Staff within the Department of Psychology have a wide range of specialist expertise and knowledge. We work together in a number of research groups through which we support the work of both staff and students in the Department. In addition, we are able to offer a range of services on a consultancy basis. If you would like to discuss collaboration or consultancy with us, please do get in touch. Our research groups play an important role in the Department of Psychology. The groups meet regularly throughout the academic year and provide opportunities for members to discuss their current research, ideas for new research projects, or simply to discuss an interesting journal article or conference presentation they've seen. They also provide an important support structure for junior researchers, including MPhil and PhD students.

Recent Submissions

  • Gestural repertoire size is associated with social proximity measures in wild chimpanzees.

    Roberts, Anna I; orcid: 0000-0003-1185-7897; Chakrabarti, Anwesha; Roberts, Sam G B (2019-02-01)
    Studying the communication systems of primates can provide insights into the evolutionary origins of human language. Some theories propose that language evolved to help meet the demands of managing complex social relationships. Examining the associations between sociality and communication in the great apes can help to identify the specific selection pressures that may have been important for language evolution. In particular, gestural communication is believed to be important because it is a relatively recent trait seen only in primates and particularly in the great apes. However, the extent to which more complex gestural communication plays a role in managing social relationships, as compared to less complex gestural communication, is not well understood. Using social network analysis, we examined the association between complex gesturing (indexed as repertoire size) and complexity of social relationships indexed as proximity (the duration of time spent within 10 m, per hour spent in same party) in wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii). Repertoire size (the total number of gesture types a focal subject produced toward other individuals) and dyadic repertoire size (the number of gesture types produced toward the dyad partner, per hour spent within 10 meters) were positively associated with proximity at the level of the group (centrality in the proximity network) and the dyad (proximity duration between dyads), respectively. Further, the repertoire size of visual and auditory short-range gestures was positively associated with proximity, while the repertoire size of tactile gesture was negatively associated with proximity. Overall these results suggest that gestural repertoire size has important implications for maintaining social relationships in wild chimpanzees and more broadly that gestural communication may have played an important role in language evolution. [Abstract copyright: © 2019 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.]
  • The high prevalence of pre-existing mental health complaints in clients attending Saint Mary’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre: implications for initial management and engagement with the Independent Sexual Violence Advisor Service at the Centre

    Manning, Daisy; Majeed-Ariss, Rabiya; Mattison, Michelle Louise Ann Marie; White, Catherine; University of Manchester Medical School; Saint Mary's Sexual Assault Referral Centre; University of Chester (Elsevier, 2019)
    Background: The Saint Mary’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre has a unique service delivery model whereby it provides an integrated physical and psychological support services to clients, women men and children, living in Greater Manchester. The service is available to those who have reported rape or sexual assault, whether this is recent or historic. Clients living in surrounding areas of Cheshire are provided with forensic and medical services at Saint Mary’s Centre, with follow-up care provided locally, as appropriate. Aims: The primary objective was to identify the prevalence of self-reported pre-existing mental health complaints amongst adult clients who attended Saint Mary’s Centre for a forensic medical examination. The secondary objective was to consider levels of engagement with the Centre’s Independent Sexual Violence Advisor service by comparing clients who reported a mental health complaint to clients who did not. Method: One-hundred and eighty sets of client’s notes from 2016 were retrospectively analysed. Client inclusion criteria were that they were (a) over the age of 18 years when attending the Centre, (b) had attended for a forensic medical examination. Results: 69% of clients analysed reported a pre-existing mental health complaint. The time taken for clients to present to Saint Mary’s Centre following a reported assault tended to be later for the clients with self-reported mental health problems than those without. However, there was no difference in the long-term engagement with the Centre’s Independent Sexual Violence Advisor service at the Centre between the two groups. Conclusion: Prevalence of self-reported pre-existing mental health complaints is extremely high in clients presenting at Saint Mary’s Centre as compared to national and regional prevalence rates for mental health complaints in the general population. The vulnerability of this client group should be considered when they attend a SARC and support provided should be appropriate and accessible to their needs. Staff should have adequate training and supervision to be able to respond in this way.
  • Participant Concerns for the Learner in a Virtual Reality Replication of the Milgram Obedience Study

