Can I read to save the planet?

By Aimee Cole

Educational placement with the National Literacy Trust

When I began my Psychology course at Sussex back in 2019, I wasn’t at all sure where I wanted my degree to take me. My interests were broad, ranging from psychopathology to sports psychology. I also had a keen interest in social justice and knew I wanted to work in a role where I felt I could make a positive contribution. I just couldn’t picture how these interests could culminate in an interesting and appropriate job role. Among this, I also experienced a lot of anxiety, and couldn’t imagine feeling confident in an unfamiliar workplace. Little did I know that my placement at the National Literacy Trust would transform me from a nervous student into a confident, published researcher and conference presenter.

The National Literacy Trust is an independent charity that empowers children, young people, and adults with the literacy skills they need to succeed. My educational placement sat within the research team, who (to massively simplify the work that they do into a sentence) conduct bespoke research in the field of literacy and beyond, as well as internal and external evaluations of literacy-related programmes.

Working with the research team enabled me to strengthen the skills I had developed as part of my degree, including developing literature reviews and writing reports, but also brought about new skills including data analysis using SPSS, and collecting evaluation data for internal programmes. The placement required me to collaborate with teams across the organisation and built on my confidence to advocate for the importance of our research and evaluation work both internally and externally.

My dissertation

When it came to deciding on a dissertation topic, I knew that I wanted to use data collected by the National Literacy Trust. The charity’s Annual Literacy Survey asks children and young people across the United Kingdom about their literacy behaviours and attitudes, among other areas of interest, and is the largest survey of its kind. In 2022, the survey included additional questions about children and young people’s awareness of environmental issues, and any behaviours they engaged in to support or protect the environment.

In light of the climate crisis, environmental issues are something I care deeply about, and I have spent a lot of time researching and learning about the things that we can do to support our environment. This research often materialised in reading blogs, articles, or books- I had recently devoured ‘Hothouse Earth’ by Bill McGuire. Learning about the climate crisis in this way got me thinking- Was I more likely to, say, become vegan, because I read more regularly about the environment? How would my environmental awareness differ from someone who, for example, didn’t consume much text at all?

The research

Ultimately, my dissertation examined the relationship between young people’s reading engagement and both their environmental awareness and pro-environmental action. This was not related to reading specifically about the environment, but any reading at all, and included enjoyment, confidence, and frequency of reading. Overall, data from 50,238 children and young people aged from 11 to 16 was included in the analysis.

The results showed a positive correlation between reading engagement and both environmental awareness and action. This suggested that the higher you scored on the reading engagement score, the higher you scored in your awareness of environmental issues, and the number of actions you engaged in to support the environment.

More in-depth analysis also found that environmental awareness could partially explain the relationship between reading engagement and daily environmental action (e.g., ‘I do things to support the environment in my everyday life’), but not external environmental action (e.g., ‘I have written to someone in power about the environment’).

As such, my research found that reading could act as a pathway to improving young people’s awareness of environmental issues and engagement in actions to protect the planet. The study was the first to investigate and provide evidence of such a relationship in the UK.

Making research accessible

The National Literacy Trust aims to work towards a more equal society, and a key element of that is through making our work accessible to as many people as possible. As such, in addition to my research report being published on the National Literacy Trust’s website (see Cole, 2023), I worked closely with the charity’s Social Media Manager, Hannah Riley, to find creative ways to display the findings. As you will see below, I felt it did the trick in pulling some strong key messages from a complex report!

A graphic illustration of the key themes in Aimee’s report

What’s next?

Overall, my research highlighted the importance of promoting reading engagement in young people to enhance environmental awareness and action. This may be through educational initiatives, or public campaigns which leverage the link between reading and environmental engagement, to raise awareness, and inspire action. For example, teams within the National Literacy Trust are already beginning to incorporate reading about environmental issues into their programmatic work with children and young people, and the report is already being used across the organisation to support the work we do with partners that have an interest in the environment and sustainability. Given the scarcity of research in this area within the UK, I hope that this research sparks interest for others, and leads to more work in this space.

You can read the full report, here: Can I read to save the planet? | National Literacy Trust 

With special thanks to Christina Clark, Anne Teravainen-Goff and Irene Picton from the National Literacy Trust, and Jane Oakhill, from the University of Sussex, who supervised this research dissertation.

Aimee Cole is a 2023 first-class graduate of the University of Sussex’s School of Psychology. After completing her third-year placement with the National Literacy Trust, she continued working for their research team and was promoted to a full-time position as Evaluation Manager upon completing her degree. She is particularly interested in the link between literacy engagement, environmental awareness and positive mental wellbeing.

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Discussing the current approach to the treatment of addiction: a public session hosted by SARIC during the BNA festival

By Nina Cork and Hattie Lockwood (University of Sussex students)

In April this year, SARIC (Sussex Addiction Research and Intervention Centre) hosted a public panel as part of the British Neuroscience Association’s International Festival of Neuroscience 2023, discussing the need to bridge the gap between academia and the community regarding the study, prevention, and treatment of addictions. 

In the spirit of starting an honest and open conversation on this issue, the panel was made up of a diverse range of experts: 

Pablo Romero Sanchiz, clinical psychologist and lecturer at the University of Sussex; Becky Marshall, dual diagnosis nurse consultant at the Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust; Clare Kennedy, CEO of Kennedy Street Recovery; James Murphy, manager of Brighton & Hove’s adolescent substance use and sexual health service, ru-ok?; and Ken Checinski, addiction psychiatrist at West Sussex’s drug and alcohol wellbeing network, Change Grow Live.  

SARIC panel members at the BNA International Festival of Neuroscience 2023

The atmosphere was warm and intimate, with audience and panel members facing each other as if in everyday conversation. The breadth of expertise on the panel set the tone for the meeting and brought a range of perspectives to the table, creating an open discussion which welcomed contributions from audience members. Some of the audience members were individuals with lived experience; it was great to see that they felt comfortable coming into this space to share their stories and offer their valuable perspectives. Despite the distinct panel of professionals, both panel member and audience contributions were made to feel equally valued. 

We started off discussing the first question: what are the current challenges facing holistic health care for people who are seeking help for drug addiction? Panellists and audience members suggested several factors: the complexity of the problem, the existence of co-occurring mental health conditions, access and coordination of services, the urgency of treatment, an inability to access adequate treatment, and ultimately not knowing where to start. Everyone attending agreed that standard treatment referrals and services do not currently address the complex nature of addiction. Many addiction treatments are centred around detox and sustained abstinence – a linear approach which neglects other areas of life influenced by addiction.

