Psychology News

News Archive

2017 to June

June 2017

UK Armed Forces veterans may be more at risk of developing problem gambling

In a new report by Swansea University and funded by the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT), preliminary findings suggest UK veterans may be at an increased risk of developing gambling problems than non-veterans, and that this vulnerability may be related to prior experience of traumatic events.

The report, entitled Gambling in Armed Forces Veterans: Results from the 2007 Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey of England, was conducted by Professor Simon Dymond and Elystan Roberts of the Department of Psychology at Swansea University, and colleagues from Bangor University, Anglia Ruskin University and Veterans NHS Wales. It represents the first-ever exploration of the nature and extent of problem gambling in UK veterans, and was launched at the Excessive Gambling Wales 2017 conference in Cardiff today.

Findings consistent with international evidence include those showing elevated rates of problem gambling in armed forces veterans compared to civilian populations. Key findings include:

  • UK Armed Forces veterans are more than eight times as likely to exhibit problem gambling (1.41%) than non-veterans (0.17%);
  • Male veterans are more likely than male non-veterans to have experienced a traumatic event (a potential contributor to problem gambling being more prevalent amongst ex-Service personnel);
  • and UK veterans have a tendency towards risk-taking, which may explain a greater susceptibility to developing gambling problems.

Some findings, however, diverged from wider research; for example, results from this study did not show that veteran status and problem gambling could be explained by differences in mental health conditions, substance abuse, or financial mismanagement.

The research was based on an analysis of data from the 2007 Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey; a survey series which is used to provide data on psychiatric disorders in the community-dwelling adult population in England (ie the survey does not cover those homeless at the time, in care homes, or in psychiatric institutions). From the assessed survey data of 5,358 participants, 257 were military veterans. The research, which is currently undergoing peer review, acknowledges that further research is now required using a larger sample of veterans, with specific questions on pre-service mental health, details of participants armed forces careers, and a focus on problem gambling.

Ray Lock CBE, Chief Executive of the Forces in Mind Trust, said: The findings of this report indicate that, at least within the limitations of this data set, some significant difference has been shown in the level of problem gambling in UK Armed Forces veterans when compared to the general population. The findings and recommendations of this report are instrumental in informing the need for future research into this important issue. It is clear that a wider evidence base is needed to enable policy makers and service deliverers to better identify suitable and timely treatment interventions that ultimately will aid any ex-Service personnel suffering from gambling-related problems in their transition to civilian life.

Professor Simon Dymond said: This report marks an important first step in researching gambling related problems in the UK Armed Forces. Previous international research from the USA and Australia has shown higher rates of problem gambling among Armed Forces populations, but this is the first time this phenomenon has been identified in a UK sample. Given the growing public health challenges posed by problem gambling, this is a crucial finding. We hope that future research will use this report to start a conversation about the need to assess and understand problem gambling in the UK Armed Forces in greater detail.

April 2017

Article on dangers of MDMA one of most read

Professor Andy Parrott's article 'The Potential Dangers of Using MDMA for Psychotherapy' is one of the most downloaded articles published by Routledge Health & Social Care journals in 2014.

The article, which was published in Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, features in the the top three most downloaded articles from 2014. It is now freely available via the following homepage:

Professor Reed's research features in Advances Wales

Advances Wales is a Welsh Government-funded Journal for Science, Engineering and Technology

Professor Reed had two aspects of his work covered in the latest issue of Advances Wales - one feature on his work on the relationship between problematic internet usage and impulsive behaviour (p. 20), and a feature on the research-award winning work with Singleton Hospital on the use of behavioural interventions to support attendance at appointments (p.8)

February 2017

Electric brain stimulation can improve mood and relieve stress.

Feeling down? How about an electric pick-me-up for your brain?

Electrical brain stimulation can improve the mood of healthy people as well as those suffering from depression, says study published in Frontiers in Psychology.

More than 10% of American adults take antidepressants, according to the CDC's last survey, but these drugs can come with a variety of unpleasant side effects. As an alternative, a team at Swansea University is developing an approach using electrical brain stimulation to alleviate stress and depression.

Past studies have shown this method can relieve depression, but their most recent study presents the first evidence that it can also give healthy people a little boost when they're feeling down.

We've shown that weak electric stimulation is effective to improve the mood of those who are not depressed, but are still affected by the consequences of a stressful, restless, and demanding lifestyle, said Dr. Frederic Boy, Head of Translational and Consumer Neuroscience at Swansea.

Although the idea of electric brain stimulation may give you pause for thought, researchers have safely used transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) for over a decade. Last year, the UK's National Health Service (NHS) also approved tDCS for the treatment of depression.

The treatment passes a small electrical current through the brain via two electrodes attached with sticky pads to the participant's head. Volunteers feel only a weak tingling sensation at the beginning of the session.

Boys team selected healthy volunteers, with no history of depression or psychiatric treatments. The participants received tDCS for twelve minutes each day, for a total of five days. Boy's team specifically targeted the brain's prefrontal cortex, the region known to be active during negative emotions and stress. Afterwards, they asked participants to complete mood questionnaires assessing mental states such as anxiety, depression, anger, and fatigue.

