Staff in the Department of Psychology

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Pınar Acet

PhD Student
pacet001 (

Research focus: Adolescents’ perceptions of their parents’ mindful parenting skills.

My research is about interpersonal mindfulness - being aware of and paying attention self and others during interpersonal interaction - particularly in the context of parenting. Specifically, the study is focused on mindful parenting skills that occur during adolescent-parent interaction.

I, firstly, aim to develop a scale assessing adolescents’ perception of their parents' mindful parenting skills, secondly, to identify the determinants of mindful parenting, and finally to understand how adolescents’ subjective evaluation of mindful parenting they have received from their parents and also mindful parenting reported by parents themselves are associated with adolescents’ outcomes.

Supervisor: Dr Bonamy Oliver

Steven Bagienski

PhD Student
sbagi001 (

Research focus: Investigating the Science of Magic and Wellbeing by characterising the social and emotional experiences of magic.

My research is looking at the social and emotional experiences of both watching and how that differs from learning to perform magic. This first includes the positive emotions that watching magic may evoke (i.e. awe, curiosity, wonder, confusion) and how people respond socially to magic performances.

Secondly, the research focuses on areas of self-esteem, pride, sense of mastery, community and social skills when learning to perform magic with others. The ultimate aim is to understand how magic can best enhance wellbeing for not just the disadvantaged, but also for regular people in living a meaningful, fulfilling life.

Supervisor: Dr Gustav Kuhn

Abigail Burgess

PhD Student
aburg003 (

Research Focus: Using a mindfulness smartphone app to improve parent's stress and children's mental health.

Mindfulness has been associated with improved outcomes in managing stress and improving mental health in different areas, but little research has been conducted with parents specifically. As such, I will be conducting a mixed methods case series to assess the feasibility and acceptability of delivering a mindfulness intervention via an app (Headspace) to parents of young children.

Following this, I will be conducting a pilot randomised controlled trial to assess the effectiveness of using Headspace on parents' emotional regulation and the resulting impacts on their parenting style and their children's mental health and wellbeing.

Supervisor: Bonamy Oliver

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Alessandra Caso

PhD Student
a.caso (

Research focus: Memory regulation explored within an investigative interviewing context

In real life witnesses are interviewed in many occasions and it is important to understand how memory confidence can change depending on the type of questions asked. Furthermore confidence has a pivotal role in the regulation of information reported. When witnesses are asked to recall a memory, they rely on their confidence judgments to decide what to report and what to withheld.

My research investigates how confidence can change as a function of the type of questions asked in an initial interview, and how confidence can in turn affect subsequent memory regulation. We found evidence that confidence is malleable and can change depending on the questions asked initially - for example Cued Recall questions are more likely to decrease confidence than Free Recall questions. However we also found that a decrease in confidence reported after the initial interview might not impact on subsequently memory regulation.

Supervisors: Fiona Gabbert and Gordon Wright


Catherine Culbert

PhD Students
catherine.culbert (

Research focus: Image-based sexual abuse during adolescence with mental health and autism considered.

My research is wanting to explore the nature of non-consensual sexual image creation, distribution and threatening nature (image-based sexual abuse) during the period of adolescence, ideally focusing on Key Stage 3 pupils. It will also be looking at the impact on mental health and pupils with SEN.

My PhD is divided into three studies. The first study is looking at the current situation in schools with regards to this issue and to explore its prevalence. Semi-structured interviews will be performed with head teachers, heads of safeguarding and inclusion in order to address this exploration.

The second study is rolling out an online survey to pupils to investigate the prevalence and nature of perpetration and victimisation and image-based sexual abuse and its impact on mental health and those with SEN.

The third study is performing co-participatory research with the pupils by using the quality circle approach to develop interventions for school-aged children with and without SEN. Legal and policy implications will be explored and Sexual Relationships Education (SRE) will be disseminated with these lessons becoming mandatory in September 2020.

Supervisor: Dr Adrian Scott  

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Jacqueline Francis

PhD student
j.francis (

Research focus: Ethnic differences in physical activity behaviour change and inter-group perception in relation to physical activity.

My PhD focuses on ethnic differences in physical activity behaviour change, health and well-being outcomes, inter-group perception in relation to physical activity and perceived barriers to physical activity, specifically for members of the Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) community. My research investigates ethnic differences in motivation to change physical activity behaviour and explores some of the reasons for non-participation in physical activity.

I aim to investigate how strategies can improve the physical health outcomes of BAME people by encouraging an increase in physical activity. As a qualified movement and drama-therapist I also have an interdisciplinary interest and collaborate on practice based research projects. These partnerships explore psychological relationships to movement and provide additional insights into physical activity choices which augment my research.