Prompted by ru-ok? manager, James Murphy, the panel then discussed the need for a holistic approach to treatment. Such an approach would treat the individual in many ways, addressing not only their physical symptoms, but also the mental, spiritual, and socio-environmental factors underlying their addiction. Such an approach would involve support with housing, education, employment, mental health, and wellbeing. It would also provide support to the individual’s loved ones and the wider community, acknowledging that the impacts of addiction extend beyond the individual. Ken Checkinski then highlighted the fact that recovery is an individual journey. As such, treatment should be individualised, and an action plan formulated on a case-by-case basis. There is no one size fits all approach.

The group then moved on to discuss the need for individualised treatment plans to involve the management of co-occurring mental health conditions alongside treatment for addiction. Becky Marshall, whose job is precisely this, highlighted that in the past, individuals would only have access to treatment for co-occurring mental health conditions when they had recovered from addiction, or stopped using the substance. Now, in some regions in England, individuals can be treated for both addiction and mental health conditions at the same time. This allows individuals to be treated based on their personal needs and tackles addiction from multiple angles, allowing recovery to happen more quickly. 

Following on from this, Pablo Romero Sanchiz introduced the idea that addiction often arises as a form of self-medication. Initially, it serves the purpose of numbing or lessening some form of emotional pain, hence the high level of comorbidity between addiction and other mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Addiction treatment must address the underlying cause of emotional pain or trauma, replacing the addictive substance or behaviour with healthier, adaptive strategies. Pablo’s point highlighted the need to involve psychological therapies in addiction management and treatment, and how mental health conditions must be addressed for an individual to effectively recover from addiction.  

As the event began to wrap up, an interesting discussion was sparked when an individual from the audience shared their positive experience with Change Grow Live. They spoke highly of the treatment that they received and emphasised that becoming educated in the science and psychology behind addiction played a vital role in their recovery. This led the audience and panel members to discuss the importance of having individuals with lived experience work closely with addiction services and prompted a few panel members to share their own experiences with addiction. From this, it was suggested that SARIC should involve more individuals with lived experience in their work, to which all panel members agreed.

By the end of the discussion, a clear question had surfaced: Why does the current system fail individuals with addiction and how do we change it to provide better help? Becky Marshall pointed out that the current approach to addiction treatment stems from an outdated view of addiction and mental health conditions. Other panel members agreed that the whole system needs rethinking, and while this would be ideal, it is not feasible. After this was addressed, it was reiterated that small changes across a range of addiction services contribute to large-scale change. Attention was brought back to the progresses made within each of the represented services, and the positive influence they have had. This also emphasised the need for meetings which gather representatives from many services to discuss exactly these questions, and again, how it is vital to have individuals with lived experience directly contribute to decision-making within these services. 

Overall, the meeting was very informative for both audience and panel members alike. A wide range of perspectives created an inclusive atmosphere where open discussion could take place, which highlighted many of the issues and progresses seen in addiction services today. Despite discussing some difficult and emotional topics, the session ended on a positive note, with many individuals feeling inspired and hopeful for the potential changes to come.

The Sussex Addiction Research and Intervention Centre (SARIC) aims to improve understanding of addiction by investigating all aspects of drug and alcohol misuse, including behavioural addictions. Find out more about SARIC on the research centre website.

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Nervous about talking to strangers? It’s not as hard as you think, and you’re probably already better at it than you know!

By Dr Gillian Sandstrom

To mark Loneliness Awareness Week, Sussex Psychologist Gillian Sandstrom shares her research findings on the importance of connecting with strangers for our happiness and well-being.

I talk to strangers.  Even on the Tube.  I have had loads of pleasant chats and, of course, a few awkward ones.  I’ve benefitted from some of these conversations, learning new things and getting helpful advice and recommendations.  Even when the conversations are just average, they add up, and make me feel more trust and less fear towards others.  Research shows that talking to strangers can improve our mood and make us feel more connected.  So why don’t we talk to each other more often?  Maybe we’re not convinced that we know how to do it.  The good news is that it’s not as hard as you think, and you’re probably already better at it than you know!

First things first: starting a conversation.  There are lots of ways to do this, and I urge you to experiment.  First, you can comment on your shared situation, including the old classics: the weather, the traffic.  This may seem trite, but you just need a way to connect, before you can move on to other, more interesting topics.

Another option is to start with a compliment.  It’s fun to deliver compliments, and fun to receive compliments, especially from a stranger.  Compliments seem easier to believe when they come from someone who doesn’t know you.

Use your observational skills and tap into your curiosity to ask questions, or ask for advice.  I’ve asked people why they were wearing airplane earrings, where they were travelling to with their suitcase, what book they were reading… Often I combine observation with humour.  I once commented on a young man’s “breakfast of champions” (a packet of biscuits), and I asked two Freemasons wearing matching striped trousers if they had consulted each other on their wardrobe choices that morning.

Now that the conversation is rolling, some of the same strategies will help you keep it flowing smoothly: comment on things you have in common, and exercise your observational skills and curiosity. People like it when you ask follow-up questions, because it demonstrates that you are listening deeply, rather than just thinking of what to say next.

You might consider disclosing something about yourself, which demonstrates trust and encourages reciprocation. I once started a conversation with a lady on the Tube by asking her how her day had been going so far.  She gave a non-committal response, and I thought the conversation might be over (not all conversations are successful.)  Then she asked me the same question, and I told her that I had had an adventure (being interviewed on BBC Radio 4!)  In return, she confided in me that she had just found out she was pregnant! She felt safe telling a stranger on the Tube, who she would never see again.  I felt so honoured!  Hugs were exchanged.

Finally, it’s important to be patient.  You will likely surprise people by talking to them, and it may take them a while to adjust to the idea that you’re just being friendly.  Keep going, and most of the time you’ll manage to get into a groove.

No conversation can last forever, so when it’s time for you to move on, you need to figure out how to end the conversation. I’ve run several How to Talk to Strangers workshops, and although attendees easily come up with loads of ways to start conversations, they struggle to come up with ways to end them without lying (or inventing unnecessary trips to the loo). Maybe that’s why people don’t talk to the person next to them on the airplane until 15 minutes before it lands, when an ending is guaranteed? Research confirms the challenge: conversations almost never end at a time when both parties want it to end. My best advice:  Keep it simple. When you’re ready to move on, just tell the other person that it’s time for you to be on your way, and that you’ve enjoyed the chat (which I’m sure you will!)

