Friday, 26 February 2016

Jung-Lacan Dialogue

On Saturday 5th December, 2015, the second in a series of Jung-Lacan Dialogues aimed at fostering an engagement between two important and creative schools of psychoanalysis took place. What is the common ground between them? What are the intractable differences? Is it possible to find a common language or achieve mutual understandings? And what are the implications for clinical practice? 

Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society. A Postgraduate Conference. Call for Papers




Saturday, 18 June, 2016

We invite postgraduate students and research fellows to submit proposals for papers on psychoanalysis or psychoanalytically informed research. Papers may be from any academic discipline, including psychology, sociology, cultural studies, psychosocial studies, history, literature, art, religious studies or philosophy. We also welcome proposals on clinical or theoretical topics from students on psychoanalytic trainings.

This one-day conference is designed to give postgraduate students from all disciplines who are interested in psychoanalysis an opportunity to present and discuss their research in an informal and intellectually stimulating setting.

Abstracts of 300 words (maximum) should include a title, the name of your university or training organisation and a telephone number. Papers should be no more than 20 minutes long. A further 10 minutes will be allowed for discussion. Sessions of 1½ hours will have space for three papers. There will be concurrent panels to accommodate as many papers as possible. The day will end with a plenary.

The conference takes place at the Hendon Campus of Middlesex University (30 minutes from central London) between 9:30 and 5:30 on Saturday, 18 June, 2016. Tea, coffee and a light lunch will be provided. The conference fee is £45 for presenters and attendees. The fee for Middlesex University staff and students is £25.

The deadline for submission of abstracts is Friday, 27 May, 2016. Early submission and registration is recommended. Abstracts and queries should be sent to: Anne Worthington,

Centre for Psychoanalysis
Psychology Department
Middlesex University
The Burroughs, Hendon
London  NW4 4BT

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Open Letter to Stephen Fry, from Richard Bentall

You may remember Professor Richard Bentall fascinated us all with a research seminar last year - you may be interested in reading an open letter Professor Bentall has sent to Stephen Fry in response to his exploration of manic depression (in the current BBC series on mental health 'In the Mind'). You can find the letter here: 

Research Seminar, Nina Politimou, Middlesex University


Date: Thursday 10th March
Location: Town Hall Committee Room 2
Time: 16:00-17:00
Title: Musical and Linguistic Processing in Young Children: The Role of the Home Musical Environment

Abstract: Research on the relationship between formal musical training and linguistic abilities has been burgeoning over the last decade. However, a significant gap can be found when looking at the beginning of the developmental path of such abilities: whereas something is known about infants and a significant amount has been learned about school-aged children, very little is known about pre-schoolers. Aiming to fill this gap, this PhD research has moved along two interlocking paths - on the one hand, studying the early relationship between processing of both music and language, and on the other, bringing into the discussion a dimension so far unexplored, that is the influence of informal musical interactions and of the home musical environment on early musical and linguistic development.
Study 1 aims to examine: a) the relationship between a range of musical skills and linguistic development in 3- and 4-year-old children and, b) the role of the home musical environment on linguistic and musical skills on this age group. Participating children completed age-appropriate musical tasks designed ad-hoc for this experiment and standardized measures evaluating the development of language structure, phonological awareness, verbal and non-verbal ability. Parents completed self-reports about their musical profile and frequency and type of musical interactions within the family. Preliminary findings point to a particularly strong link between rhythm perception abilities and phonological awareness skills suggesting that at least certain features of language and music may rely on common learning mechanisms. The home musical environment appears to be strongly associated with language structure and verbal ability, suggesting that informal home interactions, may serve as scaffolding for extracting and internalizing linguistic structures and information from the environment.
The observed association between the home musical environment and aspects of linguistic development warranted for the development of an appropriate tool to further explore this understudied area. Therefore, the aim of Study 2 is to develop and validate the Musical Experience in the Family Questionnaire into an instrument with good psychometric properties. The new questionnaire (Music@Home questionnaire) is designed for both infants and pre-schoolers, with the ultimate aim of addressing the origin of the developmental trajectory of the relationship between home musical experience and language development. Responses from 630 participants have been collected via an online survey and exploratory factor analysis is being used to identify different dimensions (e.g., parental attitudes towards music) that will correspond to sub-scales of the questionnaire.