We saw an improvement across the whole scale, said Dr. Nick Davis, a co-author on the study at Manchester Metropolitan University. After the first sessions, participants began to feel more positive overall, while those who received a mock treatment reported no noticeable change.

This work may lead not only to a new treatment option for mood disorders, but also to a pick-me-up for healthy individuals dealing with the stress of everyday life. One of the leading causes of clinical depression is the gradual buildup of such day-to-day negative emotions, and so the treatment might also help prevent depression in the first place. The team even envisions the development of an over-the-counter device for stress reduction at home.

People could give themselves a mood boost as needed, said Davis.

But he doesn't recommend that people try DIY brain stimulation until all of the results are in.

Researchers are still considering safety and ethical questions such as: Could people become dependent on the mood boosts? What are the consequences of long-term mood modulation?

Nevertheless, the potential to help people be happier is worth further exploration.

This could absolutely change people's lives, said Boy.

Click here to read Dr Boy's paper.

Keynote address in Norway by Professor Andy Parrott

Professor Parrott was invited to present a keynote address on the adverse psychobiological effects of MDMA, at a recent conference on the problems of recreational stimulant drugs, which was held in Norway

Professor Parrott was invited to be a keynote speaker at a recent MDMA conference in Oslo, on December 14th, organised by Stig Erik Sørheim of ACTIS. The aim of the conference was to outline the damaging effects of recreational Ecstasy/MDMA, especially given the recent upsurge of MDMA use by young people in Norway and Scandinavia. The conference featured in local newspaper articles and television, and led to a dramatic rise in Research Gate hits from Norway. The talks were recorded, and can be viewed here.

January 2017

Swansea Professor awarded Fellowship of the British Psychological Society

Professor Andrea Tales, personal chair in dementia research, has been awarded the BPS's highest honour in recognition of her significant contribution to the field of dementia research.

Prof. Tales, who holds a personal chair in Neuropsychology and Dementia Research in the Department of Psychology, has been made a Fellow of the British Psychological Society in recognition of her work in Dementia and mild cognitive impairment. Her work has helped to reveal that many aspects of brain function not routinely measured in clinical practice can be significantly abnormal in such disorders, thus improving our understanding of why an individual living with such a condition may have trouble interpreting their environment and interacting accordingly. Knowledge of such deficits also helps us to design more friendly and appropriate environments for individuals living with dementia.

New Forces in Mind Trust award:

Swansea University to research gambling addiction among UK veterans

A major grant has been awarded to Swansea University for the very first evaluation of gambling-related problems among UK veterans which will also compare the findings against non-veterans from the general population.

The temptation to gamble while serving in the Armed Forces is widely reported, with many veterans noting that factors such as time spent in solitary accommodation, and living from one pay cheque to the next, can compound the risk of vulnerable individuals developing a gambling addiction.

At present, there are only anecdotal reports of the struggles faced by UK veterans in dealing with a gambling problem; the true nature and extent of the problem remains unknown.  This six-month study seeks to fill the evidence gap by comparing the prevalence of gambling-related problems in veterans serving since the mid-1960s with non-veterans, as well as assessing the potential relationships between gambling-related problems and length of active service, alcohol use and trauma (both during and after deployment). Finding answers to these questions will, for the first time, cast light on the true scale of gambling behaviour among UK veterans.

The research project, which is worth approximateky 40,000, is led by Dr Simon Dymond, Reader in Psychology at Swansea University, and will be conducted using an existing dataset, the 2007 Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey, which is a survey of thousands of community-dwelling adults in England containing a series of questions related to gambling behaviour. The study will also help inform factors that should be included in future health surveys of the UK population.

Dr Dymond said: “Compared with other countries, we actually know very little about the types of gambling-related problems confronted by our Armed Forces veterans. Assessing prevalence among UK veterans is therefore an essential first step in this regard. Indeed, getting a better idea of who is and is not at risk of developing a gambling problem is also important as we seek to improve treatment of this significant public health issue.

Ray Lock, Chief Executive of the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT), said: “Very little is known about the nature and scale of problem gambling among UK veterans. Indeed, and despite frequent popular assertion, there might even be no significant differences from gambling within the general population. This study promises an important insight into the factors that may be associated with, or exacerbate, such behaviour in order to identify who may be most susceptible and under what circumstances.  Such evidence can then be used by policy makers and service deliverers to help identify suitable and timely treatment interventions that ultimately will aid any ex-Service personnel suffering from such issues in their transition to civilian life.

Read the FiMT announcement


December 2016

Insight from the interpretation of dreams: The Sleep Laboratory at British Science Week

Researchers from the Department of Psychology will attend British Science Week 2016 this weekend to present the results of their study on dream insight at the famous Freud Museum in London.

This was the first study to collect dreams in the laboratory from Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep and non-REM sleep, and to then discuss the dream reports in a dream group so as to draw connections between dream content and recent waking life.