    Gonzalez-Franco, Mar; Slater, Mel; Birney, Megan E.; Swapp, David; Haslam, S. Alexander; Reicher, Stephen D.; Microsoft Research; University College London; University of Barcelona; University of Chester at University Centre Shrewsbury; University of Queensland; University of St. Andrews (Public Library of Science, 2018-12-31)
    In Milgram’s seminal obedience studies, participants’ behaviour has traditionally been explained as a demonstration of people’s tendency to enter into an ‘agentic state’ when in the presence of an authority figure: they attend only to the demands of that authority and are insensitive to the plight of their victims. There have been many criticisms of this view, but most rely on either indirect or anecdotal evidence. In this study, participants (n = 40) are taken through a Virtual Reality simulation of the Milgram paradigm. Compared to control participants (n = 20) who are not taken through the simulation, those in the experimental conditions are found to attempt to help the Learner more by putting greater emphasis on the correct word over the incorrect words. We also manipulate the extent to which participants identify with the science of the study and show that high identifiers both give more help, are less stressed, and are more hesitant to press the shock button than low identifiers. We conclude that these findings constitute a refutation of the ‘agentic state’ approach to obedience. Instead, we discuss implications for the alternative approaches such as ‘engaged followership’ which suggests that obedience is a function of relative identification with the science and with the victim in the study. Finally, we discuss the value of Virtual Reality as a technique for investigating hard-to-study psychological phenomena.
  • Patient-reported outcomes of sexual and gender minority cancer survivors in Australia

    Lisy, Karolina; Ward, Andrew; Schofield, Penelope; Hulbert-Williams, Nicholas; Bishop, Jim; Jefford, Michael; Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Melbourne; The Social Research Centre, Melbourne; Swinburne University, Melbourne; University of Chester, UK; Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre, Melbourne; University of Melbourne (Wiley, 2018-12-03)
    Five key points: This is the first population‐based survey of Australian cancer survivors to include lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex (LGBTI) identity. Few respondents (1.6%) identified as LGBTI, less than half the reported prevalence in Australia. LGBTI respondents were more likely to be younger, employed, and born in Australia. LGBTI people may experience more problems with anxiety/depression, body image and financial benefits, and greater needs for diet and lifestyle information. Commonly used patient‐reported outcome measures may not be sensitive to LGBTI issues; areas for future enquiry are proposed.
  • Body Part Removal: A Thematic Exploration of U.K. Homicide Offenses.

    Almond, Louise; Pell, Connor; McManus, Michelle (2018-11-28)
    Body part removal (BPR) is a rare homicide phenomena, which emerges as a result of a variety of motives. Fifty-eight BPR U.K. homicide cases were analyzed. Findings indicated key characteristics within BPR murder offenses, with most offenders males; aged around 31 years; knew their victims; with presence of alcohol, drugs, and mental health issues; and more than two thirds of the sample had previous convictions, more than 50% for theft. Offense behaviors showed "multiple wounds" and "victim naked" as highest frequency, with the head as the most frequently removed body part. Smallest space analysis (SSA) identified two behavioral themes (expressive and instrumental) with 62.1% of cases classified as one of these. The study has provided the largest U.K. sample of BPR homicide, furthering understanding this type of offense and the offenders who commit it.
  • What’s in a name? Family violence involving older adults

    Benbow, Susan M.; Bhattacharyya, Sharmi; Kingston, Paul (Emerald, 2018-12-10)
  • Assistive Technologies and the Carers of People with Dementia

