Society

President’s column; Lifetime Achievement Award; POSTnote; media training; Leveson Inquiry; out now in BPS journals; and more

President’s column
Carole Allan
Contact Carole Allan via the Society’s Leicester office,
or e-mail: [email protected]

At the height of the controversy over David Cameron using his veto in the European Union, I was also in Brussels, attending a meeting of the European Federation of Psychologists’ Associations (EFPA) on 9 December. And, yes, I was asked my viewson our relative isolation in Europe.

The EFPA meeting was concerned with ensuring that psychology organisations across Europe, including the Society, were represented on the various boards and task forces. This provides us with an opportunity to influence the shape and direction of many of EFPA’s major initiatives.

On the 19 December 2011 the EU adopted a proposal for modernising the Professional Qualifications Directive, which will make it easier for professionals – including psychologists – to find skilled jobs across Europe. The aim is to have a smooth system to support the mobility of professionals throughout Europe by the introduction of a European professional card to enable easier recognition of qualifications. In advance of the Directive the EFPA meeting has been considering the implications of implementing the coming legislation to ensure that ease of mobility did not compromise the quality of professional training.Back at the Society office in London, I attended one of the media training courses provided through the Society’s Learning Centre. For many years these courses have been run to support members (and non-members) in the increasingly important role we have as communicators (see p.140 for more). In a world of mass communication that is rapidly changing, audiences are used to – and indeed demand – timely information from diverse sources. From the considered exercise of writing a media release in clear and active language, to the fast thinking needed for a radio interview, media training is not just for those who want to learn how to engage with the media. Finding out why something could be news, who can help you to manage possible news stories and what PR professionals can do to help, were all helpful and practical sessions. The psychologists who took the course with me agreed it would help us write better and clearer accounts of our work, and to think about how we convey our messages to the broader audience beyond the Society and psychology.

We have a richness of evidence-based psychological news stories to offer to people. Just from the delegates on the courses I attended, there is a lot of enthusiasm for communicating it. This is a vital part of the Society’s remit, and it is why we have developed channels as diverse as The Psychologist and the Research Digest through to the website and Twitter to stand alongside the traditional media relations and events that are keeping the Society developing as a dynamic professional body and learned society.

Contact with the media really does represent an opportunity. but as the Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practice and ethics of the press has shown, there can be a downside with many high-profile personalities testifying to the psychological impact intrusive coverage has had on them and their families. The Society has called for the press to consider the psychological implications of the stories they publish. These comments were part of the evidence we submitted to Lord Justice Leveson (see p.108 and p.141). We also strongly supported the recommendations submitted by the Science Media Centre (www.tinyurl.com/smcleveson), which criticised the overly sensationalised reporting of scientific findings.

Also in London, I attended a meeting of the Academy of Social Sciences. This is an influential body that works to promote the social sciences for the public benefit.

It responds to government and other consultations on behalf of the social science community, organises meetings and seminars on topics spanning different social science disciplines, and sponsors
a number of schemes that promote social science and aim to enhance its value to society.

The BPS is currently the largest learned society represented in the Academy and plays a prominent and influential role in its activities. Members of the Society who serve on the ruling Council of the Academy include Cary Cooper (Chair of the Academy), Dominic Abrams, and David Pearson (Deputy Chair of the Academy’s College of Learned Societies).

The BPS is a sponsor of the Academy’s ‘Making the Case for the Social Sciences’ series of booklets that present case studies of high-impact social science research aimed at policymakers working in government and the private and public sectors. The most recent booklet, Making the Case for the Social Sciences: Sport and Leisure, enjoyed a high-profile Whitehall launch in November 2011.

The Academy organises meetings and events throughout the year that may be of interest to BPS members. Further details about these are available on its website at www.acss.org.uk. In January 2011 the Academy launched the Campaign for Social Science with the aim of raising the profile of the social sciences with the public and in the media and Parliament. Further details about the campaign’s activities are available at www.campaignforsocialscience.org.uk.

