The Psychology Research Unit is one of eight Research Units of Assessment within the Faculty of Social and Health Sciences and Education. The research activities of the group as detailed in this submission are based entirely within the Psychology section of the School of Psychology and Communication, one of five schools within the Faculty (changes in both Faculty location and School structure are discussed under research strategy).
The University of Ulster has a Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research), and a Research Office, which has established the selective research strategy within which Psychology operates. The Research Office provides support in the submission and administration of research grants and general administrative support. Research Co-ordinators in each unit report biannually to the Pro-Vice-Chancellor on progress in three main areas: publications, grants and postgraduate students. The Unit Research Co-ordinator (Stringer) disseminates funding opportunities to research active staff and holds regular meetings with the research groups and individual staff to discuss progress and research strategy. Regular meetings are held to ensure that staff workloads reflect teaching, administrative and research priorities. The Co-ordinator administers postgraduate applications through the allocation of supervisors, monitoring of postgraduate progress and support for research visits. He is responsible for administering and allocating the annual research budget to support attendance at national and international conferences, to fund teaching relief, and to purchase research equipment. The Co-ordinator also ensures that staff are aware of the Unit’s and University’s research policies, research opportunities and support.
The Faculty Research Graduate School was established in 1998 to provide general administrative support for postgraduates in the Faculty. The Co-ordinator works closely with the Head of the Research Graduate School to encourage postgraduate applications, exploit funding opportunities and to assess and support postgraduate development. The Graduate School supports postgraduates through ensuring adequate accommodation and equipment, holding conferences and arranging training in research methods. It also monitors the progress of research students, through presentations and discussions, at three points in their course: during the first year of study, to assess eligibility to transfer from MPhil to DPhil, and in the year prior to submission. At the Group level, this is supported by a series of research presentations by staff and students. Postgraduates are actively encouraged to publish their work as their theses develop and are guided to choose topics within our main thematic areas. Evidence of outputs from Psychology postgraduates is presented later. The research infrastructure for financial support, library and information technology, access to external funding, contact with researchers, and conferences and presentations, is well established and explicitly integrates contributions from postgraduate students.
The University has well-developed arrangements for the development and support of research-active staff. Since 1996, it has demonstrated its commitment to the selective development of research within Psychology by appointing six new staff with excellent publication records. In recognition of our improving research profile, the University has funded two research officer posts from competitive selective funding (one for three years, the other for one year) to support research in Psychology. Psychology has been moved to High Priority status (in terms of the University’s strategic research policy) in recognition of its improved research performance, and research has been rewarded through promotion (Stringer to Chair, Reinhardt-Rutland to Reader and Bunting to Senior Lecturer). Induction courses are provided for new staff involved in research by the Research Office and the Staff Development Unit.
In 2001, eighteen staff are included in our RAE submission. These comprise eleven members of staff from the 1996 submission, and six new members of staff. In addition, Rae (formerly Dean of Education) has moved into Psychology and heads up one of our research groups. The six new entrants, recruited since the last RAE, are: Adamson, Kim, Leader, O’Hare, Rushe and Shevlin.
Rationale for the Research Groupings:
In the 1996 RAE, research in Psychology was organised into five broad areas: Applied Social Psychology, Behavioural Analysis & Behavioural Biology, Individual Development & Personality, Cognitive Science and Health Psychology. To provide greater integration and focus and to help target resources more effectively, two larger research groupings were created in 1998 to reflect the research strengths of staff. These groups, the Social Behaviour (SB) Group on the Coleraine and Magee campuses, and the Behavioural Analysis and Behavioural Biology (BABB) Group on the Jordanstown campus, have been formally recognised by the University and accorded Recognised Research Group (RRG) status. The two Group leaders are responsible for research leadership (Rae: SB; Leslie: BABB), and, together with the Research Co-ordinator (Stringer), provide administrative support. Group members share research supervision (an area of strength, see below) and collaborate in project management, publication, grant applications and conference organisation.
Behavioural Analysis and Behavioural Biology Group (Keenan, Kim, Leader, Leslie, O’Hare, Reinhardt-Rutland, Rushe). Four recent appointments have been made to the Psychology staff at Jordanstown. This has added to the strength of the BABB Group, which now has seven members. The activities are described below in terms of two subgroups with overlapping memberships. All group members benefit from involvement in collaborative activities, but two members also conduct some research beyond the group agenda, i.e., Reinhardt-Rutland’s work on visual perception and some of Rushe’s work on neuropsychology.
