Social Psychology - MSc, PhD

Overview

Study psychology at postgraduate level and you become part of a diverse, dynamic and supportive community in which to research and learn. Some of the areas that Social Psychology research at Kent covers are prejudice and discrimination, justice and morality, leadership and power, conspiracies and social movement, and culture and social interaction. 

A Master's by research degree focuses on research expertise and prepares you for professional work or PhD study. A PhD is a doctorate of philosophy based on mostly independent study. 

Both research degrees are assessed formally on the basis of one piece of work, a dissertation (or thesis), that reports your original thought and research. You must also successfully complete all required training. 

If, rather than a research degree, you are interested in a Master's degree in this area comprising specialist modules and a dissertation element, our taught MSc in Social Psychology is a great choice.

Choosing a topic

Although sometimes we have specific PhD research projects related to funding awards, most of our research students choose their own research topics. Once you have decided on the nature of your project, you should then contact the member of staff in the School whose expertise and interests most closely match your area of research and ask them if they will act as your supervisor. Master's by Research applicants should also follow this procedure. 

You then work with your proposed supervisor on refining your research proposal which provides the starting point for your subsequent research.

Supervision

During your research, you are supported by your supervisory team, normally comprising one main supervisor and a secondary supervisor. Your will have agreed your main supervisor, based on their compatibility with your research interests, prior to registration. Typically, you have one formal meeting per month with your main supervisor to discuss your work and progress (bi-monthly for part-time students).

Training

Through the Graduate School, you have access to training in research-specific and broader transferable skills, including academic writing, career management and presentation skills. 

PhD students in receipt of a teaching studentship (GTA), must also complete the Associate Fellowship Scheme (AFS). The AFS registration period is one year.

The Statistics and Methodology module from our taught MSc programme is available for doctoral students who have not already completed an advanced statistics and methods course. Master's by Research students are usually required to undertake this module.

The School of Psychology

Kent's School of Psychology conducts both basic and applied research in several areas, and we are highly regarded as a leading European centre for postgraduate research. We have a strong international reputation in cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, forensic psychology and social psychology. This is complemented by our strengths in organisational psychology and political psychology.

PhD funding

Some of our PhD students are self-funded, and others are funded by grants or awards either from the School, the University, UK research councils or their countries of origin. 

The School has a strong track record of attracting ESRC research studentship funding, which involves partnerships with external organisations such as the Anne Frank Trust.

Entry requirements

Before making your application, we recommend that you contact a staff member whose expertise matches your area of interest to discuss your proposed project, CV and potential supervisory arrangements.

A Bachelor’s or Master’s degree with:

a. Adequate level of academic achievement

A final degree classification (grade average) of at least a 2.1 or Merit in the UK system (the second highest classification after First/Distinction). Results from institutions in other countries will be assessed individually according to this standard.

Your existing degree does not have to be in psychology as long as the statistics training requirement is met (please see below) and your proposed supervisor and the Director of Graduate Studies (Research) are satisfied with the suitability of your academic background. If it is in a different subject, or if it is not accredited by the British Psychological Society, please ask your academic referee to complete our Pro-forma for graduate research programmes and email it to psypgadmissions@kent.ac.uk.

b. Statistics and research methods training in the social sciences

This programme includes a one-year statistics sequence which you must normally pass in order to receive your award. The teaching assumes that you are familiar with the following topics:

  1. Means and standard deviations
  2. Distributions, hypothesis testing and statistical significance
  3. t-tests
  4. Correlation coefficients
  5. Variables and measurement

Therefore, your existing degree transcript should note that you have taken and passed a minimum of one term each in statistics and social science research methods courses (or two terms of a joint statistics and research methods course).

It is possible to be exempted from the statistics training at Kent if there is sufficient evidence that you have already completed equivalent training in a previous qualification.

All applicants are considered on an individual basis and additional qualifications, professional qualifications and relevant experience may also be taken into account when considering applications. 

International students

Please see our International website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information. Due to visa restrictions, international fee-paying students cannot study part-time unless undertaking a distance or blended-learning programme with no on-campus provision.

English language entry requirements

The University requires all non-native speakers of English to reach a minimum standard of proficiency in written and spoken English before beginning a postgraduate degree. Certain subjects require a higher level.

For detailed information see our English language requirements web pages. 