    Bhattacharyya, Sarmishtha; Benbow, Susan Mary (IGI Global, 2016-01)
    Assistive technologies have a role in supporting both formal and informal carers of people with dementia, and in maintaining the independence, and quality of life of both people with dementia and their carers. The authors report a narrative review of the use of technological interventions to empower the carers of people with dementia, and relate this to a model of ageing well. They argue that this highlights the importance of empowering and connecting with carers in order to increase their participation and connection in the care of their relative/client; and conclude that both empowerment and connection contribute to maintaining autonomy and well-being of both carers and people with dementia. Technological interventions should not be used as alternatives to connection. The emphasis in practice should be on empowering and connecting with both carers and people with dementia.
  • Neuroticism and extraversion mediate the relationship between having a sibling with developmental disabilities and anxiety and depression symptoms

    Murray, Lindsay; O'Neill, Linda; University of Chester (Elsevier, 2018-09-17)
    Background Children growing up with a sibling with disabilities report higher levels of depression and anxiety symptoms as adults. Here, we examined whether personality characteristics also play a part in mediating this relationship. Method We tested for differences in personality traits between 132 individuals who have a sibling with developmental disabilities and 132 closely matched comparisons. Results Differences in Big Five factors of personality were demonstrated across the disability groups and between the disability groups and the comparisons, especially in Extraversion, Neuroticism and Openness. Individuals growing up alongside a sibling with developmental disabilities have a higher tendency to experience anxiety and depression symptoms, and this research is the first demonstration that personality traits mediate this relationship. Specifically, Neuroticism is a strong mediator of anxiety while both Neuroticism and Extraversion contribute mediating effects toward the development of depression. Limitations Our study made use of self-report methodology which, although having recognized limitations, is more reliable than parental reports. Given the cross-sectional nature of our design, we were not able to examine pre-existing developmental factors that may have influenced the participant’s propensity to particular personality traits and affective disorders. However, we obtained a large sample and closely matched participants to examine differences between those with a sibling with disabilities and those without. Conclusions As such, differences in personality traits have important implications for the understanding and treatment of siblings presenting with anxiety and depression symptoms. We recommend that intervention should target those high in Neuroticism among individuals who have a sibling with disabilities, and that more social support is put in place for siblings to mitigate their tendency towards introversion and buffer them against psychological maladjustment.
  • Persistence in gestural communication predicts sociality in wild chimpanzees.

    Roberts, Anna Ilona; email: s.g.roberts1@ljmu.ac.uk; Roberts, Sam George Bradley (2018-10-19)
    A key challenge for primates is coordinating behaviour with conspecifics in large, complex social groups. Gestures play a key role in this process and chimpanzees show considerable flexibility communicating through single gestures, sequences of gestures interspersed with periods of response waiting (persistence), and rapid sequences where gestures are made in quick succession, too rapid for the response waiting to have occurred. The previous studies examined behavioural reactions to single gestures and sequences, but whether this complexity is associated with more complex sociality at the level of the dyad partner and the group as a whole is not well understood. We used social network analysis to examine how the production of single gestures and sequences of gestures was related to the duration of time spent in proximity and individual differences in proximity in wild East African chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii). Pairs of chimpanzees that spent a longer duration of time in proximity had higher rates of persistence sequences, but not a higher rate of single gestures or rapid sequences. The duration of time spent in proximity was also related to the rate of responding to gestures, and response to gesture by activity change. These results suggest that communicative persistence and the type of response to gestures may play an important role in regulating social interactions in primate societies.
  • Investigating the celebrity effect: the influence of well-liked celebrities on adults' implicit and explicit responses to brands

    Rowley, Martin; Gilman, Hayley; Sherman, Susan Mary; Keele University (American Psychological Association, 2018-08-20)
    Celebrities are used within advertisements in an attempt to impact positively on consumers’ attitudes toward brands, purchase intentions, and ad believability. However, the findings from previous research on the effects of celebrity liking on brand evaluations have been mixed. In the study presented here, explicit and implicit responses to brands were more positive after pairing with well-liked celebrities (p < .01) and more positive than for brands paired with noncelebrities (p < .001). Participants also demonstrated a preference for celebrity-paired brands in their brand choices (p < .001). Participants’ general accuracy-based advertising skepticism was negatively correlated with explicit celebrity brand preferences (p < .05), whereas affect-based skepticism was negatively correlated with implicit (p < .05) preferences. These results are discussed in relation to the contextual and attitudinal factors that might trigger resistance to the effects of celebrity endorsement as well as the underlying psychological processes involved in responding to ads.
  • Anticipatory versus Reactive Spatial Attentional Bias to Threat

