Psychology’s Ingenious Bar

We work hard to provide a great student experience for our students. We also want to make sure that there is always a place where you can tell us how to make your time at Sussex even better. That place is the Ingenious Bar, a drop-in session with the Head of School and/or members of the Management Team to speak about your experience as a psychology student at Sussex: what you like, what you don’t like, and any queries you might have about your course. Anything you tell us will be confidential, and we will try our best to take any suggestions on board.

Who is the Ingenious Bar for?

The Ingenious Bar is for you! Any Psychology student, from undergrad level to PhD, can use the Ingenious Bar.

How does it work? What kind of subjects can I discuss at the Ingenious Bar?

That depends on you. You might want to tell us how much you like your course (we’d love that!), or point out certain things that in your opinion could be better. You might have an idea for a School related initiative or event that the we could sponsor. You might have a query about a module, and your convenor or Academic Advisor is not available. You might be going through a difficult situation and want to talk about how this is impacting your studies (we’ll do our best to support you). In the past, we have received queries about marking criteria, project work, and even parking spaces. Whatever the subject, we want to hear it!

The staff at the Ingenious Bar will try to answer your queries on the spot or refer you to the relevant person. We will make sure to chase it up and get back to you with an answer as soon as possible. Every term we will publish a report here on the School blog, a kind of ‘you said, we did’. The report will not include student names to ensure that all queries remain confidential.

Who will be at the Ingenious Bar?

The Head of the School and the other members of the School’s Management Team will take turns at the desk:

Title Name
Head of School Prof Thomas Ormerod
Deputy Head of School Prof Robin Banerjee
Director of Teaching and Learning Dr Jessica Horst
Director of Student Experience Dr Richard De Visser
Director of Doctoral Studies Dr Sarah King
Director of Research and Knowledge Exchange Prof Martin Yeomans
Director of Recruitment and Admissions Dr Ryan Scott

We are also organising special sessions dedicated to specific themes, from assessment to careers in Psychology, and we will invite guest speakers from other sections of the University.

Check the calendar on this Canvas site to see who will be at the Ingenious Bar and when.

When and where?

Every Monday to Thursday, between 12:30 and 13:30, at the reception desk in the School Office (Pevensey 1, 2A13). The calendar on the UG Psychology module on Canvasshows the days and times when the Ingenious Bar will be open.

 

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Student view: studying Psychology at Sussex

By Leila Davis

When I began studying psychology at Sussex in 2015, my biggest fear was how I would cope with the research and statistical aspect of the course, and generally whether I could cope with degree level work. It was only when I began studying on the course and started worrying about my ability that I realised there was an abundance of help available, and all I needed to do was ask.

Leila in the photo booth at the Finalist Party in June 2018

From then on, whenever an assignment or topic left me feeling worried or overwhelmed, I would take advantage of the following resources: forums, my academic advisor, office hours, course convenors, drop-in sessions, tutors and mentors. I have used every single one of these resources, and each time I have received the help I was looking for. Read more ›

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Keep calm and manage impulsivity

By Aleksandra Herman

Have you ever gone grocery shopping to get some bread and milk, and you found yourself leaving the shop with a bag full of items that you never intended (and needed) to buy? Or maybe you’ve committed to keeping a diet, but found it impossible to resist another helping of that delicious chocolate cake? Or perhaps instead of analysing all available information before making an important decision, you tend to make a choice on impulse?

We all behave impulsively, to some extent, on a daily basis. Sometimes, acting impulsively is harmless or even advantageous, for example when there is little time to react, or when the matter is of little importance (e.g. ‘what am I having for dinner tonight?’). Keeping a healthy balance is important though: Too much impulsivity leads to negative consequences and has been associated, among other things, with alcohol abuse, addictions, overeating or dangerous sexual behaviours (e.g. unprotected sex). Increased levels of impulsivity are also characteristic features of certain neuropsychiatric conditions such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).  Read more ›

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Final Year “Retreat” Programme 2018-19

It’s back and it’s bigger and better than ever – drawing on student feedback from the January and September 2017 events, we’ve put together 3 events over your final year to provide extra support on careers, wellbeing, and the dissertation. Find out more and sign up below!  Read more ›

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Depression and Cognitive Ageing

By Amber John

Depression is a common mental health problem which is experienced by people of all ages. It is estimated that each year around 1 in 5 people in the UK will experience depressive symptoms. Depression encompasses lots of different kinds of symptoms which can range from mild to severe. This can include psychological symptoms (such as a continuous low mood, feelings of hopelessness and guilt and lacking motivation), physical symptoms (such as changes in sleeping patterns, weight and appetite changes, and loss of energy), and social symptoms (such as withdrawal from friends and family, or underperforming at school or work). For more information on recognising symptoms of depression, follow this link to the NHS website, which can describe this in more depth: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/clinical-depression/symptoms/  Read more ›

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The dangers of over-hyping ‘sugar addiction’.

