Blog Hangover

‘Tis the season to be groggy…



It’s almost that time of year again.

I saw my first Christmas display last week – admittedly in a pub, and advertising Christmas bookings, but it still kicked off that wave of panic that I haven’t exactly prepared (at all) for Christmas yet.

The presents, the food, the drink, the parties… and the day’s after.

I obviously can’t speak for everybody, with drinking becoming less common (Fat, Shelton & Cable, 2018; Oldham, Holmes Whitaker, Fairbrother & Curtis, 2018), but I’m quite partial to an alcoholic beverage, and the festive period always seems to come with an increased number of events at which we’re encouraged to ‘get a bit festive’.

The following day often comes with aches, pains, miserableness, and an inability (or perhaps lack of willingness) to get anything done. Most people would know this experience as a ‘hangover’, and it seems to be a pretty common experience, particularly at this time of year. Google trends shows consistent worldwide peaks in searches including the term hangover at the end of the year (with the maximum number of searches occurring roughly around New Years Eve).

Google Trends data for ‘alcohol hangover’ searches in the last 5 years. Image obtained 28th October 2019.

Your hangover might not, however, be all about how much you drink, or even your choice of festive tipple.

Obviously, we don’t get a hangover if we haven’t been drinking, but people have long wondered why the experience of hangover seems to be so variable – take for example P. G. Wodehouse’s categories of hangover (referred to in the novel ‘The Mating Season’, from 1949).

“I am told by those who know that there are six varieties of hangover – the broken compass, the sewing machine, the comet, the atomic, the cement mixer, and the gremlin boogie, and his manner suggested that he had got them all.”

Recently, we’ve conducted research at the University of Salford that has suggested this variety in the hangover experience may be due to your psychology, as well as your biology.

In our research, 86 participants were asked to rate the severity of their hangover, as well as 8 individual symptoms commonly associated with hangover (Thirsty, Tired, headache, dizzy/faint, loss of appetite, stomach ache, nausea, and heart racing). Participants also completed questions that measured a kind of ‘psychological coping mechanism’, that is, a way that we psychologically influence our experience of pain, discomfort, or stress.

Specifically, researchers asked participants to indicate how much they tended to ‘catastrophize’ in response to pain – People who catastrophize tend to magnify or exaggerate the seriousness of pain, for example they might think that ‘it’s only going to get worse’, or that they ‘can’t stand this much longer’.

Results suggested that the more people catastrophized, the worse they reported their last hangover was, even when controlling for participants peak blood alcohol concentration (a measure of how much someone has drunk).

These results are interesting because of the role that coping mechanisms, like catastrophizing, seem to play in longer term health outcomes such as depression, and addiction (Bendall & Royle, 2018; Yang 2018). Catastrophizing has itself been associated with craving (a powerful urge or desire to consume a drug), a key criterion in addiction (Martel, Jamison, Wasan, & Edwards, 2014).

All together, this might suggest that coping mechanisms play a role in both hangover, and the development of addiction in those who are predisposed (due to biological factors like genetics). If this is the case, then the experience of hangover might act as a predictor of future risk for addiction, and help healthcare professionals to target interventions that help prevent addiction in the first place.

So understanding hangover might help with more than just your headache.


Bendall, R. C., & Royle, S. (2018). Decentering mediates the relationship between vmPFC activation during a stressor and positive emotion during stress recovery. Journal of neurophysiology, 120(5), 2379-2382.

Fat, L. N., Shelton, N., & Cable, N. (2018). Investigating the growing trend of non-drinking among young people; analysis of repeated cross-sectional surveys in England 2005–2015. BMC public health, 18(1), 1090.

Martel, M. O., Jamison, R. N., Wasan, A. D., & Edwards, R. R. (2014). The association between catastrophizing and craving in patients with chronic pain prescribed opioid therapy: a preliminary analysis. Pain Medicine, 15(10), 1757-1764.

Oldham, M., Holmes, J., Whitaker, V., Fairbrother, H., & Curtis, P. (2018). Youth drinking in decline.

Yang, X., Garcia, K. M., Jung, Y., Whitlow, C. T., McRae, K., & Waugh, C. E. (2018). vmPFC activation during a stressor predicts positive emotions during stress recovery. Social cognitive and affective neuroscience, 13(3), 256-268.

Sam Royle is a Psychology Technician and PhD student at the University of Salford.

@salfordpsych events

SalfordPsych Believe It Or Not?

At the Manchester Science Festival this year, we joined the #CitizenScience Showcase and Library of Fake news at MediaCityUK, to run a mock ‘Believe it or not?’ psychology investigation, to show how data might be collected to address the question ‘why do people believe the ideas that they come across in daily life?’.