The first strategic aim for the Group was to enhance the quality and rate of research and publication. This has been substantially achieved, and members of the Group have produced a large number of quality publications since 1996. High impact journals in which papers have appeared include Brain Research, Journal of Neuroscience, American Journal of Physiology (Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology) Psychopharmacology, Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, Behavioral Neuroscience, Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology (Part B), British Journal of Psychology, Psychological Record, Perception, Psychologische Forschung, Schizophrenia Research, and Psychological Medicine. In all, there have been 111 publications of books, chapters or papers in peer reviewed academic journals in the period, with 61 further minor publications. The Group maintains a very strong tradition of successful research student supervision in behaviour analysis, behavioural neuroscience and applied areas. In consequence, research students are named authors on 19 publications (including 15 journal articles and 3 book chapters) and 20 minor publications (published conference abstracts). A second strategic aim was to develop effective and productive links with research groups elsewhere. This has also been achieved and there are links, described below, at various stages of development. These links and others are central to the programme of application for external funding, which is our third aim, and which came to the fore in the period 1999-2000. Some of our recent and planned applications are referred to in the next sections.
The Behavioural Neuroscience Subgroup (O’Hare, Kim, Leader, Leslie, Reinhardt-Rutland, Rushe) has the ability to conduct a range of molecular, histological and other neurobiological procedures along with sophisticated behavioural techniques to investigate a set of linked themes. These are the putative role of Beta-amyloid deposits in Alzheimer’s and other degenerative diseases, the role of 5-HT and other neurotransmitters in anxiety, and neurochemical pathways in feeding systems. There are links among these themes, and a number of the research projects relate to at least two of them. In addition to addressing particular issues in behavioural neuroscience, we continue to conduct studies that develop innovative procedures in behavioural analysis. This is both because of their importance in identifying behavioural mechanisms, and because we plan to use these procedures, once behaviourally validated, in subsequent behavioural neuroscience studies to address thematic issues. A major development is the current use of transgenic CNS modifications, related to neurotransmitter systems and neurodegenerative processes. Some of this work is in collaboration with the Neuroscience research division of Merck Sharp and Dohme, where our recently-appointed visiting professor, G. Dawson is a senior research manager.
Current studies include: Behavioural and histological correlates of Beta-amyloid deposition in a transgenic amyloid -precursor protein over expressing model of Alzheimer’s disease (with P. Chapman, University of Cardiff, and colleagues from Biomedical Sciences in this university); development of a novel operant task sensitive to anxiolytics (funded by Merck Research laboratories); C-fos immuno-reactivity, relating to effects of anti-anxiety treatments in specific nuclei of the brain; olfactory manipulations in the management of anxiety; behavioural models of stress-induced feeding; effects of serotonergic, cholinergic, and anxiolytic drugs on a behavioural model of short-term memory; behavioural correlates of inflammation induced in the brain, and a possible therapeutic role of antioxidants; learning and memory deficits associated with extracellular deposition of aggregated beta-amyloid in the hippocampus; and restoration of behavioural function following the immune system response to aggregated Beta-amyloid utilising immuno-suppressant, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant compounds. Funding is being sought from the Wellcome Foundation, the Alzheimer’s Association and the BBSRC to continue work on these projects. Current research on neuropsychology (Rushe et al.) includes: follow-up of children born very preterm and neuropsychological outcome in adolescence and early adulthood; functional neuroimaging of children born very preterm with evidence of brain damage; neuropsychological function after exposure to carbon monoxide; perceptual function in Alzheimer’s Disease; neuropsychological function and co-morbidity in schizophrenia; and cognitive rehabilitation for children with head injury. Current research on visual perception (Reinhardt-Rutland) includes perception of space under restricted visual conditions with potential applications to remote operations via TV monitors; and simultaneous motion contrast in relation to centrifugal and centripetal visual motion patterns.
