Friday, 28 February 2014

Leading academics and policy-makers discuss the future of work-life balance

A consortium of universities, led by Professor Suzan Lewis (Department of Leadership, Work and Organisations) and Dr Nicky Payne (Department of Psychology) at Middlesex, along with the charity Working Families, are addressing one of the current challenges of the workplace through a series of ESRC funded seminars, ‘Work Life Balance in the Recession and Beyond’. The series examines the work-life balance challenges for employees, employers and policy-makers posed by economic recession and austerity measures.

The first of seven events was hosted at Middlesex on Friday 17th January and was attended by academics from across Europe, as well as representatives from policy-makers such as the International Labour Organization, the Department for Work and Pensions, the Local Government Association and ACAS, and representatives from industry leaders such as Ford and Barclays.

The seminar focused on the impact of economic pressures on work-life balance policies, practices and discourse, and the implications for individuals, families, organisations, policy-makers and the wider community. Professor Lewis opened proceedings with a forth-coming paper, co-authored with Dr Payne and colleagues, entitled ‘Public sector austerity cuts and the work-life balance agenda: under threat or a burning platform for change?’

Discussions focused on key issues faced by those present. Issues raised included the advantages of and limitations to organizational work-life balance practices under austerity, the provision of the right to request flexible working and upcoming changes to legislation; the impact on work life balance of unpaid care for children and elderly relatives provided by parents and grandparents; individualism and collectivism in formulating and implementing work-life balance policies and practices at both government and workplace levels; and the variety of policies and practices across countries and across different workplaces and different types of workers and work. Future seminars will focus more specifically on how issues and dilemmas may be taken forward and addressed.

Presentations and findings from each seminar and details of forthcoming seminars will be disseminated on the website . For further information or if you are interested in attending future seminars please visit the website or contact Professor Lewis and Dr Payne at .

The next seminar 'Work-life balance (WLB), fairness and social justice during recession and austerity' is on April 11th 2014 at the University of Manchester.

Visiting speaker: James Elander, University of Derby

Date: Thursday March 6, 4:00pm

Location: VG02

Title: What is pain acceptance, and how does it change? A longitudinal analysis of the roles played by motivation and behaviour in pain acceptance changes.

Pain acceptance is a complex construct derived from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, and is consistently associated with improved outcomes among people with chronic pain. However, pain acceptance includes both motivational and behavioural aspects, and change processes in acceptance are not well understood. In this talk, James Elander presents evidence from a 12-month longitudinal study of people with chronic haemophilia-related joint pain who received a low-intensity pain self-management intervention. The data were used to test hypotheses about whether changes in pain acceptance occur in sequences that resemble motivational or behavioural changes. A series of cross-lagged regression analyses showed that changes in pain acceptance were influenced by prior changes in readiness (motivation) to self-manage pain, suggesting that changes in pain acceptance are primarily behavioural, but that changes in behavioural aspects of acceptance preceded and influenced changes in motivational aspects of acceptance. These insights about sequential change processes help us to understand better the nature of pain acceptance, and can inform the design and delivery of acceptance-based interventions to improve pain self-management.

James Elander is Professor of Health Psychology and Head of the Centre for Psychological Research at the University of Derby. He is a HPC-registered psychologist and an HEA National Teaching Fellow. He obtained his BSc Psychology (1991) and PhD (1994) at Royal Holloway College, University of London. Since then he has worked at London Metropolitan University and the University of West London. His research interests include behavioural and psychological aspects of pain management and analgesic use in painful chronic conditions such as haemophilia, sickle cell disease, and chronic headache. This includes developing and evaluating interventions to improve people's self-management of pain, and studies of the interpersonal staff-patient dynamics that affect quality of pain management, especially in hospital. He has a particular current interest in the development of pain self-management interventions based on concepts related to pain acceptance.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Lisa Marzano at the House of Commons

Lisa Marzano, with Keith Hawton and Seena Fazel, (University of Oxford), presented her research on non-fatal self-harm in prisoners and also their investigations of near-lethal suicide attempts by male and female prisoners to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Suicide and Self-harm Prevention at the House of Commons on 11th February 2014. 

At the meeting, Lisa, Keith and Seena presented their research on non-fatal self-harm in prisoners and also their investigations of near-lethal suicide attempts by male and female prisoners.  They discussed the implications of their findings for prevention of self-harm and suicide in the prison setting.  This included, for example, screening of prisoners at reception to prisons and during their prison stay, court diversion schemes to ensure that prisoners with major mental health problems and risk of suicidal behaviour are able to receive treatment in more appropriate settings, greater mental health service involvement in care of prisoners with mental health problems, development of specific treatments for female prisoners who are frequent repeaters of self-harm and careful transfer of care to mental health and other services of those prisoners at risk at the time of leaving prison.  Following the presentation several parliamentary questions about the issues relating to self-harm and suicide in prisoners have been tabled.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Spring funding opportunities

Conference attendance funding:

The European Society for Cognitive Psychology

The European Society for Cognitive Psychology invites applications for its conference attendance funding. This supports graduate students to attend the conferences organised by the society. Preference will be given to associate members of the society.