We’re also interested in how beneficial science festivals are, and particularly whether they promote a ‘growth mindset’. To examine this, we used a number of questionnaires that participants completed both before and after the task.

For the task, we presented people with small pieces of evidence, such as videos or screenshots of bits of articles, before asking them whether they would believe in a psychological myth related to the evidence, and why they would, or wouldn’t, believe it. Feedback was provided in the form of the scientific consensus on the topic.

We believe that transparency is important, and that everyone should have the opportunity to judge the evidence for themselves. As such, we’re providing links here to evidence that was used to determine the scientific consensus on the topics we covered. We’ve tried to ensure that some easily accessible information is included for each topic, but unfortunately, some of the sources may not be accessible without cost.


Would you believe that…

Carrots help you see in the dark?


Vaccines cause autism?

The brains of males and females are physically the same?


Swearing can have beneficial effects?

Working as a politician has less of a psychological impact than other jobs?

Drinking water cures a hangover?

You only use 10% of your brain?

Alcohol makes you less inhibited?

We are attracted to people who are our opposites?

Venting your frustrations will only make you angrier?

Criminal profiling is considered a science?




We hope that you enjoyed our little demo, and if you have any feedback or questions we’d love to hear from you.

You can contact us on:

Twitter: @SalfordPsych


Address: L826 Allerton Building, University of Salford, Salford, M6 6PU.


conferences technology

Throwing around rubber ducks – Technical challenges and innovations in psychology (ATSiP conference 2017 report)

By Sam Royle.

The Association of Technical Staff in Psychology (ATSiP) conference each year provides a unique opportunity for technical staff in psychology to come together and discuss the challenges of supporting psychology teaching and research, and the innovations applied to addressing the common (and not-so-common) problems encountered in psychology settings. It further provides an opportunity for Technicians to show off their own work or research, and demonstrate that #TechniciansMakeItHappen.

For the 32nd Annual ATSiP conference, delegates gathered at University College Dublin (UCD) on the 28th of June. UCD is based on a 133-hectare campus located about 6km’s from the city centre, and boasting plenty of green areas and a large lake at the centre, making for a beautiful location for this year’s conference (though it was a bit wet during our visit!). Conference presentations were held in the Newman building, with delegates staying in student accommodation.

This years conference was attended by 27 delegates and vendors. Our hosts were Colin Burke, of University College Dublin, and Patrick Boylan, of Dublin City University.

Day 1.

Proceedings began in the early afternoon with a brief welcome to the University from the head of the UCD psychology department, Professor Alan Carr, whilst delegates were still arriving. This was followed by a tour of the UCD psychology facilities and some of the wider campus, including the James Joyce Library, and the facilities classic, semi-circular lecture theatres. This also provided an opportunity for some delegate mingling and ‘catching-up’, and helped develop the typically relaxed atmosphere associated with the conference.

Presentations opened with ATSiP member Kristin Thompson, of Buckinghamshire New University, who discussed the use of virtual reality (VR) for teaching. Utilised in a module on ‘exceptional human experiences’, the presentation included in depth considerations of the ethical and safety implications of using VR and the difficulties in developing environments without expert support, as well as personal experiences with some surprising emotional responses to VR.

Following this, I presented my and my colleagues work on the combination of VR with functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIR) for neuro-cognitive research, providing an overview of fNIR as a neuroimaging modality, as well as work combining fNIR with 2 different VR systems, an adapted Oculus Rift DK2 and a CAVE-like system, the Octave. Greater freedom of movement resulted in greater data loss, but results indicated that both were viable methodologies with research and therapeutic implications.

Before closing for the day, Wakefield Morys-Carter of Oxford Brookes University provided an account of the current utility of online testing using Psychopy’s export to HTML feature, identifying useful tips and tricks, as well as highlighting a number of key differences between the local and online functionality of the software, such as the need to specify image sizes specifically for online use (in NORM units).

Delegates enjoyed an evening meal at the Clonskeagh House Pub, a short walk away from the UCD campus. A big thanks to the staff, who provided a lovely meal, good beer, and put up with a number of us until a little way into the early hours of the morning.

Day 2.

The second day kicked off with a breakfast selection at the university refectory, with cereals, fruits and pastries on offer as well as hot breakfast items, though we did have to make sure to get there early enough to beat the summer school students.

The ever lively Robertino Pereira of Acuity then provided a presentation of a VR eye-tracking solution, which allows for several immersing functionalities in VR environments, such as gaze contingency, natural targeting, interaction, and foveated rendering. A demo of the kit was provided, showing the natural gaze of an avatar reflected in a mirror, the ability to target throws accurately and naturally , and natural interaction with a shop menu, the combined results of which were rubber ducks being bought and then thrown around (I am assured none were harmed).

