President’s column; call for nominations; Birmingham Science Festival; Public Engagement Grant; World Mental Health Day; Going Green; and more

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

This month I’m focusing on leadership and membership in the Society – not only in terms of vacant roles on the Trustees but also in terms of how we organise our various member groups and consider improving things.

As you’ll see opposite we are this month launching the advertising for both the next President Elect (to begin a one-year term from the AGM in May 2015 then serve as President for a year from the Society’s AGM in spring 2016 followed by a year as Vice President) and for the new Honorary General Secretary for the Society (to serve a three-year term beginning at the AGM next year). These are key roles on the Board of Trustees, perhaps obviously for the President Elect but also in terms of the Honorary General Secretary who in many ways is like a company secretary, supporting the smooth running of the Board of Trustees’ business. The HGS has particular responsibilities for liaising with the unions and chairing the Personnel Committee for the Society, as well as being responsible for ensuring the oversight of the administration of the Society and being accountable to the Trustees for this.

We’re also trying to fill other vacancies on our Board of Trustees next year. We have a vacancy for the Chair of our Membership Standards Board (, and the Education and Public Engagement Board ( will be seeking nominations for a Chair Elect who will become a Trustee once they take over as Chair (see p.862 and p.861 respectively). As you can see from their websites, chairing these two Boards entails responsibility for steering the Society’s work in large areas of work that affect all members and, especially in terms of the Education and Public Engagement Board, a significant amount of the Society’s external-facing activities.  

All of these roles are important ones for the Society, and I’m hoping we will have a number of applications for each. Leadership is important for the Society given how much needs to be done to improve the impact and visibility of psychology and to develop the Society to make it more effective. If anyone would like to discuss what’s involved with these roles please get in touch, especially if it would help you decide if you’d like to take something like this on.

We’re also doing a wider review of our member networks (that is our Divisions, Branches and Sections and their subgroupings) in terms of the number of them, their focus of activities and the relationships between the various groups. A review group led by our President Elect Jamie Hacker Hughes has started work to consider the issues, and then they will be gathering the views of as many members as possible from the networks. We’re starting this wider collecting of views and discussion at the General Assembly, which is an annual residential meeting where the Chairs (or a delegated rep) of all our member networks come together with the Trustees and key staff of the Society to share information about current activities and plans and discuss how to work more effectively across the networks on big issues that several groups are interested in. This year’s meeting (which is taking place after I write but before this edition of The Psychologist is published) will be discussing the possible futures for the member networks and then each network will be asked to take the discussion back to their members before feeding back to the review group. I’m hoping that the review will enable us to clarify the role of each network, recommend ways we can improve collaboration across network groups and communication between the Society’s Trustees and the networks. At this stage it’s not clear whether there will be more radical proposals but we will need your input to help decide this, so look out for information coming through the networks that you’re a member of and please respond with your views and suggestions.

Being in the green can stop the blues

In a talk organised by the Society at the Birmingham Science Festival in August, a group of researchers from the University of Staffordshire presented research that aims to provide evidence for the benefits of spending time in green spaces.

Their work forms one part of the PHENOTYPE project – an EU-funded initiative focused on looking into the health benefits of spending time in outdoor environments in different populations across Europe. Dr Chris Gidlow, Professor Marc Jones, Dr Gemma Hurst and Daniel Masterson, are part of the UK research team. They told the conference that since the industrial revolution, with great swathes of people moving to and forming urban areas, our ability to interact and engage with nature has been hugely reduced.

Dr Gidlow said: ‘As more and more towns and cities have developed there have been efforts to increase green spaces in urban areas, including the inception of public parks in the Victorian era. At around the same time the Garden City movement came about, it was decided that green spaces should be incorporated into urban developments to make sure people who live in these urban areas had the chance to interact with nature.’