If all this talk of starting, maintaining, and ending conversations makes chatting sound like a lot of work, don’t worry!  Like most skills, social skills can be learned and developed.  I consider my Dad a world expert in talking to strangers, but his secondary school classmates say he was quite introverted back in the day.  I don’t consider myself particularly extraverted, and would rather sit on the couch with my cats and a good book instead of going to a party.  But once I started talking to strangers, I realized how much fun it could be, and I started doing it more often, and getting better at it.  In a recent research study, my colleagues Erica BoothbyGus Cooney, and I asked participants to talk to at least one new person every day for a week.  At the end of the week, many of our participants admitted that talking to strangers was easier than they thought: “I can honestly say that I’m not nearly as shy as I thought! This experiment allowed me to really push out of my comfort zone and take the initiative when talking to people.”

Not only will you start to feel more comfortable with practice, but you’re probably already better at it than you think you are.  If you’re like most people, after chatting to a stranger you can’t help but wonder what they thought about you, and your conversation.  It turns out that people generally underestimate how much others like them.  Research finds evidence for this “liking gap” before an upcoming chat to a stranger, after a chat to a stranger (whether it be short or long), and even after living with a flatmate for several months.

Unfortunately, “stranger danger” norms are prevalent, so sometimes people won’t want to talk to you.  This happens a LOT less often than you would think. In our week-long study, participants said: “I was worried people would prefer to be left alone, but that was never the case”, and “I was never turned down by anyone.” If someone doesn’t want to talk, remember that they may be nervous too, or reading a really good book, or caught up in their own personal drama… Their reaction is not necessarily a judgment of you and your overture.  Respect their decision, and when you try again, you’ll find plenty of people who are more receptive and appreciative.

Why not be brave, and start a conversation with someone? You’re more capable than you think, and both of you are likely to enjoy it more than you expect.

Gillian Sandstrom is a Senior Lecturer in the Psychology of Kindness at the University of Sussex. Gillian’s research examines the barriers that prevent people from connecting. Her research has focused especially on the fears that make people worry about talking to strangers, which she views as an act of kindness. See Gillian’s Sussex profile to find out more about her research at Sussex.

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Tips for surviving in-person exams

By Mia Brady

The prospect of in-person exams is a daunting one for many, particularly when you’ve never done them at university level before. Psychology masters student and Inclusivity in Psychology connector Mia Brady shares some of the tips that helped her cope with in-person exams during her time as a student. Some of these tips are specific to sitting exams in-person, while others can be used for online exams, or any other point of life where you’re experiencing high panic or anxiety.

Before the Exam

Familiarise yourself with the location of your exam

Trying to figure out where you need to be 10 minutes before the exam starts would undoubtedly cause huge amounts of stress. Save yourself from this last-minute panic by checking the location of your exam ahead of time and making sure you know how to get there. You can even try looking inside the room to get a feel for what it will be like when the time comes for the exam. Checking things like where the nearest toilets are or if there’s somewhere nearby to get water, can also help you feel more prepared when it comes to exam day.

Practice breathing techniques and grounding exercises

For many of us, anxiety can be as much a physical experience as it can mental. Familiarising yourself with some breathing techniques or grounding exercises that work for you will provide you with useful tools if you find yourself becoming anxious or panicked in the exam room. 

Here are some techniques that I find helpful:

Progressive muscle relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation involves tensing and releasing the major muscle groups in your body, which can release some of the tension created by anxiety and physically ground you in times of panic.

This article from Young Minds provides a great description of the process and benefits.

Box breathing

Box breathing is not only a great way to calm your nervous system, but the process of counting the seconds as you breathe in, hold, and breathe out also gives your mind something to focus on other than the exam.

Simply follow these steps:

  1. Breathe in for 4 seconds
  2. Hold your breath for 4 seconds
  3. Breathe out for 4 seconds
  4. Hold your breath for another 4 seconds
  5. Repeat!

Further resources

The techniques above might not work for you, but there are plenty of other exercises you can try. Below are links to resources describing other breathing and grounding exercises that you may find useful.

30 Grounding Techniques to Quiet Distressing Thoughts

25 Grounding Techniques for Anxiety

9 Breathing Exercises to Relieve Anxiety

On the day

Arrive early

Aim to arrive well before the exam start time. This allows time for potential issues with the bus/train as you’re coming to campus, as well as time for you to get settled before the exam starts.

Bring snacks

Having something to eat before the exam can give you a boost of energy and stop you getting distracted by pangs of hunger during the exam. There are lots of articles about the best foods to eat before an exam, but my advice is to have something substantial that you enjoy – you deserve it!

Practice breathing and grounding

Cramming before an exam doesn’t tend to work; not only are you unlikely to retain any more information, but it can also lead to increased feelings of anxiety and panic. You may find any spare time you have before the exam is better spent practising some of the breathing and grounding techniques described earlier, then these will be fresh on your mind if you want to use them during the exam.

Find something in the room to focus on

You’ll probably find you have a fair amount of time sat in the exam room before you get started. Use this time to find something in the room that you can bring your attention to if you start feeling overwhelmed. It could be a pattern on the desk, something on the wall; think about what it looks like and how you might describe it. This can help get you out of your head and you can then return to the exam feeling slightly more focused.

After the exam

Take a break!

It’s often difficult to take your mind off an exam after it’s done; you might be wondering about how it went, comparing answers with other students, or thinking about the next assignment you’ve got to work on.

Try to give yourself some time to completely detach from whatever responsibilities you may have and take a break doing something that you enjoy. Having a nice activity planned in advance can give you something to look forward to after the exam and provide motivation to get to the end.

Do something physical

After spending a long time in one spot, it can be good to get the blood flowing through your body again. Doing some stretches, going for a walk, or any other form of physical activity is a great way to re-energize and physically remove yourself from ‘exam mode’.

A woodland view from the South Downs National Park
Views from the South Downs National Park

Spend some time outside

As with doing something physical, spending some time outside is a great way to transition out of ‘exam mode’. There are many beautiful parts of campus where you can sit in nature or go for a walk to calm yourself down and bring yourself back to a neutral state after being in a potentially heightened state during the exam.

