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

Monday, 14 October 2013

Improving the Health, Safety, and Well-Being of Young Adults: National Academy of Sciences Report

The National Academy of Sciences has just published a report on the well-being of young adults.  The details and how to get it for free can be found over at Prosocial Place.

Tom Dickins

Friday, 11 October 2013

Introducing Zola Mannie

After completing my Honours and Masters degree in Applied Psychology (Brunel University) I worked at the Department of Psychiatry, Oxford University on the strength of a joint psychology and psychiatric nursing background. I pursued a PhD in Psychology program at Oxford Brookes University supported with funding from the University Department of Psychiatry. At completion of the PhD program I continued pursuing my research as a Post Doc within the department.

My main area of research covers the identification of neurobiological and psychosocial vulnerability markers of depression. I am specifically interested in investigating young people at increased familial risk of depression 1) to establish whether the HPA axis hyperactivity (from waking cortisol hypersecretion measured from saliva) they demonstrate may also place them at increased risk to associated medical conditions such as the metabolic syndrome and vascular disease (measuring insulin resistance from fasting glucose and insulin levels; and endothelial dysfunction from Flow Mediated Dilatation (FMD); and other mechanisms underpinning the associations between vulnerability to depression and these medical conditions; 2) to assess whether they also present with deficits in cognitive functioning (with particular focus on working memory) and abnormalities in the neural substrates of these functions.

I am also interested in investigating the use of computerised cognitive training programs designed to improve working memory and related deficits in executive function. The ultimate aim of this work has been to identify impairments that can be targeted for prevention aimed at increasing resilience to reduce the incidence of depression. My methods of investigation are predominantly cross-sectional with biological, cognitive and behavioural measures as well as neuroimaging techniques, although I have also used short-term prospective cohort methods within funding constraints.

I am currently a Research Fellow on a short-term contract working closely with Professor Nouwen in a range of projects that combine various biological measures with cognitive function techniques as methods of investigation. I am also establishing collaborations with Lygeri Dimitrou from the London Sports Institute in the hope that we could conduct joint studies requiring salivary hormonal or inflammatory assessment to give context to cognitive processes.

Zola Mannie

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Conference at Middlesex University: The rebirth of feminism? Situating feminism in the popular imaginary

Wednesday, 30 October 2013 from 10:00 to 16:00

This one-day workshop aims to challenge the idea that feminism as a social movement is no longer current or applicable to the lives of women, and further explores the ways in which stereotypes in the media and public discourse debunk both feminist activists and academics, failing to acknowledge feminism’s transformative potential.  These prejudicial accounts are a-critically reproduced and reinforced in the fabrics of everyday life and increasingly do not correspond to actual experiences in the real word. Stigmatizing accounts of feminism for instance suggests that young women are anti-feminist, and anti-feminism becomes constitutive of young womanhood in the popular imaginary. However, in the last five years public discourse about feminism has become more prominent in the UK and, at the same time, feminist activism and campaigns have intensified.

The workshop aims at creating a platform for academics and a diverse range of feminist activists to discuss this paradox which is so solidly inscribed in the popular imaginary and will experiment with non-hierarchical interaction among participants. In the morning sessions, invited feminist activists/academics will comment on images, short clips, news items or other cultural and social artifacts of their choice which are meaningful in order to explore the challenges feminism poses to the popular imaginary in the twenty first century.  Invited activists and academics include Kat Baynard, Kristin Aune, Nirmal Puwar, Yvette Taylor, Feona Attwood, Kate Hardy, Jason Lim, and Ellis Suzanna Slack.  During the afternoon  participants will be engaged through Participatory Video and the production of a short video which captures ideas and encounters inspired by the workshop.

We are asking participants to donate £5 to attend the session, which will be donated to Hackney Women's Forum. If you would like to attend but are unable to pay the donation, please contact us to discuss.

This event is organized by Elena Vacchelli, Erin Sanders-McDonagh, and Anastasia Christou, with help from the Social Policy Research Centre and the School of Law at Middlesex University.

Please contact Christiana Rose at for further details about the conference, or more information about registering.

You can find out more and book your place at:

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

Department of Psychology
School of Health and Education
Middlesex University

Tel: +44 (0)2084114532
Fax: +44 (0)2082035973
Personal webpage:
Follow me on Twitter@Miranda_Horvath

2012-2013 David Jenkins Chair in Forensic and Legal Medicine
Faculty of Forensic and Legal Medicine of the Royal College of Physicians

Associate Editor of the Journal of Sexual Aggression

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Body language effects

As we begin the academic year and try to make sense of our new students and colleagues I thought this video of a TED presentation by Amy Cuddy would be of interest.

I will look on with interest during Research Club to see if there are any changes in your behaviour.

Tom Dickins

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Invited speaker: Dr Minna Lyons

Title: Can bad be good? Evolutionary perspectives on the Dark Triad of personality

Date: Thursday 10 October 2013
Time: 4pm
Venue: HG09, Middlesex University, London

The Dark Triad of personality (viz., narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy) have been traditionally viewed as maladaptive, receiving much attention in the forensic and clinical contexts. Although the Dark Triad traits are distinct, they share the core features of selfishness, manipulativeness, and agentic personality styles. When investigated from evolutionary perspective, it is clear that individual differences in seemingly aversive personality traits could be adaptive in certain contexts. In this talk, I will present findings of several empirical studies researching the Dark Triad and childhood experiences,  inter-personal perception (e.g., lie detection), mate choice, and other personality variables (e.g., morningness/eveningness). We have found that there are clear sex differences in how the Dark Triad is manifested. Further, some of the sub-facets (especially callous and unemotional features of primary psychopathy) could be especially adaptive for males in increasing status and resources.

Liverpool Hope University