Musical skills, language development, informal musical experience, preschoolers

Biography: Nina Politimou completed her BSc in Psychology in the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens in Greece, and graduated with a diploma in harmony and theory of music from the Raymonde Conservatory in Athens. She continued her MSc studies in Cognitive Psychology and Neuropsychology at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece, where she participated in a number of research projects examining various aspects of neurocognitive processing in healthy and clinical populations. 
Her current research at Middlesex University examines the relationship between musical and linguistic abilities in 3- and 4-year old children. Another aim of this project is to explore a so far understudied area, that is the influence of informal musical interactions and of the home musical environment on early musical and linguistic development.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

A grown-up conversation about children and porn online starts here: Republished from The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Victoria Nash, University of Oxford; Cicely Marston, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine; Joanna R Adler, Middlesex University, and Sonia Livingstone, London School of Economics and Political Science
The Conservative government has launched the latest salvo in its manifesto pledge to prevent children from accessing pornography online, proposing that pornography websites would have to require age verification – for example a credit card check or some form of electronic identity backed by official ID.
A public consultation from the Department for Culture Media and Sport is asking for responses to these proposals, drawn from our expert panel’s report on how children access pornography online. As part of the same pledge, the government introduced age-rating for music videos online, implemented by YouTube and Vevo, and since 2014 internet service providers, ISPs, have been expected to prompt their customers to decide whether or not they want to have family filtering applied to their internet connection.

Putting aside debates about whether pornography is harmful, or whether the chances of children viewing pornography online are sufficient to warrant major legislation, we do know that in study after study lots of under-18s do report seeing sexual content online or on their phones. It’s hard to determine precise numbers, or whether the content viewed is pornography or more mainstream content (think Game of Thrones nude scenes, or a Rihanna video), but there is evidence that they’re upset by what they see.

Clearly age, content and intent matter a great deal here. There’s a world of difference between a nine-year-old accidentally stumbling on an explicit video, and a 15-year-old seeking out content that helps them understand their sexual feelings or identity. As might be expected, many under-18s tell researchers they have seen sexual content accidentally rather than from seeking it out. Studies of older teens and those in their twenties reveal that they are often shown porn by others – perhaps for laughs, perhaps to shock, or perhaps as part of a relationship. Not all sharing is well-intentioned, and there are gender differences in how such experiences are interpreted.

Other recent studies in Britain, for example a 2012 NSPCC-commissioned report, reveal the extent to which teenage girls in particular can feel threatened by “technology-mediated sexual pressure from their peers”.
It’s worth noting the sheer range of routes through which pornography is accessible. The Net Children Go Mobile Study 2014 reported that children aged between nine and 16 have seen sexual images most commonly in magazines, television and films (which may or may not be streamed via the internet), as well as on video and photo sharing apps or websites. Others included pop-up ads, social networks and through instant messaging.

It’s quite simply impossible to shut down all of these routes. As John Gilmore, one of the internet’s most famous civil libertarians once put it: “The internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.” Just as data packets crossing the internet will find a way around network obstacles, people will copy, re-post and share content to bypass restrictions.

While measures such as family-friendly internet filtering are an important, if imperfect, tools for parents, we mustn’t forget that most pornography (apart from the most extreme forms) is legal for adults to view in the UK. An outright ban or blocking at the ISP level would be significant censorship. So, there’s a technical challenge in allowing adults access to pornography while keeping it away from children, but it presents a challenge to society too.

