Society

President’s column; Lifetime Achievement Award; Presidents’ Award; Undergraduate Research Assistantship Scheme; and more

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


This is the time of the year to welcome the new undergraduates embarking on their journeys into Psychology. It proves to be interesting times, but the evidence to date is that the radical fees increases in England are not having as great an effect on applications as has been previously feared, although only time will tell as to what the outcomes will eventually turn out to be.

It certainly is a time of change, and the Society is taking cognisance of the recently published Report on the Future of Undergraduate Psychology in the United Kingdom by Annie Trapp and her colleagues (see tinyurl.com/cts7kcl), which opens up interesting debates about the nature of the psychology curriculum and the skills that it is endeavouring to develop. The emphasis here may need to be less curriculum-oriented and more on the methods and uses of the disciplines. There is a current drive towards ‘employability’ of our graduates, but it should not be forgotten that the skills that
a psychology degree develops are ones that are suited for many aspects of living in our society; the emphasis on ‘psychological literacy’ (see, for example, Jacquelyn Cranney and Dana Dunn’s 2011 book The Psychologically Literate Citizen) is to be applauded.

Other changes include a potential move towards four-year master’s degrees in psychology replacing the conventional undergraduate degree; how this fits the Bologna process is an interesting question. There is also the Higher Education Achievement Record (HEAR) initiative, which is suggesting transcripts to record graduate achievement in far more detail than just finals degree performance.

For teachers in higher education there is the very welcome and helpful Higher Education Academy (which for psychology directly has been unfortunately reduced in size recently, but now has the advantage of placing us within a STEM (Science) group). There are a multitude of freely available resources here for undergraduate and other education, often developed and tested out in practice.

We are told all the time that students are becoming increasingly ‘consumers’ and that the National Student Survey (NSS) is a crucial indicator of their satisfaction about courses. League tables are certainly concerns of our Vice Chancellors, but my experience (and I am sure many of our potential students) with the website is considerable frustration. If you access NSS and you want to look at the results you have to click through to Unistats, and then ask for ‘psychology’. You then get presented with 37 pages, which have to be scrolled through individually, containing lists of institutions with courses that in some cases have only minor psychological content. Having clicked on one to look at it more closely, if you click ‘back’ the last page has expired, and you have to return to NSS and start again. I suspect that this experience is not what our computer knowledgeable potential students will find helpful.

League tables are also of course of considerable concern to those of us who teach psychology at the secondary level, and amongst other conferences I have been to and spoken at was the annual Association for the Teaching of Psychology (ATP) conference, which celebrated its 30th birthday this summer. This was a lively and well-attended affair, and I am sure that those who went were suitably inspired for the new year. The position of psychology teaching varies throughout Europe, and at a recent international conference on teaching mainly undergraduate psychology I was surprised to meet a considerable contingent from Germany and Austria where psychology is still seen as being a very important part of general teacher training; this is in marked contrast to here, where many dedicated psychology teachers
may not be qualified in psychology.

A result of this is that there can be a considerable mismatch between the expectations of our new undergraduates and their university lecturers, so much so in fact that many higher education admissions tutors favour qualifications in biology or other traditional science subjects over those in psychology.

There has been considerable disquiet about the suitability for purpose of A-levels in England, which are often driven towards getting good marks, rather than being concerned with the development
of skills and knowledge. There is a current Ofqual consultation paper asking for comments on proposed revisions to
A-levels (see http://comment.ofqual.gov.uk/
a-level-reform/), which I am sure will open up lively debates.

Personally I am currently of the opinion that we should try to get away from direct competition between examination boards, as this might not be in the best interests in maintaining standards, and that we should adopt the Scottish Highers procedure of just having one board for each specific subject. This would hopefully help more standardisation across the country, and would mean that universities would have a clearer idea as to what to expect. I think we need to also be aware that for many their only exposure to psychology may be as part of their secondary education (primary in some parts of Europe), and again we need to be asking how we can contribute to the development of psychologically literate citizens, and realise that education is not just for university entrance. The Society along with ATP has held a retreat recently looking at pre-tertiary education in psychology, and the outcome report is currently being prepared; I look forward to its suggestions with interest.

I welcome your thoughts on any of the above; I must say that I have been very surprised by the number of e-mail offers that I constantly receive at the BPS from people allegedly wanting to get enormous sums of money into the Society’s bank accounts. I have resisted the temptation!

 

 

Lifetime Achievement Award

Professor Alan Baddeley

Professor Alan Baddeley (University of York) has won the Research Board’s Lifetime Achievement Award 2012. The annual award recognises distinctive and exemplary contributions to psychological knowledge.