Professor Jones spoke about some of the research that has been done at Staffordshire and in the Netherlands. More than 500 participants were shown pictures of urban, green and blue (spaces with water) environments, and asked them various questions relating to preference, and which they would most likely feel more restored after visiting. They found a strong preference to green and blue areas over the urban environments. Professor Jones spoke about the biophilia hypothesis which suggests humans have an innate connection with other living systems and organisms. He added: ‘In a government survey of well-being over half of us visited a natural environment once a week in the past year. We like to be in natural environments.’
Their research project, which is ongoing, has involved taking participants on a 30-minute walk in a green, green and blue or urban environment and measuring their heart-rate variability, cortisol levels and cognitive function, before during and after the walk, as well as qualitative measures of their mood and feelings of restoration before and after the walk. Early results suggest walking in any of the three environments had a positive effect on mood, cortisol levels and heart-rate variability. Daniel Masterson said: ‘Going for a walk in a natural environment led to higher levels of perceived restoration and improved cognitive function. The next steps for our work will involve looking into the effects of repeated exposure and the longer-term effects of spending time in natural environments.’

In another talk, the British Science Association Psychology Section Presidential Session, Professor Sergio Della Sala (University of Edinburgh) spoke about why there often appears to be a mismatch between what scientists think they know about the mind and brain and how this knowledge is understood by the many people who are fascinated by it. Professor Della Sala kicked off by highlighting examples of the press and scientists making bold statements that don’t reflect the empirical research, ending with a neat demonstration that correlation does not always equal causation that involved Baroness Greenfield, climate change and bringing back pirates.

Professor Martin Fischer (University of Potsdam) talked through research into the ‘halo effect’. Professor Fischer highlighted the importance of scepticism and risk literacy to enable the public to make informed decisions about science being communicated to them, after research showed that people are more likely to believe a statement if it has ‘scientific’ terminology and is accompanied by a picture of a brain scan (the prettier the brain scan, the better!). Section President, Professor Vicki Bruce (University of Newcastle) took on the myth that you never forget a face, explaining that people are actually not that good at recognising unfamiliar faces and highlighting some of the miscarriages of justice that have resulted from misidentification by witnesses.

Dr Rob McIntosh (University of Edinburgh) told a cautionary tale of what can happen when your research doesn’t deliver the answers your collaborative partners might want. Dr Peter Lamont (University of Edinburgh) capped off with an entertaining session exploring why we are not our brains. Covering, among other things, X-ray vision, predicting the future and mind reading, we were taken on a whistle-stop tour of extraordinary beliefs. Dr Lamont believes in witches, he went for a drink with one once, but she didn’t have magical powers [see].

Ella Rhodes and Kelly Auty

Taking research to members of the public

Recipients of a Society Public Engagement Grant describe their work developing a forensic exhibit

It is the mission of Research Councils and other funding bodies that their investigators communicate findings to the public. Hands-on science centres provide a great outlet to contribute to this objective, as well as to potentially contribute to impact of research. Here, we report on our experience in communicating our work on memory for faces in three science centres, using an exhibit built around the EvoFIT facial-composite program.

In 2006, with funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (£30k), we built a themed exhibit with the Sensation Science Centre in Dundee. In the main part of the exhibit, which was kitted out as a ‘police station’, a visitor would see a video of a man pretending to commit a crime and construct a composite of his face using a simplified version of our EvoFIT facial-composite system. Visitors were asked, using written and spoken prompts, to select faces from an array of alternatives, with selected items being ‘bred’ together, to allow a composite to be ‘evolved’. The exhibit then presented a picture of the man’s face alongside the evolved composite, example composites created by previous visitors and an average (‘morphed’) composite from the last four visitors. The exhibit took about five minutes for a user to complete and was accompanied by a ‘Research Lab’, a station that explained more of the underlying science: themes around evolution, computer-based generation of faces, forensic use of composites, etc. We expected the exhibit to last five years but, partly due to the robustness of the hardware, it remains today and is still popular.

To update the exhibit (including improvements emerging from research in the last few years: e.g. Frowd, in press) and to disseminate it more widely, the British Psychological Society awarded a 15-month public-engagement grant of £8500. The grant was to develop the exhibit for installation in the Glasgow Science Centre and the At-Bristol Science Centre. Most of the money was spent on computer hardware and touchscreens. The science centres provided purpose-built tables and graphics along with staff time to help develop a program that would engage the public. Laura Foord, a UWE final-year student, carried out an evaluation of the original Dundee Science Centre exhibit in At-Bristol to assess the impact of the planned improvements; a similar evaluation was conducted at the Glasgow Science Centre.

