Students preparing for their graduation ceremony at Canterbury Cathedral

Social Psychology - MSc, PhD

2019

Psychology at Kent offers a supportive, dynamic and diverse environment for creative research and learning.

2019

Overview

During your research, you are supported by a panel including a main and secondary supervisor. Your supervisors are individually selected for you based on their compatibility with your research interests. Typically, you meet with your supervisors more frequently at the initial stages of research than during the phases of data collection and analysis.

You receive training in research-specific and broader ‘transferable’ skills, including academic writing, career management and presentation skills. You also have the opportunity to train for an advanced teaching qualification (ATAP). The Advanced Statistics and Methodology module from our taught MSc programme is available for doctoral students that have not already completed an advanced statistics and methods course.

During term-time, our research groups hold weekly meetings to discuss ongoing work, and weekly seminars also take place featuring external speakers. Numerous data analysis and research methods workshops are available (recent examples include structural equation modelling; hierarchical linear modelling; meta-analysis; EPrime experimental software), as well as individual training opportunities.

Read our student testimonial to find out what it's like to be a postgraduate researcher in Psychology at Kent. 

The School of Psychology

Kent's School of Psychology supports research in a number of areas, including: social psychology; developmental psychology; forensic psychology; cognitive psychology; existential psychology; personality and motivation.

We conduct both basic and applied research in several areas, and we are highly regarded as a leading European centre for postgraduate research. We have a long-established international reputation in social psychology, and this is complemented by our strengths in cognitive, developmental and forensic psychology. The School attracts excellent visiting scholars and postgraduate students from both within the UK and overseas.

PhD funding

Some of our PhD students are self-funded, and others are funded by grants or awards either from the School, UK or their countries of origin. You may also fund your studies through part-time teaching within the School.

All our taught Master’s (MSc) programmes have been recognised by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as meeting the nationally recognised criteria for preparation training for PhD research. The School has a strong track record of attracting ESRC research studentship funding, which involves partnerships with external organisations such as Age Concern England and the Equality and Human Rights Commission and collaborative studentships with partners such as People United.

National ratings

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.

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.

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, and professional qualifications and experience will also be taken into account when considering applications. 

International students

Please see our International Student website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information for your country. 

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.

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. 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 co-ordinated 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

Much of our social psychology research is co-ordinated through the Centre for the Study of Group Processes (CSGP), the largest research group in this area in Europe. CSGP attracts a stream of major international social psychology researchers, who are officially affiliated to the Centre and regularly visit to work with our staff. The Social Psychology group also includes the co-editor of Group Processes and Intergroup Relations (Abrams).

Social psychology research at Kent is funded by a variety of British and international sources, currently and recently including ESRC, British Academy, Leverhulme, Age Concern, European Commission, European Science Foundation, Home Office, Equality and Human Rights Commission, Nuffield, and Joseph Rowntree Foundation, as well as government departments such as the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Department for Work and Pensions.

The Social Psychology group includes the following themes:

Prejudice, intergroup contact and social categorisation

This research is carried out in our social psychology laboratories, at schools and in business organisations. For example, research within this topic focuses on questions such as: how contact between members of different social groups is represented psychologically, how intergroup contact affects prejudice, when outgroups are seen as less human, when and why children show prejudice, and why organisational mergers sometimes fail.

Social inequality and cohesion

Research on this topic combines theory-driven research and engagement with policy. It is conducted in real-life settings such as the workplace, and involves national and international surveys. For example, the research focuses on the well-being of elderly people in Britain, work participation and motherhood, and discrimination against different groups in society.

Group dynamics and social influence

Laboratory studies and community-based research are conducted on this topic. For example, research focuses on co-operation in small groups, group decision-making, perception and influence of leaders, social communication and language, subjective group dynamics in adults and children, the dynamics of prison gang activity, and the impact of alcohol on group processes.

Personality and social motivation

Much of this research is carried out in laboratories, through surveys and in clinical or other applied settings. For example, research has examined aggression, the adaptive functions of perfectionism, and consequences of mortality salience.

Cognition and Neuroscience

Research under this theme has an international reputation in the topic areas of Visual Cognition, Attention and Memory, and Language and Communication. Some of this research activity occurs in the Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience and Cognitive Systems, a strategic partnership between the Schools of Psychology and Computing.

Visual cognition, attention and memory

Research on this topic focuses primarily on the role of vision and visual perception in human performance. The fundamental aim of this work is to identify the cognitive processes and neurological mechanisms underlying various visual tasks. Studies involving neurologically healthy volunteers examine issues such as face recognition and identification, eyewitness testimony, person detection, emotion processing, episodic memory and pattern and motion recognition.

Language and communication

Research in this group examines various aspects of semantic, pragmatic and syntactic understanding. Research questions on healthy populations include the role of executive functions in successful language use and communication, how language influences attentional processes and perspective taking, anomaly detection, and the effect of interruptions on reading. Work on developmental populations examines issues such as how children learn to understand and produce sentences in their own language, and how they learn conversational conventions and self-repair. Research also examines developmental disorders of communication, including autism spectrum disorders and dyslexia. This research group has links with researchers in the School of European Culture and Languages, as part of the Centre for Language and Linguistic Studies.