Recent work published in Frontiers in Psychology.

November 2016

Dr Ruth Horry was recently awarded £3600 through the American Psychology-Law Society’s Early Career grants scheme.

The funded project will examine the factors that influence mock juror decisions regarding diminished responsibility pleas in cases in which the defendant has suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

This research is particularly timely, as the prevalence of TBI in prison populations is substantially higher than in the general population, yet we know very little about how the criminal justice process handles individuals with a history of TBI.

International Conference on Novel Psychoactive drugs

Professor Parrott's invited paper on the damaging psychobiological effects of MDMA (ecstasy) and mephedrone (m-cat)

Professor  Andy Parrott  recently gave an invited talk at the 'European Conference on Novel Psychoactive Substances: Clinical, Pharmacological, Analytic Chemistry, Toxicity, Legislative and Criminological Issues'. The conference  was held at Hertfordshire University in mid-November and was funded by the European Union, with delegates and attendees from across Europe.

October 2016

Swansea Lecturer Improves BBC’s Lucy Owen’s Memory

The research of Dr Claire Hanley, a lecturer in cognitive neuroscience and ageing, was recently presented as part of BBC One Wales' "Lucy Owen: Middle-Aged Me".

The following video clip demonstrates the use of a brain stimulation method, known as transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), and how the technique may be used to help improve memory function.

Click here for full video

Swedish Grant to Study Impact of Shift Work on Women

Dr Phil Tucker was awarded 1.3m Swedish Krona (~£120k) by the Swedish Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare to study the impact of shift work on women, along with co-applicants from the Stress Research Institute of Stockholm University and the Karolinska Institute.

Women tend to be more negatively affected by shiftwork than men. This two-year project will use large-scale longitudinal data to identify which factors (i.e. psychosocial job characteristics, shift schedule features and individual differences) predict females’ tolerance of shift work and identify ways of reducing the problems that they experience.

Visit the 'Stress Research Institute' website

September 2016

Swansea research shows that attractive icons enhance user performance

Swansea researchers have cast light on the role that aesthetics can play in task performance.

Irene Reppa and Sine McDougall, a former Head of Department, have published a paper on the beneficial effects of attractive design on performance. Under duress, such as when the task to be done is difficult,  dealing with visually attractive media improves performance. This directly influences the efficiency of our interactions with interfaces, such as websites or mobile phones. The paper, titled " When the going gets tough, the beautiful get going" is published in Psychonomic Bulletin Review and has been discussed as featured content in the Psychonomic Society website and has been picked up by a number of media outlets worldwid (e.g., Science Daily  and India Times.

Last week saw Swansea play host to the British Science festival

Professor Nuria Lorenzo-Dus and Dr Cris Izura presented results from an online grooming communicative Project

Professor Nuria Lorenzo-Dus and Dr Cristina Izura lead the Online Grooming Communication (OGC) Project, which has carried out an examination of the language used by groomers to lure children so as to help understand the process better and develop effective interventions to detect and prevent online grooming.

Findings from their research were presented at the Festival in Swansea last Thursday 8th September.

Their research focuses on online grooming as a communicative process when an adult uses the internet to prepare a child and their environment for the abuse of that child – whether the abuse is on or off line.

Professor Lorenzo-Dus said: “We have carried out a detailed analysis of the language used by more than 100 online groomers which  shows that they are skilled communicators who use a range of strategies, including seemingly innocuous ‘small talk’ to develop a sense of trust in them; requests and commands to gauge the children’s disposition to meet online groomers’ desires for verbal or visual sexual engagement; and compliments on various topics to increase feelings of trust and emotional bonding.”

While there is potential for all children to be at risk from online grooming, it is maybe unsurprising that the most common type of grooming is that of male predators grooming female victims.  However the research has dispelled a number of myths surrounding the process.

Click here for 'theguardian' article on this event

Big grant for Swansea project

Swansea University psychology PhD student Amy Jenkins has been awarded funding totalling £103,343 for a two-year fellowship from BRACE.

Click here for the online article

August 2016

Ground-breaking brain science research could end your bad moods!

Everyone experiences emotional ups and downs. Life today is fraught with many stressful situations which can lead to irritability, stress, agitation and moodiness. But brain scientists and psychologists at Swansea University are developing a new technique which can reduce the impact of stress on mood and help improve your emotional wellbeing.

To read the full article, click here.

New research conducted with Swansea University, the University of North Texas, Texas Tech University, Florida Institute of Technology, and Reykjavik University has shed light on the brain activity involved in our ‘tipping-point’, a situation where we switch from approach to avoidance in the presence of threat or danger.

Dr Simon Dymond, Reader in Psychology and Director of the Experimental Psychopathology Lab at Swansea University, is co-author of a new article highlighting the research and published in NeuroImage.  He explained: “We all have a ‘tipping-point’, a switch that occurs when, instead of instinctively approaching rewarding situations and people, we choose to avoid activities, unfamiliar people and events because of the increased potential threat.