Planned studies include: behavioural correlates of congenital hypothyroidism (with A. P. Georgopolous, University of Minnesota); neurological and behavioural properties of a novel peptide expressed in the CNS (with J. Currie, Queens University of Belfast); behavioural characteristics of the 5 HT1A knockout transgenic (with M. Toth, Cornell University); behavioural profile of the opioid mu receptor knockout transgenic (with A. Levine, University of Minnesota); opiodergic mechanisms in stress-induced and palatability maintained feeding behaviours; activity-induced anorexia as a model for investigating putative therapeutic interventions relevant to anorexia and bulimia nervosa; characterisation of feeding and anxiety abnormalities in the neuropeptide-Y knockout transgenic; and behavioural and physiological properties of the hippocampus (with S. O’Mara, Trinity College Dublin). O’Hare and Leslie will be seeking funding through the proposed DHSS (Department of Health & Social Services, Northern Ireland) Ageing RRG, along with colleagues from Biomedical Sciences, for a 5-year programme grant on neural and cellular changes and associated behavioural effects in Alzheimer’s disease. Planned research on neuropsychology includes: follow-up of children with early focal brain damage (with the Department of Neurosurgery and Paediatric Neurology, Royal Victoria Hospital Belfast); further studies of functional neuroimaging of children born very preterm with evidence of brain damage (with the Institute of Psychiatry and Prof. Christine Temple, University of Essex). Rushe as part of the DHSS Neuroscience Recognised Research Group has a proposal under external review for £800,000 for the cognitive effects of first episode schizophrenia.
The work of the Behavioural Neuroscience Subgroup was brought together in a research symposium (March 2001) sponsored by Merck Research Laboratories entitled: New approaches to psychiatric and neurological disorders, in which Rushe spoke on human cognition in schizophrenia and O’Hare spoke on models of schizophrenia, along with a number of distinguished external speakers.
The Behaviour Analysis Subgroup (Leslie, Keenan, Leader, Reinhardt-Rutland) has published five books in the field. These are Leslie, J. C. (1996) Principles of Behavioral Analysis. Amsterdam: Harwood Academic, 357pp.; Dillenberger, O’Reilly, M. F. & Keenan M. (Eds.) (1997). Advances in Behaviour Analysis. Dublin: University College Dublin Press, 236pp., Leslie, J.C. & O’Reilly, M. (1999). Behavior Analysis: Foundations and Applications to Psychology. Amsterdam: Harwood Academic, 350 pp.; Leslie, J.C. & Blackman, D. (Eds.) (2000). Experimental and Applied Analyses of Human Behavior. Reno, Nevada: Context Press, 322 pp.; and Keenan, M., Kerr, K. P, & Dillenburger (Eds.) (2000). Parents’ Education as Autism Therapists; Applied Behaviour Analysis in Context. London: Jessica Kingsley, 177pp.
Current research includes: experimental studies of human behaviour in stimulus equivalence, relational frame theory, and the use of operant behaviour in the investigation of sexual abuse, ADHD, anorexia, bulimia, OCD, other types of anxiety, and depression; applications of behavioural principles to egress from buildings; perceptions of safety in emergencies; conditional discrimination learning as model for the investigation of possible relational learning; operant schedule performances and their sensitivity to changes in reinforcement magnitude.
Planned research in the field of stimulus equivalence, with both adults and young children, includes: studies of reversal of baseline relations with adults and children using a respondent-type training procedure, generating errorless learning using a respondent-type training procedure; contextual control using a respondent-type training procedure (these studies will involve collaboration with, D. Barnes-Holmes, National University of Ireland, Maynooth, and P. Smeets, University of Leiden, Netherlands). The team has strong links with the use of behaviour analysis in autism therapy, and a new research collaboration is with O. Healy, Director of the first CABAS (Comprehensive Application of Behaviour Analysis in Schools) in Ireland. Planned research includes: further studies of minimally-invasive technology (funding being sought from EU Training Programme in Brain and Behaviour Research in collaboration with W. Ehrenstein, Dortmund); perception under conditions of age-related macular degeneration in collaboration with colleagues from the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast and Queen's University, Belfast; modelling eye-gaze with applications (funding being sought from Leverhulme Trust in connection with F. Murtagh, Queen’s University, Belfast.
Work of the Subgroup was well-represented at the Third European Meeting for the Experimental Analysis of Behaviour (Dublin, July 1997) where members contributed 17 papers and organised the conference.
Social Behaviour Research Group (Adamson, Bunting, Cairns, Cornish, Giles, Lewis, Liddell, McConville, Shevlin, Rae and Stringer). The group is based on the University’s Coleraine and Londonderry campuses and has strong links with INCORE (the United Nations University centre based within the University) and the Centre for the Study of Conflict. Work within the SB Group has focused primarily on two inter-related sub areas: intergroup conflict and resolution, and quantitative methods and modelling.