By Jenny Morris

 

Sugar seems to be frequently vilified in the media. Just a quick google search and headlines report ‘Sugar can destroy your brain’‘Sugar is as addictive as cocaine’ and ‘Sugar addiction ‘should be treated as a form of drug abuse’. It’s frequently referred to as an addictive drug, which supports people who build successful careers out of teaching people to avoid the perils of sugar. But how well founded are these claims and should you really cut sugar out of your diet?

Firstly, it’s important to understand that we absolutely need sugar in our diets. Glucose is an essential substance for cell growth and maintenance. The brain accounts for only 2% of our body weight yet uses approximately 20% of glucose derived energy, it’s vital to consume sugar to support basic cognitive functions. Disruption of normal glucose metabolism can have dangerous effects, resulting in pathological brain function. Yet there is concern that overconsumption may lead to a multitude of adverse health effects.  Read more ›

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An appetite for bringing research into practice at ResearchED

By Ian Hadden

ResearchED is getting big. A ‘grassroots movement’ started by a former teacher, it aims to bridge the gap between research and practice in education. Since I’m researching how simple, well-timed social psychological interventions can help kids from low-income families thrive at school, I went along to their London event last September see what it was all about. That is, me and an awful lot of other delegates. On a Saturday. Standing room only.  Read more ›

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Meet your PGR Student Reps (2017-2018)

This year’s PGR student reps: Jo, Lina and Toni

Read more ›

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How hate crime affects a whole community

This article was originally published by the BBC on 12th January 2018.

Thousands of people are physically and sometimes brutally attacked each year in hate crimes. Such offences not only affect the victims, but also the thoughts and behaviour of others.

Within 24 hours of the massacre of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, protests and vigils were joined by thousands in London, Sydney, Hong Kong, Bangkok and many other cities around the world. Although a particularly stark example, the response shows how the effects of hate crime are not limited to the immediate victims: they also affect others who learn of such events.

Prof Rupert Brown presenting at the Sussex Hate Crime Project launch.

Over the past five years, the Hate Crime Project at the University of Sussex has investigated these wider impacts of hate crime, looking at how simply knowing a victim, or even hearing about an incident, can have significant consequences. Many such attacks take place: in England and Wales, for example, the number of hate crimes recorded by police has increased sharply, rising 29%, to more than 80,000, in 2016-17. Race hate crimes were most common, but victims might also be targeted because of their sexual orientation, religion, disability, or because they are transgender.

The University of Sussex project used studies, experiments and interviews with a total of more than 1,000 Muslim and 2,000 LGBT people in the UK to investigate the indirect effects of such crimes. It found that four out of five participants knew someone who had been victimised in the past three years, with about half knowing someone who had been physically assaulted. As a result of hearing about hate crime in their community, the most common responses were anger, anxiety and feelings of vulnerability.

These emotional reactions had a significant impact on both LGBT and Muslim participants’ feelings of safety. Many said they took steps to increase their own security and avoided parts of their neighbourhood where they thought an attack was likely. Others joined community support groups. One Muslim woman described how she had responded to reports of Islamophobic hate crimes, including the murder of 82-year-old Mohammed Saleem, who was stabbed as he walked home from a mosque in Birmingham. “I do feel vulnerable… and it does affect my behaviour,” she said. “I become more fearful and avoid going to certain places that I feel might be a risk to my safety. And especially within certain times, I would avoid walking within those areas.”

One reason for these indirect effects is that people feel more empathy for victims who come from their own community. When they learned about a fellow Muslim, or LGBT person, being abused because of their identity, they put themselves in the victims’ shoes and felt something of what they must have felt during the attack. This made them feel angry on the victims’ behalf, but also threatened and fearful that they could also become a victim. These feelings can lead people to change their behaviour – for example, using social media to raise awareness of such attacks – with the effects lasting three months or longer in many cases.

Dr Jenny Paterson at the SHCP launch on 12th January 2018

The University of Sussex research demonstrated these effects through experiments in which participants read newspaper articles about someone being attacked. All the articles were identical, except that some described the attacks as anti-LGBT or Islamophobic hate crimes, while the others portrayed the attacks as random, with no mention of hate as the motivation. Those who read about hate crimes reported more empathy for the victim which, in turn, made them more likely to express feelings of anger or anxiety than those who read about the non-hate crimes. The strength of their responses suggest that hate crimes can have a greater impact on the victims and those in the wider community than otherwise comparable attacks which are not motivated by hate.

Among the Muslim and LGBT people who took part in the study, simply knowing someone who had been a victim of a hate crime was linked to them having less positive attitudes towards the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and the government. They were also more likely to support laws designed to enhance the penalties for hate crime and different methods of policing – for example, special procedures for dealing with victims and more police in the community. Most had not had any contact with the police about a hate crime, but members of the Muslim group who had been in touch with them were less likely to believe that they would respond effectively than those who had not had contact. During one interview, a Muslim man said: “For me it seems that a lot of the police force come from a certain background, and sometimes that’s why I think they won’t take it [Islamophobic hate crime] seriously.”

