Friday, 25 September 2015

Research Seminar: Rob Spencer, Middlesex University

Date and time: Thursday 8th October, 16:00-17:00 room C110.

Title: “Kleptoparasitism in Gulls"

Biography: Rob Spencer is pursuing a PhD in Behavioural Ecology at Middlesex University. He has a bachelor's degree in History, a Graduate Diploma in Psychology from the University of East London, and an MSc in Evolutionary Psychology from Brunel University. He is interested in understanding the behaviours of generalist species that forage socially and invade, or inhabit, different environments. He uses observational methods, field experiments, and theoretical modelling to investigate the functional significance of the foraging behaviour of bird species of the family Laridae (gulls). For his PhD Rob is assessing the ecological and social factors that influence kleptoparasitic behaviours in competitively asymmetric mixed-species foraging aggregations of gulls. The research is supervised by Tom Dickins (Middlesex University), Britta Osthaus (Canterbury Christchurch University), and Yvan Russell (Middlesex University).

Abstract: Gulls (Laridae) are one of only two modern families of birds known to have been around since the Late-Cretaceous period around 65 million years ago. They are found in a variety of environments, forage in mixed-species groups, and invest heavily in food stealing behaviours (kleptoparasitism). Kleptoparasitism may be an important behaviour that has aided the longevity and radiation of these species. Some UK gull species have declined significantly over the last century making them a conservation priority. These same species have shown population increases in urban areas. Invading novel environments, such as urban spaces, requires simultaneously solving a number of problems, the most pressing of which is finding food.

In Rob's research he investigates the function of kleptoparasitism: if it allows gulls to respond adaptively to the vagaries of the environment bridging the gap between the environment of adaption and novel environments. He will discuss research that examines differences in the rate of kleptoparasitism between traditional foraging ecologies and urban environments. He also investigates three ecological variables that assay conditions described by Brockmann and Barnard (1979) as facilitators of kleptoparasitism, and assess the extent that these variables predict kleptoparasitism in gull populations.


Thursday, 10 September 2015

Fully Funded PhD Studentship, Apply Now!

Middlesex University, is delighted to announce an Applied Psychology PhD studentship, funded in conjunction with British Transport Police. We are now seeking applications from candidates who wish to conduct research into the characteristics of sexual offenders on the railways (underground and over-ground). British Transport Police are keen to enhance their understanding of the types of people who sexually offend on the railways, how they differ from sex offenders in other situations, and what approaches are the most effective in preventing first-time and repeat sexual offending on the railways. The main focus of the PhD will be on the more common forms of sexual harassment and assault, and those who engage in these behaviours.

For more details and to apply, please visit

The deadline for applications is 25th September 2015
Invitations to interview will be advised to applicants by 2nd October 2015 and interviews will be held on 7th October 2015.

For further details please contact Dr Jackie Gray,, Tel: 020 8411 5458

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

News from Bahman Baluch

Bahman has been invited to act as external examiner for a PhD at the University of Hong Kong.

The Viva is likely to be in October 2015.

Visiting Speaker: Prof. Richard Bentall, University of Liverpool

Richard Bentall is Professor of Clinical Psychology at Liverpool University. His research interests have mainly focused on psychosis. He has studied the cognitive and emotional mechanisms involved in psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations, paranoid delusions and manic states, using methods ranging from psychological experiments, and experience sampling to functional magnetic resonance imaging. Most recently, his research has focused on why social risk factors (for example childhood adversities such as poverty, abuse, and bullying) provoke the cognitive and emotional changes that lead to these symptoms. He has published over 200 peer-review papers and a number of books including Madness explained: Psychosis and human nature (Penguin, 2003) and Doctoring the mind: Why psychiatric treatments fail (Penguin, 2009).

Seminar Title: “From Social Risk Factors to Psychosis"

Date: September 24th 2015
Time: 16:00-17:00
Room: Committee Room 3, Town Hall 

AbstractStandard approaches to psychosis have emphasised genetic determinants based on the misunderstanding that high heritability indices indicate that the lion's share of causation must go to genes. In fact, genetic research at the molecular level has failed to find genes of major effect and has revealed that the the genetic risk for mental illness is massively polygenic and diagnostically non-specific. In contrast, recent research, often supported by meta-analyses, has shown large associations between a variety of social risk factors and psychosis including: poverty, social inequality, exposure to urban environments, belonging to an ethnic minority, inadequate communication style in parents, mistreatment and other types of trauma in childhood and victimisation in adulthood. Many of these effects seem strongest when exposure occurs in childhood, but there is evidence that a childhood adversity followed by adult adversity is particularly toxic. In our own research we have found associations between specific kinds of social adversity and specific types of symptoms. For example, childhood sexual abuse is a particular risk factor for hallucinations and disruption of early attachment relationships is a particular risk factor for paranoid symptoms. These associations point to symptom-specific pathways by which adversity impacts on specific cognitive and affective processes, leading to specific symptoms. They also point to the importance of developing a discipline of public mental health.

For more information about Prof. Bentall's work, see:

Also, read an interesting interview carried out by the BPS for The Psychologist in 2011: One-on-One with Richard Bentall:

Monday, 7 September 2015

The Quest Study

Lisa Marzano at Middlesex University and the University of Westminster are recruiting volunteers to take part in a new study commissioned by Samaritans, aimed at investigating suicide in specific settings and what can be done to prevent them. See the recent Middlesex articles by Lisa for more information:

Please see the link below for more details about the study or information about how to take part.