Monday, 23 December 2013

Visiting speakers: Heather Castillo & Helen Price

Title: Personality Disorder and Participatory Research Studies with Service Users

Date: Tuesday 14 Jan 2014 

Time: 3:15pm

Venue: C110

The presentation will outline two research studies carried out with people who have attracted a diagnosis of personality disorder and it will examine fifteen years of co-production with service users.  Research endeavours first set out to highlight the plight of people with a personality disorder diagnosis.  The second study has aimed to investigate the process of recovery for this client group who suffer significant social exclusion known to impact on demand for health and other public services.  It has aimed to examine efforts which attempt to reverse this social exclusion as an aspect of the recovery process. Findings offer contributions to knowledge in terms of the service design and how to effectively carry out research with service users as equal partners, and it proposes a new model of recovery in personality disorder.

The Haven project website:

Research at The Haven Project:

Monday, 16 December 2013

The deadly genius of drug cartels by Rodrigo Canales

This TED talk is of interest to organizational and social psychologists, as well as concerned citizens of the world:

CATS relaunch at the House of Lords

4 December 2013 saw the relaunch of the Centre for Abuse and Trauma Studies (CATS). The event was held at the House of Lords and featured experts from a range of backgrounds coming together to discuss 'Key Child Protection Challenges in the Real and Digital Worlds: Implications for Research, Policy & Practice'.

Deputy Vice Chancellor, Professor Waqar Ahmed, opened the event and he highlighted how CATS joining Middlesex has been integral to the knowledge exchange activity that is buzzing within the university at present.

CATS directors, Professor Antonia Bifulco and Professor Julia Davidson began by reflecting on their wealth of research findings to highlight key challenges that still remain in the area of child protection. CATS current and recent projects include online safety, online abuse, cyber-bullying and how to achieve best evidence within police investigative practice. Following this, HM Assistant Inspector of Constabulary, Commander Peter Spindler went on to examine the impact, outcomes and learning from the police investigation of Jimmy Savile; Operation Yewtree. Professor of Social Policy at LSE, Eileen Munro, then spoke of improving child protection practice, bringing to light issues of managing uncertainty, creating a fair culture for staff and embedding a better understanding of the nature of expertise.

These presentations set the scene for a subsequent expert panel discussion. The panel was comprised of academics, practitioners and policy-makers, all for whom have child protection at the heart of their work. The debate and discussion, which carried over well into the lunchtime close of the day, was centred on the following key questions:

1. Is it possible to increase children’s voice and to ensure that  views are reflected in practice?

2. How can we collaborate to ensure that vulnerable children are identified, enabled and protected online?

3. How to empower & skill services & increase interagency collaboration (knowledge base, morale, political status)

4. How can children’s exposure to online adult content be addressed? What steps should be taken?

5. How to increase impact of university/knowledge-base contribution (Closing the gap between research and policy and practice) 


BPS 'Psychology4Students' London event

Andrea Oskis spoke about attachment, parenting and stress to 860 teenagers at this year's BPS 'Psychology4Students' London Lectures at Kensington Town Hall.

Double symposium success for 2014 BPS annual conference

Next May's BPS annual conference in Birmingham will feature two symposia from the Psychology Department. Toni Bifulco has convened ' Parenting in vulnerable groups: implications for clinical health, social care and criminal justice agencies' and Andrea Oskis has convened 'diverse parenting: theory, practice and policy'.  These symposia will feature presentations from several staff in the Department, including Tom Dickins, Olga van den Akker, Anthony Murphy and Catherine Jacobs.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Visiting speaker: Jörg Fachner

Title: Music, drugs and emotion - "... make me go to the rehab."?

Date: Tuesday 10 December 2013
Time: 4pm
Venue: Hatchcroft (HG09)

Reviewing the scarce literature on the interaction of drug use and music appreciation indicate a lack of research on this cultural practice and its relation to addiction and mood regulation strategies. For some, but not for all, drug use may result in disorderly conduct and addictive behaviour. Some rehabilitation centres do not allow music listening, as certain music experiences made under the influence may become a cue for drug craving. For rehabilitative means music therapy offers retraining of cued music experiences and state-depended recall of drug induced strong emotions in music. Researching intense emotions has lead to brain investigations stressing the comparable activation of reward processes during pleasurable music experiences and drug action.
Today, drug use and a referential sound design in genres of popular music are part of popular culture encoding the embodiment of outlaw identity templates for peer-groups in favour. Drugs and music as a neuro-chemical amalgamation of social bonding for adolescents, as known from indigenous cultures' initiation rites and rites of passage, may resemble in modern party culture. This presentation will discuss how internal emotion regulation is externally sought and calibrated during adolescent's risk seeking behaviour in strong emotions amplified by drug use and music appreciation.

