Anxiety during the coronavirus pandemic

By Roxy Cox

I am a recent English Language graduate at the University and I recently completed an internship working within the psychology department. As I worked from home I had the pleasure of starting to conduct a research project on a topic of interest.

The research project investigated how Twitter users were affected following Boris’ announcement on the 24th March 2020 addressing lockdown in the UK.  A dataset of Twitter posts was analysed over a 5-hour period from 7.30pm. I wanted to investigate and explore how Twitter users self-disclose their feelings of anxiety in relation to the coronavirus pandemic. Due to the volume of tweets I chose to narrow it down to those including the hashtag #anxiety and #coronavirius with the different variations (#COVID19 etc.). From this, three common themes emerged:

– Users disclosing their own personal feelings of anxiety, including present anxiety and constant feelings of anxiety –“Does anyone else start scratching like crazy when they’re very anxious to the point you bleed and if there anyway to cope with it its getting out of control for me cause of this coronavirus #mentalhealth #anxiety #coronavirus and expressing current feelings of anxiety through artistic form; “A #poem about living with the #coronavirus #COVID19 #pandemic . #mentalhealth #MentalHealthMatters #MentalHealthAwareness #depression #SuicideAwareness #anxiety #PoemADay #poetrycommunity #antidepressantpoet”.


– Anxiety for others, including direct and indirect support for others who may have anxiety and spreading awareness of mental health – “Love this, this is an anxiety provoking time. Let’s be kind and respectful to each other, we don’t know how people are feeling behind closed doors #Anxiety #COVID19 #itsoknottobeok.”


– Anxiety in relation to other mental health conditions (OCD, PTSD, and depression) – “Dealing with #Anxiety or #OCD on an average day can feel overwhelming, adding things like #Covid19 can make it feel unmanageable. @BBCNews has some tips on ways to help ease the stress that this #pandemic may cause on your #mentalhealth and quotes relating to anxiety support – This is a brilliant #quote during the #Covid19 crisis. Do remember to have some #fun because #laughing & #smiling muscles activate in brain release of feel good chemicals & at this time of high #stress & #anxiety that’s so good for #mentalhealth #JoyTrain #quotes.”


By using a qualitative analysis of the tweets I was able to conduct an in-depth analysis of the section of the data chosen, although there is still much more analysis to be done on the data provided. It was pleasing to find that the main content of tweets focused on supporting others, giving advice and spreading awareness of anxiety and mental health during this difficult time.

If you or anyone you know is struggling, please refer to this website where you will find advice, guidance and where to get urgent support if needed:

Stay safe. 🙂

brain and behaviour

Were we Born to Brexit?

Image courtesy of:
Science reveals fascinating link between our biology and the Brexit vote.

On 23rd of June 2016, 46.5 million people took to the polls across the UK and cast their vote in the European Union (EU) referendum (Electoral Commission, 2016). Less than 24 hours later the world woke up to an unexpected result with unprecedented

domestic and international implications. A democratic majority of 51.9% had voted to ‘leave’ the EU (Electoral Commission, 2016). The ‘decision of a divided country’ (Dorling, 2016) had been delivered, handing the UK government a

mandate to initiate and negotiate Britain’s exit from the union. ‘Brexit’ was born. Since then we have heard from the ‘Leavers’ and the ‘Remainers’. But the question nobody’s asking is – where were the Abstainers?!

Our politics really is a part of us – at the very deepest level. 

(Weinschenk & Dawes, 2018). 

Despite the record-breaking turnout on in 2016, there were 10 million people who did not cast a vote in the EU referendum (Electoral Commission, 2016). And you might well ask why.

Choosing to vote of course is every citizen’s right, but Under the Microscope has discovered that beneath the surface, our biological differences play a significant role in political participation. 

It would seem that politics really is ‘part’ of us – at the very deepest level.  (Weinschenk & Dawes, 2018). 

To explore this further, we turn to behavioural genetics, and explore the relationship between our biology and behaviour (Pinel & Barnes, 2014). Behavioural genetics is an example of biopsychology at its best, investigating an integrated, three-way relationship between our microscopic make-up,brain activity and social behaviours (Funk, 2013). Within this field there has been a growing interest in ‘geneopolitics’, specifically investigating the influence of genes on political behaviour (Dawes & Fowler, 2009) And on the hunt for heritability, here’s what they’ve found…

“Biopsychology is the scientific study of the biology of behaviour”(Pinel & Barnes, 2014. P28.)