The Society link with the Academy provides an example of a long term aim of cooperating with similar disciplines and organisations to promote psychology and to raise its visibility with the public, media and Parliament. Our membership of EFPA is part of that strategy on an international basis. 

 

Lifetime Achievement Award
Chris Cullen

Chris Cullen, Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Professor of Clinical Psychology at Keele University, has received our Professional Practice Board’s Lifetime Achievement Award for 2011.

As the Division of Clinical Psychology’s nomination said, ‘Professor Cullen has enjoyed outstanding personal success and has reinvested in psychology through encouraging and developing others and had made significant contributions both to the work of the British Psychological Society and the Division of Clinical Psychology.’

The Lifetime Achievement Award is an annual award that recognises and celebrates unusually significant and sustained contributions in a career as a practitioner of applied psychology.

Professor Cullen studied for a first degree and a doctorate at what was then the University College of North Wales, before taking the Society’s Diploma in Clinical Psychology while working with Gwynedd Health Authority.

In 1980 he was appointed project director at the University of Manchester’s Hester Adrian Research Centre, researching the influence of staff training in learning disability and determinants of staff behaviour. Professor Cullen’s strong academic interests, especially in the teaching of psychologists and other staff in behavioural principles, were recognised when he was appointed to a new chair established by Enable to promote the application of psychological evidence in services for people with learning disabilities.

In the role of a Trustee of Badaguish, an outdoor centre in the Cairngorms for people with physical and other disabilities, Professor Cullen collaborated in the development of distance learning programmes for staff working in outdoor settings, based on psychological principles. With his colleague Martin Campbell, he has also developed other distance learning courses in sexual abuse, challenging behaviour and profound and complex disabilities. Hundreds of staff throughout the UK have successfully participated in these courses, putting psychological practice into their workplace.

After leading an inquiry into abuse at Stallington Hospital, he
was approached to move to Staffordshire, to his current post as clinical director for psychological services in North Staffordshire
and chair at Keele is funded by the NHS.

He became the lead national assessor (learning disabilities) in 2000 and was later appointed chief national assessor.

Throughout Professor Cullen’s career he has made a very significant contribution to the British Psychological Society, culminating in his year as president in 1997/8. He became an Associate Fellow in 1975 and was elected a Fellow in 1983. In 1979 he joined the Scientific Affairs Board, representing the Division of Clinical Psychology, and also that year he became a member of the Professional Affairs Board (PAB). He continued his membership of both boards for many years, eventually chairing PAB for three years. He was also a member of the Membership and Qualifications Board for several years.

Over the years he has represented the Society on various government committees and professional bodies and has given evidence on the Society’s behalf to a Westminster select committee.

In 1978 he started a long association with the Society’s Division of Clinical Psychology when he became a member of the executive committee of the West Midlands Branch. During the 1980s he served on the Division’s executive committee, its CPS committee and represented the Division on various Society boards and committees. He was then elected chair of the Division.

For many years, Professor Cullen has been involved with the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies, serving as its president in 2005. He has also enjoyed a long involvement with the National Autistic Society.

Professor Cullen has also been able to encourage and develop others in his work with clinical psychology trainees. He has taught on postgraduate clinical psychology courses, been a clinical supervisor and participated in the executive groups of several training courses.
The overriding emphasis throughout his professional career has been to ensure that sound psychological principles are used in professional practice.


CONSULTATIONS NEWS

The end of the 2011 marks the end of the first year of the Consultations Response Team’s expanded remit, which now covers consultations on Green and White Papers (excluding those from the devolved nations) as well as non-legislative consultations from the UK governments, non-government organisations and non-departmental public bodies. It is therefore a good time to summarise the consultations work carried out during the past year.