The research findings are published in NeuroImage

Staff Chosen to Participate in Welsh Crucible

Two staff from the Department of Psychology have been selected to participate in the Welsh Crucible 2015.

Congratulations to Dr Nick Davis and Dr Victoria Lovett who have both been selected to take part in Welsh Crucible 2015,  a programme to develop future research leaders in wales. See here for more details.

Swansea research identifies a physiological pathway that may impair mental skills over time

A team of researchers led by Andrew Kemp, Associate Professor of Psychology at Swansea University, has identified that impairment in the vagus nerve, the most important nerve in the human body, may initiate a slow series of physiological changes that impairs mental skills.

‌Professor Kemp, said: “The findings of this research demonstrate that the vagus nerve impacts on downstream processes, which over time, may lead to cognitive impairment. Our findings suggest that simple health behaviours known to benefit vagal function such as weight loss, smoking cessation, physical exercise and mediation may provide opportunities for short circuiting these adverse, downstream effects.”

The research, published in Biological Psychology, can be read here.

June 2016

Dominance and Prestige of Women With and Without Cosmetics

Sex differences in the perceived dominance and prestige of women with and without cosmetics

Women wearing cosmetics have been associated with a higher earning potential and higher status jobs.

Journal abstract

Masters Student Awarded Prestigious Funding by Gambling Charity

A Masters student from the Department of Psychology has been awarded a fully funded PhD studentship from a major UK charity to pursue his research on armed forces veterans and problem gambling.

Glen Dighton, who is studying for his MSc in Research Methods in Psychology, was awarded the nationally competitive funding by the Responsible Gambling Trust, the UK’s leading charity committed to minimising gambling-related harm.

Glen was one of 12 candidates interviewed to discuss his application. After an anxious few days, he then learned that he was one of two applicants chosen to receive this prestigious funding, which totals approximately £60,000 across three years.

Glen’s PhD project is entitled “Gambling on civvy street: Assessing the impact of gambling-related problems on UK armed forces veterans and their families”, and will be supervised by Dr Simon Dymond (Reader in Psychology) and Dr Alice Hoon (Lecturer, College of Medicine).

May 2016

Students to Present at Welsh Branch of the BPS Annual Conference

Students from the Department of Psychology are putting the finishing touches to their presentations for this year's student conference organised by the Welsh branch of the British Psychological Society.

The conference, which is hosted by the University of Wales Trinity St. David (Swansea campus), is an excellent opportunity for final year undergraduate and taught Masters students to present their own work to peers at an event specifically aimed at students receiving degrees from Welsh Institutions.

Two undergraduates, Nina Baker and Spencer Delf, are due to give oral presentations, while Minna Ventsel is set to give a poster presentation. From the taught masters students, Jennifer Thomas and Nicola Wray Cook, who are studying on the MSc in Clinical and Abnormal Psychology, will also be presenting. All contributions will be published in the conference proceedings.

Further details of the event can be found here.

Best of luck to all of the presenters!

*Read an article and view one of the posters here

April 2016

Why Wear Makeup?

Work carried out by Dr Alex Jones, a new Lecturer in the Department of Psychology, was featured recently on BBC Wales television discussing why women across Wales and beyond wear makeup.

The study, carried out with researchers at Bangor University, examined how much makeup observers perceive as optimally attractive, and the ideas we hold about how others perceive makeup. The study allowed observers to vary the amount of cosmetics on a set of faces, and revealed that both men and women found faces most attractive with around 40% less makeup than is worn on average.

However, when observers indicated what they thought other men and women would find most attractive, they increased the amount of makeup significantly, particularly when considering what other men would find most attractive. Despite expressing a preference for a more natural look, people feel that others find more makeup more attractive. These findings highlight a misperception in what is considered attractive that may affect how people feel about their appearance.

 The show, presented by Connie Fisher, was shown on BBC One Wales and can be viewed on BBC iPlayer throughout April 2016 here.

March 2016

Please join us in congratulating Amy Jenkins on a fantastic achievement!

Last night Amy won the regional final of FameLab (a communications competition designed to engage and entertain by breaking down science, technology and engineering concepts into three minute presentations) at Techniquest Afterhours in Cardiff. Amy will now be representing the South West region in the UK finals on the 25th April in London.

Before this Amy will be attending an expenses paid masterclass weekend in Cheltenham from the 1st - 3rd April in which participants will discuss why public engagement is important. The workshop is active and emphasises developing skills, and through a mixture of talks, exercises and activities deals primarily with the skills of ‘being on your feet’ in front of a live audience".

Last night Amy's talk was an introduction to her research area of subjective cognitive impairment and she talked about the poor communication of dementia research in the media.

FameLab was started in 2005 in the UK by Cheltenham Science Festival and has quickly become established as a diamond model for successfully identifying, training and mentoring scientists and engineers to share their enthusiasm for their subjects with the public.