The main changes allowed visitors to (i) select hair and other external features last (Frowd et al., 2012), and (ii) adjust their evolved face using a number of holistic scales for attractiveness, weight, age, etc. (Frowd et al., 2010). Staff at the Glasgow and Bristol science centres were extremely helpful in suggesting changes to the program to make it work well on the exhibit floor. The aims were also to speed things up, now only taking about three minutes, and to remove voice prompts, to reduce general noise in the exhibition. The At-Bristol centre also use an armband system to upload user-specific content to their ‘Explore-More’ web pages – in particular, a visitor’s evolved face. How the program was changed was presented by Frowd et al. (2013) at the Emerging Security Technologies’ conference in Cambridge (available for download at

 This final version of ‘Eye Witness’ in At-Bristol was evaluated by another UWE final-year student, Laura Russell. It was found that the exhibit was user-friendly and compared well with other exhibits. The study showed that visitors understood that the EvoFIT programme was to help the police catch criminals. However, it did not communicate much more about what psychologists have discovered about face processing, such as how it involves both feature and global processing – this suggests that researchers may like to work more with science centres to provide relevant hands-on experiments. This kind of activity can provide considerable reach: for example, the total footfall at both the Glasgow and Bristol centres is estimated at 1.6 million over the next five years.

This year, we also presented developments at the British Interactive Group, held at the Natural History Museum in Oxford. This is a super three-day event for people who work in science centres or outreach activities, and is a great networking opportunity for anyone wishing to bring science to children, adults and the public at large (

It is important to help spread an understanding of what psychology is and what it can do to improve our society. There are many opportunities and much support available. It has been a pleasure to work with the BPS in furthering this aim, and we would encourage other members to consider applying for funding to support public engagement.

Charlie Frowd (University of Winchester), Peter Hancock (University of Stirling), Laura Russell (University of the West of England) and Priscilla Heard (University of the West of England)

The ‘Eye Witness’ exhibit. A visitor selects the top four faces from three screens of 18 alternatives

When a visitor has evolved a face, he or she can make overall adjustments to it using the holistic tools

Lastly, a visitor can judge the likeness in the presence of a photograph of the target


Frowd, C.D. (in press). Facial composites and techniques to improve image recognisability. In T. Valentine & J. Davis (Eds.) Forensic facial identification: Theory and practice of identification from eyewitnesses, composites and CCTV. Chichester: Wiley.
Frowd, C.D., Heard, P., Foord, L. et al. (2013). Development and evaluation of a forensic exhibit for science centres. In A. Stoica, D. Zarzhitsky, G. Howells et al. (Eds.) IEEE Proceedings of 2013 Fourth International Conference on Emerging Security Technologies (pp.1–7). (Available for download from the Research tab at
Frowd, C.D., Pitchford, M., Bruce, V. et al. (2010). The psychology of face construction: Giving evolution a helping hand. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 25, 195–203.
Frowd, C.D., Skelton F.C., Atherton, C. et al. (2012). Recovering faces from memory: The distracting influence of external facial features. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 18, 224–238.

News from BPS journals

The recent 2013 impact factor release demonstrated another excellent year for BPS Journals with some impressive growth on the results of 2012.

Many of our journals raised their impact factor scores considerably in 2013, and we now have two journals with two-year impact factors above 3.0, a level not previously achieved by any of our journals, and four titles that are ranked in the top 10 of their subject categories. Five of our 11 titles are ranked in the top 25 per cent of their subject categories, with all other titles ranked in the top 50 per cent.