The first strategic aim for the Group was to enhance the quality and rate of research and publication. This has been achieved as evidenced by publications in Child Development, American Psychologist, Psychological Assessment, European Journal of Social Psychology, British Journal of Developmental Psychology, British Journal of Psychology, British Journal of Social Psychology, British Journal of Mathematical and Statistical Psychology, British Journal of Educational Psychology, British Journal of Medical Psychology, British Journal of Health Psychology and Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology. In all, there have been 151 publications of books, chapters or papers in peer reviewed academic journals in the period by Group members. The Group maintains a strong tradition of successful research student supervision. Research students are extensively involved in outputs and are named authors on 24 publications, comprising 22 journal articles and 2 book chapters, and have been involved in 54 conference papers.
A noteworthy feature of the work of the SB Group is the applied nature of virtually all its research topics and output. Good examples of this are studies and funded projects addressing key social issues such as the impact of the conflict (and now peace) on attitudes and behaviour in Northern Ireland (Cairns, Lewis, Stringer, Cornish and Giles) and those addressing improving educational attainment in South African children. Liddell and Rae are currently running five research/ educational attainment intervention projects in a rural part of Kabuli Natal. Valuable research links between South African and Ulster academics have been developed during the implementation phase of these projects, which have led to the development of joint research proposals and regular research meetings in South Africa.
The Intergroup Conflict Subgroup (Cairns, Cornish, Giles, Lewis, and Stringer) has established an international reputation for research on the Conflict in Northern Ireland. The group has developed international collaboration with conflict researchers in the United States, Israel, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Examples of this work include Cairns’ inclusion on the planning group for the Global Training Institute on Ethno political Warfare, a joint initiative of the American Psychological Association and the Canadian Psychological Association. Cairns played a key role in developing links between Northern Irish researchers and colleagues in the States culminating in a conference on Ethno-political Warfare at INCORE headquarters in Northern Ireland. The group are also represented on the Cross Cultural Research programme on Children and Peace a joint initiative with colleagues in the Universities of Gothenburg and Amsterdam which is funded by the Swedish Council for Research and involves colleagues from Australia, South Africa, Malaysia and Portugal.
Members of the Subgroup are completing work on a number of large-scale research programmes on reconciliation and memory (Cairns & Lewis); the impact of integrated education on secondary children’s political attitudes (Stringer and Giles) and the effects of the Peace Process on research (Cornish and Stringer). Cairns (with M. Hewstone, University of Wales, Cardiff) is also working on a Templeton Foundation funded project on reconciliation. An indication of international recognition for this work was Cairns’ inclusion as a keynote speaker at the 1999 Annual BPS Conference held in Belfast, and his invited presentations at Stanford University and the Solomon Asch Centre at the University of Pennsylvania. Applications to extend work in these areas are being submitted to the Rowntree Trust (effects of integrated education: Stringer and Giles) and the Templeton Foundation (reconciliation: Cairns).
The Measurement, Evaluation and Modelling Subgroup, (Adamson, Bunting, Lewis, Liddell, McConville, Shevlin and Rae) carry out applied quantitative research and also provide methodological support for both postgraduate and research programmes within Psychology. One of the first strategic aims of the grouping was to ensure that all members, including postgraduate students and research workers, had access to the best methods for measurement, design and analysis. Each year, members of this group have organized training courses in Multivariate statistics that have been attended by staff and postgraduate students from around fifty other Institutions. Training within psychology on quantitative methods has included workshops lasting from half-day to five-days sessions on: structural equation modelling (Karl Jöreskog, Uppsala), statistical power and fit indices (Willem Saris, Amsterdam), network analysis (Anuška Ferligoj, Ljubljana), longitudinal dynamic analysis (John McArdle, Virginia), growth curve modelling (Dan Morzeck, Fordham University), probit models (Germa Coenders, Girona), multitrait-multimethod models (Jaak Billiett, Leuven), true score theory (Joan Manuel Batista-Foguet, Barcelona/ESADE).
A large number of research articles and related projects have employed these procedures, including work on: planned missing data, statistical simulations, factorial models for the assessment of reliability and validity, latent growth curve models, measurement theory and structural equation modelling, MANOVA models with latent variables, regression models. A secondary objective of the group is to develop and extend our research base. This has been achieved in both mainstream psychology and in the area of health-related research as evidenced by developing research programmes and funding applications with the Human Nutrition Group (part of a 5* Biomedical Research Grouping within the University) on a project entitled: Obstacles to the development and uptake of reduced-fat foods. Other funded projects in the area of health include work relating to two different evaluations of alcohol treatment programmes; evaluation of leg ulceration treatments and statistical input on projects for the Diabetes Research Group in the University. Members of the SB group have submitted an outline bid for a Recognised Research Grouping in Mental Health and Psychosocial Research and Development to the DHSS (Northern Ireland). This has been accepted and we are now at the stage of preparing formal bids. Bunting, Cairns and Stringer are Principal Investigators on three proposals along with colleagues from Mental Health at Queens University, Belfast.