Need help with English?

Please note that if you are required to meet an English language condition, we offer a number of pre-sessional courses in English for Academic Purposes through Kent International Pathways.

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Course structure

Duration: MSc 1 year full-time, 2 years part-time

PhD 3 to 4 years full-time, 5 to 6 years part-time

Fees

The 2020/21 annual tuition fees for this programme are:

Social Psychology - MSc at Canterbury

  • Home/EU full-time £4407
  • International full-time £16200
  • Home/EU part-time £2204
  • International part-time £8100

Social Psychology - PhD at Canterbury

  • Home/EU full-time £4407
  • International full-time £16200
  • Home/EU part-time £2204
  • International part-time £8100

For details of when and how to pay fees and charges, please see our Student Finance Guide.

For students continuing on this programme fees will increase year on year by no more than RPI + 3% in each academic year of study except where regulated.* If you are uncertain about your fee status please contact information@kent.ac.uk

Additional costs

General additional costs

Find out more about general additional costs that you may pay when studying at Kent. 

Funding

Search our scholarships finder for possible funding opportunities. You may find it helpful to look at both:

The Complete University Guide

In The Complete University Guide 2020, the University of Kent was ranked in the top 10 for research intensity. This is a measure of the proportion of staff involved in high-quality research in the university.

Please see the University League Tables 2020 for more information.

Independent rankings

In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, research by the School of Psychology was ranked 11th in the UK for research intensity.

An impressive 95% of our research-active staff submitted to the REF and 97% of our research was judged to be of international quality. The School’s environment was judged to be conducive to supporting the development of world-leading research.

Research areas

Research themes

The School of Psychology is highly regarded as a leading European centre for postgraduate research, with an international reputation for excellence in social psychology (including group processes and intergroup relations); cognition and neuroscience; developmental psychology; and forensic psychology. We have staff who can supervise research degrees in all of these areas plus organisational psychology and political psychology. The research environment is designed to sustain a strong, vibrant research culture, encourage collaboration, and unite staff and students with shared research interests. Our themes ensure critical mass and create a highly energetic and stimulating intellectual climate.

Research activity is supported by:

  • centrally coordinated provision and use of laboratories and technical support
  • selection of speakers for our weekly departmental research colloquia
  • weekly research meetings within each theme
  • developing, reporting and analysing research, and hosting our many visiting scholars
  • several monthly small meeting series on specific areas of cross-cutting research (such as forensic, social development, emotion, social cognition and health).

Social Psychology

Our academics have received prestigious editorial appointments and both national and international awards. Many leading international social psychologists are affiliated with the group, reflecting the strong reputation of social psychology at Kent.

Our work is funded by a variety of British and international sources including the European Research Council, Economic and Social Research Council, British Academy, Leverhulme Trust, National Science Foundation, European Commission, Home Office, Department of Trade and Industry, Nuffield Foundation and Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Our researchers also engage in consultancy work for businesses and the government.

Our research covers all areas of social psychology, including:

  • prejudice and discrimination
  • equality, identity, diversity and change
  • justice and morality
  • attitudes and decision making
  • status, leadership and power
  • conspiracies and social movements
  • security and risk
  • social influence
  • personality
  • culture and social interaction

Much of our research is coordinated through the Centre for the Study of Group Processes.

Cognition and Neuroscience

Visual cognition, attention and memory

Research on this topic focuses primarily on the role of vision and visual perception in human performance. The aim of this work is to identify the cognitive processes and neurological mechanisms that underlie various visual tasks. Studies with neurologically healthy volunteers examine issues such as:

  • face recognition and identification
  • eyewitness testimony
  • person detection
  • emotion processing
  • episodic memory
  • pattern and motion recognition.

Our research also examines a range of psychological disorders, including unilateral visual neglect, addiction, dementia and persistent vegetative state. We are interested in examining the cognitive nature of these disorders, which includes assessing attentional biases, visual experiences and neurological activity. Much of our work also has an applied motivation, for example helping to develop better therapies for people with brain injury.

Language and communication

Research in this group examines various aspects of semantic, pragmatic, morphological and syntactic understanding.

Research questions on adult populations include:

  • the role of executive functions in successful language use and communication
  • how language influences attentional processes and perspective taking
  • anomaly detection in reading
  • brain structural and functional correlates of grammatical processing.