In terms of controlling the market, it’s currently illegal for companies based in the UK to sell or distribute pornography to anyone under 18, and pornographic material rated R18 (generally films) can only be sold through licensed sex shops. But applying this policy to the internet is difficult. There are many means of online access, and age-verification systems (such as using credit card details or checking against online databases) are not always used by websites, often because of their costs (and because they are not required) or because they may deter customers who can get the same content without checks elsewhere.

Jurisdiction also matters. Analysis by The Economist suggests that there were 700m to 800m pages of porn online, three-fifths of which were hosted in the US. The most obvious sources are the major “tube” sites that offer free content, often directing users towards paid-for sites with which they maintain a symbiotic relationship. But it’s so easy to create, copy and exchange content that pornographic material can be easily found and downloaded using BitTorrent software, or even through social networking – not all of which forbid explicit material.

It’s not child’s play, for kids or us. B Calkins/

As demonstrated by the Facebook groups that were recently found to contain child abuse images, policing huge private networks for illegal material is fraught with difficulty. Formulating a way of managing access to material across the internet (or at least the web) when it is legal for adults is harder still. Requiring all commercial pornography providers whose content is served in the UK to implement age verification is a big ask – early indications are that some are on board already – but it’s a really important first step.

The lack of a perfect technical or market-level fix makes the challenge for society that much harder. As a nation, British people are not great at having sensible conversations about sex. A cultural history of Carry On films and tittering at pantomimes is accompanied by a state education system where there still isn’t statutory sex and relationship education in all secondary schools. Given that it’s practically impossible to ensure children don’t encounter pornography, surely it’s time we spent more time talking about this – at home, in schools, and as a society in general?

Pornography is fiction: a media product, not an objective depiction of real-life relationships, yet it may be the source of our children’s sexual education, with expectations adjusted accordingly. It’s also part of a wider, increasingly sexualised culture in which mainstream films, television, music videos and video-games can contain graphic and even violent sexual scenes. This should be the start, not the end, of the conversation.

The Conversation
Victoria Nash, Deputy Director and Policy and Research Fellow, University of Oxford; Cicely Marston, Senior Lecturer in Social Science, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine; Joanna R Adler, Professor of Forensic Psychology, Middlesex University, and Sonia Livingstone, Professor of Social Psychology, London School of Economics and Political Science

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Expert panel advises Government on routes to protect children from online pornography

New measures needed to help protect children, and to understand their experiences of pornography* online

Many children in the UK are seeing explicit sexual images using internet or mobile devices and filtering services are limited, says a new report commissioned by the Government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport. In the report, a panel of experts**, including Professor Joanna R Adler and Dr Miranda A H Horvath from Forensic Psychological Services at Middlesex University, sets out the scale of the problem and possible measures to mitigate risks. Published alongside a new government consultation setting out potential strategies to reduce such exposure, the panel’s report sets out the many ways in which children and young people can encounter online pornography. It also points out that technical fixes, such as filtering, will always be imperfect and that there is an obvious mismatch between the regulation currently governing distribution of pornography in the offline context and its equivalent for online material.

The panel was led by Dr Victoria Nash of the Oxford Internet Institute and they reviewed available UK and international data, highlighting the limitations in estimating numbers of children who are accessing porn, given the ethical and practical challenges of studying children’s experiences on this issue. The most common means for under-18s to access explicit sexual content have been via TV, films, magazines and books which may now be viewed digitally as well as via traditional routes. Likely online routes include video and photo-sharing sites or pop-up ads and social networks.

The report considers evidence of children sharing sexual images via mobile phones or the internet. The images children share may be found or ‘self-generated’ with ‘sexting’ studies showing that children appear to create their own images although why they share them, is a matter of some dispute. The authors suggest social and educational interventions are needed, and point out that enhanced technical constraints will be more effective when young people have come across pornography accidentally rather than when they deliberately seek it out.