Deadlines on: 1 March 2014, 1 September 2014, and repeated annually.

Postgraduate and postdoctoral travel grants:

The European Association of Social Psychology invites applications for its postgraduate and postdoctoral travel bursaries. These support:
Short visits by postgraduate or postdoctoral students to departments elsewhere in the world in order to conduct new research, complete ongoing projects, or undergo training in a particular methodology or technology;

Funding will not exceed €800.

Deadlines on: 31 March 2014, 30 June 2014, 30 September 2014, 30 December 2014, and repeated annually.

Postdoctoral conference bursaries:

The British Psychological Society invites applications for its postdoctoral conference bursaries. These bursaries are available to support UK psychology postdoctoral researchers and lecturers to attend any academic conference, either in the UK or internationally, relevant to the applicant’s work. Applicants must be employed at a UK HEI and be within three years of the completion of their PhD in psychology.

Each bursary consists of up to £150 for the UK or £300 for an international conference.

Deadlines on: 1 April 2014, 1 October 2014, and repeated annually.

Research theme groups:

The Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences invites proposals for research theme groups. A NIAS research theme group is composed of up to six scholars,

Award type Senior fellowships; Mid-Career fellowships; Directed grants to institutions, research groups etc; Early-Career fellowships; Directed grants for individual investigators; Networking/collaboration

Closing date 15 Apr 14

Applications are open to postgraduate members of the association currently registered for a PhD at a European university and full members who have completed their PhD within 36 months prior to their application.
Funding will not exceed €800.

Deadlines on: 31 March 2014, 30 June 2014, 30 September 2014, 30 December 2014, and repeated annually.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Visiting speaker: Gordon Ingram, Bath Spa University

Date and time: Thursday Feb 27, 4:00pm, Room C113

Title: "From hitting to tattling to gossip: an evolutionary rationale for the development of indirect aggression in children"

Gossip is often argued to play an important role in maintaining systems of cooperation based on reputation. It is a common behaviour among adolescents - a critical time for reputation formation - at which age many researchers use negative gossip as an example of indirect aggression (or of the related constructs of relational or social aggression). However, true gossip (in the sense of covert reporting of behaviour) seems to be almost unknown among young children. In the first part of the talk I summarise my PhD research on tattling - a form of overt reporting of behaviour which young children do practise frequently. Tattling in my research sites correlated with both dominance and indirect aggression. In the second part of the talk, I propose a new theoretical model in which aggression (in intra-group contexts) is socialised into increasingly indirect forms as children get older. This is associated with an image-schematic elaboration of the dominance hierarchies characteristic of non-human animals, which are mediated by ritualised physical interactions, into prestige hierarchies that are mediated by abstract, symbolic interactions. From the developmental literature I identify three pieces of evidence for this model: (i) physical aggression falls in early childhood over the same age range during which indirect aggression increases; (ii) the same individuals engage in both physical and indirect aggression; and (iii) dominant individuals practice indirect aggression more frequently. This leads me to postulate two major developmental transitions in social behaviour: the first occurring in early childhood with the internalisation of norms against physical aggression, and the second in preadolescence with the development of increasingly covert forms of reputational competition. I speculate that these developmental transitions may be associated with a two-step model of human evolution, in which increasingly complex societies were first supported by social emotions in face-to-face interactions, and only later by formal institutions with greatly increased spatial and temporal displacement. Finally I briefly consider practical implications of this model for reducing bullying, both face-to-face and online.

Gordon Ingram is Lecturer in Psychology at Bath Spa University, where he coordinates the second-year module in Developmental Psychology and the third-year module in Evolutionary Psychology. He received his PhD in 2009 from the Institute of Cognition and Culture at Queen's University Belfast, with a thesis entitled: "Young children's reporting of peers' behaviour". Before joining Bath Spa he taught Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology at Oxford University, and then worked on a large-scale European research project at the University of Bath, helping to develop an educational computer game aimed at improving preadolescent children's conflict resolution skills. His research interests include evolutionary developmental psychology; conflict and cooperation in peer groups; social and emotional learning; cyberbullying and the use of social networking software by preadolescents; and the anthropology of childhood.


Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Society for Reproductive and Infant Psychology funded workshop

Following a successfully Society for Reproductive and Infant Psychology (SRIP) funded Workshop organised by members of the Project Group on Assisted Reproduction (PROGAR), Olga van den Akker and her colleagues have published a short report in BioNews:

Free National Workshop at Middlesex, supported by the HEA, 16 April 2014: Supervising Qualitative Dissertations

The workshop will focus on developing skills and strategies in the supervision of qualitative dissertations for psychology teaching staff.  It will be of particular value to psychologists who have at least some background in qualitative methods but are relatively inexperienced in supervising qualitative final year empirical projects or dissertations. More experienced qualitative project supervisors will benefit from the opportunity to share learning with fellow participants and the presenter team.  The workshop will explore three themes through the use of structured group activities and discussions: planning and management; data collection and analysis; and, writing up, quality and assessment.  It will be held on 16 April at Middlesex from 10.00-4.00.  Places are FREE.  It will be run by members of the Teaching Qualitative Psychology Special Interest Group of the Higher Education Academy.  