Our work on developmental populations examines issues such as:

  • how children learn to understand and produce sentences in their own language
  • how children learn conversational conventions and self-repair
  • developmental disorders of communication, including autism spectrum disorders and dyslexia
  • bilingual language acquisition and processing.

This research group has links with researchers in the School of European Culture and Languages, as part of the Centre for Language and Linguistics.

Forensic Psychology

Forensic psychology research at Kent and all forensic-related teaching operates through our Centre of Research and Education in Forensic Psychology (CORE-FP).

Forensic psychology seeks to understand:

  • the psychological processes underlying offending behaviour (including group processes)
  • the reduction and supervision of offending behaviour (i.e. rehabilitation, treatment and management of community risk)
  • victim responses to offending
  • the mechanisms underlying the criminal justice system more generally (i.e. jury decision making and the courts)
  • attitudes to offenders and offender reintegration in society.

Our academics are represented in editorships and editorial boards of many major journals in forensic and applied psychology. Many are Chartered Forensic Psychologists who assess and treat offenders and evaluate offender rehabilitation programmes. Thus we have strong links with the UK Prison Service, the NHS, the Police, and other bodies involved in forensic related services and activities.

Our research is funded by various national and international sources, which include the British Academy, Economic and Social Research Council, the Home Office, Leverhulme, the Ministry of Justice and the Nuffield Foundation.

Areas of forensic psychology research that we are currently working on include:

  • bullying in prisons
  • prison gang behaviour
  • jury decision-making
  • child sexual offending
  • rape
  • rape proclivity
  • female sexual offending
  • theories of offender rehabilitation
  • firesetting
  • sexual harassment
  • violence, aggression and alcohol
  • infra-humanisation of offenders.

Other areas of research include social cognition, social and moral emotion, and group process theory, all of which are applied to the study of offending behaviour or court process issues.

Developmental Psychology

Our research interests include:

  • how children learn to communicate
  • social cognition (eg Theory of Mind)
  • peer interactions
  • understanding prejudice
  • infant cognitive development
  • developmental psychopathology (eg Autism)
  • conversation analysis

We have excellent links with the wider community. Members of the Developmental Psychology group are committed to sharing their research findings and methodologies with the public. We hold highly successful large-scale events that bring together practitioners, policy makers, and academics to share knowledge and develop collaborations. Our outreach events are typically interactive, fun, and informative. They range from ‘Play and Learn’ days for young families, to workshops for school children on topical issues such as cyberbullying and happiness.

A central hub for our research and outreach activity is the Kent Child Development Unit.

Research centres

The School of Psychology currently includes two formally constituted research centres, representing areas of concentration and excellence in research.

Centre for the Study of Group Processes

The Centre includes a thriving international research community, involving twelve tenured academic staff, as well as its research fellows and PhD students. The Centre attracts visits and research collaborations from major international researchers, many of whom have formal affiliations with the Centre.

Over the years, CSGP has attracted substantial externally funded research on a wide range of topics. It has also recruited excellent MSc and PhD students and its members teach for the School’s MSc degrees in Social and Applied Psychology, Political Psychology and Organisational and Business Psychology. The Centre also edits an international journal, Group Processes and Intergroup Relations (Sage Publications).

Centre of Research and Education in Forensic Psychology

The Centre of Research and Education in Forensic Psychology strives to be the leader in research that informs practice and policy. The vast range of topics covered by the centre staff is indicative of the centre’s facilitative research culture. As a result, members of the centre team have been the beneficiaries of research funding for new and innovative research.

Staff research interests

Kent’s world-class academics provide research students with excellent supervision. The academic staff in this school and their research interests are shown below. You are strongly encouraged to contact the school to discuss your proposed research and potential supervision prior to making an application. Please note, it is possible for students to be supervised by a member of academic staff from any of Kent’s schools, providing their expertise matches your research interests. Use our ‘find a supervisor’ search to search by staff member or keyword.

Full details of staff research interests can be found on the School's website.

Dr Kirsten Abbot-Smith : Senior Lecturer in Psychology

The development of verbal communication in typical children and children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Use of a range of cognitive-experimental techniques with a current focus particularly on pragmatic language development.