Jörg Fachner (DMSc, MS Ed.) is Professor for Music, Health and the Brain at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge; he did research on music and consciousness states and music therapy treatment research on depression and stroke.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Domestic Violence Protection Order Pilot Scheme

Today sees the launch of the findings of the evaluation of the Domestic Violence Protection Order pilot scheme. The DVPO is a new civil order that has been introduced in Manchester, Wiltshire and West Mercia. Under the terms of the order, a perpetrator of domestic violence can be excluded from the home for up to 28 days. It is used in situations where police would previously have not taken further action (beyond arrest, caution or bail) and where criminal charges are not being brought.

The evaluation was led by Professor Liz Kelly of London Metropolitan University and Professor Joanna R Adler, who is the director of Forensic Psychological Services at Middlesex University. Dr Miranda Horvath was the project manager and Dr Mark Coulson was the quantitative research lead. Key findings are that the DVPO does seem to reduce repeat call-outs to the police, so seems to be associated with a reduction in re-victimisation. This is particularly the case in more chronic cases, where the police had previously attended three or more times. The full report is available here

Today also sees the Home Secretary’s written statement to Parliament regarding the Domestic Violence Disclosures Scheme (Clare’s law) and the DVPO. Both Orders are to be rolled out nationally from March, 2014.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Visiting speaker: Steve Phelps

Title: Longitudinal reciprocity in Chimpanzee Allogrooming

Date: 21 November 2013
Time: 12 noon
Venue: Hatchcroft (HG09)

Many models of social network formation implicitly assume that network properties are static in steady-state. In contrast, actual social networks are highly dynamic: allegiances and collaborations expire and may or may not be renewed at a later date. Moreover, empirical studies show that human social networks are dynamic at the individual level but static at the global level: individuals' degree rankings change considerably over time, whereas network level metrics such as network diameter and clustering coefficient are relatively stable. There have been some attempts to explain these properties of empirical social networks using agent-based models in which agents play social dilemma games with their immediate neighbours, but can also manipulate their network connections to strategic advantage. However, such models cannot straightforwardly account for reciprocal behaviour based on reputation scores ("indirect reciprocity"), which is known to play an important role in many economic interactions. In order to account for indirect reciprocity, we model the network in a bottom-up fashion: the network emerges from the low-level interactions between agents. By so doing we are able to simultaneously account for the effect of both direct reciprocity (e.g. "tit-for-tat") as well as indirect reciprocity (helping strangers) in order to increase one's reputation). We test the implications of our model against a longitudinal dataset of Chimpanzee grooming interactions in order to determine which types of reciprocity, if any, best explain the data. We discuss the importance of the temporal and micro-properties of the data in analysing reciprocity: in particular determining the length of window over which direct reciprocity occurs, and the importance of network-motifs in detecting patterns of indirect reciprocity.

Steve Phelps

University of Essex

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Departmental RKE bidding deadline extended

Due to mysterious email complications that are beyond my ken it appears some staff did not receive the recent bidding email.

Please note that the deadline for all internal RKE bids has now been extended to:

5pm on Tuesday 19 November 2013

Please email them directly to me.  Sonia has copies of the proforma for all who need it.

Tom Dickins

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Happiness and well-being within cities

A story from The Guardian yesterday should be of interest to a number of folk in our department, and further afield.  It can be found at this link:

The secrets of the world's happiest cities

Tom Dickins

Visiting speaker: Eddy J. Davelaar

Title: Stopping decisions in memory recall

Date: 7 November 2013
Time: 4pm
Venue: Hatchcroft HG03

Cognitive scientific research on memory has provided much insights in our ability to store and retrieve events. However, only recently researchers have focused their attention in our abilities to terminate memory retrieval, despite the ubiquity of the stopping decisions. I will summarise our research progamme into our decisions to terminate memory search. I will highlight its lawful nature as measured with the Exit Latency and show through computational modelling what is needed in order to observe the data. A rational approach to stopping decisions is tested in a design with monetary rewards. Finally, important connections between animal foraging behaviour and memory stopping decisions are drawn and discussed.


Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Invitation to event: Social Science and the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology

Social Science and the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology

9.00 – 12.30, Thursday 14th November 2013
Barn 1 & 2, Middlesex University, Hendon Campus

What is it?
A morning seminar in which Dr Abbi Hobbs from the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) Social Science Section will tell us more about her work and how we can contribute. There will then be two panels during which an exciting array of Middlesex’s social science research groups will give short presentations about their work. There will be plenty of opportunity for networking and discussion.

Who should come?
All members of staff and PhD students with an interest in social science and its application to parliamentarians. 

