Can protesting be good for you?

Sara Vestergren

We often hear about the difficulties and negative consequences of protesting and activism, and these negative consequences might be the reason why you are on this page in the first place. Some protest related experiences can leave the protester/s with long-term physical and mental scars. There are reports of activists losing their jobs, getting burned out, being ridiculed and criminalised, getting arrested and/or treated violently by the police. For example, at the Barton Moss Community Protection Camp, Greater Manchester Police made 231 arrests which resulted in 77 complaints to the Greater Manchester Police. Of these 77 complaints, 40% were related to police misuse of force. However, these negative consequences of participation in protest only tells half the story. What about the positive benefits of protesting – are there any (apart from making the world a better place of course)?

No matter where in the world we protest or what we protest for/against – our participation will have consequences. In a recent summary of personal and psychological consequences of protest and activism, 19 different types of consequences were identified, most of them of positive nature. For example, through participating in protests we can learn new skills such as organising workshops and managing the legal and societal system, we can change our consumer behaviour, we can become empowered, and we can gain new friendships and relationships.

Furthermore, participation in protests can improve your general health and well-being, self-esteem, confidence, and health. Protest participants have reported both increased general well-being and more specific consequences such as decreased migraines and easing of arthritis symptoms such as more movable joints and less joint pains, and increased long-term happiness. There is also research in support for increased self-esteem through participating in protests. For example, through the experience of standing up for what we believe in, together with others that share our views, during a protest we can become empowered and increase our confidence in ourselves, which may then stay with us and be applied to other areas of our lives.

So how do these changes come about?

Is it enough to just go and stand in the middle of a protest, breath in the air and suddenly you’ve benefitted from it? Of course not, if life was only that simple. However, there seems to be two crucial processes that leads to these various consequences; conflictual interaction with an outgroup (often the police) and supportive interaction within the ingroup (other campaigners). Firstly, when we perceive the police to act illegitimate and indiscriminate, we increase our opposition or become oppositional towards that outgroup (the police). The police here supress the right to protest (experienced as illegitimate) and treats all campaign members alike (experienced as indiscriminate) by for example forcefully dragging fellow campaigners away or dispersing the whole group of campaigners from an occupied area. There may initially be a perception of the police to be a force on ‘the right side’, a force that will do the right thing. However, when the police then act in opposition to our perception of how they should act a contradiction between our expected and experienced view of them emerges creating a shared oppositional identity amongst the protesters. Secondly, through our new opposition towards the outgroup our ingroup becomes more united, we feel closer to each other and feel as others will support us in our views and actions. This ingroup unity makes us more alike. These two processes can make us shift in the way we see ourselves and the world, and consequently, how we act in the world.

What happens when the protest is over?

Do we change back to our pre-protest selves when the protest is over? The endurance and strength of the changes seems to be linked to our relationships with other activists/campaigners. To sustain the changes over time we need to keep our ‘activist’ view of the world and ourselves alive. This also means keeping the content of that identity (such as fighting injustices) alive and adapted to all areas of life. For example, in studies of a group of Swedish environmentalists it was found that the activists who stayed in touch with other activists also stayed changed. This was explained through the activists being able to feel connected to the campaign issues and causes and thereby keep their environmentalist identity alive – with everything that means – for example, recycling, reducing meat consumption, reducing consumption in general, and staying active in other campaigns relating to environment or human rights issues. So, by staying in touch with other campaigners/activists, online or physically, we can keep our view of ourselves and the world alive and thereby sustain the changes such as empowerment, health benefits, oppositional view and diet.

To sum up, protesting may have its downsides, however, it would be very naive to claim that protesting isn’t good for you (and the world). This is not to say that we all change in the same ways, or that everyone changes – some may just become more convinced and enhance their opinions and behaviours. Additionally, the police response to protests may in itself be counterproductive (for the police) as it creates a stronger and more united opposition that fights more and harder to achieve change.

This blogpost was first published on Protest Justice

If you have any queries or want more information about the studies, contact Sara Vestergren


Twitter: @SwedishProtests


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Vestergren, S., Drury, J., & Hammar Chiriac, E. (2019). How participation on collective action changes relationships, behaviours, and beliefs: an interview study of the role of inter- and intragroup processes. Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 7 (1), 76-99.