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Professor Dominic Abrams : Professor of Social Psychology

Social identity and intergroup relations; prejudice; sexism; deviance; social identity in organisational contexts; group consensus processes; the self-concept and self-regulation of behaviour.

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Dr Emma Alleyne : Senior Lecturer in Forensic Psychology

Socio-cognitive and group processes that underlie group offending e.g. what differentiates gang youth and non-gang youth with similar social/environmental backgrounds; multiple-perpetrator rape (MPR) and psychological factors that distinguish MPR from lone perpetrators; firesetting behaviour and clinical treatment of firesetters.

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Dr Zara Bergstrom : Senior Lecturer in Cognitive Psychology

The neurocognitive mechanisms of episodic memory; control processes and long-term memory retrieval; cognitive neuroscience techniques; applied memory research; memory in old age.

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Dr Markus Bindemann : Reader in Psychology

Face and person perception; detection of people in natural settings; person memory and eyewitness identification; perception of eye-gaze and emotion from faces and other aspects of social cognition.

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Dr Anna Brown : Senior Lecturer in Psychological Methods and Statistics

Quantitative modelling of psychological date; modelling response processes to cognitive and non-cognitive assessments using Item Response Theory (IRT).

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Dr Lindsey Cameron : Senior Lecturer in Psychology

Social developmental psychology: development and reduction of intergroup prejudice in children; direct intergroup contact and extended intergroup contact; development of ethnic and national identity in children and adolescents; acculturation in childhood; experience of prejudice and discrimination, and its consequences for social development.

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Dr Aleksandra Cichocka : Senior Lecturer in Political Psychology

Links between the self and various social and political realities; how self-concept and group image relate to intergroup attitudes, political ideology and support for status-quo.

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Dr Kristof Dhont : Senior Lecturer in Psychology

Dispositional and situational determinants of explicit and implicit racism: the role of intergroup contact and ideology; political psychology: ideology, political extremism, political cognition; speciesism and animal exploitation; the parallels between prejudicial human intergroup relations and human-animal relations.

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Professor Karen Douglas : Professor of Social Psychology

Understanding beliefs in conspiracy theories, language and stereotyping, sexist language, lay theories of persuasion, social psychology of the internet, interpersonal and intergroup communication.

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Professor Heather Ferguson : Professor of Psychology

Language and communication; perspective taking; comprehension of counterfactuals and negation; mental representations involved in language understanding; time-course and brain processes involved in various cognitive functions; autism spectrum disorder; the role of social abilities in cognitive functioning; the influence of reading fiction on social and cognitive capacities.

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Dr Michael Forrester : Reader in Psychology

Children’s conversational skills; discourse and conversation analysis; psychoanalytic developmental psychology; the development of singing and musicality.

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Professor Theresa Gannon : Professor of Forensic Psychology

The cognition of child molesters, rapists and violent offenders; detecting fake-good responses in prison populations; the rehabilitation and treatment of sexual offenders; applied cognitive-experimental psychology; the characteristics and treatment of female sexual offenders and firesetters. 

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Professor Roger Giner-Sorolla : Professor of Social Psychology

The role of emotions in prejudice and self-control; moral judgements and emotion (anger, disgust, guilt and shame); cross-cultural differences in moral beliefs; intergroup emotions; judgments of moral deviance; legal decision making; eating and dieting; intergroup apologies.

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Lazaros Gonidis : Lecturer in Cognitive Psychology/Cognitive Neuroscience (Teaching and Scholarship)

The effects of attention, arousal and memory load in how non-substance addictions (specifically Facebook, the Internet, computer games and gambling) affect time perception; virtual reality and its effect on decision-making and perceptions of time and reality.

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Dr Aife Hopkins-Doyle : Lecturer in Social and Organisational Psychology

Social-cognitive and ideological factors influencing person perception; hostile and benevolent sexism; feminist identity; stereotypes of feminism; women’s engagement in collective actions; beliefs in sexual exchange and its implications for intimate relationships and sexual health.

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Dr Tim Hopthrow : Reader in Psychology

Small group performance and decision-making especially in the context of co-operative behaviour in social dilemmas; the effects of alcohol consumption on group performance.

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Dr Amir-Homayoun Javadi : Senior Lecturer in Cognitive Psychology/Cognitive Neuroscience

Refining and improving non-pharmacological approaches to the enhancement of memory, learning and decision making, using a variety of methods (eg, physical exercise, electrical and magnetic brain stimulation and sleep); imaging methods including eye-tracking and EEG.

