The Department of Psychology, Health and Professional Development at Oxford Brookes has a thriving community of research active staff and research scholars. In the UK government’s latest Research Excellence Framework (REF 2014) 95% of our research was internationally recognised and 60% of the impact of our research was rated internationally excellent.
We collaborate across disciplines and work with health and education professionals as well as partners in industry to develop knowledge and understanding that informs policy and improves people’s lives. Our research has led to improved practice guidelines in both health and education, the development of valuable assessment tools and the adoption of new policies and practices.
We continue to attract significant funding awards from bodies including the ESRC and MRC, Burdett Trust for Nursing, Technology Strategy Board, National Institute for Health Research and the Leverhulme Trust as well as many charities and commercial test publishers.
Psychology research is organised into three main research areas: Developmental Psychology, Adult Cognition and Applied Social Psychology. In addition, our Institute for Research in Child Development draws across the departmental disciplines of psychology, social work and public health and investigates pregnancy and birth, early childhood right through to adolescence and young adulthood.
Research areas and clusters
Developmental Psychology Research Group
There are three main strands to research in this group:
Cognitive and social development - this includes work on the impact of socio-cultural contexts on human cognition and identity development, children’s understanding of emotion, the nature of mother-child interactions and children’s interactions with their peers.
Language and literacy - this has a focus on the development of speech, reading, spelling, writing and handwriting.
Developmental disorders - this includes research on children with hearing impairment, specific language impairment, dyslexia, developmental coordination disorder, autism and sleep disorders.
Some of our research focuses on the description of typical development and explanation of developmental processes in different domains. Other work is concerned with understanding the mechanisms underlying atypical development and an examination of ways to support children and their families. Several staff in this research group work with professionals from other disciplines including health and education and are concerned with the production of practical assessment tools and the evaluation of intervention approaches to help children achieve their full potential.
Much of our work is conducted in schools and family homes. Research conducted on site at Oxford Brookes usually takes place in one of our specialist labs. We have a BabyLab with special facilities including an eye-tracker and observation room. We also have a Perception and Motion Analysis (PuMA) Lab with equipment for the detailed analysis of movement.
Adult Cognition Research Group
There are three dominant research strands in this group: (1) Visual Cognition - exploring mechanisms of selective attention, attentional orienting, object formation, and the representation of information in visual short term memory (2) Perception and Action - looking at the cognitive processes associated with processing of stimuli containing action possibilities (affordances), and with the preparation and execution of everyday actions such as reaching & grasping towards objects and walking; (3) Remembering Past & Imagining Future Events - research looks at the way that memory supports our identity, and in the way that ideas about the future (e.g. prospective memory) are related to health and behaviour change.
A variety of methods and techniques are employed in exploring these areas. These include psychophysical techniques such as masking, eye-tracking technology, movement analysis equipment, use of Neuropsychological instruments, as well as Cognitive Neuroscience techniques such as Event Related Potentials (ERPs) and Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). Our research includes work in healthy adult populations, as well as in certain clinical groups such as dementia, autism, and Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD). Some members of the Adult Cognition Group work alongside clinicians at local hospitals and have collaborators at other academic institutions both nationally and internationally.
Applied Social Psychology Research Group
The members of this research group investigate the way that individuals’ beliefs, actions and aspirations are intertwined with both the immediate social groups and also the wider culture in which they are embedded. Unpicking the fascinating way in which personal and socio-cultural factors are interwoven (and sometimes rebelled against) has enabled our researchers to apply their theoretical and methodological knowledge to many areas of contemporary concern.
Our recent research has enabled us to: advise manufacturers and policy makers of the key factors that determine whether people adapt to innovative green technologies successfully; advise international military officers on the fundamental psychological and socio-cultural influences leading to violent insurgency; advise the British Army on the integration of full and part time members; inform the debate surrounding the possible introduction of a minimum-pricing policy to address alcohol misuse; understand the way in which people use music to express their personal and social identities; explore the use of social media to instigate social connection in individuals with Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC); highlight personal and cultural differences in the determinants of organ donation; conduct a new evaluation of programmes designed to enhance children’s safety.