Be kind to yourself

When you’re a university student, assessments can feel like the most important thing in the world, but they don’t always go according to plan. If you’re unsure or disappointed with how you think the exam went, try not to be too hard on yourself for it. There are plenty of factors that contribute to how an assessment goes, and sometimes there is no particular reason other than it was a hard exam! Remember that this isn’t the only opportunity you have to show your abilities and that your result doesn’t define who you are. 

Need more support?

If you feel like you need more support during the assessment period, you can contact the psychology student experience team via their email: 

You can also find more information about supporting your mental health on the Student Hub.

Reasonable adjustments

The deadline for registering for reasonable adjustments for this assessment period has passed, but if you think these would help you in future years of study then you can find more information about registering here.

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My placement with ACoRNS and an ever-growing interest in autism

By Anjali Das

As part of World Autism Acceptance Week, Psychology graduate Anjali Das writes about her work placement with the ACoRNs team and the experiences that have influenced her future goals and passion for autism research.

One year ago, when I finished my degree, I would have laughed in disbelief if you asked me where I would be now.

I am writing this blog, as a BSc graduate in Psychology and Cognitive Science, in my office, where I work 9-5 on a salary, as a Graduate Associate for the Wellbeing Team at Sussex. I work alongside incredibly experienced, resilient, and inspiring adults, who are committed to improving students’ lives at university; managing challenging situations to do with their safety, mental health, and general wellbeing. I also work with Autism Community Research Network Sussex, under the guidance of Professor Nicola Yuill, as a placement student, looking into developing their reach and spark a conversation around the latest developments/controversy in the field of autism.


So, how did I get here? My passion for acquiring and sharing knowledge about mental health and neurodevelopmental conditions is rooted in both my personal and academic history. My curiosity towards understanding the human mind originated at the age of 16. I volunteered at a care home at the time. Attending each week, I was drawn into conversations with an amazing woman who had Alzheimer’s. The content of our conversations was always the same as she wouldn’t remember that we had chatted before. From repetition, and the connection we had established, she was eventually able to remember my name. This experience motivated me to explore the field of psychology.

I have since dedicated four summers gaining practical experience with individuals and groups of children with mental health and neurodevelopmental disorders such as Anxiety, Depression, Attention Deficit Disorders, Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC), Down’s Syndrome, and Dyslexia, among others. My role involved working closely with neurodivergent young adults, ensuring their safety and wellbeing during tasks and activities throughout the day. I managed various challenging situations, observing patterns of behaviors and examining triggering events for each person carefully. I assisted those who struggle with communication and socialization by facilitating an inclusive and exciting environment to support the development of such skills.

Having worked most closely with higher needs individuals with ASC, I became fascinated with the differences in presentation in each individual and curious about how their brains work. I became motivated to understand each of their triggers and how they respond to them, and my problem-solving nature allowed me to find the best way to help them calm down and manage the difficult situation. Most importantly I saw them, day in and day out, rise above any mistaken beliefs about their abilities. This experience developed in me an intense desire to work with children and young adults on the spectrum to address the marginalization and underrepresentation of the experiences of the Autistic community. Most families I met through this experience seemed to live under a veil of misinformation. In addition, their community’s knowledge of the disorder relied on media portrayals that often do not represent the full spectrum of autism. It is my belief that the best way for autism research and practice to genuinely meet the needs of children, young people and their families is to involve the community from the start. I was thus inspired to apply for the ACoRNS placement.

I began working with the Autism Community Research Network Sussex (ACoRNS) after completing my degree and so far, the placement has been incredibly eye opening and rewarding. It has allowed me to make valuable connections with people working on improving autistic experience in education within Brighton and Hove, and beyond. I have been involved in research and important conversations with ACoRNS and the Children and Technology lab on topics related to Autism. Once a month, I chair a meeting called the Autism Reading Group (ARG), wherein I provide research material (Psychosis, Pathological Demand Avoidance, Employment etc.) to the attendees, and we discuss/critically analyse it in that hour. A group is attended by a mix of people, ranging from autistic individuals, people interested in the topic, parents of children with ASC to Clinical and Educational Psychologists – all offering important insights from their own lived and professional experiences! I then proceed to write up the conversation into a blog post and publish it on the ACoRNS website. In addition, I am tasked with running their social media, and helping with event planning.

These conversations have helped all those engaging with our work understand autism better and as a spectrum condition, rather than succumb to the stigma surrounding the condition. I find our work to be incredibly valuable.

The role has come with its own set of challenges. Chairing a meeting with people much more experienced than me, talking about topics that they are experts in, has been daunting at times. Through repetition however, I was able to put a positive spin on the self-doubt and started viewing the ARG’s as an opportunity to learn from the best in the field. Another challenge has been around writing blog posts about topics that can generate controversy such as ABA as a form of therapy for autism. I have had to be incredibly careful with the terminology and have had to become aware of the prejudices that already exist before drafting a blog. Repetition and guidance have made me a lot more confident in my abilities.

The placement has shown me how beneficial our work has been to the community’s understanding of the condition, helping eliminate certain misconceptions surrounding autism, by providing educational tools and platforms to break them. My research, experience with ACoRNS, and my own lived experiences have enabled me to secure my current position within the Wellbeing team. I have been able to offer a valuable student perspective on the types of support needed which has helped me shine in this role. I will be using this role to carry on spreading awareness about neurodiversity and mental health among our university community. I also hope to take my knowledge forward and apply to a masters in neurodevelopmental sciences. Lots more exciting things to come!

I want to use this opportunity to thank all the inspiring people that I have met and learned from and who have helped me develop thus far. The children I worked with taught me best -you are more capable than you or anyone else might think.

Anjali Das graduated from Sussex in 2022 and is currently on a work placement with the Autism Community Research Network Sussex (ACoRNS).

Read this article to find out more about World Autism Acceptance Week and how you can get involved with autism research at Sussex.

Current Undergraduate students can access information about the placement scheme on the ‘Psychology Placement Information’ Canvas module. Peer to peer advice and support is available via our Psychology Student Connector and for general enquiries please email the psychology placements team at

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The Brain Energy Lab: connecting and collaborating is fundamental to everything we do

By Catherine Hall

The theme for this year’s British Science Week is connections and we thought it would be a good opportunity to ask one of our psychology lecturers, Dr Catherine Hall to tell us some of the reasons why connections and collaborations are so important to research success.