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Christiana Iordanou : Lecturer in Developmental Psychology

Forensic developmental psychology; non-verbal interview methods and children’s eyewitness accounts; children’s drawings as a source of forensically relevant information; if drawings facilitate adults’ and children’s memories of past events.

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Dr Lydia Kearney : Lecturer in Cognitive Psychology

Social anxiety and experience of mental imagery; how anxious self-imagery reflects cognitive biases in attention and interpretation; imagery and rumination; imagery and emotion; cognitive and behavioural precursors of depression and anxiety.

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Dr David Kelly : Lecturer in Developmental Psychology

Visual and cognitive development; cross-cultural differences in perception and eye-movements; face recognition in children and adults; multisensory processing in infancy.

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Dr Erika Nurmsoo : Lecturer in Psychology

Language acquisition, focusing on word learning; theory of mind development; source monitoring and use of testimony in preschoolers; children’s comprehension of partial and ambiguous input; understanding and use of symbols, drawing, and pretence.

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Dr Caoilte O Ciardha : Senior Lecturer in Forensic Psychology

Treatment needs of offenders; causal factors in offending with a particular emphasis on the role of cognition; research methods that offer potential in tapping into cognitive constructs in an indirect way, such as looking at people’s response patterns to sexually salient stimuli and how that relates to problematic sexual interest, for example paedophilia; sexual offending and firesetting.

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Dr Afroditi Pina : Senior Lecturer in Psychology

Sexual violence, gender equality and victimisation, in particular rape and the myths that surround it; sexual harassment, its impact on its victims, women’s coping strategies, and the link between sexual harassment and the emotions of anger and fear; self and sexual objectification and its effects on women’s self esteem; victim blaming; coping strategies.

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Dr Marta Ponari : Lecturer in Cognitive Psychology

Interaction between cognition and emotion; embodied semantics, especially the role of sensory-motor and emotional information in how we acquire and represent meaning; facial expression recognition; emotional processing in ageing.

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Professor Georgina Randsley de Moura : Professor of Social and Organisational Psychology

Intra and intergroup dynamics and social psychology in organisations, especially leadership, innovation and what happens when group members break rules or norms.

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Dr Andy Russ : Lecturer in Psychology

Improving eyewitness practices; assessing eyewitness accuracy.

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Dr John Sabo : Lecturer in Social and Organisational Psychology T&S

Moral emotions and moral judgement, and how these can inform our understanding of people who enjoy engaging with fiction that encourages its user to imagine immoral behaviour.

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Dr Dinkar Sharma : Reader in Psychology

Cognition and emotion; selective attention; priming; cognitive approaches to addiction.

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Professor Joachim Stoeber : Professor of Psychology

Perfectionism, well-being and performance; coping; personal goals in adolescence; stress and health in the workplace; motivation; personality and individual differences.

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Professor Robbie Sutton : Professor of Social Psychology

Just-world beliefs and system-justification; social norms and communication processes especially as they relate to prejudice, stereotyping and the perpetuation of injustice and inequality; conspiracy beliefs; the inner logic of apparently irrational behaviours such as mutually destructive conflicts and environmental despoliation; implications of these processes for gender (sexism, fear of crime and views of rape complainants) and global warming (climate change). 

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Dr Hannah Swift : Eastern ARC Research Fellow

Ageism; attitudes to age across Europe; consequences of age-stereotypes; age-based stereotype threat and stereotype priming; social identity and the social construction of age; loneliness in later life and the factors that contribute to healthy, active ageing. 

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Professor Ayse Uskul : Professor of Social Psychology

Cultural conceptions of honour and roots of honour-related aggression; ecocultural influences on cognitive and social psychological (eg, social exclusion, honour) processes; social, cultural, and religious correlates of attitudes toward inter-ethnic and inter-faith intimate relationships; the role of self-regulatory mechanisms in social cognition (eg, processing of health messages); social interaction (eg, aggression); well-being (eg, depression).

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Dr Eduardo Vasquez : Senior Lecturer in Forensic Psychology

Aggression and displaced aggression; anger, rumination, and aggression and violent behaviours; inter-group relations; personalisation, self-disclosure and liking; inter-group conflict and aggression; intergang violence; alcohol and social behaviours: alcohol and aggression, alcohol and inter-group anxiety; applications to criminal behaviour.