    Gladwin, Thomas; Möbius, Martin; McLoughlin, Shane; Tyndall, Ian; University of Chichester; Radboud University; University of Chester (Wiley, 2018-05-11)
    Dot-probe or visual probe tasks (VPTs) are used extensively to measure attentional biases. A novel variant termed the cued VPT (cVPT) was developed to focus on the anticipatory component of attentional bias. This study aimed to establish an anticipatory attentional bias to threat using the cVPT and compare its split-half reliability with a typical dot-probe task. A total of 120 students performed the cVPT task and dot-probe tasks. Essentially, the cVPT uses cues that predict the location of pictorial threatening stimuli, but on trials on which probe stimuli are presented the pictures do not appear. Hence, actual presentation of emotional stimuli did not affect responses. The reliability of the cVPT was higher at most cue–stimulus intervals and was .56 overall. A clear anticipatory attentional bias was found. In conclusion, the cVPT may be of methodological and theoretical interest. Using visually neutral predictive cues may remove sources of noise that negatively impact reliability. Predictive cues are able to bias response selection, suggesting a role of predicted outcomes in automatic processes.
  • Piloting a brief relational operant training program: Analyses of response latencies and intelligence

    McLoughlin, Shane; Tyndall, Ian; Pereira, Antonina; University of Chester; University of Chichester (Taylor & Francis, 2018-08-06)
    Previous research suggests that training relational operant responding using the SMART (Strengthening Mental Abilities with Relational Training) program over several months can result in improved performance on cognitive intelligence tests. This study aimed to investigate whether engaging in a 3-week relational training program would improve (i) scores and (ii) reaction times on a standardised intelligence test, and (iii) to pilot a new multiple exemplar training procedure targeting complex analogical operant responding (SMARTA; SMART for Analogy). We administered the Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test (KBIT-2) to eight adults across four time points. Control: Time 1–4: No intervention. Experimental: Time 1–2: No intervention. Time 2–3: SMART relational operant training. Time 3–4: SMARTA analogical relational operant training. Experimental participants demonstrated greater improvements in terms of both (i) response latencies and (ii) response fluencies on the Verbal Knowledge subscale of the KBIT-2.
  • Development and Validation of the Retrospective Childhood Fantasy Play Scale

    Kirkham, Julie A.; Lloyd, Julian; Stockton, Hannah; University of Chester (SAGE Publications, 2018-08-16)
    This article describes the development and initial psychometric properties of the Retrospective Childhood Fantasy Play Scale (RCFPS), a brief 11-item retrospective self-report measure of reference for, and engagement with, fantasy play during childhood. Five studies were conducted to (a) develop the initial items for the scale (n =77), (b) determine the underlying factor structure (n = 200), (c) test the fit of the model (n= 530), and (d) and (e) ascertain construct validity (n = 200) and convergent validity (n = 263). Overall, the results suggest that the RCFPS is a unidimensional measure with acceptable fit and preliminary validity. The RCFPS may prove useful in educational and developmental research as an alternative to longitudinal studies to further investigate how childhood fantasy play relates to individual differences in adulthood (e.g., in the areas of creativity, theory of mind, and narrative skills).
  • One step forward and two steps back? The ‘20 Principles’ for questioning vulnerable witnesses and the lack of an evidence-based approach.

