme attempts to engage parents ‘at the extreme end of the spectrum’ (Puckering, 2004). The fathers that Mellow Dads targets for the intervention are ‘vulnerable’ and typically have complex and numerous problems such as substance misuse, mental health problems and domestic violence. Unemployment, financial difficulties, offending behaviour, poor education and poor literacy are also common in the fathers. Other major parenting programmes including the ‘Incredible Years’ programmes ( and the ‘Triple P’ programme ( may, despite their effectiveness, be failing to engage the most vulnerable and hard-to-reach families (Puckering, 2004).

Mellow Dads Parenting Programme Piloted in a UK English Prison

One very recent example of one of the Mellow Parenting programmes – Mellow Dads – ( targeting of hard-to-reach     fathers, Langston (2016) explored the effectiveness of a pilot of Mellow Dads Parenting Programme delivered in a UK prison. The experiences of five men participating in the Mellow Dads Parenting Programme were explored. Findings revealed that the programme facilitators were essential in creating a safe space which enables the participants to freely reflect and consider their past experiences while also acquiring new skills. The participants also found changes in their understanding of themselves, their children and their perceptions of engaging in parenting programmes as a result of taking part in the Mellow Dads programme.

What is Mellow Dads?

The Mellow Dads intervention comprises of 14 meetings over 14 weeks. Each meetings lasts a full day with the morning focused on topic-based discussion of the fathers’ own lives. Lunchtime is a key element, when fathers meet up with their child and eat lunch together. This is then followed by a play or craft activity. These lunchtimes sessions are considered to be a safe space for the fathers to foster a nurturing relationship with their child. This safe space affords a realistic parenting scenario in which father-child interactions can be observed and filmed for later discussion. The afternoon session includes group feed-back on the father-child videos, including both the filming of lunchtime interactions and videos that were taken in family homes. Fathers and children are separate in this afternoon session (Scourfield, Allely, Coffey, & Yates, 2016).

Working with Fathers of At-risk Children: Insights from a Qualitative Process Evaluation of an Intensive Group-based Intervention

There is sparse research on fathers involved in child welfare cases. However, numerous recent studies have highlighted that there are a number of fathers who do want ‘to be listened to, believed, and given the chance to prove themselves’ (Zanoni, Warburton, Bussey, & McMaugh, 2014:92)

Professor Jonathan Scourfield (University of Cardiff), Dr Clare Allely (University of Salford), Professor Amanda Coffey (Edinburgh Napier University) and Dr Peter Yates (Edinburgh Napier University) (2016) have just published a paper in the journal of ‘Children and Youth Services Review’ which was based on data from a process evaluation of the programme with fathers who attended Mellow Dads which is an intensive ‘dads only’ group-based intervention in order to investigate the challenges of engaging fathers in effective and meaningful family/parenting programmes (

The process evaluation, led by Professor Scourfield, included participant observation of one complete Mellow Dads course, interviews with fathers and facilitators, interviews with the intervention author and a study of programme documentation. As mentioned earlier, the Mellow Dads programmes is aimed at fathers with children under five years of age. Also fathers where there are confirmed child protection issues or families which are considered to be at risk.

The process evaluation was interested in examining a number of areas including: the theoretical underpinning of the programme, the acceptability of the programme to the fathers and the challenges experienced by the facilitators in delivering the Mellow Dads programme. Fathers reported that they appreciated the efforts of facilitators to make the group work, they valued the advice on play and parenting style and also valued the opportunity to talk to fathers who are also experiencing similar problems. The process evaluation did reveal a number of barriers which had an adverse impact on the effectiveness of the Mellow Dads programme. For instance, one of the barriers was the significant time it took to get the fathers to attend the programme in the first instance and then to maintain their engagement with the programme, the limited practice of parenting skills with fathers who were not living with their children and the difficulties father experienced in sharing personal information in the group.

The obstacles identified in this process evaluation “raises the question about how much change can be expected from vulnerable fathers and whether programmes designed for mothers can be applied to fathers with little adaptation” (Scourfield, Allely, Coffey, & Yates, 2016: 259).

Overall, if one is to successfully meet the needs of fathers seeking to develop their relationship with their children and to develop their role as fathers, it is unhelpful for parenting programmes to be gender blind (McAllister et al., 2012; Jenkinson, Casey, Monahan, & Magee, 2016).


Link to article:



Dr Clare Allely

Lecturer in Psychology, University of Salford

Affiliate member of the Gillberg Neuropsychiatry Centre. University of Gothenburg.



Barlow, J., Bergman, H., Kornør, H., Wei, Y., & Bennett, C. (2016). Group‐based parent training programmes for improving emotional and behavioural adjustment in young children. The Cochrane Library.

Bayley, J., Wallace, L. M., & Choudhry, K. (2009). Fathers and parenting programmes: barriers and best practice. Community Practitioner, 82(4), 28-32.

Berlyn, C., Wise, S., & Soriano, G. (2008). Engaging fathers in child and family services. Family Matters, 80, 37-42.

Fabiano, G. A. (2007). Father participation in behavioral parent training for ADHD: Review and recommendations for increasing inclusion and engagement. Journal of Family Psychology, 21(4), 683-693.

Glynn, L., & Dale, M. (2015). Engaging dads: Enhancing support for fathers through parenting programmes. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 27(1/2), 59.

Jenkinson, H., Casey, D., Monahan, L., & Magee, D. (2016). Just for Dads: a groupwork programme for fathers.

Langston, J. (2016). Invisible fathers: Exploring an integrated approach to supporting fathers through the Mellow Dads Parenting Programme piloted in a UK prison. Journal of Integrated Care, 24(4), 176-187.

Lundahl, B. W., Tollefson, D., Risser, H., & Lovejoy, M. C. (2008). A meta-analysis of father involvement in parent training. Research on Social Work Practice, 18(2), 97-106.

MacBeth, A., Law, J., McGowan, I., Norrie, J., Thompson, L., & Wilson, P. (2015). Mellow Parenting: systematic review and meta‐analysis of an intervention to promote sensitive parenting. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, 57(12), 1119-1128.

McAllister, F., Burgess, A., Kato, J. and Barker, G., (2012) Fatherhood:  Parenting Programmes and Policy – a Critical Review of Best Practice.  London/Washington D.C.:  Fatherhood Institute/ Promundo/MenCare.

Panter – Brick, C., Burgess, A., Eggerman, M., McAllister, F., Pruett, K., and Leckman, J.F. (2014) Practitioner review: ‘Engaging fathers – recommendations for a game change in parenting interventions based on a systematic review of the global evidence’. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, and Allied Disciplines. 2014 Nov; 55(11): 1187-212.

Puckering, C. (2004). Mellow parenting: An intensive intervention to change relationships. The Signal, Newsletter of the World Association for Infant Mental Health, 12(1), 1–5 (January–March 2004).

Salinas, A., Smith, J. C., & Armstrong, K. (2011). Engaging fathers in behavioral parent training: Listening to fathers’ voices. Journal of Pediatric Nursing, 26(4), 304-311.

Scourfield, J., Allely, C., Coffey, A., & Yates, P. (2016). Working with fathers of at-risk children: insights from a qualitative process evaluation of an intensive group-based intervention. Children and Youth Services Review, 69, 259-267.

Zanoni, L., Warburton, W., Bussey, K., & McMaugh, A. (2014). Are all fathers in child protection families uncommitted, uninvolved and unable to change?. Children and Youth Services Review, 41, 83-94.