Listen to Amy on the Tuesday episode of BBC Radio Wales Science Café


October 2015

New Research on Subjective Cognitive Impairment

Amy Jenkins (PhD student) and Professor Andrea Tales, and Dr Jeremy Tree, all from the Department of Psychology, and Dr Antony Bayer of the School of Medicine, Cardiff University, recently published a paper in a special issue of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease on subjective cognitive impairment (SCI).

The objective of the research was to determine how much is known about subjective cognitive impairment (SCI) and how it is currently being managed within UK based specialist clinical practice. SCI is a relatively new concept whereby an individual will experience cognitive impairment on a subjective level compared to an individual who is experiencing mild cognitive impairment (MCI), thus cognitive impairment on an objective level.

In the article, Jenkins and colleagues reported the findings of an email-based service evaluation and discussed possible reasons for the low response rate, themes identified from the thematic analysis, and key messages and best practice recommendations for the management of SCI.

Read the Special Issue here and read the Cronfa entry here.

September 2015

Putting 'brain-hacking' to the test.

Can brief, electrical stimulation improve learning? Innovative research in the Department of Psychology aims to shed light on this fascinating question.

Scientists have developed methods for boosting brain function using electric currents. So far, these benefits have mainly been seen in lab-based tasks. Ongoing research at Swansea University aims to change that. Dr Nick Davis, Lecturer in Psychology, thinks we need to take techniques like tDCS out of the lab. "Brain stimulation has shown real promise in improving some abilities in the lab. We are trying to see if these improvements extend to real-world activities like throwing objects," he said. Read the full article about Nick's research here.

Researchers and clinicians are starting to develop methods to change how the brains of young people work. What are the implications of these advances?

The brain stimulation techniques of TMS or tDCS have been used in adults, but less frequently in children. Swansea Psychology Lecturer Dr Nick Davis was interviewed in this week's Nature magazine. "Brain stimulation in children is potentially very exciting for treating disorders such as dyslexia or low intellectual attainment. But we must be cautious because there are some risks with TMS and tDCS that we are only beginning to understand," he explained.

August 2015

Working The Night Shift: Is it Bad for You?

Dr. Phil Tucker recently featured on a Radio 4 documentary, 'The Night Shift', presented by Sarah Montague.

Dr Tucker, Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology, discussed his recently published research examining the long term impact of shift work on cognitive performance. You can listen again to the programme via the iPlayer here.

Psychology Graduation 2015

Read all about our award winning students from the class of 2015!

You can read all about our award winning students, such as James Mulcahy (recipient of the Best Final Year Project Prize), Joe Leonard (recipient of the Head of Department Prize), Danielle Dekerchove (recipient of the BPS Prize), and Hannah Jones (winner of the Welsh BPS Branch Prize), in the CHHS Graduation Newsletter and also find links to photo galleries from the event here. Congratulations to the class of 2015!

How Excessive Internet Usage Affects You

Professor Phil Reed’s work on how excessive internet usage is related to reductions in immune function was featured in a range of media publications.

Media outlets such as The Times and as well as Western Mail and Evening Post all featured the findings of Professor Reed's research showing how immune function is influenced by spending too long online. The research, which is published in PLoS ONE, evaluated 500 people and found that those who reported problems with over-using the internet also reported having more cold and flu symptoms than those people who did not report excessive use of the internet.

For a short clip of the coverage on ITV News, click here.

July 2015

Professor Reed interviewed on ITV about National Unplugging Day

Professor Phil Reed, an expert in the psychology of internet addiction, was recently interviewed about National Unplugging Day, which aimed to get people off their laptops, smarthones, and other internet devices for one day.

The day was marked with a studio interview with Professor Reed and other guests on ITV Newsweek for National Unplugging Day (Sunday, 28th June) about the effects of excessive internet use on psychological functioning.

Click to Watch Interview

June 2015

British Psychological Society Summer Assistantship Grant Awarded

Dr Vicky Lovett has been awarded a British Psychological Society (BPS) Summer Assistantship Grant.

Dr Lovett and Lauren Dillon, a second year undergraduate student, have been awarded £1600 from the BPS for a Summer Assistantship. Lauren will use the funding to work on the, The effects of local stimulus enhancement and object affordances on an imitation task: an eye tracking study, during the summer months.

Doing Science on "Legal Hghs"

Should scientists be able to undertake research on so-called "legal highs"?

The Conservative government made a manifesto pledge to deal with the laws on "legal highs". On June 9th, the House of Lords will debate these measures, contained in the Psychoactive Substances bill. Neuroscientist Dr Nick Davis, of the Department of Psychology, argues in today's Guardian that current drug laws make it hard to do careful science on the effects of drugs. He said, "Many illegal drugs have effects that make them potentially useful for treating psychological conditions. However, drugs laws create barriers to research." Dr Davis thinks research should be exempt from strict controls, adding, "Good, careful research on these substances may lead to useful medicines in the future."

May 2015

Article on CBT in Japan is Highly Commended

A recent article by Dr Osamu Kobori, a Lecturer in the Department of Psychology, has been selected by a journal’s editorial team as a Highly Commended Paper of 2014.