84 consultations from 28 consulting bodies were responded to by the Society during 2011, including two Green Papers and two White Papers. The regional spread of these was as follows:

Region    Number of responses    (% of total*)
       
England only    30    (36)
Northern Ireland only    6    (7)
Scotland only    1    (1)
Wales only    4    (5)
Two or more of the above    43    [51]
TOTAL    84    [100]

* to the nearest whole number


It was only possible for the Society to submit these responses because of the work of over 220 members of the Society (including graduate members, chartered members and associate fellows), representing all nine of the Society’s central Divisions as well as 12 of the 15 formalised Divisions in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and many of the other member network groups. We would like to thank all those who took part, particularly as an unusually high proportion of consultations this year had uncomfortably short turnaround times.

Full details of all 2011 consultations, as well as those from previous years and those currently under consideration, are available from our website: www.bps.org.uk/consult. The website received an average of more than 1300 visits per month during 2011, and we are delighted that so many people were interested in this important area of the Society’s work. We would urge those of you who have not yet been to the site to take a look, as this is a great way to find out what your Society is saying to policy-makers on a wide range of topics. We have tried to ensure the site is user-friendly (and are aware of a few small glitches still to be ironed out following the launch of the new Society site earlier in the year) but please do let us know if you have any difficulty finding your way around it – we are always happy to help.

We would also like to thank all those who sent in Areas of Interest Forms during 2011 – 65 in all. Approaching 800 members have now contributed to Society responses since early 2007 and/or registered an interest in doing so in the future. Every member, of at least graduate level membership, is both eligible and welcome to contribute: if you would like to find out more about what is involved, just take a look at the material and documents provided on the front page of our website (www.bps.org.uk/consult). Alternatively, you are welcome to e-mail us at [email protected] or give us a call on 0116 252 9508.

It is not always straightforward to determine the impact of responding to consultations but this year we are delighted to be able to report that we have been made aware of 13 consultations where recommendations made in Society responses have had a direct impact on policy/guidelines. Once again, our sincere thanks go to all those who have contributed.


Getting media aware

If you would like to learn more about dealing with the print
and broadcast media or you just want to boost your public engagement skills, consider taking part in the Society’s regular programme of media training.

Our media training courses began in 1986 as an initiative of the Press Committee. In over 25 years hundreds of people have been on the courses, and universally delegates find them useful in their current job or to help develop their career. Chartered Psychologist Dr Maryon Tysoe helped set up the programme and is still involved in delivering the training. Maryon said: ‘Psychologists have a huge amount of knowledge and expertise that the public can benefit from, and communicating it to them via the media has become an increasingly important aim of the discipline. But knowing how best to engage with journalists involves skills and insight into how they operate that don’t necessarily come naturally. Media training can greatly help psychologists to get their messages across, so people’s lives can be enriched by the myriad ways psychology can be of value to them.’

Lots of people come to media training because they say they worry about looking or sounding foolish. Maryon says: ‘Media training will help you to understand how the media works. So you will see (a) how to get your message across to them clearly and effectively, which boosts confidence, and (b) that journalists are simply fellow professionals who are under a different set of pressures, but with whom you share common ground. Their job is to present interesting stories to the public, and you are in contact because you have such a story to give them – and it’s in their interests to help you to do that. It’s a joy when media-anxious psychologists end the day lit up and confident and enthused about getting their messages out there.’

Media training courses are run through the Society’s Learning Centre. Course tutors are Chartered Psychologist Dr Maryon Tysoe FBPsS and radio journalist Wendy Barnaby.

For more information on course dates and booking, see p.109

POST notes on video games

Hannah Swift reports on her BPS fellowship

I applied for the BPS fellowship at the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) because I believe there is huge potential for psychological research to inform policy and parliamentary debates. I was fortunate enough to be awarded the fellowship and relocated to POST from the University of Kent in September 2011 for three months.