Across a career spanning more than 50 years, Professor Baddeley has been the world’s leading authority on the cognitive psychology of human memory. In the concept of working memory, he has established one of the conceptual cornerstones of the field, with lifetime ISI citations >28k placing him among the very most influential scholars of mind and brain.

Nominating Professor Baddeley for the award, Philip Quinlan, Andy Ellis, Quentin Summerfield and Andy Young said: ‘Professor Baddeley has been tireless in the application of basic science in clinical, educational, personnel and other settings. He is on any grounds a unique figure.’

Born and educated in Leeds, Alan Baddeley obtained a first degree in psychology from UCL (1956), followed by an MA from Princeton (1957). In 1958 he joined the scientific staff of the MRC Applied Psychology Unit, Cambridge, where he worked for nine years, being awarded his PhD from the University of Cambridge in 1962. He did spells at the Universities of Sussex and Stirling (1967–1974) before returning to the APU in 1974 as Director. Since his retirement in 1995, he has been Professor of Psychology at the Universities of Bristol (1995–2003) and York (2003–present).

In his early days at the APU, Alan worked with Conrad and others on short-term memory and immediate recall. The early conception of
a passive short-term memory store was transformed when Baddeley and Hitch introduced the concept of ‘working memory’ in 1974. Working memory was conceptualised as an active network of cognitive components involved in verbal and nonverbal memory, language comprehension, problem solving and many other aspects of cognition. The framework has since been applied by Baddeley and many others to understanding cognition in the elderly, dementia patients, frontal brain damage and dysexecutive problems, schizophrenia, and much else besides. With Susan Gathercole and others, Professor Baddeley has analysed the growth of working memory in children and the contribution of working memory to the development of language and reading.

In the late 1960s Baddeley teamed up with Elizabeth Warrington to study memory loss in amnesia. Subsequent contributions to cognitive neuropsychology include important work with Barbara Wilson on the development of tests of memory and studying rehabilitation and everyday memory aids. His interest in diving generated a new line of applied research including work on stress, cold, nitrogen narcosis and, importantly, context effects in long-term memory. His 1975 paper with Godden in the British Journal of Psychology remains one of the classic studies of context effects in memory.

Between 1974 and 1995 the APU flourished under Alan’s directorship. Pioneering work was conducted on a wide range of topics from reading and acquired dyslexia through language processing, face perception and human–computer interaction to driving behaviour and the new area of affective cognition. Alan contributed to the wider work of the Medical Research Council and, during this period, was President of the Experimental Psychology Society (1984–1986) and founding President of the European Society for Cognitive Psychology (which he was influential in establishing). His nominators continued: ‘We consider ourselves very lucky at York to have had Alan in  our midst since 2003. A glance at Alan’s recent publications shows that there has been no diminution in quality, quantity, range or interest. Alan continues to do guest lectures to our undergraduates, as well as contributing to the supervision of undergraduate projects, master’s projects and PhD students. He is conscientious in attending the weekly talks by PhD students and always offers constructive, insightful comments.’

The BPS has already recognised Alan’s contributions through the Myers Lecture in 1980, the Presidents’ Award in 1981, an Honorary Fellowship in 1995, and the 2009 BPS Book Award for his Working Memory, Thought, and Action. ‘It is hard to think of a living cognitive psychologist – indeed a psychologist of any description – who is better known than Alan Baddeley,’ his nominators continued. ‘Recent generations of psychology graduates have all been tutored in the work of Alan Baddeley because this is central to the present-day teaching of human memory. We cannot imagine a more fitting recipient of the Research Board’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Distinguished Contributions to Psychological Knowledge.’


Presidents’ Award 2012

Professor Constantine Sedikides is the winner of the Presidents’ Award
for Distinguished Contributions to Psychological Knowledge 2012. Presented by the Society’s Research Board, the award is a mid-career recognition of the achievements of those currently engaged in psychological research of outstanding quality.

Focusing on the topic of self-definition, his research examines how individuals pursue a positive sense of self across cultures, and how mental time travel (for example nostalgic reflection) maintains self-coherence and promotes psychological adjustment.

Upon hearing the announcement, Professor Sedikides of the University of Southampton, said: ‘I am pleased and honoured to accept this award. I would like to take this opportunity to thank – among others – my students, research fellows and collaborating colleagues who merit a share on this award.’

He has been invited to deliver the Presidents’ Award Lecture at the Society’s Annual Conference 2013, which will be held in Harrogate. He will also receive Life Membership of the Society.

Professor Sedikides was nominated for the award by Professor Antony Manstead of Cardiff University, who said: ‘Constantine has made – and continues to make – a distinctive, productive and influential contribution to the field. His presence in the department at Southampton has galvanised social and personality psychology research there and, in my view, has contributed to the revival of social psychology in the UK more generally.’