Dr Kobori’s paper, “Transporting Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) Project to Japan: Preliminary observations and service evaluation in Chiba” was published in The Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice. It has been selected as a Highly Commended Paper of 2014.

"Countdown to Swansea": Project Aims to Provide Help for New Arrivals

Dr Vicky Lovett and colleagues have been awarded funding to develop a community of psychologists aimed at supporting new arrivals on campus.

Dr Lovett and colleagues (Michelle Lee, Hazel McMurtrie, Karen Huxtable, Claire Williams, Cris Izura, and Sam and Elen from the Library, and Rachel Thomas from College Marketing) have been awarded a SAILS/SALT (Swansea Academy of Inclusivity and Learner Support/ Swansea Academy of Learning and Teaching) Grant to hire an intern in the summer on a SPIN (Swansea Paid Internship Network) matched funded internship on a Project entitled: Countdown to Swansea: A social media based pre-arrival engagement to foster a community of psychologists prepared for the transition to independent study at Swansea University. 

Dr Nick Davis was recently quoted in a BBC News article on the potential dangers of so-called DIY brain stimulation.

Dr Davis, Lecturer in the Department of Psychology, explained, “Brain stimulation is a very powerful tool when used correctly. Here in the Department of Psychology we use a type of stimulation called tDCS to study how the brain processes information.”
Dr Davis is concerned that it is now possible to buy tDCS devices from the internet with very little regulation. “I have argued that marketing a device to young people is dangerous, as their brain is still developing,” he added. Along with colleagus at the University of Oxford, Dr Davis is calling for stricter controls on how these devices are sold in order to protect people from potential dangers.
Click here for a link to the BBC article
Click here for a link to an open access article by Dr Davis on brain stimuluation safety

Professor Phil Reed's research on the effects of excessive internet use and the status of work on digital dependency has received coverage in the media.

Phil’s recent paper showing that a reduced motivation to study was related to excessive internet use by University students, published in the journal Higher Education, was featured in the Times Higher Education and other media.
Phil was also recently interviewed for the networked radio programme Word on Health about digital dependence issues.

Milestone in non-pharmaceutical treatments for depression

A West Wales-based company has won US approval for device-based treatment of depression, which is excellent news for taking academic findings into a clinical setting.

Clinical depression, or major depressive disorder (MDD), is a period of severe low mood and lack of motivation. Current treatments for MDD include cognitive therapy or drug-based treatments.

Now, MagStim, based in Carmarthenshire, has been granted approval in the USA for a device which aims to treat MDD using pulses of magnetic energy.

In this article, published at The Guardian, Lecturer Dr Nick Davis explains how the treatment works.

April 2015

PhD Student wins Best Poster Prize at Applied Behaviour Analysis Conference

Katharine Still won the best poster prize at the recent Division of Behaviour Analysis meeting in Galway, Ireland.

Katharine was presenting the findings of her research on facilitating requesting skills in non-verbal children with autism. The research, which was supported by a grant from Autism Speaks and has been accepted for publication in a forthcoming special issue of Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, forms part of Katharine's PhD research which she is conducting under the supervision of Simon Dymond.

Katharine presented her poster at the Psychological Society of Ireland's Division of Behaviour Analysis meeting held in April in Galway. The title of the prize-winning poster was, "Facilitating derived manding skills with a touchscreen tablet computer for children with autism spectrum disorders", and included co-authors from University of South Wales, University College Dublin, and Southern Illinois University. Congratulations, Katharine!

February 2015

Dr Nick Davis features on BBC Radio 4 Documentary about 'Brain Hacking'

Nick was interviewed for an edition of the Out of the Ordinary radio programme about people zapping their brains with DIY electrical devices, lasers and electromagnets.

Nick and his colleagues and students use technology called tDCS (transcranial direct current stimulation) to alter signals in the brain. They do this to understand how the brain processes information in different tasks, and in some cases have been able to improve brain function using tDCS. tDCS, which is sometimes called "non-invasive brain stimulation, is a fairly cheap technology, as it really just consists of a battery and a little circuit to control the current.

This episode of the series is about people who use tDCS devices that they build themselves. People are doing this with relatively little idea of the safety issues involved, and so may be putting themselves at risk of an overdose. In addition, it is not really clear what the wider ethical issues are in using brain stimulation. For example, if someone uses tDCS to help me learn some facts for an exam, is that cheating?

Nick has published papers about the safety and ethics of brain stimulation, such as an argument that tDCS is not really "non-invasive", and a paper arguing that the poorly-understood safety issues mean we should be very cautious in using tDCS with people under 18, which includes many people who are building their own devices.

<>Listen to the 'Brain Hacking' episode here.

January 2015

REF2014 - Outstanding Success in REF2014 for Psychology at Swansea

The Department of Psychology has increased its standing in the REF2014 results, which were announced on December 18th.

BIAL grant awarded to Dr Christoph Weidemann

Congratulations to Dr Weidemann who was recently awarded a grant from the BIAL Foundation for EUR 45,000.