Two-year impact factors are, broadly speaking, a measure of the average number of citations in a year of articles published in the previous two years. Not only has the combined average citation per article for the Society’s journals portfolio as a whole increased year on year since 2010, but also the total number of citations has steadily grown through the same period, with a 9 per cent growth in 2013.
Some of the highlights from the 2013 impact factor results for BPS Journals:
I     The British Journal of Psychology achieved an impact factor score of 3.389 in 2013 over 2.103 in 2012 – an impressive rise of 1.286.
I     The Journal of Neuropsychology also reached into the 3.0 mark, achieving a growth of 1.38 – gaining an impact factor score of 3.818 vs. 2.438 in 2012. This increase now places the journal seventh in the Experimental Psychology subject category – a rise of 12 places from 2012.
I     The British Journal of Educational Psychology moved into the top 10 of its subject category, being now ranked tenth out of 53 in Educational Psychology.
I     The Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology also moved into the top 10 of Applied Psychology and is now ranked tenth out of 75 in this category.
I     The British Journal of Developmental Psychology moved up 16 places in Developmental Psychology, from being ranked 45th out 65 in 2012 to 29th in 2013.

Andy Tolmie, Chair of the Society’s Editorial Strategy Group, welcomed the figures, saying that they were ‘strikingly good’ results, ‘which demonstrated the continued hard work and dedication of our editors, authors and reviewers’.

World Mental Health Day

The British Psychological Society and the Royal College of Psychiatrists joined forces for World Mental Health Day (10 October) to emphasise the crucial role research has in better understanding mental health, improving the lives of those affected and in helping to reduce the stigma of mental health.Government figures suggest that each year around one-in-four people will experience a mental health problem. Even though mental ill health accounts for a quarter of the disease burden in England, mental health treatment receives only 13 per cent of NHS funding.

According to recent information from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and the Medical Research Council (MRC), the UK spends some £130 million annually on mental health research. This is only 10 per cent of total spending on health research by public bodies. Only 1 per cent of the funding for the IAPT programme has so far been directed towards non-CBT approaches.

The Society’s President, Professor Dorothy Miell, said: ‘There has been good progress in recent years in terms of promoting access to psychological therapies like CBT. However, for more complex problems a mix of therapies may be required. Researchers are at the forefront of the work to better understand psychological problems and mental health, and help develop evidence-based pathways for treatment and support in the future.

World Mental Health Day has helped raise the profile and reduce the stigma of mental ill health and bring this important health issue into the open. Research is needed to ensure we increase our understanding of these conditions and add to advances in effective therapies to improve people’s lives.’

Professor Sir Simon Wessely, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: ‘There is much we still need to do to improve access to, acceptance of, and the quality of our mental health services. But if we want a truly radical transformation this must come from better treatments, both psychological and physical. RCPsych and BPS therefore renew the call for long-term sustained investment into mental health research.’

The psychiatric and psychological community relies on evidence-based research, presented in journals like Evidence-Based Mental Health (EBMH), which is published by the RCPsych and BPS, in partnership with BMJ Journals. The journal had a special issue for World Mental Health Day, which was made open access until the end of October. Dr Andrea Cipriani (University of Oxford), editor-in-chief of EBMH said: ‘Schizophrenia is one of the most debilitating, chronic mental health disorders and ranks among the top 20 causes of disability worldwide, with new literature on the subject constantly adding to the wealth of information available. The mission of EBMH is to help psychiatrists and psychologists learn how to select and use the best available evidence to answer their questions and markedly improve their own clinical practice.

Going Green working group

The Division of Occupational psychology’s Going Green Working Group is set to release a report later this year exploring the role of occupational psychology in corporate responsibility. The group aims to raise awareness of the role of occupational psychology (and psychology) in pro-environmental behaviour in the workplace.

Dr Jan Maskell, chair of the group, said the report started off with a survey: ‘The survey asked sustainability professionals what was important to them now and in the near and distant future and what challenges they were facing. It was aimed at people in organisations who may have the title of Sustainability Officer, or others where part of their job role is corporate responsibility.’

She added: ‘The most important issues for the present, near and distant future were meeting legal requirements and engaging employees and consumers with sustainability issues. We enquired about environmental, economic and social sustainability as issues. The last one is concerned with the infrastructure that supports social and cultural life, social amenities, systems for citizen engagement and space for people and places to evolve.