Forensic Psychology

Forensic Psychology research at Kent and all forensic-related teaching operates through our newly constituted Centre of Research and Education in Forensic Psychology (CORE-FP). Current research is focused on 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, and the infrahumanisation 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.

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

Research may be carried out with staff or offenders/ex-offenders in a variety of settings, including prisons, youth offender institutions, secure mental health units and probation offices. Alternatively, research may take place with students or members of the community in our newly equipped laboratories.

Developmental Psychology

Much of the research conducted by members of the Developmental Psychology group is conducted with neurotypical infants, children, and adolescents.  However, we also take a lifespan approach to the study of development and conduct research with older adults.  Moreover, a key focus of our research is on neuro-developmental disorders.  Central research topics include:

Social development

Developmental group members are particularly interested in the expression and control of ethnic and gender prejudice, social ostracism and inclusion, conversational norms and group identity in children.  We also conduct research on social aspects of older adulthood, in particular self-stereotyping and prejudice against elderly people.

Cognitive development

Cognitive development is a major focus of many of our developmental psychologists.  In particular, members of the Developmental Psychology group actively research topics such as the development of social cognition and theory of mind, language, information and sensory processing, and conversation and pragmatic skills.

Forensic research

Our developmental research also focuses on adolescence, as well as infancy, childhood and older adulthood.  In particular, we are interested in the emergence of gang activity and antisocial behaviour during this period of development.

Developmental psychopathology

We also conduct cutting-edge research into neuro-developmental disorders, such as autism and language impairment, with a view to understanding the nature and basis of, and best ways to treat, these disorders.

Research centres

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

Centre for the Study of Group Processes

The Centre for the Study of Group Processes (CSGP) was set up in 1990 to consolidate the School’s excellent international reputation for social psychological research into group processes and intergroup relations. CSGP is now a thriving international research community, including 15 full-time academic staff and a large number of research fellows and PhD students. The Centre also attracts a stream of major international group researchers, who are officially affiliated to it and regularly visit to work with our staff. The Centre also edits an international journal, Group Processes and Intergroup Relations.

Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience and Cognitive Systems

The objective of the Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience and Cognitive Systems (CCNCS) is to harness the potential for cross-disciplinary research at the junction of cognitive psychology and the computational sciences. The Centre focuses on how behavioural and neuro-physiological experimentation needs to inform and be informed by the construction of computational models. Furthermore, the results of such studies should inform the construction of artificial systems, such as forensic imaging, human-computer interfaces and robotic systems.

Centre of Research and Education in Forensic Psychology

The main aim of the Centre of Research and Education in Forensic Psychology is to conduct high-impact psychological research to further understand key forensic issues of social significance, and to lead to cutting-edge teaching and research opportunities for postgraduate students. Forensic psychology is an extremely popular and rapidly developing branch of psychology that seeks to understand the psychological processes underlying offending behaviour (including group processes), the reduction and supervision of offending behaviour (ie, rehabilitation, treatment and management of community risk), victim responses to offending, the mechanisms underlying the criminal justice system more generally (ie, jury decision-making and the courts), and attitudes to offenders and offender reintegration in society.

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 selfconcept 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: 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: Senior Lecturer 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: 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: 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.

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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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Dr Heather Ferguson: Reader in 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.

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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.

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Dr Tim Hopthrow: Senior Lecturer 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 Mark James: Lecturer in Forensic Psychology

Developmental pathways to street gang membership, assessing stable and dynamic risk and protective factors associated with gang membership, as well as gang members' thoughts and feelings concerning their membership; public and professional (e.g. the police and courts) reactions to crime.

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Dr Amir-Homayoun Javadi: 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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Dr Lydia Kearney: Lecturer in Cognitive Psychology

Social anxiety and experience of mental imagery; ways 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: Lecturer in Forensic Psychology

Treatment needs of offenders and 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. Work to date has primarily focused on behaviours such as 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 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; the inner logic of apparently irrational behaviours such as mutually destructive conflicts and environmental despoilation; 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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Dr Giovanni Travaglino: Lecturer in Social & Organisational Psychology

Social and cultural psychology of collective action and protest. Factors predicting intentions to oppose criminal (mafia-style) organisations collectively in the South of Italy. Social psychology of deviance and groups’ responses to disloyal members.

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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: 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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Dr Mario Weick: Senior Lecturer in Psychology

The impact of social and situational factors on people’s perceptions, judgements and actions; the role of power and control – specifically how powerful and powerless people differ in their perceptions, the way they make judgements and their actions.

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Professor David Wilkinson: Professor of Psychology

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

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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 selfregulation; groups, automatic social behaviour, conformism and cultural worldviews; evolutionary social psychology, attraction, scent and sexuality.

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Dr Jane Wood: Reader in 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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Fees

The 2019/20 annual tuition fees for Home/EU PG Research programmes have not yet been set by the Research Councils UK.  This is ordinarily announced in March. 

General additional costs

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

Funding

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