I hope that my findings will contribute to the provision of appropriate and effective physical activity interventions, particularly for the BAME community who are disproportionately affected with conditions associated with inactivity.   

Supervisor: Keon West

Gabriela Georgescu

PhD Student
ageor005 (

Research focus: If psychopaths are likely to commit suicide or self-harm.

I am studying the likelihood of individuals diagnosed with psychopathy experiencing suicidal thoughts or self harm behaviours. My research is addressing  a comprehensive review of the different factors that could influence people experiencing psychopathic traits and which cause them to commit acts of self-harm. 

My study is looking at both a prison and free sample in order to determine if incarceration is a deterrent for psychopaths. Given the fact that in the general population, individuals are more likely to commit suicide and self harm in prison, I am interested in assessing whether the same rule applies to psychopathy.

Supervisor: Gordon Wright

Thomas Hein

PhD Student
thomas.hein (

Research focus: Using computational models and neuroimaging, I study how emotion and motivation bias beliefs through misestimates of uncertainty.

My research investigates the impact of everyday experiences such as emotion and motivation on learning by combining hierarchical Bayesian models of learning with brain imaging methods. I aim to achieve a mechanistic understanding of how emotional experiences such as states of anxiety alter neural computations leading to biased beliefs and estimates of uncertainty in healthy individuals.

Supervisor: María Herrojo Ruiz

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Victoria Hotchin

PhD student
v.hotchin (

Research focus: The personality train openness and its effect on prejudice.

I am interested in the relationship between personality and social attitudes, in particular the relationship between low Openness to Experience, authoritarianism and prejudice. I am also interested in influences on Openness across the life course, and what might encourage openness to contact with diverse groups. To address these questions I use a combination of correlational, longitudinal and experimental approaches. My research is funded by an ESRC studentship.

Supervisor: Keon West

Olivia Jewell

PhD Student
ojewe001 (

Research focus: Music and In group-Out group Relationships

Research description: My research focuses on the groups and group identities that people form around music taste and music making. My goal is to explore the degree to which potential similarities in music preference can outweigh other perceived differences such as race, religion, nationality, or ethnic identity.

Additionally, I plan to replicate this process via making music in groups. Overall, my hope is to use music as a way to facilitate bonding between groups who may ordinarily perceive themselves as very different from each other.

Supervisor: Andrew Cooper

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Dimitra Kale

PhD student
dkale001 (

Research focus: Trait Impulsivity, cigarette smoking and e-cigarette use

Although there is considerable evidence of an association between trait impulsivity and cigarette smoking, the magnitude of this association varies greatly across studies. On the other hand, research on the relationship between trait impulsivity and e-cigarette use is limited, and the available results also provide mixed findings.

My research aims to understand the relationship between trait impulsivity, cigarette smoking, and e-cigarette use. It also examines the role of e-cigarettes in smoking cessation as there is great controversy over the efficacy of e-cigarette use as a smoking cessation tool.

Supervisor: Andrew Cooper

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Jo Kenrick

PhD student
jo.kenrick (

Research focus: The abilities of highly skilled liars.

Consistently being believed when lying requires a constellation of high-level social and cognitive abilities. Theories of general expertise suggest that practice makes perfect but lying is socially unacceptable and repeated studies suggest the majority of people do it very infrequently. So is the skill of lying somehow special?

My research tests what elements of verbal, non-verbal and para-verbal communication are key to successful lying and whether it is accurate to conceptualise deception as a consistently present skill. I use a mixed methods approach, integrating qualitative and quantitative techniques in both data collection and analysis to understand this phenomenon in as much rich detail as possible.

Understanding lying better allows us to develop counter-deception tools and training for use by law enforcement and intelligence agencies. This links to my on-going advocacy (with other members of the Forensic Psychology Unit) of evidence-based alternatives to torture and coercion.

Supervisor: Gordon Wright

Luca Kiss

PhD Student
l.kiss (

Research focus: The effects of background music on sustained attention

In my research, I am interested in exploring the effects of background music on sustained attention and fluctuations of attentional state (i.e., mind-wandering, task-focus, external-distraction) as a function of task-difficulty, and in examining the role of physiological arousal in mediating these effects.

In addition to collecting subjective reports of attention state and behavioural measures of performance, I am collecting pupillometric data to provide an online measure of the impact of background music on sustained attention, and to improve our understanding of the subtle relationship between music and arousal. 

Supervisor: Dr Karina J Linnell 

Dorottya Lantos

PhD Student
d.lantos (

Research focus: My research focuses on understanding and preventing intergroup conflict and violence using interdisciplinary research methods

I am currently conducting research for my doctoral studies as a member of PrejudiceLab. I focus on gaining a better understanding of the underlying causes and mechanisms of intergroup conflict and aggression, and on finding ways to prevent such conflict and aggression.