A Chartered Psychologist, Professor Sedikides’ work has been most recently published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Psychological Science, the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, and the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

A list of previous award winners can be found on the Society’s History of Psychology Centre webpages: http://hopc.bps.org.uk/hopc/histres/bpshistory/awards/pres.cfm 


BPS Communications Ltd
It is highly likely that most Society members have never heard of
the above limited company but it plays an important role within the Society. So, a few words of explanation.

The sole am of BPS Communications Ltd is to undertake those business activities that are not permitted under charity legislation.
It has a Board of Directors and shareholders. All profits made by the company are returned to the Society via the Gift Aid scheme. These profits are chiefly generated by advertising revenue in The Psychologist and the Psychologist Appointments website.

The reason this is important information for members is that company surpluses have fallen significantly over the last few years.
A combination of much reduced public sector recruitment and the fact that NHS recruitment is now carried out ‘in house’ has practically eliminated public sector job advertising. So, whilst in 2003 this surplus met more than 30 per cent of the budget of the whole Society, it is now significantly smaller. This reduction in income is why the directors are devising new forms of income and reducing costs. 

They have taken a number of steps over the years to try to increase revenue. One of the changes has been the integration of the Appointments Memorandum and The Psychologist to create a more modern publication. Secondly, it was decided in 2010 to appoint an advertising agency to oversee all aspects of this function. Redactive Media – the agency appointed – has a five-year contract to develop this side of the business, and we are currently seeing some modest gains, particularly in the realm of online advertising. Further changes to the advertising structure of the publication are in the pipeline. This is an area that we are keen to develop and it is hoped that the progress made will continue.

Adrian Skinner On behalf of the Directors, BPS Communications Ltd


Society welcomes mental health framework

The Society has welcomed the publication of the Mental Health Strategy Implementation Framework.

Society President Dr Peter Banister said: ‘The Society very much welcomes the commitment that mental health should be valued equally with physical health. The need for urgent efforts to achieve this ‘parity of esteem’ is illustrated by recent statistics. Among the under-65s, mental health problems account for nearly half of all ill health and are as debilitating as chronic physical health problems. However, only a quarter of those with mental health problems receive treatment compared to the vast majority of those with physical health problems.‘We particularly welcome the advice that Clinical Commissioning Groups should appoint mental health leads at a senior level to consider the needs of the whole population and oversee commissioning work. This includes ensuring access to the full range of NICE-approved psychological therapies, which is still lacking in many areas. We believe this is absolutely essential to fulfilling the objectives set out in the framework. The role of Health and Well-being Boards will also be important in ensuring local partnerships to improve psychological well-being and tackle many of the causes of mental health problems.’

The Society also welcomed the focus on the role of schools and employers in promoting well-being and preventing the development of mental health problems. The Society’s Occupational Psychology Health and Well-being Working Group recently produced guidance for organisations to improve psychological health at work.

The Society is keen to support the objectives of the strategy through continued engagement with the Department of Health and the many other statutory and third sector organisations who are key stakeholders in delivering these objectives. Five leading mental health organisations have been involved in producing the framework: Centre for Mental Health; Mind; NHS Confederation Mental Health Network; Rethink Mental Illness; and Turning Point. 

Undergraduate Research Assistantships 2012

The British Psychological Society’s Undergraduate Research Assistantship Scheme provides up to 10 researchers with the opportunity to give an undergraduate ‘hands-on’ experience of research during the summer vacation. The scheme marks out a student as a future researcher and potential academic: it is hoped that the senior researcher, to whom the award is made, will develop the research assistant’s potential and interest in research. The project must provide real benefits to the student and give them tangible training and career development support.

There were 10 recipients of the award this year. All received the maximum individual funding available under this assistantship.

Dr Akira O’Connor, from the University of St Andrews, received support to fund an Assistantship for Rachael Millar. The project, Personal memory cues: Can people serve as memory aids?, will explore how people who have viewed film clips with another person then retrieve information from those stimuli in a variety of different social contexts. This has direct applications to professions in which collaborative training is normal, such as law enforcement, and could extend to recommendations for memory rehabilitation. 
Dr Elizabeth Kirk (University of Hertfordshire) was successful
in her application to fund an Assistantship for Emily Stears. The project, An exploration of the relationship between symbolic gesture and pretend play, will investigate whether the use of symbolic gestures within mother–infant dyads promotes earlier and more frequent pretend play.

Dr Ceri Phelps of Swansea Metropolitan University had her application to Fund Emma Fitzgerald’s Assistantship accepted. Emma will be Exploring the influence of implicit attitudes towards different genetic conditions on mate selection choices. Does knowledge of the severity of a genetic condition (for the potential mate and any potential offspring) influence explicit and implicit attitudes towards health, reproductive decision making and potential mate selection?