See here for more info and to book: 

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

A departmental debate about research methods teaching

This house believes that research methods teaching in psychology fundamentally inhibits scientific creativity.

The close alignment of research methods with a finite array of statistical approaches prevents problem led exploration and invention of methods.  Whilst methodological traditions can produce bodies of work they also run the risk of narrowing focus and missing crucial phenomena and possible explanations.  In an ideal world first year students would develop a question during lab classes and then develop a method to answer it, and an accompanying analysis strategy.  This would enable them to directly encounter limitations and difficulties and to understand the mechanics of the process.  It would also stretch their theoretical muscles.  There is only so much about behaviour that can be learnt through the deployment of a two-way ANOVA or a self-report questionnaire and there is no reason to see such methods as foundational to understanding in the behavioural sciences.  As a consequence we must revise our teaching and consider the ethics of engaging other organisms in limited research.

Tom Dickins

Please send your arguments for or against this proposition to the blog using the Comment function.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Jackie Gray attends WAIS-IV training course

Jackie Gray reports back from the WAIS-IV training course she attended last week:

I have just attended an excellent 3-day training course on the administration, scoring and interpretation of the WAIS-IV, run by Debbie McQueirns of Forensic Psychology Solutions Ltd. The course provided an introduction to the historical and theoretical development of the concept of intelligence, and approaches to measurement. We then moved on to focus specifically on the WAIS-IV, considering the general guidelines for administration, before starting a series of role-plays in which we administered the various subtests. The administration practice allowed the development of a sense of familiarity with the materials, the format of the (invaluable) Administration and Scoring Manual, and the scoring forms. The final day encompassed consideration of issues including analysis, interpretation, formulation, malingering and report writing.

As an academic, it was particularly useful to work with people who are in practice, and who are training to become forensic psychologists. Some of the other delegates had used the WAIS-IV as part of their training, but wanted to become more proficient in its use, and their experiences brought to light considerations that I otherwise may not have been aware of. The use of the WAIS-IV as more than just a measure of cognitive ability was particularly interesting. Debbie McQueirns is a strong advocate of integrating the findings from the WAIS-IV with broader clinical assessment. A good WAIS-IV assessment should include detailed examination of factors that might affect performance, such as feedback from the person being assessed throughout the process, as well as recording aspects about their history that may be relevant and your own clinical observations. This information can then be combined with their WAIS-IV performance to inform the development of hypotheses about the individual and feed into formulation. This clinical approach reflects the aims originally set out by Wechsler, that the WAIS provides a lot more than a single number!

I attended this course as I felt I needed to understand more about the WAIS-IV and the practicalities of it use. I had (with some apprehension) expected a much more formulaic approach to assessment, and was therefore very happy to find a qualitative, complex and holistic approach being advocated. The limitations of a single IQ score were noted throughout, and the nuance that is lost in such an approach was evident through the case studies used during the training. The focus on the person being assessed, the reason for the assessment and the questions to be answered were also ongoing themes. This was a useful and insightful training course, that emphasised throughout the need for ethical practice, the BPS codes of conduct, and the scientist/practitioner approach. I would recommend it to anyone who may want to research or practice in this area.

Jackie Gray, 6th February, 2014.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Andrea Oskis takes part in this week's Psychology Research Seminar Series at Goldsmiths, University of London

Title: Stress hormones, relationships and adolescence

Abstract: Humans thrive in close relationships, and we suffer enormously when relationships are disrupted. In the main, my work seeks to advance the understanding of the biological mechanisms underlying the relationship/health link. My research takes a developmental perspective, and the common theme in all of my studies is attachment and interpersonal bonds. In this talk I will present work examining links between attachment style and stress hormones in adolescence. These data focus on two of the physiological mediators of the body’s key stress system, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis; cortisol and DHEA, examining how different patterns of hormone secretion are linked with different attachment styles. As well as focusing on the regulation of our biological stress response system, my research has also looked at how attachment style links to our emotional regulation, and I will present findings showing how alexithymia – the inability to describe and express emotions – is associated with specific dimensions of attachment style. Overall, this talk will illuminate the importance of our relationships to both our psychological and physical well-being.

Thursday 13th February at 4:00 pm in 309, Richard Hoggart Building

Monday, 3 February 2014

Relaunch of the Pluralism in Qualitative Research Network website

Last week Dr Nollaig Frost and Deborah Rodriguez relaunched the Pluralism in Qualitative Research Network website:  This disseminates and extends the work of the PQR project to over 200 researchers around the world and invites researchers using or interested in using pluralistic qualitative research to interact through the site by asking questions, posting relevant publications, publicising forthcoming events, disseminating new and existing research.  It has an associated Twitter account @n_pqr which has attracted nearly 40 followers in its first week.  Please do have a look and get involved if this emerging approach to research is of interest to you, or you have questions about it that you would like to post.