The title of the funded research is "Embodiment of the mind: Disentangling motor and cognitive processes during decision making with prior expectations".

REF2014: Psychology Research at Swansea has Impact

In the REF 2014 assessment, for the first time the government introduced a measure of impact. That is, did research influence the real world rather than only considering academic matters? The Swansea Department of Psychology was one of only four departments out of the 82 assessed to achieve a 100% four-star rating, the maximum possible score.


December 2014

BMJ article on exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases With a team of collaborators from Cardiff University and the University of New South Wales (Australia), Dr Frederic Boy co-authored a research paper in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

The objective of the research was to identify the source (press releases or news) of distortions, exaggerations, or changes to the main conclusions drawn from research that could potentially influence a reader’s health related behaviour.

What is already known on this subject?

The portrayal of health-related science in the national media has widespread potential to influence health-related behaviour, both in dramatic cases such as vaccine scares and through cumulative misunderstanding from everyday misreporting.It is not known to what extent misleading exaggerations originate in the news stories themselves (as commonly assumed), or in press releases  issued by academic institutions, which are a key source for science and health news stories.

What this study adds:

Up to 75% of exaggerations found in health-related science news were already present in the associated press releases. However, exaggeration was not found to be associated with increased news coverage.Thus press releases are a primary target for helping improve science news, with potential widespread benefit for public health.

Here is the link to the full text version of the article: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study. BMJ 2014; 349 doi:, and here are links to articles in The Guardian, Wired, and Time about the research.

November 2014

Media coverage of research on impact of shiftwork on cognitive function

A study by Philip Tucker, Simon Folkard and colleagues at Toulouse University, showing the impact of shiftwork on cognitive function, has received wide coverage in the media this week.

The researchers followed a large sample of shift workers and non-shift workers over 10 years, testing their cognitive performance every 5 years. They found that the shift workers’ cognitive performance was lower than that of the day workers.  The difference was greatest for those who had worked shifts for more than 10 years. The shift workers’ cognitive function recovered after they quit shift work, but this recovery took at least 5 years from time that they stopped working shifts. The results demonstrate that the long term effects of shift work on the body clock are not only harmful to workers’ physical health, but also affect their mental abilities. Such cognitive impairments may have consequences for the safety of shift workers and the society that they serve, as well as for shift workers’ quality of life. The research is published in Occupational & Environmental Medicine, and was featured on BBC News, BBC Wales and CBC News, amongst other outlets.

October 2014

Best Young Researcher Award at International Conference

PhD student, Amy Jenkins, was awarded the prize of 'Best Young Researcher' for her presentation entitled, 'Computer Based Measures of Attentional Function in Ageing and Dementia'.

Every participant in the Young Researchers Forum at the 2nd International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia in Valencia, Spain competed for the Young Researcher Awards, which were awarded to the best paper presenters. Amy's presentation was of a study conducted as research development group within Swansea University, funded by the BTG Seed Corn Fund. The research team consisted of Amy Jenkins (PhD student), Professor Andrea Tales (Principal Investigator), Stephen Lindsay, Parisa Eslambolchilar, Monika Hare and Ian Thornton.

September 2014

Internet addiction

Discovery Channel features research on internet addiction

Professor Phil Reed has had his work on internet addiction featured in the Discovery/Science Channel programme, ‘Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman’.

Professor Reed's work appeared in the ‘How to Collapse a Superpower’ episode – which aired in the USA this summer, as well as being discussed in detail in The Daily Mail and in The Telegraph.  His work on Autism Spectrum Disorders has also recently been mentioned in a feature in The New York Times.

July 2014

International Congress of Applied Psychology.

Symposium on ecstasy/MDMA organised by Professor Andy Parrott

Professor Parrott organised and chaired a symposium for the Health Psychology Section of the 28th International Congress of Applied Psychology.

The conference was held at the Palais de Congress in Paris, from July 8th - 13th. The symposium was entitled: 'Ecstasy/MDMA as a recreational drug: 30 years of applied research into it effects on psychological health and well-being'.

Learning and teaching grant

Swansea Academy of Learning & Teaching (SALT) Small Project Grant Awarded

Dr Hazel McMurtrie, Dr Cristina Izura, Dr Gabriella Jiga-Boy, and Dr Michelle Lee were awarded a SALT Small Project Grant.

The grant of £1490.00 was awarded to support the research project, 'Dialogic Feedback: Identification of Best Practices'.

June 2014

Stress Research Institute of Stockholm Universit

Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare funding

Dr Philip Tucker, in collaboration with the Stress Research Institute of Stockholm University (, was part of a successful bid to the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare.

The project will study the effects of flexible work hours on health and job-related outcomes, with £17,600 of the awarded funds coming to Swansea. The project will involve analysing data from large scale longitudinal surveys conducted in Sweden and 11 other European countries. The results may be of great practical importance for optimizing working hours to suit individual needs while also maintaining efficient production.

