Surrey Psychology Blog

The blog of the School of Psychology at the University of Surrey

Research Seminar: 28th March 2017

A preference for the uncanny benefits creativity

A popular view is that people are “wired” to dislike and avoid things novel and unexpected, because such events and situations signal potential threat and danger (Jonas et al., 2014; Noordewier & Breugelmans, 2013). But at many points in history, and in many contexts, an ability to approach and explore unexpectedness has also proven functional, and highly desirable.

That some people value and approach things new and unexpected is apparent in their fascination with groundbreaking innovations (Noppers, Keizer, Bockarjova, & Steg, 2015), surrealist art (Swami, Pietschnig, Stieger, Nader, & Voracek, 2012), or foreign lands and cultures (Brandt, Chambers, Crawford, Wetherell, & Reyna, 2015; Crisp & Turner, 2011; Pittinsky & Montoya, 2009).

In this research we aim to understand whether and when schema-violations – targets or situations that disconfirm our schema- and stereotype- based expectancies – can foster greater creativity.

In Study 1 & 2 we investigate what appraisal processes (surprise, interest) and personality antecedents (openness to experience, need for structure) regulate people’s attraction (vs. aversion) to schema-violations.

In Study 3 & 4 we look at whether people’s preference for schema-violating (over schema-consistent) stimuli associates with greater creativity (divergent thinking and lifelong creative achievements), and whether it explains the seminal association of openness to experience and creativity.

Finally, in Studies 5-7 we demonstrate that exposure to schema-violations can increase creative performance – conditional on people’s openness to schema-violating stimuli.



Małgorzata A. Gocłowska, University of Amsterdam
(In collaboration with Matthijs Baas, Carsten De Dreu, Andrew Elliot, and Richard Crisp)

2.00pm to 3.00pm in TB 06

REDICLAIM Webinar 6 April

In 2006, the European Regulation on nutrition and health claims on foods (Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation (NHCR): European Commission No. 1924/2006) established, for the first time, a common framework for the regulation of such claims across the European Union (EU).

The opportunities for product innovation arising from this new legislation combined with protection of consumer interest in respect of controlling misleading advertising, while at the same time promoting public health, are noteworthy. But such opportunities needed to be evaluated against the burden on industry to undertake significant research activity into these claims and to present a scientific substantiation to satisfy the procedure for approval.

The EU-funded REDICLAIM project considered these issues in relation to ‘reduction of disease risk’ claims. As the project comes to an end, this webinar will present the project findings and give you the opportunity to ask questions of our expert speakers.

The session will include:

  • An introduction to the REDICLAIM project
  • Ensuring successful health claim applications
  • Health claims as promoters of new innovative food products?
  • The NHCR and issues with the regulatory framework
  • Modelling to predict the health and economic impact of ‘reduction in disease risk claims’


How to Join our Webinar:

  • Please register here  for the REDICLAIM Webinar on Thursday the 6th of April 2017 at 2pm GMT/3pm CET
  • After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.


How to Join our mailing list

Please sign up here to receive email updates about the publication of the REDICLAIM project recommendations and further papers, reports and presentations.

Research Seminar: 14 March

Diabetes stigma
The extent and impact of the problem

There is growing awareness of the social stigma that surrounds diabetes. Further, understanding and addressing diabetes stigma is an emerging priority for international advocacy groups. However, before we can effectively mitigate this stigma, we first need to develop a thorough understanding of it. While there is a strong dialogue about diabetes stigma online and in the media, the research is lagging behind, with only a small number of studies that describe and quantify the extent and impact of diabetes stigma. This presentation will provide an overview of the available evidence on the topic of diabetes stigma, including Jessica’s own work exploring the perceptions and experiences of diabetes stigma from the perspective of people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and the development and validation of questionnaires that can be used to facilitate quantitative research in this area.

Dr Jessica Browne
Senior Research Fellow
The Australian Centre for Behavioural Research in Diabetes
School of Psychology, Deakin University

from 3.00pm to 4.00pm in TB 02


Dr Jessica Browne has a PhD in health psychology and a research background in the prevention and management of chronic conditions. She is a Senior Research Fellow at The Australian Centre for Behavioural Research in Diabetes (ACBRD), where her research focuses on the psychological, social and behavioural aspects of type 2 diabetes. She has led a world-first program of research into diabetes stigma, and is collaborating with researchers in Europe, Asia and the America’s to internationalise our knowledge about the impact of diabetes stigma on people living with the condition. Jessica’s research has been published in more than 30 peer-reviewed journal articles and she actively collaborates with a wide range of organisations to ensure translation of her research into policy and practice. She works closely with advocacy and patient groups in Australia to help them create health promotion campaigns that are person-centred and empowering, and has also delivered training on reducing bias and prejudice in consultations with people with diabetes for health professional organisations. At a national level, Jessica has served on expert advisory groups to help inform program and policy developments that aim to improve the lives of people affected by diabetes.

Research Seminar: 7 March 2017

Bullying Immigrant versus Non-Immigrant Peers:
Moral Disengagement and Participant Roles in the two Contexts

Young people with migration experiences constitute an increasing number of students in many European schools. To foster social cohesion and to prevent potential intergroup tensions in schools, it is of high importance to better understand the complexities of bullying episodes in immigrant contexts. Bandura’s cognitive theory of moral agency (1999, 2002) offers a promising framework to study this topic.

