President’s column; Public Engagement award and grants; The Psychologist bath; and more

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

I would urge everyone to visit the Science Museum in the next six months. You will find in the prime exhibition space ‘Mind Maps: Stories from Psychology’, which the Society has supported through its History of Psychology Centre (see also News, p. 70). I was greatly honoured to open this fascinating exhibition early in December. At the press preview I was allowed to stand next to an electrotherapeutic cage entitled ‘President of the body’! I also handled part of an exquisite papier mâché model of the brain. The exhibition, which includes a rich array of historical and contemporary objects, artworks and archive images, spans four episodes between 1780 and 2014. It considers assessment and treatment tools ranging from mesmerism to cognitive behavioural therapy. There is a display of original instruments used by Luigi Galvani not seen by the public for over a hundred years. Galvani used the instruments to see whether electricity might help with psychological disorders. I was captivated by the last artefact on display, the ‘Communicube’. Its inventor John Casson gave me graphic examples of its use in psychotherapy and its potential application in a variety of settings.

This event in the Science Museum is hugely symbolic for psychology given that our permanent exhibition is tucked away in a corner. This could be the time to consider a grand project to extend our presence involving the professional skills of the museum in curating, conserving and exhibiting together with the huge range of talent within the BPS already promoting the public understanding of psychology. Whilst on a recent visit to America I visited the Smithsonian, the world’s largest museum, where it was not easy to locate any psychology.

I was invited to America to talk about the similarities and differences between American and British psychology. The talk was given in Louisiana State where an obvious difference is that clinical psychologists can prescribe. They can also prescribe in New Mexico and Guam. There are differences in our handling of sensitive issues such as declarations concerning torture. There are other important differences in practice, such as the place of the expert witness in court. The structure of the American Psychological Association (APA) is remarkably similar to the BPS in terms of governance and operations. We both have Divisions although the APA does not have Sections and Branches. In discussion the concept of branches was considered to be more cohesive than the concept of divisions.

One of the aspects of being President is the constant exposure to new ideas from the variety of meetings, lectures and conferences attended. Baroness O’Neill, at a Science Council lecture, gave a closely argued case on ‘Why science needs ethics: Why science cannot and should not aspire to be value free’. Shadow Secretary of State for Health Andy Burnham, at the launch of the latest ‘Making a Case’ booklet on Mental Health by the Academy of Social Sciences, appealed for parity not only between physical and mental health service provision but also social care. At the BPS Psychology4Students event in London, Professor Cathy Craig of Queen’s University, Belfast drew a collective gasp from the 900 students when she showed a video clip of how they helped a barely mobile man with Parkinson’s disease walk briskly down a corridor.

And finally, I would like to announce that the winner of the December competition is Marianne Valkaas. The third-party selection committee chose her suggestion of a ‘huge Presidential seal throw-blanket’ for its seasonal warmth, the seal of course sealed it. A bottle of ‘President’s Selection’ wine is on its way to the winner. I thought I could also share with you a couple of ineligible non-member entries.

A reader in Guam suggested a dozen gilt-edged cards pre-printed with the words ‘I Apologise’ as this would suit any President. A suggestion from Australia was for a ‘Pressie-dent’. This idea was accompanied by a photograph of a beautifully wrapped box complete with a dent. 

Public Engagement and Media Award 2013
Professor Bruce Hood

Professor Bruce Hood (University of Bristol) is to receive the Society’s 2013 Public Engagement and Media Award. The award recognises the work of a psychologist who, either directly or through broadcast and print media, has made an outstanding contribution to raising the profile of psychology with the general public.

Upon hearing the news of his award Professor Hood said: ‘For me, communicating the passion and wonder of the science of the mind is both a worthy and enjoyable pursuit. But to receive this award from the British Psychological Society for doing so, makes me all the more satisfied and happy that I am doing the right thing.’

Professor Hood was nominated due to his extensive research on the mind and brain being the basis of numerous public lectures, appearances in the media and three popular science books. Since 2006 he has spoken at events from Cafe Scientifique, local pubs, local and international science festivals to one of the pinnacles of science communication the Royal Institution 2011 Christmas Lectures ‘Meet your brain’.

In 2012 he devised the world’s largest simultaneous memory experiment for the Society of Biology involving 2000 participants. This received lots of media interest and was officially recognised by the Guinness Book of Records in 2013.

In response to the announcement of the 2013 award Chair of the Society’s Psychology Education Board Chartered Psychologist Professor Catriona Morrison said: I am pleased to see Professor Hood recognised for his multiple achievements. His ability to communicate psychological ideas with clarity and depth is second only to his ability to listen and engage with his audience. His breadth of engagement with the public is wide ranging from popular science books and media performance to blogging and websites.’