ACBS Fellow

Dr Simon Dymond Inducted as Fellow of Association for Contextual Behavioral Science (ACBS)

Dr Dymond has been nominated by his peers and inducted as a Fellow of ACBS.

In the list of Fellows inducted in 2014, Dr Dymond's contribution to the field of relational frame theory, contextual behavioural science, and functional psychology was acknowledged. Fellowship of ACBS can be awarded early, mid, or late career; contributions may be in research, scholarship, training, public information, policy, prevention, organizational work, practice, or any other area of CBS and of the Association; substantive areas include philosophy of science, basic, and applied domains.

May 2014

3rd International Conference on Novel Psychoactive Substances.

Professor Andy Parrott keynote speaker at the 3rd International Conference on Novel Psychoactive Substances

Professor Parrott gave a keynote address at the 3rd International Conference on Novel Psychoactive Substances, which was held in Rome on May 15th-16th 2014.

The title of his talk was, 'Explaining why stimulant drugs are damaging to recreational drug users'.

Dr Philip Tucker to address National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)

Dr Tucker has been invited to address a meeting of the Public Health arm of NICE in September 2014.

He will brief the meeting on current research and thinking about shiftwork and its impact on health and wellbeing, and will participate in the subsequent roundtable discussion.

Dr Philip Tucker to address the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland

Dr Tucker's presentation is entitled, 'The Tiring Anaesthetist' and will examine the factors that influence fatigue among doctors.

The presentation, to be delivered at the Annual Congress of the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland in September 2014, will outline implications for the management of patient care and doctors' own wellbeing. The presentation will be based on a recent editorial published in the Anaesthetist (Tucker & Byrne, 2014. doi:10.1111/anae.12447).

April 2014

Professor Andy Parrott joins Advisory Panel on Substance Misuse

This committee advises the Welsh Government of all matters relating to substance use and misuse in Wales

Professor Andy Parrott, an internationally renowned authority on MDMA (‘ecstasy'), has been co-optd to join the Welsh Government’s Advisory Panel on Substance Misuse (APoSM)

March 2014

Dr Gabriela Jiga-Boy co-organizing first pre-conference at the European Association of Social Psychology (EASP) 2014 general meeting

"Social Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making: Emotions, Time, Values", at ESAP 2014

On July 8th, 2014, Dr Gabriela Jiga-Boy is co-organizing the "Social Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making: Emotions, Time, Values" pre-conference, together with Prof Leaf Van Boven from University of Colorado Boulder, USA. The pre conference will take place conjointly with the European Association of Social Psychology (EASP) General Meeting at the University von Amsterdam, and is the first of its genre at the EASP General Meetings.

It brings together social psychologists from Psychology departments (Colorado Boulder and UC Berkeley, USA; Tilburg University) and Business Schools (London Business School, INSEAD), and from both Europe and North America. Six sessions will include talks on moral superiority, emotions, socially responsible choices, among other topics, and they will be complemented by a keynote address by Prof Thomas Mussweiler, University of Cologne, Germany.

Social Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making: Emotions, Time, Values

February 2014

Professor Paul Bennett to give keynote address at the 5th World Conference on Psychology, Counselling and Guidance.

His address is entitled, “Developing brief psychological interventions in the context of health care.”

The 5th World Conference on Psychology, Counselling and Guidance (, will be held in Dubrovnik, Croatia, from May 1-3, 2014.

Professor Rodger Wood to receive Rosenthal Award at 38th Annual Brain Injury Rehabilitation Conference

The title of Rodger's address is "Lost Love: The Impact of Alexithymia on Empathy after TBI"

Professor Rodger Wood, Emeritus Professor of Clinical Neuropsychology, will deliver the Mitch Rosenthal Memorial Lecture at the 8th Annual Brain Injury Rehabilitation Conference in Williamsburg, VA, USA, in May 2014.

Public Lecture on Online Grooming at Festival of Research 2014

Dr Cris Izura, from the Department of Psychology, and Professor Nuria Lorenzo-Dus from the Department of English Language & Literature, gave a public talk as part of the 2014 Festival of Research. Their talk was entitled Online grooming: Communicative stages and paedophile profiles.

Swansea Researchers Identify The Neural Signatures of Near-Misses

"Almost Winning": Swansea Researchers Identify The Neural Signatures of Near-Misses

Slot machine games, as found on the fixed odds betting terminals of many high street betting shops, have subtle ways of telling players not just whether they have won or lost, but also whether they “almost won”.

One of the best-understood ways is called the near-miss effect: that is, when the display on a losing slot machine physically resembles an actual win display (such as two out of three matching symbols on the pay-line). Near-misses are actually losses, but previous research shows they may promote continued gambling because the brain interprets them as being similar to wins.

New research shows that near-misses are underpinned by changes in the brain’s electrical activity, particularly in the theta (4-7 Hz) frequency range, a frequency known to be involved in processing win and loss outcomes. These changes occur in similar brain regions to actual wins and are linked to both how severe someone’s gambling history might be and how susceptible they are to developing a future gambling problem.