Heather Taylor-mann & Cherry Hardiman: Volunteering while studying enhances your learning

Starting your postgraduate studies can be daunting. Academic expectations are higher than at undergraduate study and the time frame of which your studies start and finish is relatively short, with an abundance of lectures, reading and assignments to engage your time with. There is one main question on everyone’s mind though, what next?

Deciding on a career path if you haven’t already and implementing the necessary steps to achieve your goals is something that is at the forefront of all of our minds at this stage of our academic journey. This is why it is so important to take advantage of every opportunity that is placed in front of you. Volunteering as a research assistant at the university is an excellent way of combining your studies and interests, whilst gaining that valuable experience that employees and academic institutes are looking for to set you apart from the rest.

Early on into our MSc in Applied Psychology we were fortunate enough to be told about a PhD study being carried out at the university by David Tate into The Development and Feasibility Trial of a Cognitive Behavioural Social Competence Therapeutic Intervention for Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder without an Intellectual Disability (SCTI-A). Two research assistants were needed to assist in the analysis and recording of data. As the subject matter was one that interested us both, we jumped at the chance and expressed our interest. I had also carried out a similar position during my undergraduate studies so I was aware of how the practical application of being part of a study enhanced your learning and provided you with a wealth of experience to transfer to job applications.

Balancing time is always a concern, but this is also a skill that needs to be learned for the world of work. We never felt that our time volunteering impeded our ability to study nor did we feel that our time was being stretched to far. We enjoyed being a part of the study and seeing the commitment and dedication that goes into completing a PhD. So if you have the opportunity to volunteer, go for it! 

There is something special about being able to be a part to of something that potentially could
change lives for the better, we found that ourselves, especially with the research coming from a
fellow peer at the university we also attend. The general hum of The University of Salford hive
comes from a sense of collectiveness, that we can all have our own part in what the University
and its students can achieve. You’ll also never know when you your studies might need the
extra help to make it the best it can be, so volunteer and give yourself the chance to make a


Michael Heenan reports on his BPS summer internship experience

Having been asked to detail my experience of the BPS Assistantship scheme, I wanted to highlight not only my participation but also the opportunities that the university affords us.

The BPS Assistantship scheme is offered to students who have completed their second year and are interested in a career in research. It involves, with the help of a supervisor (Rob Bendall in my case), completing a research project over a period of eight weeks, writing up the methods section for an article submission, and submitting a poster to the BPS annual conference.

The initial set up of the experiment with my supervisor really helped cement my understanding of E-Prime software which we covered in 2nd year of psychology. The volume of information that can be input, collected, and linked with other systems opens up so much opportunity for cognitive study. However, I admit it is not an intuitively easy system to use and the detail can get quite technical if you are a bit of a technophobe like myself. The other element to the set-up of the experiment, which I admit I had never thought of, is the level at which extraneous variables need to be considered. With the research in question we needed to examine not only the valence of imagery but also its luminance, contrast, and details such as resolution of images. The minutiae of research are so much wider than you realise until you are involved in the conception of designing an experiment.


Once the initial set-up is complete and you have tested your experiment to ensure it runs smoothly, it is time to look at recruitment. Recruiting for experiments is in theory the easiest part as it just entails sending emails and you expect the offers to come conveniently flooding in. In reality, people wish to come in at the same time, and I needed to focus on my time management and organisation skills to ensure participants were booked in for a suitable period of time, allowing for time between participants should any experiments run over.

Before I talk about the experiment, I will just add in that as part of the experience, I was also asked to curate the Salford psychology twitter account, @SalfordPsych. This was actually the part I was most reserved about due to my technophobia, and I do not have any social media accounts myself. After spending ten minutes looking how to actually post a tweet, I got into it. It is a really useful tool, with members of the faculty posting regularly, links to so many articles from psychologists around the world highlighting the real-world application of many studies, links to events that can be attended, and links to ways of doing charitable work or helping the community. I am definitely signing up for my own account.

Running the experiment was the bit I was most looking forward to and the most surprising factor for me was how many participants were from other schools than the health and social sciences. So many people have an interest in psychology and are wanting to get involved if they are aware (great thing to know when looking for dissertation participants). Being involved has made me aware of the universal interest people have in finding out more about themselves, which is fundamentally what psychology tells us. Running an experiment is easy because it is the same process for all participants, and the testing of the experiment beforehand gave me plenty of confidence in running it. I got to use equipment that I had seen before but never used such as the eye tracker and equipment I had never seen before which was the functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) which measures the brains haemodynamic responses.

Even though I was most looking forward to running the experiment, what I enjoyed most was examining the results. The experiment tells us nothing without the results and this is when you learn all the interesting stuff. It amazed me how much data we can actually collect. For our experiment we collected behavioural responses, the fNIRS data, and eye tracking data all of which give a large volume of data. I will admit, this volume of data seemed overwhelming at first but again with a demonstration from Rob and Sam Royle (it must be said after I had an issue with the eye tracker, Sam was very patient), and Aleksandra Landowska for the fNIRS, it was fairly straightforward to extract the data required. I enjoyed analysing the data, but I am a bit of a research methods geek, so I understand that aspect may not be for everyone. But, I defy anyone to not be interested once you begin to see what the data tells us. It is the culmination of all of the work prior and gives a sense of achievement whether the results are significant or otherwise.

I really enjoyed this experience, in fact I enjoyed it so much I asked Rob if I can apply next year also. While I understand that places for this scheme are limited and not everyone will be able to partake, I encourage you to speak with your lecturers about getting involved in their research if this is where your interest lies, or you just want to further your own knowledge of the research experience. There are always experiments taking place throughout university for the research of lecturers, postgraduates, or undergraduates, and assistance is always appreciated. Take advantage of the opportunities that are afforded to us – not only will you be helping yourself, you will be helping others too.


Meera Sonara on her Psychobiology summer internship

In this blog post, recent BSc (Hons) Psychology graduate student Meera Sonara describes her experience of the BPS Psychobiology studentship. Meera and her supervisor Robert Bendall investigated neurocognitive mechanisms underlying emotional attention, by measuring brain activity and eye-movements.

After completing my dissertation in the field of cognitive psychology, I was thrilled to hear that I was accepted for the British Psychology Society Psychobiology studentship, a scheme that funds a second or third year undergraduate student to work alongside a supervisor on a research project for 8 weeks in summer. I was eager to get back into research and explore areas within psychobiology, and with the help of my supervisor, we managed to develop an exciting neurocognitive research project that built upon my dissertation. I couldn’t wait to get started and gain invaluable experience in psychological research.

Week 1-2
It was all hands-on deck during the first week of the BPS Psychobiology studentship as myself and Rob had a lot to get started on. After finalising what we wanted to include in our experimental design and drawing up a plan of action for the next 8 weeks, it was time for me to be trained in the various pieces of equipment I would be using for data collection. PHD researcher and technical wizard Aleksandra Landowska introduced me to the functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) brain imaging software, a slightly complicated piece of equipment that somewhat resembles a swimming cap with wires everywhere. However, I soon began feeling more confident with the software by practising setting it up numerous times, which helped me feel ready and excited to have a go at using it myself for data collection.

Soon after, I was also introduced to the eye-tracking software. Being able to see every little eye movement and fixation while viewing different scenes was something that I found particularly interesting, as I was able to visually see our own internal cognitive processes for the first time.

During the second week, I started putting together the stimuli that would be used while assisting Rob in the mechanics of the experiment in E-Prime. Before the internship I didn’t have the chance to learn about how experiments are built in E-Prime, and it turns out that there are so many details involved to ensure that they run smoothly. I learnt about how E-Prime, the eye-tracker and the fNIRS software communicate with each other, received a mini history lesson about parallel ports and started testing out the experiment. It was a lot of trial and error which was quite frustrating at first, but with a little perseverance everything was running perfectly, and I felt incredibly accomplished. By the end of the week, recruitment emails had been sent, the first few participants were booked in and I was raring to go for data collection!

Week 3-6
By week 3, data collection was in full swing. I found these few weeks the most enjoyable and rewarding as it was brilliant to finally see the experiment in action. Of course, there were occasions where either the fNIRS or eye-tracker wasn’t cooperating, however part of the fun of research is having to troubleshoot until you reach that ‘a-ha!’ moment and figure out where the problem lies.

Alongside collecting data, I also began writing the methods section for a research report, ran the @SalfordPsych twitter account for a week and drafted an abstract for the conference poster presentation. There were a variety of tasks to get on with which I thoroughly enjoyed, as it gave me insight into what life as a researcher involves.

Week 7-8
The final two weeks consisted of analysing all the data that I have collected and simultaneously preparing a research poster that details what myself and Rob have been investigating. There was a lot of multitasking, and my time-management skills were pushed to their limits. My roles changed from a day to day basis – one day I’d be analysing the fNIRS data with the aid of Alex and the next day I’d be trying to make sense of the eye-tracking data with Rob. However, as challenging as it was, being able to see what trends emerged in the data, what it all meant and how it can be applicable to the real-world was extremely exciting. I gained new-found confidence in my abilities to work on my own initiative and interpret the various pieces of data. After putting together the final touches to my research poster, all that was left to do was to present it at the BPS Psychobiology Section Annual Scientific meeting!

Throughout my time as an intern, “it’s all part of being a researcher” was a saying that came up time and time again but it’s certainly true. Not everything goes to plan straight away, whether it’s trying to get an experiment to work, whether the equipment spontaneously switches off or whether Microsoft Excel decides to test your patience. With the support of Rob, Alex and not forgetting Sam the technician, we were able to face any difficulties and think outside the box for a solution. I felt very lucky to be surrounded by such hard-working and inspiring researchers who mentored me throughout the whole journey and encouraged me to always persevere.

I would definitely recommend applying for the BPS Psychobiology Internship to any second or third year students looking to challenge themselves and gain hands-on practical research experience. More than anything, the scheme has helped shape my research interests and taught me that with plenty of drive and determination, you can produce a poster that you are truly proud of and sums up everything that myself and Rob have been working tirelessly on. I cannot wait to take the skills and experience that I have gained to a future role in psychological research, and I cannot thank the BPS and the Psychology department enough for giving me this opportunity.


Armenian: Genderising the Agender by Rafik Santrosyan


Parisian autumn sun pulls me off my desk out to explore the streets of Quartier latin. As I am excusing myself for abandoning my newly and greedily purchased pile of books by intellectualising my Instagram-motivated pseudo-photographic desires, my eyes catch a woman’s approving glare.  She is sitting with probably her son at this tiny café on the pavement. I walk by, of course without keeping eye contact which back home in Armenia I would not have refrained from.  A few steps past their table, I realise they are speaking Armenian. I turn back and greet them in Armenian. “Oh, you speak Armenian?! How come?” she says now switching the curiously appreciative look in her eyes into an almost inquisitive, slash suspicious one. Before I know it, I am already enjoying café crème with them. “I’m a researcher here. I work on gender and language,” I answer her question as to what brings me to Paris. My answer does not ring a bell. I try my best, finally resorting to the broadest possible description of my work, “I’m a feminist”. Her already unusual three-second silence was promising, and I thought I could now say good-bye before the silence broke again, “But you’re a male at birth, right?” For some reason, my conversational partner could not comprehend why a man (who also happens to be born as a male) calls himself a feminist. After trivialising all my endeavours to explain how destructive patriarchal frameworks can be for both men and women and that everyone should be a feminist irrespective of their sex and gender, my newly acquired friend generously offered to cook for me when I am “cold and hungry”, thus unconsciously invoking a gendered discourse where I, already a come-out male at birth, should be dependent on a mother figure to feed me. It was rather amusing to realise that my identity as an individual, a feminist, a scholar was denied because it conflicted with my sex, and the conversation was ushered into a reality where my “self” and her “self” were possible only in opposition to and exclusion of the other through imposed gendered behaviour. In a patriarchal framework, no other reality is possible except a gendered one in which the male is catered to and the female is the caterer… of food, services, progeny. The swift transition to “motherly advice and care” was in fact nothing but flipping the patriarchal gendered hierarchy: had she accepted me as an individual, she would have had to – in her gendered wisdom – accept my “superior agency” as a male. But she could not afford it, providing the age difference and alleged social status! Our individualities are so confined to sex and gender that our other merits are disregarded, allowing for a woman to see motherhood as her only form of agency.

As a matter of fact, in a recent word association survey, native Armenian speakers, irrespective of their education, gender, age, residence, etc.  were inquired to provide their first associations of gender after reading words that either implied high agency or, on the contrary, denoted minimum to no agency. The results of the assignment showed that occupations that implied agency, dominance, and control were chiefly associated with maleness and masculinity. Yet, words denoting secondary and subservient positions were associated with femaleness. To further explicate that the notion of gender is constructed around the axis of agency in Armenian, respondents were provided two types of sentences wherein either the subject acts, exerts dominance and influence over the situation or the subject is acted upon and shows minimum to no agency. As anticipated, the results of the survey reflected implicit androcentrism with maleness characterised by agency and femaleness defined by subservience and lack of agency. The only aspect of female agency recognised is pregnancy and breastfeeding – motherhood as a biological function that cannot be fulfilled by the male.  Remember the woman feeding me?

Adam & Eve

Gender is also a language-specific grammatical category. Languages like English have this category for the third-person pronoun (she/he) while other related Indo-European (IE) languages such as Russian or German also have nominal gender i.e. nouns and adjectives that are arbitrarily feminine, masculine, or neuter. As such, grammatical gender has been hypothesized to shape or influence aspects of mental representation of objects based on the grammatical gender arbitrarily ascribed to these object names in certain languages.  There are IE languages, however, that do not have this linguistic feature of gender marking. Such is Armenian — a separate branch of the Indo-European family of languages, where neither pronouns nor nouns and adjectives are marked by gender.

One might expect that being native in such a grammatically genderless language, speakers of Armenian would be predilected to see gender beyond a binary categorisation and accepting of gender as a spectrum. However, speakers of Armenian, as my Parisian acquaintance unwillingly yet so convincingly illustrated, turn out to perceive gender the way that patriarchal culture has throughout millennia constructed it for them at a semantic level:  binary physiological sex linked with a body of non-linguistic knowledge that ascribes roles to either of the sexes.  By virtue of being gender-neutral, Armenian fails to provide space for its speakers to develop sensitivity towards other intricacies of gender as a social construct by limiting it to just physiology. Native speakers of Armenian are left to rely on a vast body of non-linguistic knowledge encrypted in the language and passed from one generation to another. Cultural understanding of gender — or more precisely the lack of it – cannot persist without language that solidifies this knowledge and makes it possible for the transfer through fossilising the formula of an agent/male and an object/female at a microscopic level.




Report from the International Society of Political Psychology conference

By Ashley Weinberg

Psychology at Salford made its presence felt on the world stage with three colleagues – Sharon Coen, Jo Meredith and Ashley Weinberg – presenting their work in Edinburgh at the 40th anniversary conference of the International Society for Political Psychology (ISPP).  The Society celebrated this landmark at the Royal College of Surgeons, with over 900 submissions from 50 countries competing to gain a slot to present at this prestigious event which ran from Friday 30th June to Sunday 2nd July. This meant it was an achievement to be selected and Psychology at Salford’s submissions were also the only symposia featuring Brexit.

Sharon Coen did sterling work to make sure everyone was on form bright and early on the Saturday morning, as she chaired the symposium ‘From Big Ben to Brexit: What makes UK MPs tick?’ submitted by Ashley Weinberg, with co-presenters James Weinberg (University of Sheffield) and Warren Greig (Cranfield University). The symposium focused on their research into national politicians, their political values, personality and mental health in the context of the uncertainty created by Brexit.



Later in the day, Jo Meredith chaired and presented in ‘The Brexit debates: Exploring the discussions around leaving the EU’, a symposium which analysed online political discussion and news coverage. Sharon presented the work she’s been leading on media representations of experts in the EU referendum news coverage (with co-author from Psychology at Salford Ben Short), while Jo’s paper consideredcategorisation of Brexiters and Bremainers in online newspaper threads. Colleagues joining them in the symposium were Mirko Demasi (York St John University) who recently gave an excellent research seminar at Salford, as well as Simon Goodman and Gavin Sullivan (both from Coventry University).

Saturday lunchtime also saw the launch of a new UK collaboration between the British Psychological Society (being led by Psychology at Salford) and the Political Studies Association, to help further understanding of political behaviour. Members of both professional bodies, as well as of the ISPP were present to raise a glass to the new venture and to the progress being made to establish a Political Psychology section within the British Psychological Society. ISPP President Kate Reynolds from the Australian National University, told the organisers she was delighted to host the launch on this international stage and looked forward to showcasing future developments with this collaboration.


Reflecting on my internship experience as a Psychology Research Assistant

By Gona Mustafa, Psychology graduate

As my internship comes to an end, I find it hard to believe that 13 weeks have flown by so fast. When I first received an email from Tim Ward (Work Experience Consultant from the University of Salford’s Career Development and Employability Team) offering me a 13 week internship experience in psychology, I was really unsure of what to expect. As exciting as “become a graduate associate in Psychology and gain vital work based experience towards a graduate role” sounded, I was not sure about doing it. It was a full time job, something that I did not see myself doing straight after graduation, particularly as I had to manage it alongside family commitments. On the other hand, I felt truly lucky and I thought this was a once in lifetime chance to work alongside such professional and knowledgeable individuals.  It was an opportunity to interact with people who have expertise in what they do, to learn and gain valuable real-world experience in the field of my degree, and to use what I had learned over the last three years in a professional setting.

It turned out that taking on the internship was the best decision I have ever made. I was invited to a pre internship session along with other interns, where we were told about what to expect during the internship. We were also asked to write down three goals that we’d like to achieve by the end of the internship; my goals were to:

  1. Build self-confidence.
  2. Gain practical work experience in the fields of psychology.
  3. Familiarise myself with professional working environment.

After the session, I went to meet my line manager (Dr Gemma Taylor) and I was pleasantly surprised by how friendly and understanding she was.  She explained what the research involved which was “Investigating the effects of media on toddler’s word learning” and the aim of this research was to help shape our understanding of how children use media to acquire language, and gave me a vague idea of my role. After that meeting I was quite excited and couldn’t wait to start the internship.

In the first week, despite feeling slightly anxious, Gemma made me feel really welcome and provided me with a list of tasks to get me started. I started by doing some literature searches on the research, which I thoroughly enjoyed and it helped me enrich my knowledge about the subject.  The following weeks I had the opportunity to carry out a number of different tasks such as researching, reading and summarising research articles, writing an introduction, coding and double coding videos. I also designed an experimental condition, tried out different equipment and video cameras to use during the experiment which involved handling sensitive and confidential data.  In addition, carrying out the activities above allowed me to use the skills I had learned during my degree as well as learning new skills such as transcribing and double coding data.

Gemma supported me in learning how to deal with setbacks in the workplace in an effective manner and view them as an opportunity to explore and broaden my knowledge about the topic. In addition, as part of the internship we had the opportunity to take part in regular professional training from the university’s professional service and careers and employability development teams which I found extremely beneficial. We also had access to career coaching at the end of our internship, which was designed to help us deal with any issues academic, personal or professional that is limiting our ability to gain graduate level role.

My experience as an intern has been a big learning process. I’m certainly glad that I took the opportunity – not only have I learned much more than I could have ever expected, it has also prepared me for the real world. I have managed to achieve most of my goals and gained many transferable skills such as time management, balancing work and family life, solving problems and dealing well with unexpected situations.  In addition, I have much more confidence in my abilities, met so many inspiring people, and learned more about possible career paths.

I’m extremely grateful for this experience and amazed by what I have achieved in a short period of time. I can’t thank my line manager Dr Gemma Taylor and the University of Salford’s Career Development and Employability Team enough, especially Tim Ward, for giving me such amazing and enriching experience.


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



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.



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.


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.


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.


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


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.

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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.


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


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.


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!


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.


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