    Cooper, Penny; Dando, Coral; Ormerod, Thomas; Mattison, Michelle L. A.; Marchant, Ruth; Milne, Rebecca; Bull, Ray; Birkbeck University of London; University of Westminster; University of Sussex; University of Chester, Triangle, University of Portsmouth, University of Derby (SAGE Publications, 2018-08-19)
    It is a widely held belief that questioning vulnerable witnesses is a specialist skill. In England and Wales vulnerable witness advocacy training built around ‘20 Principles’ has been developed and is being delivered. The 20 Principles do not cite a tested theoretical framework(s) or empirical evidence in support. This paper considers whether the 20 Principles are underpinned by research evidence. It is submitted that advocacy training and the approach to questioning witnesses in the courtroom should take into account the already available research evidence. The authors make recommendations for revision of the training and for a wider review of the approach taken to the handling of witness evidence.
  • Sleep duration and psychotic experiences in patients at risk of psychosis: A secondary analysis of the EDIE-2 trial

    Reeve, Sarah; Nickless, Alecia; Sheaves, Bryony; Stewart, Suzanne L. K.; Gumley, Andrew; Fowler, David; Morrison, Anthony; Freeman, David; University of Oxford; Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust; University of Chester; University of Glasgow; University of Sussex; University of Manchester (Elsevier, 2018-08-16)
    Sleep disturbance is common among individuals at risk of psychosis, yet few studies have investigated the relationship between sleep disturbance and clinical trajectory. The Early Detection and Intervention Evaluation (EDIE-2) trial provides longitudinal data on sleep duration and individual psychotic experiences from a cohort of individuals at risk of psychosis, which this study utilises in an opportunistic secondary analysis. Shorter and more variable sleep was hypothesised to be associated with more severe psychotic experiences and lower psychological wellbeing. Mixed effect models were used to test sleep duration and range as predictors of individual psychotic experiences and psychological wellbeing over the 12-24 months (with assessments every 3 months) in 160 participants. Shorter sleep duration was associated with more severe delusional ideas and hallucinations cross-sectionally and longitudinally. The longitudinal relationships did not remain significant after conservative controls were added for the previous severity of psychotic experiences. No significant relationships were found between the sleep variables and other psychotic experiences (e.g. cognitive disorganisation), or psychological wellbeing. The results support a relationship between shorter sleep duration and delusional ideas and hallucinations. Future studies should focus on improving sleep disturbance measurement, and test whether treating sleep improves clinical trajectory in the at-risk group.
  • Deception Detection and Truth Detection Are Dependent on Different Cognitive and Emotional Traits: An Investigation of Emotional Intelligence, Theory of Mind, and Attention

    Stewart, Suzanne L. K.; Wright, Clea; Atherton, Catherine; University of Chester; Bangor University (Sage, 2018)
    Despite evidence that variation exists between individuals in high-stakes truth and deception detection accuracy rates, little work has investigated what differences in individuals’ cognitive and emotional abilities contribute to this variation. Our study addressed this question by examining the role played by cognitive and affective theory of mind (ToM), emotional intelligence (EI), and various aspects of attention (alerting, orienting, executive control) in explaining variation in accuracy rates among 115 individuals [87 women; mean age = 27.04 years (SD = 11.32)] who responded to video clips of truth-tellers and liars in real-world, high-stakes contexts. Faster attentional alerting supported truth detection, and better cognitive ToM and perception of emotion (an aspect of EI) supported deception detection. This evidence indicates that truth and deception detection are distinct constructs supported by different abilities. Future research may address whether interventions targeting these cognitive and emotional traits can also contribute to improving detection skill.
  • Psychological support for patients with cancer: evidence review and suggestions for future directions