The various routes of access to pornography all provide their own challenges. One UK study in the report identifies pop-up adverts as the most common source of sexual images among the 13-14 year age group. The report says one approach could be a greater use of ad–blocking tools in households, but this is problematic for content-producers who rely on advertising revenue. Apps like WhatsApp or Snapchat, both used by large numbers of children, especially those in their early teens, are also difficult to regulate. Such apps allow users to discuss anything, and share photos or videos without leaving a digital trail but the minimum age requirements are not enforced. The report notes that this direct messaging may be a way that children, particularly older groups, share sexual images, possibly believing that such images will not be permanent, even though they are relatively easy for the recipient to keep. The mass of real time content downloaded onto popular entertainment sources such as YouTube is also highlighted as an area of concern, due to the sheer amount of new content uploaded every minute which is ‘virtually impossible to moderate’, according to the report.

To date, most interventions in the UK aimed at stopping minors accessing potentially harmful content (that is legally produced for the adult market) have been voluntary. However, there are obvious gaps where government might intervene, such as in bringing the responsibilities of commercial online pornographers into line with those in the offline world. It also discusses whether schools should have a bigger role in educating children about pornography, asking whether the topic should be included in the curriculum in order to build children’s resilience, and make a clear distinction between real-life relationships and the ‘fiction’ of porn. It is also vital to take into account the wider sexualisation of popular culture whereby children encounter explicit sexual images in films, television, music videos and games.

Professor Adler commented: ‘Pornography that is legal for adults to view is always going to be accessed by some young people. We should encourage responsible behaviour by the industry to try to set up reliable routes to age verification and we need to have meaningful education to help young people properly discuss sex and relationships. However, we need also to respect young people’s choices and development and should be wary of over- blocking.’

* The report covers the viewing of pornography (rather than illegal, extreme pornography). In the report, pornography is defined as sexually explicit media that are primarily intended to sexually arouse the audience. The definition of ‘children’ covers under-18s although much of the research covers just a portion of this age group. The research looks at materials using the internet and, or mobile technologies (rather than just ‘online’) as it covers materials transmitted from one children to another using a phone or other mobile device without requiring an internet connection.

**The authors are Dr Victoria Nash (Oxford Internet Institute); Professor Joanna R. Adler (Forensic Psychological Services, Middlesex University); Dr Miranda A. H. Horvath (Forensic Psychological Services, Middlesex University); Professor Sonia Livingstone (LSE and EU Kids Online); Dr Cicely Marston (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine); Dr Gareth Owen (University of Portsmouth); and Dr Joss Wright (Oxford Internet Institute).

Friday, 12 February 2016

Urban gulls: researching ‘public enemy number one’

A collaboration between Middlesex University and University of the West of England recently covered by the BBC is hoping to find new ways to help urban gulls live in harmony with humans. 

Professor of Behavioural Science in the School of Science and Technology Dr Tom Dickins has written an article for Middlesex Minds talking about gull science. You can read the article here: 

Lundy island: Biology and Psychology students' dissertation field trip

Students from the Psychology and Biology degrees at Middlesex University visit Lundy island for an annual research field trip and use their data to write their dissertations.

Research Seminar: Professor Philip Corr (City University)


Title: Behavioural Economics and the Challenge of Change

Date: Thursday 25th February
Location: Town Hall Committee Room 2
Time: 12:00 - 13:00

Informed by psychology, economics has witnessed a revolution in the way it thinks about decision making and ‘rational’ behaviour. The new science of behavioural economics has ushered in a whole new set of ideas, perspectives and applications; and increasingly we are seeing, formerly homo economicus, agents in terms of limited capacity, flesh-and-blood real people who are faced with complex problems that have, often no obviously correct, multiple solutions. Here, individual differences between people in terms of aptitude and appetite loom as large as losses over gains. In this talk, I will meander over this terrain and highlight the importance of personality factors and process in these cognitive and behavioural outcomes. However, although the theoretical implications of basic systems of individual differences in emotional, motivational and learning systems - fight-flight-freeze system (FFFS), behavioural approach system (BAS), and the behavioural inhibition system (BIS) - for understanding heterogeneity in economic behaviour are fairly obvious, but little systematic empirical research has been conducted. In addition to a discussion of what has been done, I will present the first meta-analysis of the Big-5 factors of personality and standard experimental economics games.

