Students find out why the mind matters at psychology event

13 Mar 2015

More than 200 secondary school pupils from Greater Manchester got hands-on with psychological sciences at The University of Manchester on 11 March in a series of lectures and demonstrations by psychology researchers.

Dr Warren Mansell demonstrates Perceptual Control Theory
Dr Warren Mansell demonstrates Perceptual Control Theory

How optical illusions work, how children learn language, the Internet and how to persuade people to live healthy lifestyles, all featured at the event which was designed to show the enormous variety of work carried out by psychological scientists.

At the University’s School of Psychological Sciences, research includes studying children living in war zones like Syria, developing guidelines on stroke services and working with deaf children.

Dr Georgia Chronaki and Dr Sinéad Currie organised the event. Georgia carries out her own research into how children understand emotions. She said: “This event was a real eye-opener for many of the students who took part.  They saw the work that we do in Psychology and, hopefully some of them will have come away from today thinking about pursuing this career for themselves.”

Dr Warren Mansell (pictured) used a simple demonstration using a rubber band and two pens to show that it is actually impossible to understand what a person is doing simply from looking at their behaviour.

According to Perceptual Control Theory, you need to work out what perception they are controlling. In this demo, it looked like the student was doing the opposite of what Dr Mansell was doing, when in fact he was just trying to keep a knot in the rubber band over a dot on the board. No one in the audience realised this. Dr Mansell said: said: “So next time you think you know what someone else is doing, think again!”

Dr Sinéad Currie’s research includes designing behaviour change interventions to help people to be healthy. She said “Psychological sciences underpin a huge amount of the way in which the modern world works. Whether it’s raising our children, helping us to live longer, healthier lives or treating people with serious mental health issues; many of us rely on research carried out in this subject’’.

On the day, the pupils also got to take part in a quiz where they paired an image of an object with the work carried out by the psychologist. They won a number of prizes for finding the right answers.

Students took part in interactive seminars including the rubber hand illusion and emotion recognition computer games which were especially designed to familiarise young people with research on perception and emotion recognition. Interactive activities also included using zappers to vote in multiple choice quiz questions.

One of the students who attended, ‘Georgie’ said: “I found this event really inspiring and I really would like to study developmental psychology here in Manchester in the future’.

Dr. Chronaki added: “Being a psychologist is incredibly varied and rewarding and I think that came across in the range of exciting research we presented today.”

You can play a quiz that the students took part in on the day by matching the picture to the research here.

Notes for editors

Media enquiries to:
Jamie Brown
Media Relations Officer
The University of Manchester
Tel: 0161 2758383
Mob: 07887 561318