    Hulbert-Williams, Nicholas J.; Beatty, Lisa; Dhillon, Haryana M.; University of Chester; Flinders University; University of Sydney (Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, 2018)
    Purpose of the review. Psychological distress and mental health comorbidity are common in cancer. Various therapeutic frameworks have been used for interventions to improve psychological wellbeing and quality of life in cancer patients with mixed results. This paper reviews contributions to that literature published since January 2017. Recent findings. The majority of new psychological intervention research in cancer has used Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or Mindfulness-Based Interventions. Cognitive behavioural Therapy has been considered a gold-standard intervention and recent evidence justifies continuation of this. Recent reviews call into question the validity of evidence for Mindfulness- Based Interventions. A smaller number of trials using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Meta-Cognitive Therapy, Dignity Therapy and Coaching have emerged, and whilst findings are promising, additional fully-powered trials are required. Weaker evidence exists for counselling, support-based, and Narrative Therapy interventions. Summary. Efficacious, timely and acceptable psychological interventions are a necessary component of comprehensive cancer care. There is some way to go before the evidence conclusively points towards which interventions work for which cancer groups and for which specific outcomes. Methodological limitations must be addressed in future trials; at the forefront remains the need for fully-powered, head-to-head comparison trials.
  • A leftward perceptual asymmetry when judging the attractiveness of visual patterns

    Rodway, Paul; Schepman, Astrid; Crossley, Becky; Lee, Jennifer; University of Chester (Taylor & Francis, 2018-04-15)
    Perceptual judgements concerning the magnitude of a stimulus feature are typically influenced more by the left side of the stimulus than by the right side. This research examined whether the leftward bias also applies to judgements of the attractiveness of abstract visual patterns. Across four experiments participants chose between two versions of a stimulus which either had an attractive left side or an attractive right side. Experiments 1 and 2 presented artworks and experiments 3 and 4 presented wallpaper designs. In each experiment participants showed a significant bias to choose the stimulus with an attractive left side more than the stimulus with an attractive right side. The leftward bias emerged at age 10/11, was not caused by a systematic asymmetry in the perception of colourfulness or complexity, and was stronger when the difference in attractiveness between the left and right sides was larger. The results are relevant to the aesthetics of product and packaging design and show that leftward biases extend to the perceptual judgement of everyday items. Possible causes of the leftward bias for attractiveness judgements are discussed and it is suggested that the size of the bias may not be a measure of the degree of hemispheric specialisation.
  • Spiritual Abuse in the Christian faith settings: Definition, policy and practice guidance

    Oakley, Lisa R.; Kinmond, K.S.; Humphreys, J.; University of Chester; Steps SA; CCPAS (Emerald, 2018)
    Purpose: A previous publication in this journal reported the findings of a 2013 survey into people’s experiences of membership of a Christian church in the UK (author citation removed for the purposes of review). A major finding of this survey was that many people said they had been ‘harmed’ by their experience with some labelling it as ‘Spiritual Abuse’(SA). Respondents in the 2013 study also stressed the importance of developing safeguarding policy and practice in this area. The current paper explores the findings of a more extensive survey conducted in 2017 which aims to identify people’s understanding of SA some four years after the initial work and within a context of some discussion and uncertainty around the term itself. The study also aims to assess the current status of safeguarding policy and practice in SA perpetrated against individuals in the Christian church in the UK. A secondary aim of the study is to ascertain how far understandings, policy and practice have developed since the initial survey was conducted. It is emphasised that the authors do not assert that spiritual abuse is perpetrated solely in the Christian church. However, as this is their personal religious background it is the focus of this work. Design/Methodology/approach: A mixed methods online survey of Christians, Church attendees and members of Christian organisations was conducted in 2017. Data was analysed using descriptive statistics, inductive thematic and content analysis. Findings: A clear definition of spiritual abuse is required. There is an ongoing need to develop policy and practice in the area of spiritual abuse in order to respond effectively to those who have these harmful experiences. Research limitations/implications: This work has been conducted within the Christian faith community and thus, represents only this faith context. Accordingly, it is research with a specific group. The work would usefully be expanded to other faith contexts. Practical implications: People are still being harmed by experiences in the Christian church. Safeguarding policy and practice in the area of spiritual abuse needs to be developed in the immediate future. Social implications: Those working in statutory agencies, faith and community contexts need to develop an understanding of spiritual abuse. Originality/value: This is the largest survey conducted on the topic of spiritual abuse in the Christian faith to date in the UK.

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