Since my days as a PhD student, the thing I have found most exciting about science is the way that your experimental results continually change the way you understand the world,  throwing open ever more questions that you need to answer in order to find out if you are right to think that way! I love that these questions often need new experiments, and often new methods that you haven’t done before, but there is always someone you can work with to learn how to do that. Conversely there are also often people who want to learn how to do something you can do to answer their own questions. Science is truly a team effort, and every single thing we do requires a collaborative effort to achieve success.

members of the Brain Energy lab looking happy together sitting around a restaurant table
The Brain Energy Lab on a collaborative outing.

In my research group – the Brain Energy Lab – we are interested in how the brain controls its energy supply and how reductions in energy supplied to the brain might precipitate Alzheimer’s Disease. Our research sits at the interface of many fields – incorporating neuroscience, psychology, biochemistry and cardiovascular physiology, using specialised equipment and reagents developed by physicists and chemists.  We are always learning from people in these different fields, within the University of Sussex, and externally, to develop new approaches and explore new questions. To explore just a few of these connections, during COVID-19, we were able to connect with colleagues in Life Sciences (Ed Wright, Louise Serpell) to learn how risk factors for severe COVID19 disease affect infection of vascular cells with SARS CoV-2. We’ve worked with Sussex Neuroscience Research Bioengineer Andre Maia Chagas to harness open access machine learning methods to track mouse behaviour. Externally we study novel populations of hippocampal neurons with Caswell Barry at UCL, and various properties of cells and tissue during hypoxia with Mariana Vargas Caballero at Southampton, Nicola Hamilton Whitaker at Kings College London and Melissa Scholefield at the University of Manchester.  We’ve hosted visiting researchers from the University of North Caroline investigating striatal neurovascular relationships, and provided data for modelling studies investigating properties of cerebral autoregulation. As does every other scientist, we sit within a web of connections that facilitates and inspires our research and hopefully also that of our collaborators! It’s stimulating, exciting and a large part of what makes this such a great career!

Catherine Hall

Catherine Hall is a lecturer in the School of Psychology and principal researcher for the Brain Energy Lab at the University of Sussex. You can find out more about Catherine’s work from her Sussex profile and the Brain Energy Lab website.

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Being a neurodivergent researcher: imposter thoughts, doom-boxes and the academic monolith

By Josh Francis

In recognition of Neurodiversity Celebration Week, Psychology PhD student and neurodivergent researcher, Josh Francis has written about his experiences and personal journey through university which led him to his ADHD diagnosis. In this blog, Josh expresses his determination to raise awareness for neurodiversity by suggesting tools and recommendations to support others, and challenges some of the stigmas and myths associated with neurodiversity.

I struggled to write this blog post. When I sat down to write it I would keep questioning why I was writing it, not being an authority on either being a researcher or neurodivergent. Thoughts like these are common, known as imposter phenomena or syndrome, it is likely we have all felt them from time to time. But imposter thoughts occur, and reoccur… and reoccur again, much more frequently for those who are within marginalised groups (Bravata et al., 2020), such as neurodivergent people. And after grappling with these barriers for several failed writing sessions, I thought perhaps that would be the main topic of this article. Along with this, I will talk about my journey to diagnosis, the formal support available, and support from within the neurodivergent communities.

Despite a growing recognition of neurodiversity, those who identify as neurodivergent are still within the minority and susceptible to prevailing stereotypes about their personality or ability. I could probably add the following conversations to a weekly bingo card: “But if you can sit and read studies all day how can you have ADHD?,” “but doesn’t everyone struggle to focus on their work,” or a comment about hyper-focus being a superpower. Such stereotyping coupled with a lack of diversity within academia reinforces the imposter thoughts. Imposter phenomena becomes an internalised barrier to achievement (Clance & O’Toole, 1987), and a barrier to productivity something that can already be an issue.

Within my experience, neurodivergence can lead to extremes in terms of how a day feels, and how productive you can be. There are days when you feel full of energy, and capable of accomplishing anything. You work faster and more focused than any of your peers, going hours without moving or taking your hands off the keyboard. These days are rare. More days I lose focus midway through writing something or jump between tasks losing hours to task transitions. On these days you feel useless, hours will fly by without anything to show for it. Thoughts about not being good enough to be a researcher occur on these days. Leading to cycles where the thoughts make you feel powerless to do anything, and not doing anything to legitimise the thoughts. The days when you get stuck in these cycles feel like a chore at best, it becomes like getting tough food marks out of a pan. You struggle to keep at it, and the temptation to leave it is strong. At worst they become days when your brain, and body, simply want to shut down as you become consumed by guilt.

cartoon of a dog sitting at a table with a cup of tea with the room on fire around them. The dog is saying 'this is fine'.
Cartoon taken from Gunshow comic by KC Green (

Not everything is doom and gloom however, and something that can really help is knowing that you are not alone. Before my diagnosis I had felt quite alone. In my hometown I had felt like I didn’t fit well, even when with friends. I thought perhaps it was my goals weren’t aligned and I imagined at university I would fit. And I did a bit more, but I was always the energetic one or chaotic one, even when framed as a good thing it highlighted the difference. I could be surrounded by people on the same course, with the same interests and still feel isolated. Only after my undergraduate degree did I meet someone, who happened to be a doctor, that recognised my behaviours as ADHD indicators. Even without a formal diagnosis, after going on forums and seeing other people’s experiences I almost instantly felt less alone in the world. I saw people describe things that I had felt like “time-blindness” or “doom boxes.” I now had words to describe my experience and some suggestions for what had helped others. Seeing my own experience reflected in others not only validated my experience but gave me a deeper understanding of my own thought and behaviour patterns. Now when I have bad productivity days, I do my best to be kind to myself, and understand it is not a reflection of my ability.

As for getting a formal assessment. I chose to get assessed mid-way through my MSc, partly because of the support it would open to me. Another reason was that the country I had been living in previously still did not have an official diagnosis for adult ADHD (and this was in 2020). The process of registering my diagnosis within student services was quite quick. The biggest benefit was the 7-day extension on deadlines I could get for essays. Especially because at times I would have multiple essays due on the same day. The extra week allowed me to focus on one essay and submit it on the deadline, and then the next week the other essay. In addition, I was allotted extra time for exams. The extra time was very useful as it helped alleviate the intense time stress I feel in exam conditions, allowing me extra time to plan and organise my answers, and time to recheck my answers to make sure I had fully read and understood the question.