Political traits are on average 40% heritable*

As political engagement and orientation tends to run in families, our individual politics has historically been considered a product of our environment, nurtured by the beliefs, attitudes and actions of those within our closest social circles (Settle, Dawes, Christakis, & Fowler, 2010)

But now a growing number of studies agree that our political differences are on average 40% heritable *(Beattie, 2017), with political orientation (Alford, Funk & Hibbing 2005; Hatemi,2007: Hate-mi et al., 2011) and political opinions (Alford, Funk, & Hibbing, 2005) (Dawes et al.,2014) both significantly linked to specific genetic factors.

This should not surprise us, as rates of heritability spanning a host of individual differences have consistently converged to suggest genetics account for between 40-80% of variance when it comes to human traits (Pinel& Barnes, 2014). But how could we inherit a propensity for political participation? The Human Genome holds the answers.

Image courtesy of:

The Human Genome

Mirjam Nilsson

Genes are tiny units of inheritance found within our DNA, that have been passed down to us from our biological parents. (Pinel, & Barnes, 2014). 

Each of us has more than 20,000 genes and thanks to The Human Genome Project, scientists have developed plenty of methods for investigating them. 99% of those genes are shared across the species and make us human, with the remaining 1% providing a genetic blueprint for our own unique, individual differences and traits (Raine, 2013). It is this 1% that behavioural geneticists focus on when searching for relationships between our DNA and political participation. That puts the findings to follow in perspective. On the one hand it has been argued that geneopolitics delivers nothing more than misleading microscopic happenstance (Charney & English, 2012). On the other, however, is a very compelling case for heritability.  (Weinschenk & Dawes, 2018).

Image courtesy of: box-painted-into-national-flag-colors-United-Kingdom-of-Great-Britain.jpg

In 2008, Dawes and Fowler carried out a genetic study to investigate associations between genes and voter turnout amongst two sets of twins. (Dawes & Fowler,2008)

Given the size of the human genome, these studies carefully consider which sections they are going to search before they begin. Fowler and Dawes (2008) decided to focus on two genes called MAOA and 5-HTT, as they had been linked to social behaviours in the past (Raine, 2013; Craig, 2007).

The results were fascinating. Across the 2,300 twins involved, both genes were found to be significantly associated with voting behaviours, providing “the first results ever to link specific genes to political behaviour” (Fowler & Dawes, 2008, p579).  In fact, they had stumbled upon two key findings at once: first that there was a strong case for a heritable, genetic influence on political participation; second they had uncovered a curious interaction. In the case of the 5-HTT gene, the positive influence on voting was only evident when combined with a key environmental factor – church attendance (Fowler and Dawes, 2008). Genes, it would seem, couldn’t account for everything. To be sure that DNA really was a driving factor in voter turn-out, the findings would need to be replicable. If the link Fowler and Dawes had found was genuine, that shouldn’t be a problem. 

According to Charney and English (2012), however, replicability is a big ask from genetic association studies at the best of times, given the sheer number of biological variations involved. The pair (Charney and English, 2012) were also quick to criticise Fowler and Dawes (2008) over the methods in their study, which took participants’ word for it on whether they voted, rather than using actual voting records and  involves a sample that was not culturally diverse – increasing the chances that common  ancestry had inflated results. Indeed, when Charney and English revisited the same data to improve on the original methods,  they could not replicate the results linking these genes to political participation.

Fowler and Dawes presented the first results ever to link specific genes to political  behaviour in 2008.

(Fowler & Dawes, 2008, p579).  

They claimed this proved that the findings of Fowler and Dawes were nothing more than a fluke, commenting that,

“The chance any complex human behaviour, such as voting, might have one or two major disposing  genes is practically zero.” 

(Charney & English, 2012) 

The story, however, did not end there. In 2013, Deppe and colleagues (Deppe, Stoltenberg, Smith, & Hibbing, 2013) sought to settle the score.

Using a completely different group of participants and more stringent measures, they decided to find out whether the 5-HTT gene really was related to voting. Using a random sample of 342 people, DNA samples were compared with evidence of political engagement from government records, spanning 4 years and six elections. The results?! A scientific gold standard – Replication. 5-HTT was once again significantly related to voting. And once again, it was curiously strengthened when coupled with church attendance. Nature and nurture, it would seem, cannot be separated that easily.