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Professor David Wilkinson : Head of School

Visual cognition; perceptual and attentional performance in healthy and brain-damaged individuals; the use of sensory stimulation to rehabilitate stroke patients and enhance certain aspects of cognition.

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Professor David Williams : Professor of Developmental Psychology

Various forms of developmental psychopathology, including autism spectrum disorder and specific language impairment; the nature and neurocognitive bases of developmental disorders, as well as what these disorders tell us about typical development; use of cognitive-experimental techniques among typical and atypical populations.

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Dr Arnaud Wisman : Lecturer in Psychology

Coping mortality salience; terror management theory; the self-concept, self-esteem and self-regulation; groups, automatic social behaviour, conformism and cultural worldviews; evolutionary social psychology, attraction, scent and sexuality.

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Professor Jane Wood : Professor of Forensic Psychology

Street and prison gang formation and activity; public attitudes to crime and punishment, bullying in prison and schools; resettlement and rehabilitation of ex-offenders and the role of emotions in judging offenders.

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Careers

Our postgraduate students commonly go into the fields of health, teaching or further education. For instance, many of our graduates take up roles as assistant psychologists in the NHS with a view to becoming a professional clinical or forensic psychologist. 

The programmes we offer help you to develop general critical, analytic and problem-solving skills that can be applied in a wide range of settings.

Study support

Postgraduate resources

The School has excellent facilities for both laboratory and field research, including advanced laboratory and teaching facilities. Resources include:

  • three fully equipped colour video laboratories for face-to-face group research, together with ten satellite laboratories connected via remote-control CCTV and two-way audio links
  • 58 research laboratories, all containing networked computers
  • a further 80 PCs available exclusively to Psychology students, including a designated MSc computer-networked room providing full email and internet access
  • shared offices and a personal, networked computer for research students
  • a full range of computer-based experiment generators and productivity software installed on all the School’s systems
  • an upgraded laboratory suite with equipment for digital sound and vision recording
  • four Brain Vision EEG labs (including one for simultaneous TMS & EEG, and one portable EEG system)
  • two trans-cranial direct current electrical stimulators (GVS, Magstim)
  • Neuroconn tDCS/tACS electrical stimulator with facilities for simultaneous EEG
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) PowerMAG Research 100 High Frequency Stimulator
  • two Tobii eye-trackers (Tobii X120 & Tobii T60 XL portable)
  • one Arrington eye-tracker
  • a suite equipped with Bio-Pac recorders to allow for a range of physiological measures to be taken during stressful and other tasks
  • specialist laboratories equipped for face processing and vision research
  • CRS ColorCal II Colorimeter/Photometer
  • CRS Audiofile for synchronized audio-visual presentation
  • numerous PC and Mac labs to run behavioural experiments
  • Mirror Stereoscopes for dichoptic presentation and stereo vision research
  • immersive virtual reality lab (including integrated eye-tracker)
  • a social cognition laboratory
  • creation in 2010 of the Kent Child Development Unit and research team focusing on how children learn about their world, about other people and about the language they hear around them.

Dynamic publishing culture

Staff publish regularly and widely in journals, conference proceedings and books. Among others, they have recently contributed to: Journal of Experimental Social Psychology; Journal of Personality and Social Psychology; Child Development; Clinical Psychology Review. Details of recently published books can be found within the staff research interests.

Researcher Development Programme

Kent's Graduate School co-ordinates the Researcher Development Programme for research students, which includes workshops focused on research, specialist and transferable skills. The programme is mapped to the national Researcher Development Framework and covers a diverse range of topics, including subject-specific research skills, research management, personal effectiveness, communication skills, networking and teamworking, and career management skills.

Apply now

References

The online application form will ask you to provide names and email addresses for two academic referees from your degree-granting institution. On submission of your application, they will receive a reference request by email.

To save time, we recommend that you notify your referees in advance. Their references should describe their impression of your academic achievements, preparedness and motivation for postgraduate study in your chosen field, and personal qualities relevant to postgraduate study. 

Learn more about the applications process or begin your application by clicking on a link below.

Once started, you can save and return to your application at any time.

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