London & Home Counties Branch


This event was an opportunity for Dr Noreen Tehrani, at the time, Chair of the BPS Crisis, Disaster and Trauma (CDT) Section to introduce
some ideas about psychological trauma to London & Home Counties members.

It was held on 14 June 2018, the first anniversary of the Grenfell House fire. I'm sure, like me, many psychologists in the London area felt
frustrated and unsure how they could help given the magnitude of the disaster. Before reporting on the event, you may find the following
document produced by the CDT Section, to be useful.

Guidance for Counsellors and Therapists Wishing to Offer Support to Adults and Children Affected by Trauma

What can I do to help?

The urge to offer support to victims of disasters is very strong. However, when thinking about how you could help following a major incident
it is important that you consider your training, experience, resilience and availability. In addition, it is essential that whatever you do is
carefully recorded, managed and audited so that in the future it will be possible to assess and evaluate the outcomes of your efforts.
The following guidance is offered to anyone considering offering early post-trauma interventions or longer-term trauma therapy as a trauma


It is important that anyone offering psychological or counselling interventions for traumatised people has had training in dealing with trauma.
The British Psychological Society recognises three levels of trauma practitioners, each can offer support but need to be mindful of their
limitations and need for supervision and support.

1. Trauma Informed: Graduate level psychologists and accredited counsellors trained in the nature and impact of different psychological

They need to demonstrate an awareness of:
• Current research into psychological trauma
• Appropriate skills in responding to traumatic disclosures
• An awareness of cultural diversity
• Their limitations of their role and competency.
The trauma informed practitioner needs to be closely supervised and supervised by a Trauma Expert level supervisor.

2. Trauma Skilled: These include post graduate psychologists and qualified trauma counsellors who currently provide services to trauma
survivors using evidence based interventions.
The trauma skilled practitioners should demonstrate competence in:
• Undertaking trauma assessments and be competent in recognising the needs of survivors for trauma
• Case formulation and planning therapeutic interventions
• Ability and experience in working within agencies
• Adhering to the need for clinical governance and effectiveness monitoring.
These practitioners need to be in regular supervision with a Trauma Expert level supervisor.

3. Trauma Expert: These practitioners will have PhD status for their work in trauma. They will be Health & Care Professions Council members
and have a track record of working with trauma survivors including those with special needs.
The Trauma Expert practitioners should:
• Have national and/or international recognition in a specialist area of trauma interventions
• Be competent in dealing with simple trauma responses as well as work within their specialist area e.g. working with children, young people, disabled, complex trauma, refugees, traumatic grief
• Preferably be experienced in multi-agency working and/or working with emergency service personnel
• Provide tailormade assessments and interventions for a range of traumatised groups
These practitioners need to be in supervision and they may also provide supervision to others.


Working with major traumatic events can be extremely emotionally demanding for practitioners. Despite the wish to help others some people
do not have the emotional resilience to undertake disaster work. The risk of becoming a victim of secondary trauma or compassion fatigue
can be reduced if you have been through appropriate training, engaged in delivering an evidence based intervention, worked within a
supportive therapeutic team and are constantly monitored and supervised by a Trauma Expert.

Questions to ask yourself:
• Am I mentally prepared for what I might see, hear about or experience?
• Have I had enough training to allow me to deliver an evidence based intervention?
• Am I able to offer enough time to make my involvement worthwhile?
• Is my supervisor able to work with traumatic stress?

Personal resilience in disaster work is essential. People who have experienced significant trauma in their own lives may find that their
personal traumas are reactivated when they work with disaster victims and survivors. In addition, there is evidence to show that certain
people lack the personal resilience to undertake this kind of work. This includes people who are highly sympathetic, but may be prone to
compassion fatigue and secondary trauma.

Questions to ask yourself:
• Have I been through a recent trauma or a trauma like those I would like to help?
• Have I had any treatment for anxiety or depression in the past two years?
• Am I going through some form or adversity such as a relationship breakdown or bereavement in past year?
• Can I deal with listening to traumatic stories without becoming emotionally distressed?

Availability and continuity of care is paramount. It is not helpful to offer temporary or sporadic help. To be valuable you need to commit to
longer term involvement. Working at the scene is also not typically useful; you may need to work with clients within GP practices,
counselling services, within local authority or charity locations. Also, please remember that organising trauma interventions in a disaster
requires a lot of administration and the last thing that those responsible for the delivery of services need is to have people who are not part
of the delivery system. You may find that even if you have the skills and willingness to help your services are not required.

Questions to ask yourself:
• Am I prepared to work with others to provide the interventions or services that are requested by the organisers?
• Can I give an indication of how much time I am prepared to give to providing the initial and/or ongoing services?
• Would I be expecting to be paid for my time or expenses?
• How would I feel if I were told my services were not required or appropriate?

It is very important that services are coordinated. If you are to offer your services make sure that they are coordinated with others.
Seek out the lead agency for the incident and find your role in the overall response."

Disaster Response Network

At the June 14 event Dr Tehrani introduced the Disaster Response Network. Partly as a result of a request by the European Federation of Psychologists Associations, she is investigating the feasibility of setting up a process for BPS members to volunteer their services in a controlled way, if an event of the nature of Grenfell Towers re-occurred.

"The Australian Psychological Society (APS) established a Disaster Response Network (DRN) in response to the Australian Bush Fires in 2009 at which time the APS received calls from hundreds of its society members inquiring about providing additional support to assist with the recovery effort.
The Aims of the Australian Disaster Response Network is to:
•    Support members who want to contribute to disaster response
•    Provide advice to those interested in further training or experience in the field
•    Support organisations seeking psychologists to work with communities and individuals affected by a disaster

The BPS CDT has developed advice and guidance on dealing with disasters but the development of a contact hub for psychologists to offer a disaster response would be a new initiative." Noreen issued a questionnaire to the audience "to assess whether there would be support from the creating of a Disaster Response Network in the UK".

In the UK such a network, as a service provider, would be managed by the Red Cross rather than the BPS. Noreen has discussed the formal involvement of BPS members with the BPS CEO, Sarb Bajwa.

Returning to the event itself, there were three presentations.

Sandra Mtandabari

Sandra is a Chartered Counselling Psychologist registered with the HCPC with more than 20 years of experience in the field of mental health, working in the NHS, voluntary sector and in private practice. Her approach to therapeutic practice is integrative, informed by cognitive behavioural, schema and existential models, also incorporating systemic principles & motivational interviewing techniques

She has been working with survivors of Grenfell through Hestia Integrated Mental Health Service, a charity invited by by the Royal Borough of  Kensington & Chelsea to provide integrated health and wellbeing services to residents affected by the fire. They provide: a therapeutic outreach service together with the NHS and voluntary partners; a counselling service for those temporarily housed in hotels; a community hub and multilingual support. They have reached counsellors through the Black & Asian Therapy Network and the Black & Asian Counselling Psychology Group.

Some of the challenges Sandra and her colleagues faced were:

Building trust. Given what the residents felt the authorities had allowed to happen, counsellors had to had attempt to build trust in what they were doing.

Confidentiality. Carrying out counselling in hotels, there was limited space and privacy was not always guaranteed. At times some clients had to speak about their difficulties in front of other residents. There were pros and cons to this. It did open some conversations about  shared experiences.

Cultural challenges. Some residents were uncomfortable with males and females mixing in communal area.

Re-traumatisation. Being housed in hotels for an unknown time period, with a lack of clarity about the future added to the stress levels. Having to retrieve belongings from the scene of the fire, and the deaths, did not help.

Timings. Residents with children struggled to engage with the evening services. Some wished to attend the inquiry hearings but were unable to.

Operation of the counselling service. The provision of support was not perfectly co-ordinated so there was a lack of clarity around boundaries between service providers. Some people could make use of an on-call service while othere were expecting a full therapy service.

Hotel staff. Some of the hotel staff needed counselling too.

However counsellors did take a proactive approach to engage residents. There was good team working and co-ordination with other agencies and counsellors and therapists were provided with supervision.

Sandra described the therapeutic processes she made use of:

  • A person-centred (Rogerian) / existential phenomenological approach.
  • Restoring a sense of safety and stabilisation.
  • When on call in the evening, referring residents to day time, full therapy services.
  • Encouraging the establishment of pre-event routines.
  • Providing information e.g. signposting practical housing and legal support .
  • Reclaiming a sense of purpose and re-engagement, encouraging participation in spiritual beliefs .

Sandra raised several questions about how we should cope with similar events in the future:

  • Should early interventions focus on treatment or support or both?
  • Should we focus on relationships or therapuetic techniques?
  • The problem of problematising the concept of trauma – post-traumatic growth emphasis, should we normalise the reaction to trauma vs viewing it as pathology  (victims & services).
  • Are we offering enough training to front line organizations or the voluntary sector to help them respond to such incidents?
  • Are psychologists engaging sufficiently with policy makers in term of preparing? (emergency services)
  • The Psychology of preparedness.
  • Psycho-education.
  • Training of personnel who may be involved post disaster.
  • Preparing & responding to emergency situations.
  • Post traumatic growth – positive changes on an individual, organisational and societal level

Harika Basharan

Harika Basharan is a highly skilled senior Psychotherapist, Counsellor, EMDR Trauma Therapist, Yoga teacher and Yoga Therapist, experienced in working with individuals, groups and teams. She has a particular interest in body/mind medicine and brings a holistic approach to her work. Harika was involved in an innovative project both researching and promoting counsellors into primary care, training and developing multidisciplinary teams towards successful collaborative care. She now works as an independent practitioner and is used to facilitating people through personal and organisational change.

She too was involved in counselling Grenfell survivors. She described the range of responses from the community - in some cases withdrawing into itself, in other cases angry. She covered the approaches by therapists, adapting their professional personal and non-verbal communication, restoring a sense of safety, taking people through a long journey, helping people cope with the eventual withdrawal of services, and secondary trauma


Dr Noreen Tehrani

Dr Tehrani is a chartered psychologist with HCPC registration in the areas of Counselling, Health and Occupational Psychology. After a varied career in retail, medical research and as an organisational counselling psychologist, Noreen set up her own consultancy in 1997. It provides trauma services and training for organisations, practitioners and individuals, as well as trauma support and psychological screening.

Dr Tehrani's presentation was not specifically about Grenfell but about the psychology of trauma in general. She covered symptoms, PTSD, neural underpinnings, models of trauma support, psychologocal first aid, debriefing interventions, secondary trauma and compassion fatigue.


Feedback on the Event

On the whole, feedback scores were good for presentation, content and usefulness. Most attendees were pleased with the overall event. Some though, felt the content was too focused on Grenfell and trauma in the face of disaster and not enough on the psychology underlying trauma in general (as implied by the title). The branch should consider addressing this topic at another meeting. However the BPS and DCP do provide a number of CPD events in this area on an ongoing basis


This was a joint Event with the BPS Crisis, Disaster & Trauma Section. Many thanks to the speakers.

Dr James Barr, Chair, BPS LHC


Here are the slides and the questionnaire.

Sandra Mtandabari's Presentation

Harika Basharan's Presentation

Dr Noreen Tehrani's Presentation

Reflections on the EFPA Crisis Disaster and Trauma Meeting. London 11-12 May 2018

Guideline for the treatment and planning of services for complex post-traumatic stress disorder in adults


Wed, 19/09/2018 - 21:29

Dr David Hardman, Senior Research Analyst at the Rail Safety and Standards Board.

Many thanks to the attentive and engaged audience who passed up the opportunity to watch the Belgium vs. France World Cup semi-final in order to hear my presentation to the branch on 10th July (note: I am also a committee member for this branch). As no-one was allocated to write a blog for this event, our Chair (James Barr) asked if I would give a short summary here.

There have been numerous popular books about decision making over the last decade or so, perhaps spurred by the rising interest in ‘behavioural economics’ in the wake of the economic crash in 2008 (behavioural economics is essentially the application of psychological ideas within the realm of economics). The most notable of these is ‘Thinking: Fast and Slow’ by the Nobel laureate, Daniel Kahneman. The story of his academic partnership and friendship with the late Amos Tversky has been memorably told in Michael Lewis’s book ‘The Undoing Project’. My own textbook, ‘Judgment and Decision Making: Psychological Perspectives’, appeared in 2009 and would have been in preparation at the publisher just as the world economy was going into meltdown.

There are a number of strong general conclusions to be drawn from the JDM literature, of which I’ll mention three. Firstly, many studies have shown that people struggle to combine and compare multiple items of information when making judgments (despite any subjective feelings that they are doing so). Instead, they often fall back on simplifying heuristics. Kahneman has shown how people unconsciously replace difficult questions with easy ones, such as when they replace a question about probability with one about typicality.

A second conclusion is that people do not have stable preferences that are revealed by the choices they make, but rather they construct their preferences at the moment of choice. Because of this, people’s preferences can be influenced by the context of the choice. For example, in several studies Chris Hsee showed that two choice options were valued differently, depending on whether participants saw the two options together or just one of the options. In one such study, people who were able to compare two tubs of ice cream placed a higher value on a larger quantity scoop that didn’t reach the brim of a tall cup, as compared to a smaller quantity scoop that was overfilling the brim of a tiny cup. However, these valuations were reversed in two groups of people who only viewed one of the cups.

Thirdly, when making choices, people don’t choose between ‘things’; they choose between descriptions of things. In the well-known ‘Disease Problem’, participants are asked to choose between one of two medical programmes in response to a disease that is expected to take 600 lives. When the options are described in terms of the number of lives expected to be ‘saved’ people tend to opt for an option that will save 200 lives for sure, as opposed to a ‘risky’ option that has a one-third chance of saving everybody and a two-thirds chance of saving nobody; but when the options are described in terms of the number of people who are likely to die, participants more often choose the risky option.

The ‘framing effect’ observed in the disease problem was predicted and explained by Prospect Theory (Kahneman and Tversky, 1979). This theory says that people represent potential outcomes as gains or losses from a subjective reference point. People are especially sensitive to changes near the reference point and are more sensitive to perceived losses than to gains of an equivalent amount. Consequently, people tend to be risk averse when considering potential gains and risk-seeking when they consider potential losses.

In my talk I discussed some recent developments in the JDM field, including some earlier results that have come under question. The first of these concerned the ‘hot hand fallacy’. In American basketball there is a longstanding belief that players who have successfully placed the ball in the basket on successive attempts are more likely to be successful on their next attempt (as compared to players who have had a series of misses). These players are said to have the ‘hot hand’. In a much-cited 1985 paper, Gilovich, Vallone and Tversky analysed the performance nine top players over the course of a year and found that a sequence of hits was not more likely to be followed by another hit than was a sequence of misses. They labelled belief in the hot hand as a fallacy. However, a reanalysis by Miller and Sanjurjo, currently in press at Econometrica, shows that Gilovich and colleagues themselves made a conceptual error in their original analysis, and that the players they studied really did demonstrate a hot hand effect. The explanation for this is beyond the scope of this blog, except to say that the error in the original analysis lies in the fact that the authors identified target attempts on the basis of having already identified that they were preceded by a sequence of hits or misses. A relatively accessible account of their analysis can be found at The Conversation.

Another textbook bias that has come under scrutiny is that of unrealistic optimism, the phenomenon whereby people perceive that they are less likely to experience negative events than the average person (and more likely to experience positive events, although in fact the empirical evidence is weaker for positive events). Adam Harris at UCL, and his colleagues, has argued that the appearance of unrealistic optimism in laboratory studies is an artifact arising from the rarity of the events that are assessed and the restricted nature of the scale that participants are asked to use for their responses. Through a thought experiment he has shown that even fully rational participants can give the appearance of unrealistic optimism. In experiments that control for some of the shortcomings of earlier research, he has found no evidence for unrealistic optimism.

My talk also examined a couple of studies questioning how far Prospect Theory can go in explaining everyday behaviour. The original prospect theory paper referred to the ‘last race of the day effect’, identified in a 1956 paper, whereby race track bettors increasingly bet on longshots on the last race of the day. Kahneman and Tversky explained this in terms of loss aversion, whereby bettors who had lost money during the course of the day (the majority!) switched to longshots on the final race in an attempt to recoup their losses. However, some more recent research has failed to find the last-race-of-the-day effect, suggesting that either the original research suffered from sampling error or that savvy bettors have got wise to the effect and changed their behaviour. In a 2016 paper, Craig McKenzie ran three experiments designed as simulations of the race track, in which participants - not experienced bettors -  placed bets on each of several rounds, always knowing when the last round was about to happen. McKenzie did find an increased tendency to bet on longshots in the final round, but - contrary to Prospect Theory - this effect was true for bettors who had previously made gains as well as the ones who had made losses. He concluded that most people just like to “go out with a bang”.

In a 1997 paper, Colin Camerer also called upon loss aversion as an explanation for the behaviour of New York cab drivers, who did not appear to structure their working hours so as to maximise their earnings. Through an analysis of their trip sheets, Camerer found that they tended to quit early on busy days and to work longer on days when there were fewer customers. He argued that the drivers set themselves a daily earnings target (their reference point, in Prospect Theory terminology), and quit once this target was met.

However, critics have suggested that this study failed to control for certain confounds. For instance, New York cab drivers often hold down more than one job. It could be that events such as public holidays and major sports events could influence demand in their other job, as well as the demand for cabs. Likewise, some drivers may prefer to attend a sporting event rather than drive their cab when it is on. Tess Stafford, in a 2015 paper, analysed a group of workers less susceptible to such confounds - the commercial spiny lobster fishermen of Florida. These workers require a license to work, typically own their own boat, and have to submit a trip sheet to the local conservation body. Moreover, variations in the availability of lobster are fairly predictable. The supply is higher earlier in the season and during the period of the new moon. Stafford found that these workers did not demonstrate the reference-dependence observed in the NYC cabbies; rather they did structure their work in such a way as to maximise their earnings.

The original research that was included in the 1979 Prospect Theory paper was of the pencil-and-paper type, where participants had to choose between different hypothetical options. Whilst this identified the behaviour described earlier - risk aversion for gains and risk-seeking for losses - it also found the reverse of this when very small probabilities were involved. Small probabilities were said to have a large impact on behaviour, as with people’s purchase of lottery tickets and insurance. Over the last 16 years, a series of studies have looked at what happens when people experience decision outcomes rather than simply considering them as hypothetical scenarios (Decisions from Experience vs. Decisions from Description).

In decisions from experience participants typically make a sequence of choices between one of two doors that appear on a computer screen. After each choice they learn what the outcome is. The outcomes for each door represent a distribution of outcomes that can be summarised as probabilities. In some studies, people receive a payoff with each choice. In other studies, people sample from each door without a payoff, but once they feel they have sampled enough then they make a choice that does deliver a real payoff. These studies show an opposite pattern to decisions from description in that people are less rather than more sensitive to small probabilities. The findings are not necessarily in contradiction to Prospect Theory, though, because it may be that some participants never actually sample the low probability outcome. There is some evidence that Prospect Theory does actually account for decisions, when the analysis is based on the outcomes that people experienced.

One area of JDM that has aroused some controversy is that relating to the role of unconscious processes, and especially work on unconscious priming. Chapter 4 in Kahneman’s book ‘Thinking: Fast and Slow’ discusses these studies. Yet a prominent failure to replicate one of the best-known priming studies (in which people walk more slowly after being exposed to stereotypes of older age) has led much of this work to be criticised. This blog article reports analyses that suggest most of the studies discussed in Kahneman’s fourth chapter are statistically under-powered. The problem with social priming studies relates to the ongoing replication crisis (so-called) within psychology. Chris Chambers has published a terrific book, ‘The Seven Deadly Sins of Psychology’, in which he forensically analyses the problems in much methodological practice that have given rise to many false findings being published. Chambers also proposes a number of remedies that researchers should apply (or be made to apply) in order to clean up their act.

Unconscious processes are also addressed in a provocative recent book, ‘The Mind is Flat’ by Nick Chater. Chater argues that, contrary to decades of psychoanalytic theory, the mind has no ‘hidden depths’ because it has no depths. That is not to say that there are no unconscious processes. Clearly there are, but these processes are not concealed versions of potentially conscious thoughts. Rather, our conscious thoughts arise out of these unconscious processes. For Chater, the brain is a sense-making machine, piecing together myriad sensory impressions and memory fragments to make sense of the world in the moment. Specifically, the brain has evolved to provide us with a stable picture of the world, but not to provide us with an account of its own workings in doing so.

Many of Chater’s examples come from visual perception, such as the fact that the erratic saccades of our eyes are completely missing from our seamless perceptions. Similarly, most of our visual receptors are specialised for black and white vision, yet we perceive the world in colour. This is simply the result of our brain’s sense-making activities. Some of the implications for JDM are discussed in Chater’s Chapter 6. For instance, in one extraordinary series of studies, Petter Johansson and his colleagues asked participants to choose the most attractive face from a pair, each of which was presented on cards. After making their choice, the experimenter used sleight-of-hand to present them with their non-preferred face whilst telling them this was the face they had chosen. Under questioning, most participants then had no difficulty in providing an explanation as to why they had chosen a face that they had not in fact chosen.

Chater’s view of the brain/mind is consistent with the preference construction notion, described earlier, according to which (contrary to classical economics) people construct their preferences at the moment of choice according to the context of that choice. Chater also presents evidence from work on attention, showing that people are, to all intents and purposes, only able to focus on one thing at a time. This fits with decades of JDM research showing that people struggle to integrate multiple items of information when making judgments and decisions, typically falling back on heuristics.

This, then, was where my talk finished. Questions from the audience at this point asked about a variety of things I hadn’t covered in my talk, including personality and individual differences, and workplace applications of JDM research. JDM is a wide-ranging area, and I suspect the audience for the talk also came from a variety of backgrounds (a show of hands revealed there were very few who were actually working in academia). Nonetheless, some of these topics are covered in my own textbook!

Dr David Hardman is author of the book:


Tue, 24/07/2018 - 21:31

The conference was held at Nottingham University this year. There are some pictures on Twitter (@bpsconference).

Several awards were given during the conference. The award for Innovation in Psychology Programmes was won by LHC’s vice-chair, Professor Carolyn Mair, for developing the MSc Applied Psychology of Fashion course at the London College of Fashion. Carolyn also won the 2017 award for Distinguished Contributions to Psychology Education this year and will be presented with it at next year’s conference.

Carolyn gave a keynote presentation in the Student Conference in which she described her career. It is an inspirational story, particularly for those who have not followed the linear academic escalator of A-levels, university and job, or those who have completed university and are now trying to find their way forward. Being a bit of a rebel in her youth Carolyn left school and worked in a range of jobs, including graphic designer, portrait artist and teacher of English as a foreign language, before travelling to Australia with her partner and a young child. Returning to England, she studied psychology as a (relatively) mature student, gained a Masters in research methods, became a lecturer and eventually a professor of psychology. She recently moved on from her academic position to become a successful consultant (, author (‘The Psychology of Fashion’), blogger and commentator on the intersection of psychology and fashion (e.g. in Vogue, New York Times, Radio 4, Loose Women etc). As a branch we wish her well as she leaves the committee LHC, although she still remains very active within the BPS.

The Student Conference was introduced by LHC branch member Natasha White (also one of the organisers of the Middlesex University Psychology Career Conference), Madeleine Pownall (Chair of the Student Section) and Lloyd Emeka (an advertising executive based in London).

The second keynote speaker in the student stream was Dan O’Hare who gave an excellent description of the work involved in educational and child psychology. Based on a case study, he demonstrated his interventions at the individual, parental, teacher and school policy levels. I missed the third student stream speaker, Julie Hulme of Keele University who spoke about teaching in higher education, and the fourth, Professor Roger Bretherton of Lincoln University, who spoke about careers and character strengths. The final keynote speaker was Dee Anand, chair of the Forensic Psychology division. He gave a thought-provoking presentation about how forensic psychology should help move the press and the public away from out-dated and prejudiced ways of thinking about offenders (in terms of intrinsic characteristics and harsh punishment) and help create a culture of prevention and rehabilitation based on the assumption that people can change.

A number of other awards were given during the conference: Marcus Munafo of Bristol University (Presidents Award for Contributions to Psychological Knowledge), Dr Emmanuelle Peters of Kings College London and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation (Distinguished Contributions to Psychology in Practice) and Professor Peter Hegarty (Promoting Equality of Opportunity). The Lifetime Achievement Award went to Dr Trevor Powell who has worked in the Thames Valley as a clinical psychologist for many years.

I attended a session giving recognition to three early career researchers: Dr Anne-Lise Goddings for her outstanding doctoral research contributions to psychology. She gave a presentation describing her work on the neuropsychology of puberty. Puberty is a difficult thing to measure which means that some departures from gradual age-related in the development of brain volume and fMRI activity may be artefacts. Which removes the adolescent’s excuse for their wayward behaviour that it is caused by unusual changes in their brain.

There were two joint winners of the Spearman Award for early career stage researchers: Dr Claire Haworth of Bristol University who described work on the dynamics of genetics, demonstrating that the genetic effects of many characteristics and behaviours actually intensify with age. Dr Rachel Jack of Glasgow University, using computer generated images of human faces (computational social psychophysics) blew out of the water Eklund’s theory that there is a limited repertoire of universal human expressions (and therefore emotions). Professor Daryl O’Connor (University of Leeds and Chair of the BPS Research Board) who introduced the session, remarked that the three presentations comprised the most impressive set of consecutive talks he had seen at any BPS conference.

The first keynote of the conference was by Professor Brian Nosak of the University of Virginia. He described the incredible amount of work he and the Center for Open Science have been doing to address the research crises that have hit psychology over the years. There is still a long way to go but great gains have been made in pre-registering research, open accessibility to data, open publications, improvements to peer review, use of more representative statistics etc. What came as a surprise to me is that psychology is in the vanguard of this movement and Professor Novak regularly gives presentations to scientists in other fields such as Chemistry, encouraging them to follow suit.

The presentation was followed by a session on Innovations in Open Science which I unfortunately had to miss. Later that evening there was an entertaining fringe event hosted by Daryl, in which a panel discussed and debated open science, qualitative methods and the role of publishers. It featured Brian Nosek, Professor Brian Hughes of the National University of Ireland, Dr Peter Branney of Bradford University and the BPS Qualitative Methods section, Dr Lisa Morrison Coulthard, BPS Lead Policy Advisor and Rebecca Harkin, a representative of Wiley, the publishers.

Other keynotes included Professor Cathy Creswell of Reading University who described her research and development of cost-effective interventions to help children with anxiety by enrolling and supporting their parents.

In Professor Steven Reicher’s keynote, he gave a comprehensive re-evaluation of the Milgram studies. Through examining the original experimental notes, and considering all the studies (rather than just the well-known baseline study), different interpretations emerge than those traditionally recounted in secondary sources. More people than are usually described, refused to administer harmful electric shocks. Giving lethal punishments was much less common than is normally recounted. Professor Reicher accepts that while so-called normal people undoubtedly do have the capacity for cruelty, even in the original studies there was much more of a willingness to stand up to authority than Milgram concluded. Evil is not as banal as he would lead us to believe.

The final keynote, and presentation of the conference was by Professor John Antonakis of Lausanne University, who reviewed his findings on charismatic leadership. Having concluded that evidence based on questionnaires is flawed, he set up an experiment, in conjunction with a charity, in which groups of people were asked to carry out a genuine task: filling and sending envelopes asking for donations. Participants were shown a video by an actor claiming to be their manager, giving instructions and encouragement about carrying out the work. One group was also placed on a piece-rate bonus system, intended to boost productivity, the other was not. A third group was shown a motivational, charismatic, version of the introduction video by the same actor (with enhanced intonation, body language, rhetorical techniques and the use of imagery etc). Professor Antonakis found the group offered the bonus outperformed the baseline group given the standard introduction. However, the third group produced a similar level of performance boost to those offered the financial bonus, as a result of the charismatic management style. This was a concrete, tangible demonstration of the effect of charisma in a real task as opposed to a questionnaire study.

The main reason I attended the conference was to participate in the Branch Forum, the annual meeting of branch chairs. This was also attended by the BPS’s new CEO, Sarb Bajwa, Annjanette Wells, Member Services Manager and Helen Barnett, Manager of Member Network Services (the team who, tirelessly, behind the scenes, set up events, book venues, send emails and feedback forms for events for our branch and other networks, and deal with members’ emails and phone calls). Iain MacLeod, the branch representative on the new Structural Review group gave an update on their first meeting, held a couple of days earlier. Each of the chairs had submitted a review of their activity over the year to date. One part of the meeting discussed how the branches and Member Network Services can work more closely together to share best practice in order to improve the quality of events and communication with members.

There was also a branch strand to the conference, under a theme of case studies contributing to community and society introduced by Dr Beth Bell of York St John’s University and chair of the branch forum. It featured presentations by Ho Law of the East of England branch; Lorna Hamilton also of York St John’s University who described a thriving community of practice for people working in autism in the York area. Fiona Butcher of the Wessex branch described the military psychology conference which they have run each year since 2010. It has grown over the years in size and international reach, to the extent that it will be taken over by the newly formed BPS Military Psychology section. Barbara McConnell of the Northern Ireland branch described the work she has done with schools on A level Psychology.

The 2019 conference will be held in Harrogate. If anyone in LHC wants to submit a paper for the Branch Symposium strand, please get in touch with me on the email address below.