Dr Simon Durant of the University of Lincoln was successful in his application to fund an Assistantship for Amy Holloway for the project The role of sleep in directed forgetting of emotional words. The study is designed to test a long-standing theory in cognitive sleep research: that sleep enables emotional (and potentially traumatic) memories to be selectively removed.


CONSULTATIONS?NEWS

Responses submitted in July
Sixteen members representing thirteen 13 member network groups were involved in preparing the three consultation responses that were submitted during July; thank you to all those who took part. Key points of the responses are provided below. For full details of the Society’s consultation-related activities, both current and completed, please visit our website: www.bps.org.uk/consult.

Liberating the NHS – No Decision Without Me (Department of Health) The Society welcomed the Government’s intention to turn the slogan “’no decision about me without me” ‘ into a lived reality for health service users – however, grave concerns were raised that the proposals will not lead to a culture of true shared decision making, where patients and clinicians pool their expertise in a collaborative partnership at all steps along an intervention path, and not just at ‘key’ decision points along the way. This is of particular importance
in mental health settings where the effectiveness of talking therapies are, to a great extent, dependent on a collaborative alliance between therapist and service user.
Concerns were expressed that the proposals confuse ‘increased patient choice’ with ‘shared decision- making’ and as such will not lead the reality of “no decision about me without me”.

Together for Mental Health (Welsh Government) This consultation concerned the Welsh Government’s cross-government strategy for mental health and well-being in Wales. Specific evidence detailed in the responses includes:
I    the efficacy of psychological interventions in physical health settings;
I    the need to look at less diagnostically driven and more trauma trauma-focused models of care; and
I    the need for practice-based evidence.

Standardised Tobacco Packaging (Department of Health)
The Society’s response noted that there is a strong scientific and public health case to be made to support the proposal to standardise the packaging of tobacco products. Evidence was provided to show that sophisticated and engaging packaging interferes with efforts to quit smoking by established smokers but also serves to distract novice smokers or occasional smokers from the health warnings that are now mandatory. This is particularly important in ensuring that health warnings gain the full attention of smokers and in reducing the motivational effect of distinctive packaging and logos on those trying to quit.

Making an impact: Response outcome
It was good to note that NICE have amended their guidance in light
of the Society’s recommendations to NICE’s sickle-cell acute painful episodes consultation. The recommendations for non-pharmacological interventions have been reworded to include an example of a coping technique that is not harmful.



This is not only of great theoretical interest, but there is also considerable potential in terms of treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and associated conditions, such as depression. Dr Lucy Betts and Ms Rowena Hill of Nottingham Trent University submitted a successful application to fund an Assistantship for Sarah Gardner. The project is entitled Loneliness and social isolation in Silver Surfers and it will collect data to explore if older adults’ loneliness and social isolation can be reduced by the facilitation of social networks and the promotion of social contact through these groups. In particular, the research will examine the extent to which participation in Age UK Cheshire’s Silver Surfers groups develops social networks, predicts loneliness and well-being, and impacts on resilience, personal growth and interdependence as antecedents of older adults’ loneliness.

Professor Peter Rogers, from the University of Bristol, will be able to fund an Assistantship for Claire Lancaster for the project Hungry for the taste: Understanding motivational and hedonic influences on food reward and consumption.

Professor Glyn Humphreys and Dr Jack Rogers from the University of Oxford will support Daniel Yon’s project, Using TMS to prime feature specific somatotopic representations in motor cortex during speech perception.

Dr Rachael E. Jack
of the University of Glasgow had her application accepted to fund Rebecca Pratchett’s Assistantship for the project Mapping the cultural landscape of emotions for social interaction. Highlighting knowledge gaps, Rachael’s work raises several questions. Six basic emotions are Western Caucasian-specific, but which emotions are basic in different cultures? Social interactions
rely on numerous emotions, e.g. grief, jealousy. How do different cultures represent these emotions as facial expressions?

Dr Markus Bindemann of the University of Kent had his application accepted to fund Julien LeBlond’s Assistantship. The project, Can a gaze-contingent eye-tracking paradigm reverse undesirable attention biases in smokers?, seeks to investigate whether smoking-related attention biases can be reversed more effectively when observers generate such behaviours intrinsically, by the smokers themselves, in a gaze-contingent paradigm.

Finally, Dr Rebecca Greenaway, from Great Ormond Street Hospital, made a successful application to fund an Assistantship for Julia Fernando entitled Cognitive and behavioural outcomes following multiple subpial transaction in Landau Kleffner syndrome.

For an example of the scheme in practice, see an article from
the November 2009 ‘Careers’ section of The Psychologist (tinyurl.com/cmq59q5). For future schemes, keep an eye on tinyurl.com/bpsuras.

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