Although most young people evaluate bullying and social exclusion of ethnic or national minority peers as wrong, self-justification processes might allow them to morally disengage and to perform a behaviour which is in contrast with their moral standards. Yet, no study to date investigated whether these self-justification processes differ in hypothetical bullying situations of a newcomer peer depending on his or her immigrant status.

This study examined

  1. Whether moral disengagement differs in hypothetical bullying situations of a newcomer peer depending on his or her immigrant status
  2. Whether the respondent’s immigrant status, age, gender, real life participant bullying role (as bully, assistant, reinforcer, defender, victim or outsider) and moral disengagement proneness moderate the differences in moral cognitions between non-immigrant vs. immigrant victims

In total, 342 ten-year olds (54% immigrants) and 292 twelve-year olds (45% immigrants) participated. Moral disengagement was higher for non-immigrant compared with immigrant victims independent of the respondents’ immigrant status of the participants. However, different participant bullying roles predicted the differences in in moral cognitions between non-immigrant versus immigrant victims depending on the respondents’ immigrant status of the participants.

The research was conducted by: Simona C. S. Caravita, Dagmar Strohmeier, Christina Salmivalli, Paola Di Blasio

Prof Dagmar Strohmeier
University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria, Linz

3.00 pm to 4.00 pm in TB 06

Dagmar Strohmeier is Professor for Intercultural Competence at the University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria, Linz. She received a PhD (2006) the venia legendi in Psychology (2014) from the University of Vienna. Dagmar Strohmeier studies peer relations in children and youth with a cross-cultural and cross-national perspective and a special focus on immigrant youth. She has developed, implemented and evaluated a program to foster social and intercultural competencies in schools (ViSC program). This program has been implemented in Cyprus, Romania and Turkey. She has published numerous international papers and presented her work at national and international conferences. Her outstanding research was awarded by the University of Applied Sciences in 2011 (Researcher of the Year) and the Bank Austria Main Award for the Support of Innovative Research in 2009. Her teaching was awarded by the Main Award for the Supervision of the Best Master Thesis in Child Centered Education from the Köck Stiftung in 2010.

Research Seminar: 21 February 2017

Using food to soothe
Attachment orientation and overeating

Several studies report a relationship between body mass index (BMI) and disinhibited eating (a failure to restrict intake and to overeat). However, the aetiology of disinhibited eating is not well understood. In a series of studies, we considered a role for ‘attachment orientation’, a trait that reflects the quality of bonding in early life and remains stable throughout adulthood. One possibility is that disinhibited eaters are seeking to mitigate the anxiety associated with poor interpersonal attachments. An initial questionnaire study showed that attachment anxiety was a good predictor of disinhibited eating. Furthermore, mediation analysis confirmed that through this relationship, attachment anxiety also predicts BMI. In a follow-up experimental study, we primed attachment orientation (security and anxiety) and showed that individuals consumed more cookies following an anxious prime compared to a secure prime. Finally, a study concerned with attachment orientation in a clinically obese population was conducted. Attachment anxiety was significantly higher in the clinical group compared to age and gender matched lean controls. In this talk, these findings and their implications will be discussed alongside proposed future work.


Dr. Laura Wilkinson
Swansea Nutrition, Appetite and Cognition (SNAC) Research Group
Department of Psychology, Swansea University

3.00 pm to 4.00 pm in 01 AC 03


My research focuses on the psycho-social determinants of eating behaviour. I am particularly interested in the relationship between attachment orientation (a measure of inter-personal functioning) and overeating as a form of affect regulation. I have previously shown that attachment anxiety (fear of abandonment) is a good predictor of body mass index through uncontrolled eating. I am pursuing several research questions related to this topic; Can attachment orientation account for why some people experience poor outcomes following weight-loss intervention (e.g., bariatric surgery)? Does the acute manipulation of attachment orientation affect real-world eating behaviour? Does the intergenerational transmission of attachment orientation interact with parental influences on children’s eating behaviour?

I previously worked and studied within the Nutrition and Behaviour Unit (NBU) at the University of Bristol, which is led by Prof. Jeff Brunstrom and Prof. Peter Rogers. Whilst at the NBU, I completed my PhD concerning cognitive factors affecting sensory specific satiety and the variety effect. In particular, my PhD work established that the anticipation of the effects of variety is a key feature of pre-meal portion-size selection. I also worked on projects focused on the influence of expected satiety and expected satiation on decisions about portion size.

Finally, I have a special interest in the complex relationship between domestic abuse and disordered eating. This research theme often intertwines with my work on attachment orientation and affect regulation. I have previously conducted research on domestic abuse when working with the national charity SafeLives.

Research Seminar: 28th February 2017

Cognitive processes in creative thinking

Creative thinking is the source of amazing novel ideas and original products, which enrich everyday life and represent valuable contributions to arts and sciences. But what cognitive processes are involved in creative thought? This talk presents recent research investigating memory and attentional processes underlying creative idea generation from a cognitive and neuroscience perspective. It specifically covers studies exploring the relevance of associative processes and memory structure, internally-oriented attention, and executive control. Together, the findings highlight some of the ordinary processes contributing to the extraordinary outcome of creativity.

Dr Mathias Benedek
University of Graz, Austria

3.00pm to 4.00pm in TB 02

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