POST has a unique role within Westminster by offering impartial advice to both the House of Commons and the House of Lords about all aspects science and technology. They do this by providing short briefing notes for parliamentarians on current issues or particular topics of interest written by the POST fellows, like me. My task was to produce a note on the impacts of video games.

The impact of video games is a highly emotive topic with debates surrounding the influence of violent video games on aggression often arising in Parliament, within the media and amongst psychologists. Risks of video games to children have been assessed previously in a wider review of children’s digital and online safety in 2008 by psychologist Professor Tanya Byron. This review resulted in new regulation to simplify how video games are age-rated, by moving towards a single mandatory system of age classification. The purpose of the note was to clarify these recent policy changes, but more importantly to summarise psychological research surrounding the impacts of video games. This included reviewing the evidence for and against the influence of violent video games on aggression, and reviewing other impacts of gaming that receive relatively less attention, such as video game addiction, social interaction, the role of games in education and what we know about video games and brain development.

In order to write about these issues I spent my time reviewing the relevant psychology literature and policy documentation, but more importantly I spent my time interviewing and consulting with people involved in all related aspects of research, policy and industry. These included a number of psychologists, directors of charities that lobby in these areas, MPs, policy makers, game developers, game publishers and those who classify video games.

In all, this was a great opportunity to provide a balanced analysis of the evidence to accurately inform parliamentarians of the research in this area. It has provided a really useful insight into the world of science communication and helped me think about how to communicate aspects of psychological research effectively. I recommend anyone with an interest in applying psychological research and willingness to deepen their understanding of the role of scientific evidence in policy to go for this fellowship. Finally, I would like to thank Dr Ana Padilla and Dr Peter Boarder for their supervision of my work and to the BPS for granting me the opportunity to experience life on the parliamentary estate.

The POSTnote will be available via tinyurl.com/7ddcjlf. To apply for a BPS fellowship, see tinyurl.com/bpsposts

Leveson Inquiry and press ethics

The British Psychological Society has called for the press to consider the psychological implications of stories they publish. This call is made in evidence submitted by the Society to the Leveson Inquiry. Lord Justice Leveson is currently leading the Inquiry into the culture, practice and ethics of the press.

In its submission the Society recognises that much of the coverage of psychological issues and research is accurate and balanced due to the skill and dedication of the specialist science and health journalists employed in the national press. However, the submission also considers the implications of headlines, over-simplifying research findings and insensitive reporting on psychological topics such as depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Ethical issues are always high on the agenda for the psychological community. The Society’s submission focuses on how crucial it is for people to be aware of the consequences of exposure in the media. It suggests the Society’s guidelines on media ethics could be helpful to the Inquiry in encouraging newspapers to consider the psychological implications of news and features, both for the individuals involved and for the wider readership.

The British Psychological Society also supported the recommendations submitted by the Science Media Centre to the Inquiry earlier this month.

Members of the Society who contributed to the submission were: Dr Carole Allen (President of the British Psychological Society),Dr Cynthia McVey, Professor John Oates, Dr Sinead Rhodes and
Dr Mark Sergeant (see also ‘Media’, p.108).

Download a PDF of the submission at tinyurl.com/bpsleveson

 

From BPS journals
Parents and infants living in temporary accommodation represent a high-risk and hard-to-reach population. Now Michelle Sleed (the Anna Freud Centre) and colleagues have found that a new model of intervention, combining universal infant health services with a therapeutic parent–infant group, may be an effective means of supporting their emotional needs. The study showed a clear improvement in the cognitive and motor functioning of infants living in the intervention hostel relative to those living in hostels where the intervention was not provided. The authors write that ‘these encouragingly positive developmental outcomes may be linked with the changes that the group-based intervention was able to facilitate within the hostel setting, specifically in how each baby’s social, emotional, and attachment needs are observed, considered, and responded to’. (Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice)