Why good people do bad things

Two hundred delegates, including policy makers, commissioners, the regulator, psychologists and other professionals, attended the Northern Ireland Division of Clinical Psychology’s annual conference entitled ‘Why do good people do bad things?’ at Queen’s University Belfast. Speakers and delegates together considered why those in the caring professions are sometimes guilty of shocking derelictions of duty, and reflected upon recent scandals such as Mid Staffordshire and Winterbourne and assessed the implications of the findings for Northern Ireland and for psychologists’ exertion of influence within such systems.

The conference brought together a strong line-up of experts and writers from across the field of applied psychology to provide a deeper understanding of the minds and actions of the individual, and groups of individuals, who seriously stray from the ethos of their profession. Professor Chris McCusker, Chair of the NI Division, in his welcome address noted that tighter regulation, applied in a tick-box fashion, could actually make the situation worse. Looking over our shoulders towards regulation means that we have less energy and capacity to look towards, be with, understand and care about, the vulnerable person or people in front of us. Staff need to be cared for to care about. Reflective supervision and a learning culture were key solutions proposed.

The Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Edwin Poots MLA opened the conference. He made a commitment to upholding the principle of protection and improving the quality and safety of health and social care services throughout Northern Ireland and explicitly commended DCP-NI on the role that it plays in informing policy, standards and workforce issues.

Keynote speaker Professor Ian Robertson, neuroscientist and best-selling author of The Winner Effect described how the old adage that ‘power corrupts’ has a biological basis. He outlined how positions of power can have negative effects on the brain in certain personalities. These include egocentricity, risk-blindness and a tendency to treat individuals as objects. Other speakers included Richard Whitehead from the Mersey Care Trust who focused on lessons learned from the Winterbourne scandal. Jim Walsh from the DCP service user and carer network spoke of the need to engage with patient narratives and histories rather than managing risk by medication or restraint. Jarlath Benson, a Psychodynamic Group Analyst discussed the contribution of individual and group psychology in understanding harmfulness. Dr John Kremer focused on how social influences related to conformity and groupthink affect why good people do bad things. Professor Robin Davidson commented on the Francis Inquiry and the implications of having a ‘tick-box’ system of care, and Theresa Nixon from the Northern Ireland Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority spoke about what regulators were doing, but more importantly about how their approach needed to be better informed by the expertise shown at this conference.

Professor Chris McCusker, Chair of DCP-NI will produce a report on the findings of the conference to provide the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in Northern Ireland with clear guidance on how Northern Ireland can ensure more effective safeguards to prevent serious malpractice in the system.

Practitioner of the year
Dr Peter Martin

Chartered Psychologist Dr Peter Martin  is the recipient of the 2013 Professional Practice Board Practitioner of the Year Award, which recognises good practice and achievements of Chartered Psychologists
in the preceding 12 months.

Dr Martin has shown outstanding commitments in his field of counselling psychology and has worked actively on behalf of the Division of Counselling Psychology (DCoP) as both Vice Chair (2011/12) and Chair (2012/13). In particular, he facilitated and established virtual network interest groups within DCoP by setting up methodologically rigorous criteria that accelerated group formations. These groups support the work of counselling psychologists in various areas such as: YoungWork, the NHS, the Greek group, IAPT, Black and Asian, and Disability. Dr Martin continues his work to support sharing of best practice and research across national regional groups in his current role as the DCoP Regional, Network and Interest and Working Groups Co-ordinator Lead.

During his tenure as Vice Chair of DCoP Dr Martin visited many counselling psychology doctoral programmes, where his experience and enthusiasm was appreciated by trainees. His activities over the last 12 months have also resulted in his receiving the DCoP Occasional Award of Counselling Psychology Practitioner of the Year.

As well as contributing to DCoP, Dr Martin is also an active member of the Society’s Conference Committee, in which he has encouraged counselling psychologists to submit research to the Society’s Annual Conference. In 2013 he chaired a successful film discussion session on torture, linking practice and research.

Along with his Society activities Dr Martin continues to work as an external examiner at Surrey and Wolverhampton Universities and Regents University London and as research supervisor at the New School for Psychotherapy and Counselling. He also maintains his private practice working with both clients and supervisees.

Public engagement 

A series of radio programmes designed to fight the marginalisation of people with learning disabilities and an exhibition of multisensory illusions at the Edinburgh Camera Obscura are two of the projects to be supported by Society public engagement grants this year. These annual grants are made to help its Society members demonstrate the relevance of psychological science to a wider audience. The four grant recipients this year are:
I    Launch of the Face Blindness Awareness Campaign – Dr Sarah Bate, Bournemouth University
I    Psychology FM: Challenging disability and embracing the community – Professor Rebecca Lawthorn, Manchester Metropolitan University
I    Origins of Psychology NI: The evolution and impact of the science and practice of psychology in Northern Ireland – Professor Carol McGuinness, Queen’s University, Belfast
I    Bringing multisensory illusions to the public – Dr Robert McIntosh, University of Edinburgh
Professor Catriona Morrison, Chair of the Society’s Psychology Education Board, said: ‘The range and quality of this year’s grant recipients emphasise how much psychological science can contribute to wider society. Sharing this knowledge with the public is an important part of our work.’ 