I rely on using interdisciplinary methods, primarily drawing on the fields of social and political psychology, as well as social neuroscience and psychophysiology.

Supervisor: Dr. Agnieszka Golec de Zavala, Professor Michael Banissy

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L. S. Merritt Millman

PhD Student
lmill008 (

Research focus: Investigating bodily awareness in Depersonalisation-Derealisation Disorder (DDD).

My research explores interoception and embodied cognition, with a specific examination of bodily awareness in the clinical condition Depersonalisation-Derealisation Disorder (DDD).

With a mixed background in both dance and psychology, I am interested in developing standardized tasks that engage with the body and target specific symptoms within DDD as well as other psychiatric disorders where a lack of embodiment is a core feature.

Supervisor: Dr. Guido Orgs, Dr. Devin Terhune

Jack Moore

PhD Student
j.d.moore (

Research focus: Social Aspects of Agency.

My research looks at how our social environment can affect our sense of agency - the extent to which we feel in control of an action and its outcome. Predominantly I focus on pro-social actions and how they can affect agency, showing that helping others can cause people to feel increased agency over their action.

I also look at the effect of joint action on agency as well as the extent to which we can feel a vicarious sense of agency over the observed actions of others. This is completed using implicit behavioural measures, although I have also completed a few studies using physiological and neurological methods.

Supervisor: James Moore

Gabriela Morris

PhD Student
gmorr003 (

Research focus: Instrumental deception in female subclinical psychopaths in social and sexual contexts.

My research will be looking into how subclinical female psychopaths (compared against male psychopaths and female non-psychopaths) use deception in social and sexual contexts. It will explore the use of impression management and superficial charm as methods to manipulate situations, leading to a desired outcome for the female psychopath.

Supervisor: Gordon Wright

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Diego Nardi

PhD student
d.nardi (

Research focus: Face recognition and eyewitness testimony.

Eyewitness identification is a type of evidence on which all justice systems rely upon to identify the perpetrators of crime. Eyewitnesses frequently mistake innocent suspects for the culprits of an observed crime, and such misidentifications cause the wrongful convictions of many innocent people. Other eyewitness, on the other hand, make accurate person identifications.

The overall aim of my work is to gain a better insight into the underlying cognitive processes required to eyewitnesses and victims during an investigation, thereby improving the quality of the evidence provided. My PhD research will examine how individual differences in people’s ability to recognise faces correlate with the performance of eyewitnesses in relevant tasks.

The ultimate goal is to develop a screening tool for the police to use to identify witnesses who are most likely and most unlikely to be able to provide reliable evidence and make accurate identifications, helping police forces to develop major leads during an investigation with the most efficient use of time and resources.

Supervisor: Fiona Gabbert and Ashok Jansari


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Alice Pailhès

PhD student
A.Pailhes (

Research focus: Magicians' forcing techniques and the illusion of free will.

My research uses magicians' forcing techniques as a way to study our sense of agency and illusion of free will. Forcing are all the techniques magicians have to subtly influence spectators' choices.

I use them as a powerful tool to study external and internal factors that contribute to people's illusory sense of control over their decisions and the outcome of their actions.

Supervisor: Gustav Kuhn


Saule Sauciunaite

PhD student
ssauc001 (

Research focus: Using non-invasive brain stimulation techniques and EEG to examine the neural mechanisms underlying learning and memory processes.

I use non-invasive brain stimulation techniques and EEG to examine the neural mechanisms underlying learning and memory processes in the ageing population. I aim to clarify the mechanisms underlying the impoverished learning performance as well as the high variability within the ageing population.

Part of my research specifically examines the role of dopamine in learning, particularly in terms of the predictability of inter-subject variability in reinforcement learning using reward. I also investigate the neural predictors, such as neural oscillations of older adults’ episodic memory and probabilistic and deterministic learning.

Supervisor: Dr Cappelletti


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Lukas Wallrich

PhD student
l.wallrich (

Research focus: The links between intergroup contact, valuing diversity and support for inclusive policies and behaviours

Intergroup contact is a well-established means to reduce prejudice and intergroup conflict, yet assessments of its impact on support for policies that address intergroup inequality and promote inclusion has revealed more complex relationships. To understand this further, my research tests how contact affects participants' appreciation of the value of diversity, both for personal fulfilment and for group functioning, and whether such appreciation mediates the link between contact experiences and policy support.

In that, I consider various forms of contact, both direct contact as it naturally occurs in diverse societies and as it is offered in youth programmes that promote intergroup outcomes (e.g., the English National Citizen Service) and parasocial contact as generated through local news reporting. In terms of methods, my research includes cross-sectional and longitudinal surveys, secondary data analyses, observations of online behaviours as well as experiments both online and in the field.

Supervisor: Keon West