Dr Maskell said one of the emerging challenges in corporate responsibility is how to integrate sustainability into the core of the business, making it central to every decision a business and employee makes. She added: ‘Larger companies are beginning to make real changes. For example, B&Q is looking at the 10 factors from the One Planet model to explore their actions as part of the NETPositive collaborative partnership. This initiative has the aim of transforming leading sustainability thinking into tools and approaches that can be used. Ricoh, the photocopier manufacturer, are claiming an “eco-centric” culture change alongside “techno-centric” development.’

From the survey, completed by 29 sustainability professionals, Dr Maskell and her colleagues have compiled a report that pulls together examples of models, theories and practice to apply to corporate responsibility around understanding attitudes and behaviours, drawing conclusions on the potential for change across a range of areas within organisations.

The model used is an adaptation of Defra’s six Es, starting with Explore. Dr Maskell said: ‘Start with the exploration of options for change and innovation, look at where the organisation is now, where we want to get to and what are the options we’ve got.’ The other facets of the six Es are Encourage, Enable, Engage, Exemplify, which collectively consider the issues within organisations, and finally Evaluate, where actions are reviewed and improvements noted and related back to Explore.

Dr Maskell explained: ‘Encourage is all about how we encourage people to change their behaviour, how we can make it something they want to do. Giving people information, goals and feedback. If you have that combination of goal-setting and feedback, if you give people something to aim for, it will become important. Making the default position for sustainable behaviour an opt-out rather than an opt-in also makes it the first choice, such as making the use of public transport the first option or default in your organisation’s travel plan. The Enable element of the model sets out that these new behaviours should be easy to do, and easier to do than not do – for example, changing ordinary bins for easily accessible recycling bins in the workplace. A combination of education and information will help employees, customers and the supply chain to try new ways of working.’

Dr Maskell said of the Engage part of the model: ‘Using internal and external networks involves people in taking action’. The Exemplify part of the model suggests leading by example, and Evaluation sets out that any actions should be assessed for their effectiveness.’ The report’s ultimate aim is to demonstrate how using the science of psychology in practice can improve environmental, economic and social sustainability by increasing the contribution from organisations, individuals and community action. It will be published on the Division’s website ( around the end of the year.

Ella Rhodes

Surge in student membership

The number of BPS members and subscribers has hit the 50,000 mark while student member numbers have increased by 45 per cent compared with this time last year, now standing at 6571.

This increase reflects students’ positive reaction to the launch earlier this year of online applications, providing them with access to a much more straightforward and speedy route into membership. The Society is also focusing on accrediting UK psychology programmes that are delivered internationally, giving more students the chance to become members. The Society has also developed a multi-membership scheme that enables universities to buy – at a discounted rate – membership for students on accredited courses, ensuring that whole cohorts can benefit from Society membership during their studies. These initiatives reflect the Society’s commitment to the key strategic goal of increasing student membership over the lifetime of the next Strategic Plan.

Jane Smith, Director of Qualifications and Standards, said: ‘We are delighted to see the increase in student membership of the Society over the past year. Today’s undergraduate students will go on into careers within and outside psychology. Whatever their future direction, the Society has lots to offer in support of their studies and beyond. The Society’s new Strategic Plan identifies the enhancement and promotion of student membership as a priority, and we look forward to growing our student membership further in the coming months, especially as we begin to accredit undergraduate courses delivered outside the UK.’

Student membership is open to everyone studying on a Society accredited undergraduate degree or postgraduate conversion course. Student members receive access to the Society’s student members’ pages and a copy of The Psychologist magazine each month and will receive PsychTalk, a newsletter written by students for students. Students are also given access to useful academic materials online, including PsychSource, a large online database of searchable BPS and Wiley material as well as access to several online journals. Student members
are also offered discounts on books, journals and events and the chance to transfer to graduate membership for free after degree completion. Online applications for graduates will also be possible by the beginning of 2015.

For more information on this and other types of membership please visit


We are sorry to announce the death of Emeritus Professor Leslie Reid, who died on 7 September 2014, aged 90. Leslie was the founding Professor and Head of the Department of Psychology at the University of Exeter, where he worked from 1964 to 1982, and an active and influential member of the BPS. An obituary will follow in a later issue of The Psychologist.

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