Ongoing research includes: planned incomplete data structures in the context of assessing reliability and validity (with W. Saris, Amsterdam); predictors of diabetes using a large hospital based database (with J. McElnay, Department of Pharmacy, QUB); diabetes and its social ecology (V. Coates, Nursing, UU and a group of medical doctors); statistical fit indices, personality and ageing (with Dr Dan Morzek, Fordham University); epidemiological study of mental health in Northern Ireland (in association with a group of colleagues at QUB); religion and personality (with Prof. Leslie Francis, University of Wales); post-traumatic stress (a database of those who have reported PTSD as a result of the NI conflict, in association with a group of psychiatrists). Grant applications have been submitted to the ESRC on: socio-economic, family and educational influences on health; and attainment and extending the theory of reasoned action: a study of blood donor behaviour; and to the MRC on: Exploring mothers’ motivations to breastfeed: an application of the theory of planned behaviour (Cairns and Giles).
Members of the SB Group have produced a number of books in these areas: Bunting, B. (1997). Introduction to Factor Analysis, Universities and Colleges Staff Development Association; Shevlin, M. (with Miles, J.) (2000). Applying Regression and Correlation: A guide for Students and Researchers, London: Sage; Bunting, B. (with Saris, W. E., Veenhoven, R and Scherpenzeel, A.) (1997). A comparative Study of Satisfaction with Life in Europe, Lewis, C. A. (with Maltby, J. and Hill, A. (Eds.) (2001). A Handbook of Psychological Tests, (2 Volumes), Wales, UK: Edwin Mellen Press. Cairns, E. (2000) was an invited contributor on ‘the psychological effects of war and political violence on children’ in the International Encyclopaedia of the Social and Behavioral Science, and has produced a well regarded book (see RA2) on Children and Political Violence (1996), Oxford: Blackwell.
Research carried out by both research groups has made a significant contribution to the wider community. The conflict subgroup’s contribution to the understanding of intergroup conflict and its amelioration, e.g. Cairns on reconciliation and Giles and Stringer on integrated education, provide policy makers with essential data on key social issues. Rae is chairman of the Coleraine Borough Partnership, part of the European Union Special Support for Peace and Reconciliation programme. Since 1996, this has allocated over £1.4 million to 72 local projects in the Coleraine area aimed at promoting peace and reconciliation. Liddell and Rae’s work with South African children has offered new ways of improving educational attainment while respecting the cultural traditions of black South Africans. Keenan has established a registered charity that brings Applied Behaviour Analysis into the homes of children who suffer from autism. The aims of the charity (Parents' Education as Autism Therapists, PEAT) are to make accessible to parents and therapists state of the art research findings in the treatment of autism (see RA6A for further evidence of community outreach).
The Social Survey Centre provides support for the work of individuals within the SB Group and is located within the School of Psychology. This centre was established in 1998 and is supported by a full-time research officer and a research assistant along with technical support. The centre provides a questionnaire design and analysis facility for projects within Psychology and across the university. The School has invested £40,000 to purchase Formic (an Automated Questionnaire Design and scanning system). This computer based software and scanning package allows questionnaires and surveys to be generated on computer and scanned directly into the SPSS package for analysis. This provides an ideal resource for staff within the SB Group as questionnaire studies can be designed and processed quickly and efficiently. The statistical expertise of the measurement subgroup underpins the work of the Social Survey Centre and the research programmes of the group. Training sessions provide excellent opportunities to train staff and postgraduates on specific techniques and provide important networking links for research programmes. The centre also currently processes large-scale surveys and reports for the university and the wider community (e.g. 17,000 Student evaluation questionnaires per year) and outside bodies. Staff in the SB Group run the centre (Director Stringer) and a research programme examining factors underpinning student evaluations. The centre provides an ideal forum for initiating collaborative research with researchers from Nursing, Human Nutrition and Vision Science being involved in research projects. The centre provides technical training in the differing production stages and allows research students to gain experience through working along with researchers on group projects. This has led to an increase in the number of joint publications between staff and postgraduate students within the group. The Centre has also developed a web based questionnaire facility utilising Oracle database software. This offers clients the opportunity to survey consumers attitudes, opinions and preferences using interactive web based questionnaires.