I believe talking about neurodiversity is important, and especially within academia. Academia at times can feel like a monolith, something which only a certain type of person can gain entrance. Many neurodivergent people can feel that they are too unfocused and disorganised. And many traditional assessments support this. Writing logically planned and methodical essays, while being concise, can seem impossible to people whose brains aren’t designed to think linearly. Despite this however, there is very much a place in academia for neurodiverse people. According to the Office for Students’ 2020 report 14.5% of students identified as neurodiverse or disabled (Office For Students, 2020), while other reports estimate 20%. Such an amount is not to be overlooked, and through remembering that up to a fifth of those within universities are neurodiverse we can feel less alone.

graph for the Office for Student website showing the percentages of disabled students registered in 2020
From Office for Students 2020 (

Talking about experiences is also helpful for sharing ways to overcome barriers like days full of reading or writing with no motivation. My own tips/methods are not a cure-all, and they are mostly taken from better, more experienced people (I recommend the following YouTube channels: How To ADHD, Dr Amina Yonis and Productivity and ADHD). I follow academics on Twitter to help with my motivation, I recommend following neurodiverse researchers like @ZJAyres and the hashtags #DisabledInSTEM and #AcademicMentalHealth. I also read a lot of blog articles written by neurodivergent researchers and students eager to share their experiences.

But the following have helped:

  • Text to speech software for reading – if I am reading visually and hearing what I’m reading my mind doesn’t wander as much.
  • Blocking out spaces in my calendar for self-directed work and SPECIFYING what I am working on.
  • Loud fast paced music can help me zone in on tasks
  • Turning off notifications, including Outlook.
  • Chrome plug-ins, like mindful browsing or Momentum, to cut down on distracting sites.

Mainly anything that helps me focus my brain on a single task and limit the temptation to swap to other tasks. Because transitioning between tasks, or having to re-remember what I was doing previously, is how I lose hours into the atmosphere.

Overall, there is a big need within academia for diversification (and sincere diversification). Not just for neurodiversity of disability, but for race, sexuality, gender, socioeconomic status, and much more. At Sussex we are more fortunate to have active communities and groups that are pushing for change and greater representation. In-terms of neurodiversity and disability, we have a student-led campaign group called “Access Sussex,” a Disabled Students Forum Discord server, and part-time Disability Officers within the SU. All of which provide opportunity for support and community within Sussex. In addition, many staff are open about their own something and the barriers they face, which can be validating to hear for many students. I really encourage anyone reading this blog to read more experiences of those who identify as neurodiverse, and support movements for change. The BPS has some suggestions for making universities more neurodiverse friendly ( What we have is okay, but we need more opportunities, spaces to share, and representation to continue breaking down the academia monolith.

Josh standing on a bridge in front of a river and trees on a sunny day

My name is Josh, I am a first year PhD researcher in the School of Psychology at the University of Sussex. My research area is surrounding body image dissatisfaction within children, and investigating the impact of school transitions. My goal before finishing my PhD is to pilot a possible early intervention to alleviate body image dissatisfaction, preferably that can be delivered between peers within school.

Alongside my studies I am a student representative for PGRs in Psychology, and member of Access Sussex a student-led disability campaign group ( And when I’m not working, I love playing board games, crafting, and buying too many house plants.


Bravata, D. M., Watts, S. A., Keefer, A. L., Madhusudhan, D. K., Taylor, K. T., Clark, D. M., Nelson, R. S., Cokley, K. O., & Hagg, H. K. (2020). Prevalence, Predictors, and Treatment of Impostor Syndrome: A Systematic Review. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 35(4), 1252–1275.

Clance, P. R., & O’Toole, M. A. (1987). The Imposter Phenomenon: An internal barrier to empowerment and achievement. Women & Therapy, 6, 51–64.

Students, O. for. (2020, June 25). Disabled students—Office for Students (Worldwide). Office for Students.

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Why my placement has changed my life

By Kerry Moor

We asked one of our current 2022-23 Psychology Professional placement students to tell us about their experience so far. Kerry is completing an internal research placement with the School of Psychology for the Sussex Centre for Research on Kindness. A Professional Placement year is completed between your second and final year of undergraduate study.

Halfway through my second year, I had a sudden realisation that I needed a break from my Psychology degree. As a driven person, I wanted to redirect my life towards goals I wanted to achieve and things I wanted to learn, instead of being forced to sit exam after exam and study lecture after lecture that didn’t elicit a deep passion in me. I understand how hard it is to motivate yourself to do something you really don’t want to do (I’m sorry neurobiology you were never for me), and this is why I am such a big supporter of doing a placement.

Choosing a placement aligns yourself with what you want your career and your life to look like and is a reminder for why you are doing a degree in the first place. I knew many people who either dropped out or always considered it, because university wasn’t what they imagined. I think that perhaps many people don’t know how many opportunities a university offers you; you just have to go looking for them. Sitting exams isn’t so painful when you have a clear idea of why you are sitting them, and doing a placement is what cleared the fog for me.

There are lots of variables that may discourage you from doing a placement: battling the time between completing assignments and writing professional CVs and personal statements, putting in all this effort only to be turned down; not receiving any money for the work you will be doing (many placements are unpaid, but not all); and leaving behind the year group you have spent the past two years with. These are all struggles I have had to face, but I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that doing a placement has been the best thing for my education and for my development in life. If you put in the time to seize opportunities, you will get them. The process can feel discouraging, but I urge you not to give up if it is something you know in your gut that you want.

I believe I got my opportunity through my expression of unfiltered passion. Whilst being professional is important, showing and explaining to employers why you care so much about the opportunity they are presenting is perhaps even more essential. If you don’t feel this way about the placement, maybe it isn’t the right one for you. University is a minefield of choices, and you should only choose the ones you believe will align with your growth and therefore hopefully your happiness.

Luckily, this is how I feel about the opportunity I got. I believe I hit the jackpot on placement opportunities. I work with the Sussex Centre for Research on Kindness (ROK), and I am their first ever placement student.

“Kindness?” people exclaim when I tell them what I am doing with my life at the moment. At first, I barely knew what researching this meant myself. Now, I find myself being seen as an expert on kindness, as I explain to people how kindness is the medicine to many of life’s difficulties. I am proud of all the work that I do, and have felt a great sense of achievement from projects I have led, such as creating The Kindness Corner, which toured campus in November last year.

the Kindness Corner with a colourful chair and noticeboard with bunting and a sign saying 'quiet space'
Kerry created the Kindness corner during her placement, which toured the Sussex campus. It currently resides in the Psychology student study space.