Big Bang – engaging with young people

To introduce young people to the world of psychological science, the Society will be running an interactive activity stand at the Big Bang Fair at Birmingham’s NEC in March. As well as hosting the finals of the National Science and Engineering Competition, the Big Bang UK Young Scientists and Engineers Fair is the largest celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths for young people in the UK. Everything at the fair is aimed at showing young people (primarily aged 7–19) just how many exciting and rewarding opportunities there are out there for them with the right experience and qualifications. Featuring explosive theatre shows and engaging, immersive activities, Big Bang is more than just a great day out – it’s an opportunity to meet some of the country’s leading scientists and engineers and to discover how school subjects can lead to fantastic, rewarding careers.

Kelly Auty, Policy Advisor (Psychology Education) with the
Society, said: ‘With a range of visual and multisensory illusions, we are going to get people thinking about whether they can trust what they can see and feel. How do brains piece together all the sensory information they are bombarded with every second to make sense of the world? With our partners from the University of Derby, University of Nottingham, University of Leicester, University of Birmingham, Staffordshire University, Aston University and the University of Worcester, we will be running demonstrations on the show-floor every day between 13 and 16 March, reaching thousands of students, teachers and parents during the event.’

As well as being able to participate in all the demonstrations and experiments, visitors will also have the chance to speak to the Society’s onsite careers champion about their future in psychology or the opportunities afforded by further study. ‘This is the third year we’ve participated in the Big Bang Fair,’ Auty said, ‘and the team is looking forward to inspiring interest in psychology in new cohort of young people.’

For more information, see; for further information about the Society’s involvement in this event or other events in the public engagement portfolio, please contact [email protected]


SW of England Branch gets motivated

In November members of the South West of England Branch gathered for the Branch AGM and a talk from Dr Claire Lane (Clinical Psychologist, Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust) about her research and practice using motivational interviewing (MI).

For many members, particularly those who use MI in their practice, this was an opportunity to hear about MI from an expert in the field and to network with colleagues also using this approach in their work. For others this was their first introduction to MI.

Claire started her talk reminding us that almost all of us have things about ourselves we would like to change. She invited members of the audience to raise their hands if we had decided we needed to do something to make this change, and to keep our hands raised if we knew what we had to do to achieve this change. Most of us kept our hands raised. Claire then said, ‘Keep your hands up if you have started to put those plans into action and make that change’ – predictably most of the audiences’ hands went down!

Having convinced us that as psychologists we are no more immune than the general public to ambivalence towards change and the difficulty in finding the motivation to change, Claire launched into a whistle-stop tour of the underlying theory, and development of MI. Throughout, Claire gave examples from her own practice as well as exemplar consultations which brought the approach to life… particularly for those new to MI.

The talk finished with questions, and like many of the other events our Branch holds, there was no shortage of questions. It is perhaps this part that I enjoyed most about Claire’s talk – as our members discussed practical issues relating to MI, for example the application of MI in different cultures and for specific patient groups. It was in these questions that Claire’s passion and enthusiasm for her practice shone through, but also her expertise and that of the audience. It was a real meeting of minds, and led to many new connections between members.

Claire inspired us all to not only try and change our own behaviour, but how we can work with empathy, support and understanding in our practice to support others in making changes.
Hannah Family, Chair,
South West of England Branch


Fancy a bath?

For the Society’s Annual Conference in Harrogate in April, Managing Editor Dr Jon Sutton commissioned two artists to create a special bath to celebrate 25 years of The Psychologist. Now we are looking for a home for it.

Debora D’Auria (Head of Psychology at Southend High School for Girls) and James Townsend produced a bath tub layered with covers, images and articles taken from back issues of The Psychologist. The shower head was adapted to record the thoughts of those who sat in the bath. For the story of the bath,see D’Auria said: ‘Archimedes is said to have exclaimed “Eureka!” in the bathtub. This is a bath full of ideas and theories. I want people to stop and pause for just a moment, to think about The Psychologist, psychology more broadly, and perhaps even their own psychology.’

How would you make use of the bath? You could add a glass top to make an excellent coffee table, make use of the recording facility to gather data, or even use it as a bath! All ideas considered – get in touch with the Editor on [email protected].

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