Why it will be useful?
This is an opportunity not only to develop links within the University, but also to showcase the outstanding quality and diversity of social science work that is occurring at Middlesex. The Social Science Section at the POST has only just been launched so this is a great opportunity to build connections and influence their work from the outset.

Find out more here - and here.

How can you get involved?
Ensure your work will be mentioned by the research groups giving presentations. If your work is not covered by one of the Research Groups giving presentations you will be able speak from the floor and/or talk to Dr Hobbs directly.  

If you would like to attend?
Please register for a place by following this link.

Please note, you MUST register in order to attend and there are only 60 places at the event and they will be allocated on a first come, first served basis, so book your place ASAP!

9.00 – 9.30 – Registration and refreshments

9.30 – 10.15 – Dr Abbi Hobbs, Social Science Section, Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) 

10.15 – 11.05 – Panel 1 including: Forensic Psychology Research Group, Social Policy Research Group, Centre for Enterprise and Economic Development Research, Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, Flood Hazard Research Centre, Centre for Enterprise and Economic Development Research

11.05 – 11.15 – Comfort break and refreshments

11.15 – 12.10 – Panel 2 including: Social Sciences in Nursing Research Group, Exciting Developments in Criminology and Sociology, Health and/or Reproductive Research Group, Social Work Research, Urban Pollution Research Centre, Centre for Abuse & Trauma Studies, Education Research Groups

12.10 – 12.25 – Networking and general discussion

Dr Miranda Horvath
Reader in Forensic Psychology 
Deputy Director of Forensic Psychological Services

Tel: +44 (0)2084114532
Fax: +44 (0)2082035973

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Wales Centre for Behaviour Change

I came across this interesting video over the weekend.  It is a presentation by the Director of the Wales Centre for Behaviour Change, based at Bangor University.  It draws upon a lot of ideas that are represented within the department of psychology at Middlesex University also, as well as more broadly within the university.  This is perhaps something to think on, especially as we draw near to the forthcoming POST event (contact Dr Miranda Horvath for details).

During this video this interesting document from the UK Government's Behavioural Insights Team (or Nudge Unit) is mentioned.

Image description
How to innovate in the public sector and whether Wales could be at the forefront of such innovation.

...enjoy the video? Read the blog here... Parkiblog 

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Saturday, 19 October 2013

Grant award

Professor Olga van den Akker, Dr Marilyn Crawshaw – Co Chair of Progar, and the PROGAR working group - were successful at obtaining £1,500 in funding from the Society of Reproductive and Infant Psychology to host a Round Table discussion event for January 2014 focusing upon four main themes occupying surrogacy arrangements: This event takes forward desk-based research conducted in 2012 by Prof van den Akker, Dr Crawshaw and Prof Blyth which identified key deficits in data collection, policy review and the research evidence base and built on earlier work led by all 3 researchers.  Further work has been undertaken since (and is ongoing) to identify (i) additional key areas of concern and (ii) relevant individuals and organisations that would benefit from being brought together in this workshop. KEY AIMS:
  • to consider a research- and practice- evidenced approach to data collection designed to inform policy development and maximise individual and family well being for both the new family to be formed and that of the surrogate
  • to understand and take into account the multi-agency and multi-disciplinary aspects of surrogacy
  • to map the future research agenda that is needed to underpin policy and practice in the national and international context
  • to raise the focus on human rights issues and understanding, especially in relation to global surrogacy 
BACKGROUND: There have been major developments within surrogacy matters in recent years but the research and policy agenda have lagged behind.  The UK and elsewhere has seen an increase in both domestic and international arrangements often involving commercial interests.  Gay couples and single people are increasingly using surrogacy for family building.  More prospective parents from all intended family types appear willing to travel outside their country of residence to make surrogacy arrangements, including to developing countries, leading some commentators to argue that global surrogacy may have replaced inter-country adoption as a key human rights issue for children as well as for surrogate mothers. 

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Visiting speaker: Jean-Luc Jucker

Title: Not just beautiful objects: Exploring the role of perceived intentions in the appreciation of works of art

Date: 24 October 2013
Time: 12 noon
Venue: Hatchcroft HG09

Psychologists and neurologists have often approached works of art as 'stimuli' that are more or less pleasing to the brain, as if some universal and ahistorical rules were governing art appreciation. This misses the point, stressed in the humanities and social sciences, that works of art are products of human intentionality and agency with a unique history. A series of experiments explored the role of contextual and historical knowledge in art appreciation. In one study, participants used the artists' intentions to decide whether certain artefacts were instances of "art." In another study, titles and other historical information were found to increase participants' understanding and liking of a series of works of art. Overall, the results suggest that perceived artists' intentions and messages affect what people consider to be art and good art. The art experience is not only about beauty or hedonistic pleasure, but involves assessment of the artist's intention and of the history behind the work of art.

Jean-Luc Jucker
University of Oxford