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Interview with Sam Royle – Psychology Technician

3rd year psychology student Ryan McGrath interviewed Sam Royle, a Technician in the Psychology department at the University of Salford.


Photography - Nick Harrison

 1.  How did you get into Psychology?

In a rather fortunate manner, I would say, given my current career aspirations. When I finished high school I wanted to be a forensic scientist, so for my college subjects I decided on chemistry, biology, and physics. I ended up taking psychology to fill my 4th AS level slot (instead of P.E. – I was sporty back then!) because of a taster day where my ‘personal tutor’ happened to be one of the psychology teachers. She persuaded me that it was a topic I’d enjoy, and then had the displeasure of teaching me for 2 years!

Seriously though, she really got me intrigued by the topic of psychology and was an inspiring teacher, so, should she ever read this – Thank you Helen!

2. If you could sum-up your role as a psychology technician, how would you describe it?

That’s an interesting question, because the role of a psychology technician can actually vary a lot between institutions (the BPS says there has to be one, but not what they have to do), and even within my own role, what I’m doing on a given day can be rather unpredictable, as I respond to issues as they arise. A couple of my colleagues have described my role as ‘Professional problem solver’ – I think that’s pretty apt for what I do, and I must say I really enjoy supporting all the different projects going on across the department and the wider university.

I’m tweeting about my day-to-day life as a psychology technician on the @salfordpsych account at the moment, so if you want to learn more about what I do, keep an eye on that.

3. Who is your favourite Psychologist and why?

The work of Marvin Minsky really inspired me during my undergraduate years – his ‘Framework for representing knowledge’ was the basis of my undergraduate dissertation, and he has definitely had a huge impact on my perception of cognitive processing. He was influential in the fields of artificial intelligence, cognitive science, and philosophy before he, unfortunately, passed away earlier this year.

I recommend his book ‘the society of mind’ to anybody interested in how humans represent knowledge or how computers could replicate human thought processes.

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

The three broad topics that I’m interested in researching currently are: Alcohol use, hangover and addiction; Consciousness and flow; and Memory and knowledge representation. What I’m most passionate about though is probably research methods – I really enjoy working on new ways to examine phenomenon, and fortunately this is something I get to do quite a lot in my job as I help students to develop research methodologies that address their research questions using the kit we have available. I do quite enjoy sitting down with some data too!

5. What makes the Psychology Department at Salford unique?

One of the big things that separates us from other universities is the students access to equipment. If we have a piece of kit, and you are dedicated enough to do the work to learn to use it for your research, you can. That’s definitely a real positive for our students, who can come out of their degree with skills they simply wouldn’t have had the opportunity to develop elsewhere. One of the other things that makes us different is our extensive integration with other departments. Psychology colleagues are involved in projects working with for example, radiography, sport and exercise science, or computer science, as well as counselling and criminology. On top of this there’s a real focus on applied research, that is, research that has an impact, so we apply our research to working with various groups such as dementia patients and prosthesis users. This brings a real depth of experience to the team.

That’s all before you get to the wonderful atmosphere in the department (and the university as a whole!).

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

To be honest, in my grand plans for the future, I’m rarely concerned with where I will be. What’s more important is what I’m doing, and I really enjoy my role at Salford. Certainly, there’s prestige attached to working at institutions like Oxford, Cambridge, UCL, MIT etc., but there’s also high pressures to publish consistently, and I don’t believe the best science is conducted under such pressures.

I have often entertained the idea of moving to either Canada or the Netherlands however, and dependent on some particular political developments over the coming years I certainly won’t rule that out.

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

For me the most fascinating project I’ve been involved with was my MSc dissertation on correlates of alcohol hangover severity, partially because it was research that I designed from the ground up and invested a lot of time in, but also partly because I’ve had some of my ideas from that work vindicated over the years. For example, my initial investigation consisted of semi-structured interviews designed to elucidate popular perceptions of factors influential in the hangover state – one of the themes I discovered here was an importance of social factors, like whether one drinks alone or in company. Some recent experimental research did in fact show that perceptions of one’s own drunkenness are influenced by perceptions of how drunk the people around us are. There are still links missing here, but research is beginning to support the idea that social factors are influential in what has been predominantly considered a biological phenomenon.

 8. What are you working on at the moment?

Other than the day to day teaching/admin/support duties, I’m currently studying for the final module on a postgraduate certificate of academic practice – this is a course on teaching practice at higher education level. I’ve also got some alcohol hangover research in the pipeline, and have been collecting data for a project I’m working on with Robert Bendall and colleagues from the physiotherapy/sports and exercise science department.

Some slightly longer term projects I’ve got going (given there is only 24 hours in a day) include learning the C# programming language, modelling and animation in blender, and VR development in Unity. I’m also learning Dutch.

 9. If you could choose another profession, what would it be?

Would a similar job in a different department count? I’ve always been interested in Forensic Science (my undergraduate degree being dual honours Forensic Science & Psychology), so that would definitely be an option. There’s also engineering, architecture or computer science. The key thing for me is the open and friendly environment provided by universities. My mother has said for many years I would likely be a ‘perpetual student’.

10. Do you have a favourite quote?

Most of my favourite quotes come from Hunter. S. Thompson. A couple of my favourites:

“I was not proud of what I had learned but I never doubted that it was worth knowing” – Hunter. S. Thompson. The Rum Diary

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a ride!’”

– Hunter. S. Thompson. The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman, 1955-1967.

And on a more humorous (but still somewhat poignant) note:

“Thanks to denial, I’m immortal” – Phillip. J. Fry. Futurama.

11. What benefits do you find in using Twitter?

I’m by no means the most engaged person when it comes to the use of social media, so for me, using Twitter is all about having a professional presence. The obvious benefits in this kind of approach include increased connectedness with colleagues all around the world, and having a forum for discussion or for promoting certain ideas (you’ll notice a few tweets in my timeline on the topic of universal basic income, for example). But there are other benefits too – engaging with my students, or having something to distract myself with for 5 minutes (or half an hour) when I hit some kind of roadblock and need a break.

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

The dreaded ones. Statistics books. I opt for Andy Field’s ‘Discovering Statistics Using IBM SPSS Statistics’ when I want to check what I’m doing in SPSS.

For a more casual read, my old supervisor, Dr. Richard Stephens, wrote an excellent book not so long ago called ‘Black Sheep: The hidden benefits of being bad’, which recently took the award for the BPS book awards popular science book of the year. He’s coming to speak on the ‘psychology of swearing’ here at Salford later in the year as part of our research seminar series, so keep an eye out for that too!

13. What advice would you give to SalfordPsych students?

1) Attend your lectures/seminars – if the fact that your missing opportunities to learn isn’t enough for you (and that attendance correlates with achievement), remember that for each session you miss you have essentially wasted some of that big student loan you took out.

2) Remember that one of your greatest tools for learning are your colleagues. Working together with your colleagues will help you all to come out of university with a better understanding of your topic, and experience that will be undoubtedly helpful in the world of work.

3) Read your assignment briefs carefully, and compare your work to the requirements set out. Rubrics can be a particularly useful document in that regard. These documents almost literally tell you how to do well in your assignments.

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

To see the field continue to develop, integrating new technology into methodologies to better understand phenomenon and improve people’s lives.

Some people have said that the recent ‘replicability crisis’ in psychology shows that the field has failed to produce any real understanding – well that’s clearly not true – Psychology has informed many effective interventions that we know have positive impacts on people’s lives. The replicability crisis for me is a representation of developing practices in psychology. Nowadays we are starting to see processes like pre-registration of investigations in order to eliminate issues like ‘p-hacking’. We’re beginning to see more open science, with big data being used in more transparent processes, and psychologists (rather than statisticians) are starting to have discussions around the use of arbitrary p-value cut-offs and the low publishing rate for non-significant findings.

To me it sounds like everything is moving in the right direction, and psychology is still a young field with plenty of development still to occur and impacts to be made.

Interviewed by Ryan McGrath: @ryanmcgrath1

Sam Royle: @PsyTechSam_UoS

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Meet our new student progression assistant – Lisa Tobin


I graduated from the University of Manchester with a BSc (Hons) Psychology degree in 2015, and my final year project focused on the effects of self-affirmation on proactive career-related behaviours which gave me an insight into the motivation of students at university and their outlook on the future.

I then went on to work in the University’s Student Support & Advice team, where I gained experience in providing academic, pastoral and financial advice to students. I provided confidential one-to-one advice to resolve issues around health & wellbeing, course change queries, Care Leaver support, academic appeals, mitigating circumstances, interruptions and withdrawals and money advice.

As a recent graduate, I am empathetic and responsive to the needs of students, can provide guidance and reassurance to students of all levels and understand the struggles associated with student life. My recent experience as a student means I am able to fully understand and deal with individual student needs and a range of situations.

I am now a first point of contact in the School of Health Sciences for anyone who would simply like someone to talk to and can refer students to the appropriate support services at the University.

I am also working with the Psychology Peer Mentors to arrange study support and social events to foster and maintain positive student contact and relationships.

You can contact me by emailing or calling 0161 295 6636.

Follow me on Twitter for handy tips about skills, workshops and events:

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‘It all started with a plaster’: By Emma McGarvey

Wdoes not define mehat went from a normal university day, attending the psychology of mental health lecture, ended up being a day that I will always remember and it all started with a plaster!  However, this was no ordinary plaster, this was a plaster with a label on and we were asked to introduce ourselves (just to the person sat next to us) using that label.  Mine went “Hi, I’m Emma and I am psychotic”.  That was it, a short simple sentence that wasn’t really me but that got me thinking about the labels we all have.  It felt very strange to say that I was a label, as in my mind people are not just one thing, they are a number of things and a label is just a part of that person and not them as whole!

This stuck with me throughout my lecture, so much so that I kept the plaster on purposely, although by the end of the lecture I had totally forgotten about it and my ‘label’.  You see, in that particular lecture we were introduced to two men who are two of the most inspirational men I have ever had the privilege of hearing speak.  These two men were there to talk about their lived experiences of mental health issues and caring for people with mental ill health (in the lecture we were learning about Schizophrenia, so it fit nicely) and of the care services from the view point of a care user.  What unfolded was not what I expected, in all honesty I don’t know what I was expecting, but the emotional rollercoaster that ensued wasn’t it.

These two men unpacked their lives in such a way that by the end you felt like you knew them and that you wanted to go for a pint with them to continue talking and learning from them.  I am not going to tell you their lives, as it is their lives, and in truth I doubt I could do it justice.  But most importantly I would like to encourage you to follow them on twitter and find where they are speaking and go listen to them.  This is the only way that you will get the full benefit; where one minute you are laughing at childhood pictures, the next you are admiring their friendship and the genuine connection that just oozes off them, to then nearly being in tears as you learn about the things they have had to deal with.

These two men were Russel Hogarth and Nigel Farnworth, and while the majority of the content of their life stories was sad they did not tell us this as ‘sob’ story or to make you feel sorry for them.  No.  They did this to show the other side of conditions we learn about, and to show that even in the very darkest of tunnels you are able to get out of it and back into the light.  That’s why they call it ‘towards a better tomorrow’!  They have both been through different situations, although somehow their lives seem to fit and compliment the story telling perfectly, and whilst they have not always in a good place they are now.  Their message is one of empowerment and of a desire to live life to the fullest; that no matter what life throws at you, you can always work towards a better tomorrow.

At the end of the day, whilst sitting on my couch typing up my ethics form, I took my plaster and ‘label’ off.  Yes, there are many times during the day where I could have taken it off and just thrown it in a bin but these two men I had heard today had a profound effect on me and when I took my label off I wanted to be mindful while I did it.  I slowly took it off, not feeling any pain as I has no cut, but feeling a sense of a weight lifting as I was no longer just a label.  That label was not a true part of my life but I did think of all the labels I am – a mother, partner, friend, daughter, step sister, employee, student and all the things in my past that have made me who I am today – these are all part of me and these labels combine to make one big label.  And that label is… Emma McGarvey.

If you want to find out more please go and follow @RussHogarth, @Nigelfarnworth and @ccg_uk on twitter.  Not forgetting of course Dr Linda Dubrow-Marshall who made this possible @DrLindaDM.  Oh, and I’m also on twitter @Emma_Mcgarvey87.

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University of Salford student heads to Bali to pioneer a placement to help those with mental health issues

This summer, University of Salford student Rebecca Leeworthy travelled to Bali to bravely pioneer a Mental Health Placement with SLV.Global, a graduate-led volunteering organisation, which focuses on providing opportunities for psychology students and graduates to gain valuable, practical experience within the mental health sector. Rebecca Leeworthy (3)Although SLV.Global have been doing similar work in Sri Lanka for the past six years, summer 2016 was the first time volunteers were sent to Bali, Indonesia to work within the local community and provide much needed support for mental health services, which are often under resourced.

During her placement University of Salford student, Rebecca, and other volunteers from all over the globe ran therapeutic activity sessions in psychiatric facilities for individuals suffering from a range of mental health concerns. In addition to their time at the hospital, volunteers also worked at numerous government run schools and social initiatives for children with disabilities and taught English in the local community.

Today’s psychology students are all too aware of how important it is to gain hands-on work experience in order to stand out in an incredibly competitive field. In our multicultural society having a working understanding of global mental health is a huge benefit. The significance of understanding and respecting different cultures can’t be overstated if you want to pursue a career in psychology. Throughout her four weeks volunteering with SLV.Global in Bali, Rebecca has not only acquired much sought after experience, but also procured a knowledge of Balinese and Indonesian culture which can only be achieved through a completely immersive experience, which included living in a local village with a Balinese family.

Being part of a pilot placement in a totally different culture and country is not without its challenges. As some of the first ever foreigners to work in these facilities, the importance of delivering interesting and stimulating sessions for service users was paramount. Volunteers had to be innovative and creative in addition to drawing on theoretical knowledge from their studies and previous experience to ensure that the sessions were meeting the expectations of the staff and families of service users. Volunteers also had tRebecca Leeworthy (2)o combat a language barrier and live away from home in fairly basic conditions for a month.

The volunteers on this pilot placement pushed themselves and really lived out of their comfort zones for much of the week. The weekends, however, were a different story. Volunteers on the Bali Mental Health Placement had their weekends free to roam the lush, tropical island and uncover its many secrets. From water temples to monkey forests there was always something new to discover and enjoy. Volunteers climbed active volcanoes, slept in treehouses, learned to cook traditional cuisine and, of course, checked out the numerous beaches, which Bali is famous for.

It is largely due to the hard work and dedication of Rebecca and the team that SLV.Global will be returning to Indonesia next year to continue to run its Mental Health Placements. You can read what Rebecca said about her time in Bali below and if you have any questions you can check out our website on or email us on

“It’s very hard to put my experience into sentences because it was such a good experience. It was amazing getting the chance to work in a mental health hospital and getting a chance to be a part of an amazing culture was incredible. A real eye opener.” – Rebecca Leeworthy

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Daisy Wright : ‘Does quitting social media make you happier?’

One of our MSc Applied Psychology (Therapies) students has written a short piece in The Guardian about whether quitting social media makes you happier. It is reproduced here with her permission and you can see the full article by following this link. 

Daisy Wright

After a romance ended with a guy I really liked, I kept trying to avoid Facebook so I wouldn’t have to see him. It was after this that I gradually switched off from it, but before that I’d been wanting to quit for a while.

Facebook made me feel anxious, depressed and like a failure. When I went online it seemed like everyone was in Australia or Thailand, and if they weren’t travelling they were getting engaged or landing great jobs. I felt like everyone was living the dream and I was still at home with my parents, with debt from my student loan hanging over me.

I also felt that if I wasn’t tagging myself at restaurants or uploading photos from nights out, people would assume I wasn’t living. I remember a friend from uni said to me once, “Yeah, but you’re still going out having fun, I’ve seen on Facebook.” I tried to present myself as always having a great time. If my status didn’t get more than five likes, I’d delete it.

My life has changed for the better since deleting social media. I now enjoy catching up with my friends, and when they tell me new plans my response isn’t just, “Yeah, I saw on Facebook.” It makes you realise who your real friends are and how social media takes the joy out of sharing news with people. I also feel less anxious and less of a failure.

I’m planning to visit a friend in Australia next month, and she and my mum and a couple of other friends want me to go back on Facebook to share my pictures. I’d really prefer not to, though. I’m on Instagram, but I mostly follow sarcastic quote pages. I’ve never had a Twitter account.

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Some advice for new students from SalfordPsych!

Here at SalfordPsych, we know it’s a daunting experience starting university. We wanted to help you out with some words of advice. For this blog we asked students and staff what their one bit of advice would be for all you new students starting in Level 4 this week.

Current students on Twitter

Sophie: Get organised early on with schedules/ deadlines, attend classes, participate when you get there! You get out what you put in

Karla:  Unfortunately, it really does matter if you miss lectures regularly!

Zaeema: Look at lecture content the night before.

Ryan: Start assignments ASAP 🙂

Suraya: Pay attention in research methods. You really need it for everything…Slows your report writing down if you don’t know your basics already

Ivett: Take the most of this amazing journey!Lectures&seminars are important but there are much more than that! Enjoy the ride!;)

Current students in personal tutor sessions

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help
  • Do not leave revision until the last minute! Try to revise every lecture weekly
  • Do your reading!
  • Sign up for the academic writing course
  • Read journal articles
  • Figure out referencing early and reference as you go along in your assignments
  • Work HARD, but also don’t stress yourself out too much
  • If you don’t do well in your assignments, remember, it’s not the end of the world
  • Assignments take longer than you think

And  finally some advice from staff:

Sam: Use each other as a resource. You’ll never learn better than when you have to teach each other

John: A degree is a marathon not a sprint.

Aim to understand the different types of assessment you will have to do e.g. essays, practical reports, presentations. Create a folder for each assessment type & put all the information you have about that assessment in the folder.

Make yourself aware of the university support systems. Identify your weaknesses from tutor feedback & go to support classes what will help address the problem.

Do your best to attend all your classes, especially all research methods classes.

Adam: You’re not in competition with your peers, so help and be kind to each other and everyone benefits.

Mike: Try to move away from a mind-set of ‘studying to the test’. Instead, try to  reflect on what you’ve learned & its real-world significance and take it forward to your further study and work experience. As a result, your grades should improve and you will be better prepared for life as a post-graduate

Clare: Try to get into the habit of reading journal articles. Set yourself a challenge! Try to start reading two full peer reviewed journal articles in an area of interest to you and which is relevant to your coursework per week. It seems a big commitment to make when you have so much other stuff on but this will help build up a deeper knowledge of psychological issues and scientific thinking and enhance your scientific writing abilities.

Sharon: Uni is like a gym, membership is not enough: you need to sweat to get the results!

Linda: : Give yourself time to adjust and don’t panic and think you can’t do it if you have a difficult day!

Jo: Don’t be worried about asking us for help – it’s what we’re here for! We will always try to help if we can, but please don’t leave it until the day before your assignment to tell us you’re struggling! The earlier you ask for help, the more we can do.

We all wish you the best of luck with your studies!

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Volunteers wanted for research studies

Over the summer months the Psychology team are lucky to have research assistants working with us on a range of interesting projects. One drawback to completing research over the summer is being able to find willing volunteers to take part in the studies. At the moment we are trying to recruit participants for some studies investigating aspects of visual attention. If you are interesting in taking part please see below:


One of the studies is exploring how phobias influence our attention to threat-related and non-threat related stimuli. We are currently looking for volunteers to take part in a 30-minute research study which involves the use of functional near-infrared spectroscopy (i.e., a totally non-invasive rubber band which will be placed on participant’s forehead for the duration of the experiment). You would be required to attend a laboratory where you will complete a computer-based cognitive task whilst having your brain activity recorded. Following this you will be required to complete a questionnaire relating to phobias. If you are interested in taking part and would like any further information, please contact the main researcher Maryam Jalali –


We are also looking for volunteers to take part in an experiment that investigates the effect of emotion on visual attention. The experiment will take a maximum of 50 minutes to complete and you will receive an inconvenience allowance for taking part. During the experiment you will be asked to fill out a mood questionnaire, view a series of photographs on the computer screen, and complete a change detection task on the computer. This will involve you seeing photographs shown one after the other, the photographs will be identical expect for one change and you will be asked to spot the change in each scene. If you would like further information about the study please contact Ashley Taylor (


It is your choice whether to volunteer for these studies and even if you do decide to take part, you can withdraw from an experiment at any time, without having to provide a reason. Your participation or non-participation does not reflect upon your studies at the University and any academic qualification/results you gain are in no way contingent upon participation in this study. You should also be aware that all data will remain anonymous.

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BPS undergraduate research assistant scheme

In this blog post, second year student Ashley Taylor describes her experiences of working on a research project as part of the BPS undergraduate research assistant scheme.

Having completed my second year as an undergraduate Psychology and Counselling student, I’m now working at the University as a research assistant over the summer. I had been hoping to gain experience in research for a while, so when I approached one of my lecturers and became aware of the British Psychological Society Undergraduate Research Assistantship Scheme, it seemed like a rare and exciting chance to work alongside active researchers in the department. The scheme provides funding for a second year undergraduate student to be supported by a supervisor as a research assistant for 8 weeks during the summer. The BPS offer a small number of assistantships each year and the scheme is very competitive. We applied in March and it was a nervous wait until May when we were thrilled to hear we had been accepted! I was excited to get started and have the chance to gain hands-on experience in a real-world project for the first time.

The work I am doing is in the field of cognitive psychology. I had become more interested in cognitive psychology during the second year module ‘Further Biopsychology and Cognition’, so the chance to be part of research in the area has also been exciting. The project investigates the impact of emotion on visual attention using the change blindness paradigm (Rensink, O’Regan & Clark, 1997), which follows on from a study by Dr Catherine Thompson and Robert Bendall (Bendall & Thompson, 2015). It has been really interesting to gain insight into their previous work and to learn how such a project comes together. So far, I have had the opportunity to build the experiment, recruit and test participants and analyse the data we have collected to date. I have also been able to use the skills I have learned over the past two years of my degree in the project, such as writing a method and using software such as SPSS and E-Prime. I have gained a lot of confidence in my research skills and I now feel (slightly!) more prepared to take on my dissertation next year.

The rest of the project will now consist of analysing the next set of data we collect. I will also begin to prepare a poster of our findings to present at the BPS conference in 2017, which is another exciting (and scary!) opportunity. For me, the BPS scheme has provided insight into the world of research which I would not otherwise have gained, and what I have learned from my supervisor has been great motivation for my course and for continuing my studies further. It has given me a new perspective on how the studies we learn about in our degree come from real-life experiments. It has also been eye-opening to see the work that researchers and academics do on a daily basis, which I definitely wasn’t aware of as a student. From my experience, I would recommend anyone interested in a career in research to explore the options available whilst still an undergraduate student. I didn’t know of all the existing opportunities until I began to inquire more in the department. It is a great way to gain experience in the field and I’m grateful for the chance to do so.


Bendall, R .C. A. and Thompson, C. (2015). Emotion has no impact on attention in a change detection flicker task. Frontiers in Psycholology, 6, 1592. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01592

Rensink, R. A., O’Regan, J. K., and Clark, J. J. (1997). To see or not to see: the need for attention to perceive change in scenes. Psychological Science, 8, 368–373. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.1997.tb00427.x

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An interview with Dr Linda Dubrow-Marshall

2nd year psychology student Ryan McGrath interviewed Dr. Linda Dubrow-Marshall who is Programme Leader in Applied Therapies (MSc) at the University of Salford.

HowDSCF0574 did you get into Psychology?

 I was probably born a psychologist because I am naturally a very curious person and there were many interesting characters in my family to observe and negotiate with! But I got into psychology when I went to Temple University in Philadelphia and took an introductory psychology module. We saw a film on ‘Reinforcement Therapy’ (Behavioural) with demonstrations of its application for psychotic adults, autistic children, and learning disabled, and I was ‘hooked’ even though these were not populations that I focused on in my clinical work. But I loved the idea of applying theory to helping people in a practical way.

Who is your favourite Psychologist and why?

I would have to say my husband Rod Dubrow-Marshall who is a social psychologist and I love doing research with him, particularly on undue influence, cultic abuse, and extremist groups. But I also love Piaget and even read some of his theories in French! Piaget made me think about being a developmental psychologist, but clinical and counselling psychology won me over.

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

I would have to say that it is group pressure, undue influence, cultic and abusive relationships and groups. I love doing research in this area, and also helping individuals and families who have been harmed by these experiences. This work is closely aligned to my interest in the long-term effects of trauma.

What makes the Psychology Department at Salford unique?

 I would have to say the people – both staff and students – very diverse and interesting and have broadened my understanding of psychology.

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

 A university which would allow me to work in the States half the time and in the UK half the time, to reflect my dual nationalities!

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

I conducted research on the influence of group pressure on the expression of anti-Semitic views. My interest in cultic groups was inspired by the recruitment of ‘ordinary’ people into the Nazis and the conversion to committing atrocious deeds.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am working with colleagues to revise a submitted article on “A randomized feasibility study of group cognitive behavioural therapy for severe asthma” and with Kelly Birtwell, a graduate of the MSc Applied Psychology (Therapies) programme to revise a submitted article on “Psychological support for people with dementia”. I am working on two book chapters related to my work on cults, and I am editing a special issue on “Recovering your sexual self after the cult” for an International Cultic Studies Association publication. I have several other articles in progress, and I am preparing a proposal for a research monograph on single session therapy. I like to have many irons in the fire!

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

Stand-up comedy.

Do you have a favourite quote?

“We have to accept life on life’s terms”.

What benefits do you find in using Twitter?

 It keeps me current on research, news, and people and it’s a way of communicating with so many people at once!

Which book is a must have for Psychology students?

Westbrook, D., Kennerley, H., & Kirk, J. (2011, but a new edition is forthcoming). An introduction to cognitive behavior therapy: skills and applications.

What advice would you give to SalfordPsych students?

Make time for your studies, try to choose some seminal texts and consider buying them, ask questions and don’t think any of them are stupid, and learn how to ‘sell yourself’ with the marketable skills that you acquire – build your self-confidence!

What do you hope for Psychology in the future?

I hope for psychology to take a lead in action based research to help improve people’s lives, and I hope for more people and policy makers to take notice of our research and theories.

Follow Linda on Twitter: @DrLindaDM

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @ryanmcgrath1

About Dr. Linda Dubrow-Marshall

 I am a clinical and counselling psychologist (HCPC Registered) and a BACP Accredited Counsellor/Psychotherapist. I am a programme leader for the  MSc Applied Psychology (Therapies) programme, and I am a psychology lecturer who teaches at both the undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Previously, I designed and managed the new Counselling and Wellbeing Service at the University of Salford, and I taught for the MSc in Counselling (Professional Training).

I am an integrative psychotherapist, and I incorporate hypnotherapy and EMDR into my practice. I have extensive clinical and counselling experience in a variety of settings, including universities, prisons, addiction agencies, psychiatric hospitals, veteran agencies, and private practice. I obtained my PhD in Counselling Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, USA, and did my PhD dissertation on “Marital relationships of children of Holocaust survivors”.

My current research interests include: Psychology of undue influence and coercive persuasion (e.g. cults and extremist groups), group dynamics and family systems, ethical psychotherapy and psychotherapy outcome, practitioner self-care, CBT and physical health, and single session psychotherapy. I am a peer reviewer for the Counselling and Psychotherapy Research Journal, published by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and Wiley, the British Journal of Guidance and Counselling, SAGE Open, and the International Journal of Cultic Studies, published by the International Cultic Studies Association. I am also a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.



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John Hudson presents PhD research at IWP conference

John Hudson presented his PhD research at the prestigious international Institute of Work Psychology conference  this week. The biennial conference in Sheffield attracts over 200 delegates and it was great to see John’s presentation drawing praise from leading experts for his wit and findings alike.  His paper, co-authored with his supervisor Ashley Weinberg was entitled, ‘Making a difference to employee well-being in turbulent times’. John’s findings show that in assessing the outcome of interventions designed to improve workers’ well-being, it is important to pay careful attention to the process by which these are introduced and not simply the outcomes alone.


John Hudson talk

John’s imaginative approach in presenting his research findings have already won him first prize at the 2015 British Psychological Society annual conference. His winning poster compared the usefulness of quantitative and qualitative data in assessing stress at work and can still be viewed here

You can find John on Twitter @brucie_rooster 


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Ashley Gray: Rethinking role play in the reception class

Here, 2nd year  student Ashley Grey discusses role play in the reception class:

Name: Ashley Gray

Twitter: @ashley_g1992

ideas children

I am very passionate about incorporating play into classroom learning. From experience of having two young children in Nursery and Reception class at school, I have noticed some major differences in their classroom set up and in the way they learn. My nursery child comes home very happy and excited to go back, this is not always the case with my Reception child.

From Developmental Psychology this year I have developed further in my love of how children learn. I have learnt about children learning outside of the classroom, but I wanted to know how children learn in the classroom through play.  Children in different countries throughout the world do not start formal education until 6 or 7, some of those countries have the most successful education systems and I think play is the key.

Article name: Rethinking role play in the Reception Class

The UK education system has adapted throughout the years to incorporate play into the Foundation Stage. This development is a welcome change, however not enough reviews have been done to test whether or not the current early year’s curriculum works.

A study by Rogers and Evans (2007) looked at the interaction between the implemented curriculum and the children’s response to that curriculum, through studying children’s role play activities. It also looked at the impact the curriculum has on the nature of children’s role play activities.

The sample included children, aged 4-5 years, from a mixed reception and year 1 class in a rural area, a reception class in a small town; and an early year’s unit in substantial urban school. Eighty children were involved in the study in term one and this rose to 144 in term two. A total of 71 visits were made over the course of the school year, each visit lasting half the school day.

The research was conducted in a qualitative manner. Semi-structured interviews and observations were used to collect information. Given the age of the children, child friendly methods were used ie. Speaking to the children, having the children take photographs, observing role play, drawing their favourite role play scenarios etc.

The results showed that the space and level of interruptions negatively affected the flow of role play for the children, this suggested the classes were not adequately equipped for the needs of children aged 4-5 years. Play appeared to be contained by the teacher which proved difficult for the children to feel they had met their role play needs. Furthermore the lack of space created issues for boy’s needs, as they require more space to fully express their role play needs.

In conclusion, role play is considered an important aspect of early learning. However, certain teaching practices prevent children from fully expressing themselves. Although early year’s education has improved dramatically over the years, Reception classes have not been adjusted to be able to reflect those advances. Development is needed of a more play centred pedagogy, one which allows children to reach their potential, and one which takes into account the needs of the children it caters for.



Rogers, S. and Evans, J. (2007) ‘Rethinking role play in the Reception class’, Educational Research, 49(2), pp. 153-167.

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Research excellence Awards 2015-2016: The ‘fabulous five’

Research Excellence Awards 2015-2016 – ‘Fabulous Five’

Five early career researchers from the Directorate of Psychology and Public Health won the runners up prize in this year’s Vice-Chancellor’s Research Excellence Awards.  Dr Clare Allely, Robert Bendall, Alex Clarke-Cornwell, Dr Anna Cooper and Dr Jo Meredith, contribute to three of the research programmes within the School of Health Sciences: Applied Psychology: Social, Physical and Technology Enabled Environments; Equity, Health and Wellbeing; and, Measurement and Quantification of Physical Behaviour.


The ‘Fabulous Five’ would like to thank Dr Sarah Norgate for the nomination; as part of the nomination Sarah wrote “People make a research environment, and our early career researchers (ECRs) are our lifeblood”. We are grateful for her continued support, the support we receive within the Directorate and also from the School as we continue to develop as researchers.



Fabulous 5

Left to right: Dr Jo Meredith, Dr Anna Cooper, Dr Sarah Norgate, Alex Clarke-Cornwell, Robert Bendall



 Dr Clare Allely, one of the Fabulous Five, could not attend because she was in Sweden on a research visit at the Gillberg Neuropsychiatry Centre at the University of Gothenburg.


As part of their research, the ‘Fabulous Five’ all work with external stakeholders/users in psychology, health and health-related areas. The aim of many of their projects is to be interdisciplinary, both within and outside the University. The short sections below aim to provide brief details about each of the five early career researchers:


Dr Clare Allely is an affiliate member of the Gillberg Neuropsychiatry Centre (GNC) at Gothenburg University in Sweden. She is currently collaborating with colleagues at the GNC on a number of papers and projects including one looking at cholesterol metabolism and steroid abnormalities of various kinds (cortisol, testosterone, oestrogen, vitamin D) in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and another looking at immunology and ASD. She is also working on projects with colleagues in the UK looking at ASD in the criminal justice system. Specifically, one looking at the experience of individuals with ASD in the prison environment and another looking at the experience of defendants with ASD as well as how they are perceived by judges and juries (e.g., whether a diagnosis of ASD is considered to be a mitigating and aggravating factor in sentencing and to what extent an ASD diagnosis impacts on criminal responsibility, criminal intent, etc.).


Robert Bendall’s research initially focused on the interactions between the arousal system and the circadian system. This work investigated the impact of circadian and photic influences on the neuropeptide orexin and included research positions at the Department of Pharmacology, University of Cambridge and the Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Manchester. Recently Robert’s research has focussed on the cognitive sciences – both cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience. His main interests are how emotion influences aspects of cognition (e.g. visual attention) as well as the role of the prefrontal cortex during emotion-cognition interactions. Robert uses both neuroscientific and behavioural techniques in his research including the novel neuroimaging technique functional near-infrared spectroscopy. His recent research has been presented at the Annual International Conference on Cognitive and Behavioural Psychology and published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.


Alex Clarke-Cornwell’s research interests include the measurement and quantification of sedentary behaviour, physical activity and workplace health using the activPAL™ and ActiGraph activity monitors; she is currently writing up her PhD. Alex’s research on the measurement of sedentary behaviour from accelerometers has recently been presented at international conferences in Limerick and Brisbane. She is also currently working with European colleagues as part of the consortium or the Determinants of Diet and Physical Activity Knowledge Hub, on sedentary time and physical activity surveillance in four European countries. Alex and Dr Anna Cooper (editor) have worked together on a book chapter around the impact of office design and activity in a book of blogs entitled Dialogues of Sustainable Urbanisation: Social science research and transitions to urban contexts ( Alex has recently been awarded £17,607 from the University of Salford’s Research Capital Investment Fund, in order to purchase physical activity behaviour monitors for future research projects.


Dr Anna Cooper’s current research focuses on behaviour change in primary school children; the role of digital technology in research with primary school children; and NHS Health Checks in regards to the health check journey. The outputs from Anna’s PhD contributed to the outputs of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Oral Health Research in Deprived Communities. In 2015 Anna helped to co-edit a Book of Blogs with Dr Jenna Condie (Dialogues of sustainable urbanisation: Social science research and transitions to urban contexts), which is now freely available as an e-book. Since joining the University Anna has been successful in a number of internal and external funding projects both as PI and CoA, presenting at conferences, and also the production of reports for external bodies and peer-reviewed journal articles. Anna was also returned in the 2013 REF as an Early Career member of staff. One of Anna’s current projects is around the development and testing of an Application (Digitising Children’s Data Collection (DCDC) for Health Project) designed to support the collection of data with children in a variety of settings and a collaborative research project with Liverpool John Moores University.


Dr Jo Meredith researches online communication and interaction, and is particularly interested in developing innovative methods for collecting and analysing online data. She uses methods such as conversation analysis and discursive psychology to analyse a range of online data. Since joining the University of Salford in April 2015, Jo has had a paper published in a peer-reviewed journal on the development of a transcription system for screen-capture data. She has also contributed chapters on the collection and analysis of online data to two prestigious qualitative methods textbooks. She is currently working with colleagues from radiography on the WoMMeN project. She is also collaborating with colleagues from the University of Manchester and Keele University on a number of projects and papers, including the analysis of psychotherapy using conversation analysis, the analysis of tweets around #dyingmatters and the analysis of police 999 calls. Jo is currently organising an international conference, with the media psychology team, on the micro-analysis of online data.


Follow their research on Twitter @SalfordPsych @SalfordPH @ClareAllely @Robert_Bendall @barmyalex @AMC_83 @JoMeredith82

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Do certain mental disorders put people more at risk of being radicalised?

By Mar.15, 2016


by Dr Clare Allely


Last year, the Chief constable of Greater Manchester Police, Sir Peter Fahy highlighted that many extremists are vulnerable individuals who are radicalised within weeks. Mental health issues have been identified as a potential part of the path to radicalisation (O’Neill & Simpson, 2015). Although this is debatable as some research shows that mental health issues are not a key factor in the pathway to radicalisation. However, recognition of the potential for mental health issues to be part of the pathway and the research which supports this theory has led to the NHS now having a full-time staff which focused on serving the Prevent anti-extremism programme, which main aim is to identify radical behaviour. They have identified Asperger’s or Autism, serious learning difficulties and low self-esteem, among other conditions as a potential part of the path to radicalisation – specifically, the conditions which extremists are increasingly exploiting in individuals they target for recruiting and training (O’Neill & Simpson, 2015).  Prevent Duty was launched last year, which places a duty or mandate upon Health and other sectors to prevent radicalisation. Prevent Duty have published guidance for ‘specified authorities in England and Wales on the duty in the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism’ (HM Government, 2015).

According to the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-V), Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) are now characterised by 1) deficits in social communication and interaction, and 2) restricted repetitive behaviours, interests, and activities (RRBs).

There has been some recent media coverage of some cases of individuals with autism or Asperger’s syndrome being targeted and recruited by terrorists. Last year a Briton, Kazi Islam, 19, received an eight year jail sentence for training Harry Thomas, also 19, who has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to be a terrorist. Islam persuaded Harry Thomas, to try to buy materials for a pipe bomb and to attack soldiers with a knife or meat cleaver. Islam’s reported that his training with Thomas was motivated by Nicky Reilly who was another individual with Asperger’s syndrome, who was involved in a failed suicide bombing in Exeter.

However, research has shown that it is important to highlight that individuals’ with autism are no more likely to commit violent crime when compared to the general population (Ghaziuddin et al., 1991). Individuals with ASD are not at increased risk of offending has been found by more recent studies (e.g., Woodbury-Smith, Clare, Holland, and Kearns, 2006; Mouridsen, 2012). In fact, some studies have even suggested that individuals with ASD may actually be less likely to commit violent crime (Mouridsen, Rich, Isager, & Nedergaard, 2008) and that the large majority of individuals with ASD are law-abiding (Murrie et al., 2002; Woodbury-Smith et al., 2006). What some of these cases highlight is the need to protect vulnerable individuals from being targeted and recruited by terrorist groups.

Dr Zainab Al-Attar, a Senior Lecturer and Chartered/Registered Forensic Psychologist, University of Central Lancashire, also highlights that there is no empirical evidence to show that people on the autism spectrum are at increased risk of engaging in terrorist offences nor that autism is over-represented in terrorist offenders. Dr Al-Attar also highlights the role played by autistic special interests, fantasy, obsessionality, need for routine/predictability, social and communication difficulties, cognitive styles, local coherence, systemising, and sensory processing, in terrorism pathways and modus operandi (Al-Attar, 2016).

One recent case which provides some understanding as to the role played by autistic special interests is that of the Mark Alexander Harding (21) who was sentenced to 18 months probation for downloading copies of the terrorist magazines Inspire and Palestine which are created by the global terrorist group formerly headed by Osama bin Laden. Harding had posted 5,000 comments, some supporting the so-called Islamic State, on the internet forum 4Chan – an English-language imageboard website containing hundreds of threads about numerous subject matters. Additionally, police also found that he has amassed on his computer ‘a large number’ of images and audio material stored in two folders named ‘Islam’ and ‘Nasheed’. It was recognised that Harding had not been radicalised and his online persona was a by-product of his autism which caused him to develop obsessions over specific subjects. One argument that has been suggested is that Harding’s use of the internet forum was evidence that he was ‘acting out’ his angers and frustrations.

Radicalisation may be a broad facet and impact any type of case. There have also been some cases of individuals with Asperger’s syndrome who have become involved/radicalised in extreme right wing (XRW) terrorism. The case of Michael Piggin (18), who was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, who pleaded guilty to creating numerous weaponry which included petrol bombs, pipe bombs and air rifles but denied planning to use it in attacks on his former school, a mosque and a cinema in Loughborough in the UK. Piggin was initially arrested for an offence in which he allegedly threatened two boys with a knife, but officers were horrified when they searched his home in Beaumont Road, Shelthorpe. Piggin In a Che Guevara notebook emblazoned with swastikas and the initials of the English Defence League (EDL), Piggin wrote about what the prosecution alleged were attack plans. Reports also states that Piggin had boasted at school about going on an EDL march in Leicester. The jury were also shown a video of the teenager spraying “No more mosques!” on the wall of a leisure centre. Another video shows him saying: “We are against the Muslim invasion of our country. If you are looking at us… we will kill you, yeah – we are willing to take arms to fight for this country” (Lowbridge, 2014).

It is important not to assume that autism is a risk factor for terrorism in the general population. However, when dealing with an individual with autism charged with terrorism, it is important to consider how autism may have acted as a contextual vulnerability, and to ensure justice, rehabilitation and management, are informed by an understanding of the individual’s autism (Al-Attar, 2016). Despite counter-terrorism receiving substantial levels of attention and recognition as well as financial resource, there has been much less interest in investigating the effectiveness of interventions which are preventative (Bhui, Warfa, & Jones, 2014).



Al-Attar, Z. (2016). Autism & Terrorism Links – Fact or Fiction? 15th International Conference on the Care and Treatment of Offenders with an Intellectual and/or Developmental Disability. National Autistic Society. 19-20th April 2016.

Bhui, K., Warfa, N., & Jones, E. (2014). Is violent radicalisation associated with poverty, migration, poor self-reported health and common mental disorders?. PloS one, 9(3), e90718.

Ghaziuddin, M., Tsai, L., & Ghaziuddin, N. (1991). Brief report: Violence in Asperger syndrome—A critique. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 21, 349–354.

HM Government (2015). Revised Prevent Duty Guidance: for England and Wales. Guidance for specified authorities in England and Wales on the duty in the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism. Can be accessed from this link:

Lowbridge, C. (2014). How did Michael Piggin become radicalised? BBC News. Can be accessed from this link:

Mouridsen, S. E. (2012). Current status of research on autism spectrum disorders and offending. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 6(1), 79-86.

Mouridsen, S. E., Rich, B., Isager, T., & Nedergaard, N. J. (2008). Pervasive developmental disorders and criminal behaviour. A case control study. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 52, 196–205.

Murrie, C., & Warren, I. (2002). Asperger’s syndrome in forensic settings. International Journal of Forensic Mental Health, 1(1), 59–70.

O’Neill, S., & Simpson, J. (2015). Mental health link to extremism. The Times. Article can be accessed:

Woodbury-Smith, M. R., Clare, I. C. H., Holland, A. J., & Kearns, A. (2006). High functioning autistic spectrum disorders, offending and other law-breaking: findings from a community sample. The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology, 17(1), 108-120.





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What has really happened to Phineas Gage?

By Dec.09, 2015

 By Ivett Ayodele              


Myths and recent discoveries about Psychology’s most famous Case Study


A few  days ago I was reading the August issue of the BPS Digest and came across a piece by Christian Jarrett titled “What textbooks don’t tell you about psychology’s most famous case study” (See this article here.) I was surprised because as far as I was concerned, the story of Phineas Gage always sounded more like a myth to me. I was compelled to do some research on the new discoveries and here is my own summary about the real story of Phineas Gage.

If you are studying Psychology or have an interest in it, you have probably heard of the case of Phineas Gage. His story is remarkable and very popular among psychology students all over the world (Jarrett, 2015).


Who was Phineas Gage?

Phineas Gage was a railway worker in the 1800s. On the 13th September, 1848 he suffered a traumatic brain injury when an iron rod went through his entire skull, destroying a large section of his brain (Cherry, 2015). The fact, that he not only survived but was also able to speak and walk after the accident, made him one of the most famous patients in neuroscience (Jarrett, 2015).  However, according to Griggs (2015), most textbooks (at least the American ones) give a misleading account of his story.  In particular many suggest he had a dramatic change in character and personality.

“In this regard his mind was radically changed, so decidedly that his friends and acquaintances said he was “no longer Gage”. (Harlow, 1868, p. 340)


The Myth

 Richard Griggs, Emeritus Professor of Psychology at the University of Florida, analysed the content of 23 textbooks and found that most of them had told the story of Phineas Gage inaccurately (Jarrett, 2015).

These textbooks will tell you that although Phineas Gage survived the accident, he became a changed man (Cherry, 2015), he never worked again or that he became a circus freak for the rest of his life, showing off the holes in his head (Jarrett, 2015). However, according to Griggs (2015), the most appalling error seems to be that Gage survived for 20 years with the tamping iron rod embedded in his head!


New Discoveries

Thanks to the work of Malcom Macmillan and Mathew L.  Lena, who carried out some historical analysis between 2000 and 2010 (e.g. see “Rehabilitating Phineas Gage”, 2010), it seems that in fact, Phineas Gage made a surprisingly good recovery. He ultimately emigrated to Chile and became a coach driver, controlling six horses and dealing politely with non-English speaking passengers (Jarrett, 2015). Furthermore, in 2008, some new photographic evidence emerged from Jack and Beverly Wilgus. They acquired the daguerreotype below, of which this is a photograph 30 years ago, but it was not identified as Phineas Gage until 2008. (Macmillan & Lena, 2010).




According to Macmillan and Lena (2010) two relatives of Phineas Gage also have copies of the photograph of a similar daguerreotype, which was passed down to the descendants of Phineas’ siblings. They therefore argue, that there is no doubt the image is of Phineas.


There is further evidence by Macmillan and Lena (2010) that suggests, that Phineas Gage not only recovered after his accident but also consistently sought to readapt to his circumstances.

  1. Phineas returned to work on his family farm just four month after his accident and sought his old job four months later.
  2. Two or three years later, he started lecturing and exhibiting himself, advertising and traveling independently, requiring him to re-learn any lost social skills.
  3. He worked as a Currier for a year (1851-1852) and he also learnt how to drive a coach during this period.
  4. He was reliable enough to be employed as a Coach driver in Chile, where he remained for about 7 years; using complex social and cognitive-motor skills which were required for this job.
  5. He was able to adapt to the language and custom of Chile, which was a foreign land for him.
  6. A doctor who knew him well in Chile stated that he saw “no impairment whatever” in him after a certain period of time.

In his late years, Phineas Gage began to suffer from ill health and decided to follow those members of his family, who had relocated to San Francisco, California. He eventually regained his health and worked as a farmer in Santa Clara. (Cherry, 2015).   However, he soon started to experience convulsions and became dissatisfied with his job, changing his employer frequently before deciding to return to his family in San Francisco. He died of a series of severe convulsions on the 21st May 1860 (Macmillan & Lena, 2010.)


Why is it important to set the record straight about Phineas Gage?


Well, according to Griggs (2015) there are one and half million students studying Psychology in the USA alone and they are introduced to the discipline via textbooks (Jarrett, 2015).

Therefore, “it is important to the psychological teaching community to identify inaccuracies in our textbooks so that they can be corrected, and we as textbook authors and teachers do not continue to “give away” false information about our discipline” (Griggs, 2015).


I hope you enjoyed this post and I would like to invite you to submit a piece of your own to our Blog! You can write about you experiences at Salford or if you read a good book, or see a good film you could write a review on that! For more information please contact me on




Cherry, K. (2015, November 18). About Education. Retrieved from

Griggs, R. (2015). Coverage of the Phineas Gage Story in Introductory Psychology Textbooks: Was Gage No Longer Gage? Teaching of Psychology, 195-202.

Harlow, J. M. (1868). Recovery from the passage of an iron bar through the head. Publications of the Massachusetts Medical Society, 2, 327–347, [Facsimile in Macmillan, 2000,

Jarrett, C. (2015). What the textbooks don’t tell you about psychology’s most famous case study. BPS Digest, 626.

Macmillan, M., & Lena, M. L. (2010). Rehabilitating Phineas Gage. Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, 641-658.



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Pavlov’s Ducks: an experiment in conditioning

By Dec.09, 2015


By Sophie Lavin



This study investigated whether ducks can be trained, using the work of Pavlov and Skinner. It turned out ducks are not as stupid as they look.



Ivan Pavlov’s work on the digestive system of dogs led him to Classical Conditioning. He predicted that a stimulus could become associated with food and cause salivation if a particular stimulus in the dog’s surroundings was present when the dog was given food. In his initial experiments, Pavlov presented a stimulus (rang a bell) and then gave the dog food; after a few repetitions, the dogs started to salivate in response to the stimulus.

BF Skinner was a behaviourist who considered free will an illusion and human action dependent on  the consequences of previous actions. If the response is bad, it is unlikely the action will be repeated; but if it is good, the action will become more probable. This is reinforcement, and making use of it is Operant Conditioning. Skinner called his pigeons ‘superstitious’ because, by feeding them using a machine that dispensed food at regular intervals no matter what the birds did, he noticed that they associated the food with whatever chance actions they were doing when it was delivered. The pigeons continued to perform the actions, hoping for more food.

This study set out to find out whether ducks are as clever as dogs or pigeons. They don’t seem it.

Hypothesis: that ducks can be trained to respond to the sound of a bell.




The study used direct observation in a rural laboratory setting.



Participants were an opportunity sample of five Indian Runner Ducklings of indeterminate sex[1]. They were introduced to the laboratory at two weeks old and at the time of the experiment they were 20 weeks old.



Ducks and a shed. A bell. Duck food. Probably a fox, too.



For 18 weeks, every time food or water was provided for the participants, a bell was rung. Food was always provided in the shed. After 6 weeks the participants were allowed to play on the pond during the day but herded back into the shed at night, in case the fox introduced an extraneous variable. At 20 weeks the experimenter attempted to put the participants in the shed by ringing the bell.



Participants were kept safe from the fox, fed and allowed to play on the pond.




Table 1

Putting the Ducks Away.


Day bell herding required
Monday 1  
Tuesday 1  
Wednesday 1  
Thursday   1
Friday 1  
Saturday 1  

[1] It’s beginning to look like they are all male (no eggs)


Ducks put themselves into the shed upon hearing the bell six times out of seven (or 86%).



The results showed that the participants were indeed smarter than they looked. They had been conditioned to run into the shed on the sound of the bell. On Thursday, the experimenter was stuck on a delayed train home from university, and the test was administered by an adolescent research assistant. This young helper rarely does any chores around the laboratory, and had never fed the ducks. Therefore the surprise result was that the participants appeared to have been subject to operant conditioning. They responded to the bell only when they believed that the bell might lead to being fed. They were not Pavlov’s Ducks, they were Skinner’s Superstitious Ducks.





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