The author of over 150 papers and chapters, and five books -- the most recent one (2016) being a biography of Hans Eysenck -- Philip Corr is Professor of Psychology (Behavioural Economics) at City University London since 2013, and previously he held professorial positions at the University of East Anglia (2009-2013; where he was Head of Psychology) and Swansea University (2004-2009; where he served as Head of Department). He is a Chartered Psychologist (C.Psychol.) of the British Psychological Society (BPS; and also an Associate Fellow), Fellow of Higher Education Academy (FHEA), a Chartered Scientist of the Science Council (CSci), and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA).

Philip is best known for his work on fundamental systems of motivation and emotion entailed in approach and avoidance behaviour, specifically with the reinforcement sensitivity theory of personality. More about Philip can be seen at:

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Frauke Elichaoff, Andrea Oskis and Fiona Starr have been invited to JCoSS, a Barnet Secondary School, to talk about their careers in psychology. JCoSS enjoy a close relationship with Middlesex University; year 11 students  had a careers event at Mdx at the start of the year and  JCoSS students were part of the Holocaust Memorial Day held in the Quad last month.
Ruxandra Angel and Fiona Starr have been successful in their application for an Erasmus+ Staff Mobility Grant. They are delighted to be sharing their  team teaching in counselling, therapy and mindfulness theory and practice to colleagues at the University of Lisbon later this year. Lisbon is researching into resilience mechanisms and relationships and we look forward to sharing their expertise. The start of a valuable relationship.

Well-being workshops for students

The Psychology Action group in Psychology ran four workshops on Wellbeing themes on Thursday 4th February, to follow from the opening of the Wellbeing Centre at Sunny Hill House the previous day

The workshops were really well attended (we had around 60 students) and they engaged really well with the presenters and materials. Evaluation forms showed they were appreciated, and more were requested.

The sessions were:
· Measure your stress levels online:  Prof Toni Bifulco & Dr Ruth Spence
· Coping with stress:  Dr Fiona Starr (Clinical Psychologist)
· Small steps towards wellbeing   Dr David Westley (Counselling) & Ruxandra Anghel (CBT practitioner)
· Living and learning with dyslexia. Dr Nicky Brunswick (Cognitive Psychologist)

We intend to run more of these workshops to help support the Wellbeing Centre with such PsychoEducational work. Please contact Fiona Starr if you would like to be involved.

“Look at the child, then think about the offence.” The management of young people who have offended.

9th February 2016

Today sees the publication of a review conducted by Forensic Psychological Services at Middlesex University for the Ministry of Justice. The report provides an evidence based review of what is effective in the management of young people who have offended and what isn’t effective. The team conducting the review were led by Professor Joanna R Adler of the Department of Psychology and includes: Sarah K Edwards, Mia Scally, Michael J Puniskis, Anna Gekoski and Miranda A H Horvath alongside an intern , Dorothy Gill, from Boston University.

The review considers processes important in the management of young people and it assesses robust evidence regarding the impacts and outcomes of interventions run in youth justice systems in the UK and around the world. Some common themes that emerged included the importance of assessing not just the risk of reoffending but also the young person’s abilities to engage with interventions. Young people need to understand what they have to do to complete a sentence successfully and what the expectations are of them. Professionals who work in the youth offender system have a difficult but vital set of roles which have to balance both care and offence rehabilitation. All this needs to be done with young people who may have experienced repeat neglect, abuse or other potentially traumatic life events, who have often failed or been excluded from school. 

Joanna said. “A young person’s journey through the justice system can be rehabilitative and result in successful reintegration to society but too often, youth justice interventions have not worked. We need to look at the youth in front of us as well as the crime committed. The context of their lives, and the choices they have faced need to be acknowledged and incorporated into effective sentence planning, rehabilitation, and planning for their lives after sentence.”

The FPS review can be found at the following link: