Mar 25

Southwest Undergraduate Psychology Conference 2012

It was a glorious sunny day in Plymouth for the 2012 South West Undergraduate Psychology Conference.  The day took place in the Portland Square Building split between the three lecture theatres and the large open plan atrium called the Peninsula Arts Cube3 Gallery.  The conference is an opportunity for the regional universities, students and their lecturers to share experiences, research, discuss ideas, feedback and network with each other and particularly with practising psychologists.

Registration (programme_2012 and abstracts_2012) was in the Cube3 Gallery where the attendees could view Peter Fitzpatrick’s exhibit ‘Latitude 79 Degrees 5 Minutes South 11 Miles’ , and visit me on the BPS stand to find out about the Society.  All five universities from the region were represented, with people travelling up to 3 hours by train, coach, car and foot.  With the hundred or so delegates signed in, and with programmes in hand, the three streams of lectures commenced.

Forty-Two undergraduates delivered talks on topics ranging from the effect of biodiversity in exhibits effecting viewing time, to self perception of appearance in weight trainers.  The format was a standard academic style with the presenters briefed to talk for ten minuets and then the audience were given 5 minuets to ask questions.  The full range of presentation styles was demonstrated including slick delivery of the ‘by the book’ academic talk, through interactive group presentations, to a more free-form approach.  All included professional audio visuals, representing the thousands of hours of work undertaken by the presenters for their final year projects.

In addition to the talks, twenty-nine posters were on display throughout the day, with their authors ready, willing and able to answer questions from the other delegate over the lunch hour.  As with the presentations, the posters showed the spread of potential approaches with institutional templates following standard academic formats to individualistic representations with drawings and photographs from study participants.

The day was drawn to an end with the Keynote lecture, introduced by conference organiser Dr Bill Simpson, Prof Chris Mitchell gave a stimulating and amusing lecture entitles ‘Why Cognitive Psychology?’  I personally particularly enjoyed his dance representing the movement of E.coli from low to high glucose states.

The last formal aspect of the day was the presentation of the prizes.  Sponsored by the British Psychological Society South West Branch, Dr Simpson announced prizes of book tokens for winners and runners-up in categories of Best Presentation and Best Poster. The winners were;

–        Best Presentation; Katherine Wood (University of Bath, Theory of Mind and Anxiety: Their relationship in children and adolescents with autism)

–        Second Prize went to Thomas Davis (University of Bristol, Aggregation of Protean Prey Escape: Countershading confuses a predator’s visual tracking during attack)

–        Best Poster; James Nagata (University of Bristol, Strategies to overcome the neural and attentional demands of multiple object tracking)

–        Second Prize went to Jodie Nicholls (University of Plymouth, Dectection of abnormalities in synthetic mammogram backgrounds)

The day was rounded off with a final opportunity to congratulate all the attendees and do more networking.  This time with a glass of wine and the happy laid back feeling that comes with the final release of pressure felt after completing a good day’s work.  The day was a great demonstration of the vibrancy in psychology and the talent of the up and coming practitioners.  As a member of that community I hope that all the presenters got as much from the day as I did.

Oct 25

New Perspectives – Is the Leaning Tower of Pisa always inclined?

Recently I posted about an area of research I am interested in and mentioned that we were going to Pisa to present the results at the European Health Psychology Society Annual Conference.

I jokingly asked if Psychology could help the leaning tower and we concluded that the research I was offering up for scrutiny probably wouldn’t.

However the “Inclined Tower“, as a Swiss friend calls it, offers up an obvious, and visual, comparison with some of the benefits from attending conferences.

Its actually quite unusual to learn astounding new facts at academic conferences. Most of the formats involved are just too short and the programme too crowded to allow for a long and detailed examination of new research (that’s what Journal papers are really for). In Pisa there were nearly 1,300 separate pieces of research being presented, either in 15 min oral presentations, posters, symposia, or round table discussions. And all this over 4 days [programme in pdf format].

While you may not spend a lot of of time learning new material, you are forced to look at things from new angles and applying your thoughts and feelings in new ways.  In other words from a ‘New Perspective’!

You’re exposed to the work of people with very different, though equally valid, research philosophies.You can see how they tackled similar questions but from different perspectives (sometimes wildly different).

Studies in psychology provide and require multiple perspectives to be applied in order to understanding people as individuals and as individuals in a community. Research findings and implications about the mind and mental processes as well as studies of the development and behaviour, maintenance and change of socially significant behaviour are all of importance in understand and explaining (at least in part) the world we live in and how we situate ourselves within it.

p.s. John here, I sat in on some of the presentations and there were a couple of very interesting points. Traditionally the shift change in hospitals has been seen as a vulnerability and has resulted in a culture of long shifts. Some research indicated that safety might actually be improved with more shift changes, since they were more often catching problems than causing them. It was the act of explaining what was going on to someone new, a fresh pair of eyes, that caught these oversights. Equally, they sometimes gave people the impetus to make a decision. For a start up company that’s charging along eyes on the prize, taking time out occasionally to explain that bigger picture to an impartial observer, is a huge benefit.

It was also notable the lack of technology awareness in health care messages and communications. Not just the use of social media but viral gaming, mobile data capture & evaluation, and general webbiness. As I tweeted from the conference (I was in the minority having a mobile data device with me), online avatars working from fixed scripts do not make for very convincing ‘companions’. There is a lot this community could learn from places like the Pervasive Media Studio here in Bristol and the ecosystem around them.

For a technical civil engineering description of the tower and various attempts to ‘straighten’ it check out this page. 🙂