In my experience, research placements are wonderful, because there is such a wide range of jobs you will get to carry out and experience. I have loved applying the knowledge I have gained from my degree to this placement, and what I have loved even more is all the knowledge I have gained from my placement that soon I will apply to my degree. My 3rd year feels less daunting now I have a deep understanding of what I am specifically passionate about in psychology.

I am so grateful for everyone who I have met and who has helped me along the way in this experience. I have a new belief that people are incredibly wonderful and that the whole point of studying psychology is to help people rediscover their true, kind nature. So, I know I don’t need a formal conclusion for this blog post but, in conclusion, I believe doing a placement is the best reminder for why you are studying what you are studying. A vivid glimpse into what your future may look like or what you don’t want it to look like. An opportunity that reminds you to trust the process in life. And a way to regain motivation for your passions and your decisions.

If anyone has any questions about doing placements, feel free to email me at There are many people at Sussex uni who can offer help and advice, don’t be afraid to ask. 😊

Kerry Moor is completing an internal research placement with the School of Psychology for the Sussex Centre for Research on Kindness.

Current undergraduate Psychology students can find out more information about placements on the ‘Psychology Placement Information’ Canvas module. Peer to peer advice and support is available via our Psychology Student Connector and for general enquiries please email

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Romantic relationships: a psychologist’s view

On traditionally the most romantic day of the year we couldn’t resist the opportunity to put a few questions to social psychologist and romantic relationships expert, Dr Mariko Visserman who recently joined us at Sussex.

In this Blog, Mariko shares with us how she first became inspired to study romantic relationships, her thoughts on Valentine’s day, and her plans for future research projects.

Cartoon of two stick people smiling at each other with one offering a heart-shaped balloon to the other. Their shadows show confusion and sadness on their faces, representing their subconscious minds.

How did you first become interested in the psychology of romantic relationships?

Back when I was an undergraduate student I had a very inspiring teacher in a module on interpersonal relationships, which first sparked my interest in this topic: in some ways I was positively surprised that researchers actually study relationships! It’s a topic that may seem more based on intuition and not very tangible, but I think that this makes it particularly challenging to study relationships: they’re incredibly complex and difficult to disentangle. I learned that we can quantify relationship phenomena and make the study of romance tangible.

But my conviction in studying relationships truly took off when I learned about the profound impact that the quality of people’s relationships has on their health, wellbeing, and even their survival, so how long we’ll live! I care about understanding and promoting people’s wellbeing, and studying relationships—in particular romantic relationships—is a powerful tool in doing so.

What have been your most surprising research findings on romance to date?

I study how romantic couples navigate conflicts of interest, when they have different needs or preferences. For example, partners may have different preferences for what to have for dinner, which movie to watch, what their next holiday destination should be, or where to live. To resolve such conflicts, one partner may decide to sacrifice their own preference, for example by watching the movie that their partner preferred or even move to a different country to support a partner’s job opportunity.

One of the questions I’ve asked is how well romantic partners perceive each other’s sacrifices in their daily lives and how their perceptions in turn impact their relationship. In two diary studies, my collaborators and I asked each partner every day at the end of the day whether they had made a sacrifice for their partner and whether their partner had made a sacrifice for them, so I could directly compare partners’ accounts of what happened that day. I didn’t think that partners’ reports would perfectly align, but I was definitely surprised to find that in both studies partners only detected half of each other’s sacrifices!

This work also showed the impact that perceiving versus missing a partner’s sacrifice may have: people feel a boost in gratitude towards their partner and are more likely to then also express that gratitude to their partner, resulting in both partners feeling happier in the relationship. On the flipside, not recognizing each other’s sacrifices makes the recipient miss out on that gratitude boost and leaves the sacrificing partner feel unappreciated and dissatisfied—after all, they tried to support their partner’s wishes at a personal cost but didn’t receive any appreciation for this. So next time when you think that maybe your partner did something nice for you, giving them the benefit of the doubt could boost yours and your partner’s happiness in your relationship.

More broadly, this work illustrates the large inaccuracies with which relationship partners perceive each other and has made me believe that there is not one truth that defines a relationship. Partners each have their own experiences of a relationship—in some ways we share our lives but in separate worlds. And this doesn’t get better with time. In fact, while we don’t get more accurate in reading a relationship partner’s thoughts, motivations and behaviours, people often think they do! As a result, our perceptions become more driven by assumptions and we may fail to check in about what a partner is actually experiencing.

Valentine’s day – people either love it or hate it – why do you think this is?

I think that Valentine’s Day—a day on which we’re told to celebrate love—puts up a mirror and whether we like or hate its reflection may depend on whether we like what we see.

Being in a wonderful relationship, completely in love, surely will make this day a lot more enjoyable than when we’re involuntary single, or when a relationship is not going so well. It may also be especially hard for people who are in the middle of processing a romantic break-up – which can hurt in a way that mimics physical pain, so it cuts on a deep level. Valentine’s may be a painful reminder of what one just lost.

Personally, I think traditions like Valentine’s Day and more broadly how relationships are portrayed in pop culture may unfairly make people believe that they need to be in a relationship, to be in a perfect relationship, and for that relationship to be perfect all the time. That simply doesn’t align with reality and by setting the bar so high it’s easy to fall short of expectations. Why buy flowers on Valentine’s Day, paying premium, when you could spontaneously surprise a loved one at any point in time? Positive surprises tend to be more appreciated anyways. 

That being said, we could see days like this just as an opportunity to celebrate what we have, just like we do with birthdays and other anniversaries. Relationships easily get into routines and I think that reminders to take a pause and appreciate what we have should always be welcomed—but perhaps in a way that is authentic to oneself, on people’s own terms. And why limit this appreciation to a romantic partner when we could be celebrating any loved ones in our lives? Yes, romantic partners can profoundly benefit our wellbeing, but so can other close relationships. What matters is that people feel socially connected—having people in their lives who they feel close to, can turn to for support, and can enjoy life with.

What are your future plans for research and public engagement work?

In my future work, I aim to dive deeper into couples’ navigation of larger sacrifices, such as when one partner supports the other’s wish to move to a different city or even country to support their career ambitions. I also aim to look at larger sacrifices stemming from cultural values and lifestyles, such as learning a new language, giving up eating certain foods, or adapting to family traditions.