Are some magazines targeted at young men – lads’ mags – normalising extreme sexist views? That’s the question addressed in a new study by Miranda Hovarth (Middlesex University) and colleagues. Consistent with the view, young men in Study 1 identified more with derogatory quotes about women drawn from recent lads’ mags, and from interviews with convicted rapists, when those quotes were attributed to lads’ mags, than when they were attributed to convicted rapists. In Study 2, 40 young women and men could not reliably judge the source of those same quotes. While these participants sometimes voiced the belief that the content of lads’ mags was ‘normal’ while rapists’ talk was ‘extreme’, they categorised quotes from both sources as derogatory with equal frequency. The authors conclude: ‘Jointly, the two studies show an overlap in the content of convicted rapists’ talk and the contents of contemporary lads’ mags, and suggest that the framing of such content within lads’ mags may normalise it for young men.’ (British Journal of Psychology)

Although teacher–student relationships lie at the heart of students’ schooling experience, fundamental questions regarding these relationships remain unanswered. Now Hunter Gehlbach (Harvard University) and colleagues have used a novel approach to account for both perspectives within teacher–student relationships, in order to assess these relationships at the beginning and end of the school year. The relationships tended to become less positive over the course of the year from students’ perspectives, but this effect was buffered by significant associations with two ‘upstream’ characteristics – students’ social perspective taking of their teacher and their perceptions of similarity to their teacher. (British Journal of Educational Psychology)

Society members can access all BPS journals free via www.bps.org.uk/journals

Not leaving risk to chance

Forensic psychologists have been invited by Scottish parliamentarians to help develop better strategies for early intervention, in an attempt to prevent people being drawn into the criminal justice system. The call, from the Chair of Holyrood’s Health Committee, came during a seminar at the parliament explaining the role of psychology in providing evidence-based approaches to offending in Scotland.
MSPs from across the political spectrum, including Scotland’s Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill MSP, attended the meeting hosted by MSP Richard Lyle. Practitioners and academics were brought together with representatives of the Scottish prison service, criminal justice and victim support organisations.

Professor Elizabeth Gilchrist, Glasgow Caledonian University and Chair of the Society’s Division of Forensic Psychology, explained the interweaving roles of psychologists in assessing risk, working with offenders, researching behaviours and supporting justice organisations and victims of crime. Gilchrist illustrated the breadth of work within the discipline by talking about her own work in understanding domestic violence, and that of colleagues who are looking at issues as diverse as measuring ‘fitness to stand trial’ under Scots law, how girls get involved in gangs and the risks they face, and the impact of minimum pricing on alcohol consumption in Scotland.

Rachel Roper, Principal Psychologist with the Scottish Prison Service, used case studies to illustrate how staff can be supported to work effectively with prisoners, and the sorts of strategies that can allow people to be released into the community with a much reduced risk.Dan Johnson, who works for the social care organisation Kibble, used the case of a 14-year-old boy who’d come into their care with a complex mix of factors having caused him to commit a string of violent attacks. Illustrating the mix of different interventions used, Mr Johnson explained the way that a structured approach to working with the boy had allowed him to make significant progress in the relatively short time before he was moved to a young offenders institution.

The question session was dominated by MSPs’ interest in the issue of early intervention. The speakers pointed out that it was probably never too early to intervene for a young person – even working with people from particular backgrounds to teach parenting skills before their child is born. They also suggested that governments had to be willing to fund long-term studies as the full set of outcomes from interventions might not be clear within a one- or five-year follow-up.

Health and Sport Committee chairman, Duncan McNeil MSP, encouraged the profession to apply for money from funds set aside for proving that there can be early preventative spending to reduce long-term problems in health and mental health. Professor Gilchrist added that psychologists working in justice were well aware of the need, with funding being under pressure, to justify spending. The role of psychologists, she said, was to try to identify and target those people for whom support at an early stage could lead to them not becoming high-risk offenders.

The meeting also discussed the increasing numbers of women offenders in Scottish prisons, and the high prevalence of personality disorders amongst them. 




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