Dr James Barr, CPsychol. Chair BPS London & Home Counties Branch
[email protected]

Wed, 30/05/2018 - 00:09


The London & Home Counties branch sponsored the Poster Award at the 2018 Psychology of Creativity Conference held in Canterbury earlier this month. We're very pleased to announce that the winner was Anna Kauer. The picture shows her accepting the award from Dr Ian Hocking, one of the conference organisers.

Kauer, A., Sowden, P.T., Cohen Kadosh, K., & Winstone, N.E. (2018). Taking everything in: a new approach to leaky attention and creative achievement. UK Researchers’ 2018 Psychology of Creativity Conference, Canterbury, UK 22 May 2018.
Research into creative achievement has looked at the role of diffuse early attention; i.e. leaky sensory gating that allows seemingly irrelevant information to be noticed. This is believed to enhance creativity by keeping the mind open to a wider range of possibilities, enabling the generation of more original ideas. However, creative individuals also need strong executive function to manage this greater flow of information. Although a variety of tasks have been used to measure this in adults, including Latent Inhibition (LI) tasks, these measures do not adapt well to other populations and therefore new behavioural measures are needed. As a first step towards this goal, we are benchmarking adult performance on Perceptual Load (PL) tasks against LI, in order to establish their concurrent validity as a measure of filtering related to creativity. Similar to LI tasks, which assess whether an individual remains aware of irrelevant stimuli, PL performance depends on the ability to screen out distractors. In addition, PL tasks are more reliable, have been used with a wide variety of populations and are part of a more established experimental framework. A sample of 120 university students (of which 70 have already been collected) will complete the following measures: 1) creative achievement; 2) creative potential (divergent thinking); 3) an LI task; 4) a low, medium and high PL task. Analysis will test 1) whether PL performance predicts LI, and 2) if LI and PL performance predict creative achievement. Covariates controlled for in the analysis include sleep, IQ, processing speed and Openness. This will provide evidence as to whether PL tasks can be used as a measure of leaky attention related to creativity. If so, they would enable the development of a new measure which could be used with other populations, including children.

(Article posted by Professor Carolyn Mair, member of the organising committee of the 2018 Psychology of Creativity Conference and past-chair of the LHC branch.)

Fri, 25/05/2018 - 12:24

It is usually a bit of a coffee-fuelled challenge to get yourself off to an evening lecture about evidence-based practice after just finishing a whole day of lecturing. Well, that and being an evidence-based management denialist, still relatively fresh from the trauma of having submitted a PhD in the last few years which was a ‘no holds barred’ comment on the futility of ‘evidence-based’ performance targets in the healthcare sector.

So, what a joy it was to be sucked into Rob Briner’s rather irreverent world of debunking our cognitive biases with the help of a banana guard no less - Rob says we are drawn to fad products with limited long-term utility in much the same way that new-fangled HR practices with little evidence behind them appeal to us. 

Along with gaining personal existential insights about misguided kitchen appliance purchases, I reflected about making sure that inadvertently I do not peddle ‘millennial’ post truth ‘facts’ about stability of tenure and job satisfaction to my management students. Interestingly, I learned that despite deep-seated beliefs to the contrary, in the past ten years, average job tenure appears to have increased slightly and job satisfaction in the UK has roughly stayed the same.

Rob delivered his presentation not only with comical flair, but with a powerful lasting message – that management and HR practices typically lack any sort of evidence-base and that we need to do something about this. Indeed, unlike many an academic speaker, Rob also proposed some operationalisable solutions. For instance, Rob provided the audience with systematic ways of approaching evidence (e.g. the 6A model) and also keen ways to be able to spot the latest managerese soaked craze from a mile off.  In this vein, I must remember to stop referring to measures as ‘metrics’, but I am a former NHS manager turned academic after all. 

In my former field, very much stemming from the language and culture of evidence-based medicine and randomised clinical trials, evidence-based practice abounds. Though, I am not the only one of the view that this can be a limited reductionist lens with which to view the human condition. Therefore, I was delighted to see that within Rob’s model, experiential skills and knowledge are very much seen as forming a part of a legitimate evidence-base for addressing important business problems, and in a way which is more likely to make a positive and sustained difference to working lives. And with that persuasive message, I came away doubting whether I had needed a coffee far more than the importance of embedding evidence-based HR.

Maria Kordowicz

Thu, 03/05/2018 - 14:51



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