One reason why I aim to understand such larger sacrifices is because I think that—while they may be especially costly—they may also provide unique opportunities to gain new experiences, learn new things about a partner, ourselves, and the world we live in. The novelty and variety that this may bring can spark experiences of personal growth (often called “self-expansion”), which is a key ingredient to keeping relationships satisfying. I aim to uncover how we can benefit such process in the context of sacrifices; turning an adversity into an opportunity.

Another reason why I aim to better understand couples’ resolution of cultural differences is because I wonder if by learning to engage with each other’s differences at home—a context in which we may be most motivated to do so—we may promote our tolerance and openness to engage with differences in society at large. My hope is that such insights may contribute to combatting polarization and promote integration and mutual inspiration.

To disseminate insights, I love giving talks to general audiences in which I reflect on ways to maintain satisfying relationships, such as maintaining a healthy balance between personal and relationship needs, being responsive to each other’s needs and expressing gratitude, and engaging in novel activities that spark excitement and personal growth. In the future I would also like to do more specific consultancy work, giving scientifically-grounded relationship advice, which I think is especially important given that there’s so much unscientific relationship advice circling around. I would also like to learn more from people’s own experiences and use this as inspiration for my future work, so a more bottom-up approach to address important questions about relationships that matter to people.

Mariko Visserman recently joined the School of Psychology at Sussex after obtaining her PhD in The Netherlands and working as a Postdoctoral Researcher and Lecturer in Canada. You can find out more about Mariko’s work from her Sussex profile and her website which also includes media articles and infographics illustrating her work.

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Reflections on the Manchester Arena public inquiry: Can group psychology help?

By Louise Davidson

According to Part Two of the public inquiry into the Manchester Arena Attack, one of the key problems with the response on the night was that the three emergency services failed to act as one team. Instead, the Police, Fire, and Ambulance Services were working as three separate teams.

One aspect of the Manchester Arena Attack that distinguishes it from day-to-day emergencies (e.g., burglaries, small house fires, and heart attacks) is the required joint nature of the response by the Police, Fire, and Ambulance Service. 

an ambulance, police car and fire engine parked next to each other in a car park on a sunny day

The Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Principles (JESIP) were established following incident reports that showed persistent challenges in the ability of the emergency services to work effectively together. JESIP aims to improve joint working by providing five principles for responders to follow: co-locate; communicate; co-ordination; joint understanding of risk; and shared situational awareness.

Despite the first doctrine providing these principles being published in 2013, and the second edition being published 10 months before the attack, the inquiry reported “significant failures in relation to each of these principles for joint working on the night of the attack” (p45).

Here are just some examples from the inquiry of how the JESIP principles were not met during the response:

Co-locate: There was no shared location which all the emergency services met. Despite a location being recorded by the Police, it was shared with the Ambulance Service but not shared with the Fire Service until more than an hour later. This shared location was not used by any agency.

Communicate: The Police declared Operation Plato (the phrase used to identify a suspected marauding firearms terrorist attack which triggers a pre-determined multi-agency response), however, this was not shared with anybody outside of the Police until after the last living casualty was removed.

Co-ordination: As a terrorist attack, the Police were the lead agency in the response. Commanders from each service should have been discussing resources and the activities of each agency, as well as agreeing priorities and making joint decisions throughout the incident. A commander from the Fire Service was not present until after the last living casualty had been removed, and whilst a commander from the Ambulance Service was present, they did not make any contact with the Police commander. 

Joint understanding of risk:Rather establishing a joint understanding of risk, the three services made their own risk assessments separately and reached different conclusions.

Shared situational awareness: Those on the scene did not record it as significant that the Fire Service were not present during the first two hours of the response. The Inquiry suggests that the reason for this was due to insufficient realisation on the part of police and ambulance of the contribution fire could have made on the night.

Taken together, these failures in the emergency services to follow the JESIP principles prevented their effective joint working. A vital question that we therefore need to ask is how could the emergency services have been better prepared to jointly respond to the Manchester Arena Attack?

How can group psychology help?

According to the Social Identity Approach, a shared sense of ‘us-ness’ (i.e., a shared identity) between people can facilitate co-ordination and co-operation between them through increasing their psychological sense of inter-connection and common purpose. To be put more simply, a shared sense of ‘us-ness’ can improve group working.

The inquiry suggests that responders involved in the response to the attack did not share a sense of ‘us-ness’ and thus did not respond as one team on the night. Yet, in my previous research I have found that it is possible for responders to share a sense of ‘us-ness’ with each other by making salient the fact they are part of the emergency services. This was made possible through responders from different organizations providing each other with emotional and physical support, as well as them recognizing they were sharing a difficult experience with each other. In addition, I have also found that leaders can play an important role in reinforcing a shared sense of ‘us-ness’ through ensuring common goals are communicated to all responders.

Expanding on this, in one of my recent studies, we conducted discussion-based exercises with responders from the Police, Fire, and Ambulance Services from across the UK where we gave them a scenario of a major incident and asked them to discuss with each other how they would respond. We wanted to know whether or not responders’ sense of ‘us-ness’ was linked to improved joint working in the exercise.

I found that a shared sense of ‘us-ness’ between responders in the exercise was associated with better self-reported joint working. Thus, a shared sense of ‘us-ness’ is linked to improved joint working.   

Furthermore, I identified that joint working was facilitated during the exercise through understanding the roles of the other emergency services present; responders having a shared frame of reference for how they should be responding (e.g., JESIP); having a common language to communicate to each other with; and responders trusting each other. A preprint for this research will be available soon.

What does this mean for future training/preparation?

Based on my research, I argue that a shared sense of ‘us-ness’ should be an important part of a multi-agency response. I have demonstrated that a shared sense of ‘us-ness’ is linked to improved joint working during a discussion-based exercise. Furthermore, I have identified specific factors which are linked to improved joint working. Based on this, I recommend that training and guidance needs to include basic group psychology, such as ways to harness a shared sense of ‘us-ness’ between emergency responders, in addition to the operational guidance it already includes.

I hope this research allows some learning to take place and provides a positive step forward from the challenges identified from the Manchester Arena Attack.

Louise Davidson is a Psychology PhD student at the University of Sussex. Funded by Fire Service Research and Training Trust, Louise’s research takes a social identity approach to understanding and optimizing multi-agency emergency response. Last summer, Louise took part in Soapbox Science on Brighton seafront and shared her experiences in the Blog piece, A PhD, public engagement event, and me . If you are interested to know more about Louise’s research, take a look at her latest publication and practitioner reports. You can also follow Louise on Twitter @loudavidson07.

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