Dr Mark Walters from the School of Law presenting at the SHCP launch

Attitudes towards different forms of justice used to deal with those responsible for hate crime were also investigated. More than six out of 10 Muslim and LGBT people who took part in the study said that instead of an enhanced prison sentence, they preferred restorative justice – in which victims meet or communicate with the perpetrators in order to explain the impact of their crime and agree a form of reparation. This, they believed, was more likely to be an effective way to repair the harm caused by hate and prejudice. One LGBT person said: “I’m not sure that just sending somebody to prison… is going to change somebody’s attitude… Whereas [restorative justice is] a much better route to be able to understand the impact that their behaviour has had on somebody.”

The question for police and politicians now is what they can do to reduce the impact of hate crimes. One step might be to investigate measures – like restorative justice – that aim to address the harm to both the victim and community. Another might be to ensure greater use of community impact statements in criminal trials. With tens of thousands of people affected each year, there are many in the Muslim and LGBT communities, and other parts of society, who will be keen to know the answer.

 


This analysis piece was commissioned by the BBC and edited by Duncan Walker. 

Prof Rupert Brown, Prof Mark Walters and Dr Jenny Paterson are at the University of Sussex and are members of the Sussex Hate Crime Project, which was funded by the Leverhulme Trust.

The project recruited more than 2,000 LGBT and 1,000 Muslim people from a wide number of sources, including specific community groups and charities -for example, Stonewall, GALOP, the Muslim Council of Britain and LGBT and Muslim university groups.

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Statement for Excellence in Research Degrees

By Dr Zoë Hopkins

Trite as it sounds, I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I became interested in autism and language. Throughout my undergraduate years (as a student of English Literature, rather than Psychology), I was employed as a support worker on the fabulous Artz and Sportz+ scheme (https://www.dorsetforyou.gov.uk/artz+), for children with additional needs. At a sports workshop, I was supporting a child with autism who had echolalia; he would repeat words and phrases that I said, over and over again, and it was really difficult for us to hold a conversation with each other. The boy’s use of language suggested to me that, in conversation, there is an ‘optimum’ amount of language repetition between speakers: too much copying might be disruptive (as it was in the sports workshop), but not using any of the same words as a partner might convey that s/he wasn’t being listened to. This issue gets even trickier within the context of autism, which is associated with both under- and over-imitation (of language, actions, etc.)

Against this backdrop, language imitation in children with autism became the focus of my Masters thesis at Sussex. As a student on the MSc in Experimental Psychology – an intensive, year-long conversion degree – I was attached to the ChaTLab (http://www.sussex.ac.uk/psychology/chatlab/), where I spent a year studying and hearing presentations about children with autism, and their difficulties with social interaction. When I left Sussex in 2011, it was to move to Singapore, where I spent six months as an intern in the autism team of the Child Guidance Clinic (CGC), as part of the Institute of Mental Health (https://www.imh.com.sg/clinical/page.aspx?id=267). While working at the CGC, I supported two clinicians to run social skills classes for boys with autism; this experience in particular made me think about why conversation doesn’t always run smoothly for people with autism and their social partners.

From Singapore, I returned to Sussex in 2012, to take up an EPSRC-funded PhD scholarship in the ChaTLab, entitled ‘Meeting of Minds in Conversation’. My PhD thesis – co-supervised by Drs Nicola Yuill (Psychology) and Bill Keller (Informatics) – considered the conversational difficulties of children with autism from a language-processing perspective, drawing on theories of linguistic alignment. Alignment is the tendency for speakers to imitate each other’s language in conversation: it is widely observed in the conversations of typical adults, and is associated with more effective and satisfying interactions (c.f., e.g., Fusaroli et al., 2012). Furthermore, alignment may be influenced by ‘audience design’ (=tailoring speech to take a listener into account) and social-affective goals; these are recognised areas of impairment for children with autism. In my thesis, I report three experiments, which consider whether atypical alignment could explain why children with autism might find conversation difficult, and in turn why their social partners might find their interactions odd and unrewarding.  My thesis will be available online soon (http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/60608/).

Having survived my PhD viva in February 2016, I have since been working as an Assistant Psychologist at the Disabilities Trust, in a residential service for adults with autism and learning disabilities (http://www.thedtgroup.org/autism-and-learning-disabilities/our-services/hollyrood/news/service-user-helps-to-appoint-new-psychologist/). I continue to be intrigued by conversation in autism, and to think about what can be done to support people with autism with their social interaction. Happily, I was offered a post-doctoral position at Edinburgh University, which will allow me to pursue some of the outstanding questions from my PhD. In April 2017, I joined an ESRC-funded project – ‘Conversational Alignment in Children with an Autism Spectrum Condition and Typical Children – led by Professor Holly Branigan; Nicola Yuill is a co-investigator on this project, which will enable me to maintain my connections with the Sussex ChaT Lab.

I am very excited about the new chapter in my academic career, and welcome enquiries from anyone regarding my research interests. Please consult either my Sussex or Edinburgh University profile pages for contact details.

 

Academic funding:

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) – doctoral research position

Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) – post-doctoral research position

 

Relevant publications:

My research has involved both experimental paradigms and natural language processing methodology.

Hopkins, Z., Yuill, N., & Keller, B. (2016). Children with autism align syntax in natural conversation. Applied Psycholinguistics, 37(2), 347–370. doi:10.1017/S0142716414000599

 

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