But how might a microscopic gene motivate people towards the polling station? Here comes the neuroscience…

A cell in the brain called a neuron. Neurons use neurotransmitters such as serotonin to send signals to each other (Pinel, 2014). https://


The reason for this association may lie in the role that the gene 5-HTT plays in supporting the steady balance and effective transportation of a neurotransmitter called serotonin throughout the brain (Krebs, Weinberg, Akesson, & Dilli, 2017). By supporting communications between brain cells, there is strong evidence that the serotonin system plays a significant role in our social behaviours and characteristics (Baliciuniene & Jazin, 2001; Raine, 2013; Jost, Nam & Amodio, 2014). Given that the act of voting is considered a ‘prosocial’ behaviour (Beattie, 2017) i.e. it is undertaken to benefit wider society, the association between people with particularly efficient 5-HTT genes and higher engagement in the voting process certainly seems plausible (Deppe, 2013).

The deciding vote…

What then, can we conclude? Were those who abstained from voting in the EU referendum simply missing ‘The Voting Gene’? It’s unlikely. But perhaps those of us with efficient MAOA and 5-HTT genes were more likely to turn out…we will never know.

Whilst there certainly is significant support for the role that genes play in our personal political beliefs and behaviours, they cannot

0f course wholly account for complex behaviors like political participation (Settle et al., 2010). Perhaps the key take-away is that beneath the skin of Brexit – we’re not so much divided, as biologically different. Which is exactly the way nature intended it.


Alford, J. R., Funk, C. L., & Hibbing, J. R. (2005). Are Political Orientations Genetically Transmitted? (Vol. 7). Retrieved from

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.


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


Boehnke, K., & Wong, B. (2011). Adolecent political activism and long-term happiness: a 21-year longitudinal study on the development of micro- and macrosocial worries. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37 (3), 435-447.

Cherniss, C. (1972). Personality and ideology: A personological study of women’s liberation. Psychiatry, 35 (2), 109-125.

Cox, L. (2011).  How do we keep going? Activist burnout and sustainability in social movements. Helsinki: Into-ebooks.

Drury, J., & Reicher, S. (2005). Explaining enduring empowerment: a comparative study of collective action and psychological outcomes. European Journal of Social Psychology, 35, 35-58.

Drury, J., Reicher, S., & Stott, C. (2003). Transforming the boundaries of collective identity: From the ‘local’ anti-road campaign to ‘global’ resistance? Social Movement Studies, 2, 191-212.

Gilster, E. (2012). Comparing neighbourhood-focused activism and volunteerism: psychological well-being and social connectedness. Journal of Community Psychology, 40 (7), 769-784.

Gilmore, J., Jackson, W., & Monk, H. (2016). Keep moving!: report on the policing of the Barton Moss Community Protextion Camp. Liverpool: CCSE and York: CURB.

Gorski, P., Lopresti-Goodman, S., & Rising, D. (2018). “Nobody’s paying me to cry”: the causes of activist burnout in Unites States animal rights activists. Social Movement Studies, 18 (3), 364-380.

Hannsson, N., & Jacobsson, K. (2014). Learning to be affected: subjectivity, sense, and sensibility in animal rights activism. Society & Animals, 22 (3), 262-288.

Kaplan, H., & Liu, X. (2000). Social protest and self-enhancement – a conditional relationship. Sociological Forum, 15 (4), 595-616.

Klar, M., & Kasser, T. (2009). Some benefits of being an activist: measuring activism and its role in psychological well-being. Political Psychology, 30 (5), 755-777.

Reicher, S. (1996). ‘The Battle of Westminster’: developing the social identity model of crowd behaviour in order to explain the initiation and development of collective conflict. European Journal of Social Psychology, 26, 115-134.

Shriver, T., Miller, A., & Cable, S. (2003). Women’s work: women’s involvement in the Gulf War illness movement. The Sociological Quarterly, 44 (4), 639-658.

Stuart, A., Thomas, E., Donaghue, N., & Russell, A. (2013). ‘We may be pirates, but we are not protesters’: identity in the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Political Psychology, 34 (5), 753-777.

Van Dyke, N., & Dixon, M. (2013). Activist human capital: skills acquisition and the development of commitment to social movement activism. Mobilization: An International Journal, 18 (2), 197-212.

Vestergren, S., Drury, J., & Hammar Chiriac, E. (2017). The biographical consequences of protest and activism: a systematic review and a new typology. Social Movement Studies, 16 (2), 203-221.

Vestergren, S., Drury, J., & Hammar Chiriac, E. (2018). How collective action produces psychological change and how that change endures over time – a case study of an environmental campaign. British Journal of Social psychology, 57 (4), 855-877.

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.



@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.


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.

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


‘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.