After coffee and pastries, Haulah Zacharia of the University of Westminster gave an account of her experiences with the centralisation of technical resources. A balanced account of both the pros and cons of being based in a central department, Haulah gave some good advice on how to ensure that centralisation processes are as beneficial as possible, such as trying to ensure involvement in the drafting of the job description, and obtaining direct professional supervision from within the psychology department.

Lejla Mandzukic-Kanlic, also of the University of Westminster, then provided an account of an impressive mobile learning scheme, in which students are provided with an iPad loaded with a number of useful applications, to support their learning. Compelling evidence suggested the first year of the programme, where level 5 and 6 students each received a device, was a success. Adoption amongst students was reported at 87.62%, and staff and students both reported increases in technological confidence. On top of this the programme had significant green effects (51.9 hours of photocopying saved), and workload effects (229 administrative hours saved).

Following a lunch in the refectory, Jo Evereshed of Cauldron, demonstrated their student friendly, online behavioural research platform, Gorilla, that allows for accuracy and reaction time testing via the internet. Gorilla manages complex experimental setups utilising a simple to understand graphical user interface, but provides flexibility with direct access to coding tools.


The ATSiP conference is also an opportunity for delegates to interact with vendors, some of whom brought equipment to demonstrate during coffee breaks on the second day. Thanks go to Robert Jones of Linton Instruments, Richard Plant of Black Box Toolkit, Andy Shaw and Caroline Norbury of Tracksys, as well as Robertino Pereira of Acuity, Jo Evershed of Cauldron, and Matthew Etherington of Lorensbergs.

Belinda Fay Hornby of the University of Central Lancashire gave a report on developments within the BPS regarding the roles of technicians, and wider participation, before welcoming Kelly Vere, Technical skills and development manager at the University of Nottingham and Higher Education Engagement Manager with the Science Council, to introduce to delegates the Technicians Commitment – A Science Council initiative designed to ensure that signatories ensure the visibility, recognition, career development, sustainability, and impact of technicians in Higher Education. I’m sure many other delegates would agree it was very positive to hear an emphasis being put on the contributions of technicians, and would like to thank Kelly for joining us in Dublin.

The ATSiP AGM was also held on Thursday, before delegates headed into the centre of Dublin to visit the Qualtrics office. Thanks go to Qualtrics and our hosts Sophie, Therese and Robyn, who provided Guinness and wine from the office bar, along with canapés and cupcakes, and a comfy setting for a presentation on the Qualtrics system. Following this, delegates attended a conference meal at the quirky Boulevard Café. Thanks go to the staff for a lovely meal, complete with two desserts and apparently never-emptying glasses of wine.

Day 3.

The final day once again began with Breakfast in the Refectory, before Matthew Etherington of Lorensbergs provided an overview of the Connect2 booking system, which is designed for Higher Education institutions. Matthew detailed a case study of its implementation for lab and equipment booking in the psychology department at the university of Portsmouth. Connect2 allows for the individual management of both equipment and lab space, with the ability to specify rules for bookings and providing an in-built check in/out system, allowing for more organised management of departmental resources.

Following a quick coffee break, Richard Weatherall of Canterbury Christ Church University presented to us the Swivl, a smart video recording device that can be used to automatically track a user or group of users. Richard provided an account of its adoption for easy lecture recording along with evidence that students see lecture recordings as useful, but crucially, not a replacement for being at the lecture. The Swivl has a number of features that make lecture recording an easy task, including the ability to directly route slides into the data recording, consistent audio from the marker based microphone, and of course, the ability to follow a wandering lecturer.

Richard Plant of Black Box Toolkit then highlighted the issues of replicability in millisecond level reaction time testing caused by reliance on internal hardware, and presented the mBBTK, a piece of equipment designed to ensure the highest possible accuracies in event marking timing. The mBBTK can boast sub-millisecond accuracy (and that’s accuracy, not precision), on 24 unique TTL marker lines. The device can be used standalone, or controlled utilising a Bluetooth or USB connection, allowing for flexibility in its methodological adoption.

Our final talk of this year’s conference came from Wakefield Morrys-Carter, who took to the stage once again to demo the use of Kahoot, an online learning resource in which students can respond to questions using either a web client, or their smartphone (by quizzing us on his previous presentation!). Wakefield also provided a brief introduction to Socrative, another online learning resource, and provided materials for a workshop on Psychopy use, made available through the website so that delegates could access it after the conference end.

I was personally honored to receive the Keith Nicholson Memorial Prize for best presentation – It’s always nice to see that your work is interesting to other people as well!

Plans are for the ATSiP 2018 conference to be held at the University of Bath.


Delegates of the 2017 ATSiP conference at University College Dublin.