Division of Psychology

Psychology is one of four Divisions in the School of Social and Health Sciences, alongside the Divisions of Sociology, Sport and Exercise Sciences, and Mental Health Nursing and Counselling. The Psychology research profile is integrated within the overarching themes of Society, Security, Environment and Creative Industries


Psychology at Abertay provides a collaborative and supportive research environment, and is well resourced with nine dedicated staff research labs and a suite of experimental cubicles. Laboratories are equipped with high-end PCs and appropriate software (E-prime, Superlab, N-Vivo, Paradigm, SPSS, Observer NT). Hardware of note includes an anechoic chamber, wall mounted remote controlled CCTV cameras, SMI 3.0 Eye View Eye-movement recorder, SMI Eye View X HED Eye-Tracker, GSR Equipment and software, and BioHarness Telemetry System with LabChart and BioHarness. Psychology researchers also have access to the HIVE (Human Intelligent Virtual Environment - a multipurpose and intelligent immersion studio).

Visual Perception

Dr George Lovell and Dr Ken-Scott Brown's work on visual perception examines how different types of colouration in nature work, to help to optimise camouflage and warning colouration in real-world contexts, while simultaneously improving understanding of visual systems. Other work tackles the problems that occur in computer interfaces by using animation techniques to effectively guide user attention in complex visual arrays. This research has developed novel interactive experiences to support special user groups such as older or disabled users, e.g. the Tapology project. 

Self Processing 

Research on self processing by Dr Sheila Cunningham and Dr Janet McLean considers that humans are biased not to miss important information about the self because it captures attention, evokes certain physiological responses and is linked to rich memories. It examines how these biases develop in children, how they are affected by developmental disorders, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and how they can be harnessed to improve learning in academic settings.

Missing People

Dr Penny Woolnough's interdisciplinary research on missing people is aimed at understanding the varied circumstances and outcomes of when people go missing, to enable different agencies e.g. law-enforcement practitioners, voluntary sector organisations and other academics throughout the UK and internationally, to help prioritise the experience of missing people and to strengthen global understanding of missing.

Language Learning and Processing

Research on language learning and processing by Prof Vera Kempe, Dr Janet McLean, Dr Neil Kirk, Dr Glenn Williams, and Nikolay Panayotov investigates how children and adults represent linguistic structure, how they learn and use different linguistic variants, such as dialects or speech registers, and how this may impact lexical representation and literacy acquisition. The research was recently featured on the BBC Timeline series.

Evolution of Social and Cognitive Abilities

Research on the evolution of social and cognitive abilities by Dr Clare Cunningham, Dr Lara Wood, and Ms Michele Schubiger compares specific abilities. Examples include object use, problem solving, social learning strategies, and prosocial, cooperative behaviours in non-human primates such as gibbons, chimpanzees and bonobos with human children and adults.

Neuroscience Research

Neuroscience research by Dr Corinne Jola and Dr Elena Rusconi examines the neural basis of a variety of abilities such as aesthetic experience of dance, body structure representation, mathematical cognition and visuospatial attention. Insights from neuro-imaging techniques are used to inform decisions on security and policing and also how aesthetic activities can be used to improve health and wellbeing.

Evolutionary Origins of Individual Differences

Research on evolutionary origins of individual differences by Dr Chris Watkins and Dr Lynn Wright examines influences on romantic and social attraction and the origins and consequences of laterality differences by exploring factors such as masculinity, femininity, dominance, competition and rivalry as well as the relationship between handedness, behavioural inhibition and task performance.

Masters and Doctoral

The Division has a strong and active role in delivering education at Masters and Doctoral level. It delivers a taught British Psychological Society accredited MSc Psychology conversion programme and has a number of students enrolled on Masters by Research or PhD study routes. All of these activities are in association with the Abertay University Graduate School.

Recent PHD Topics

The Division has a track record of successful PhD training and recent projects include: ‘Examining the efficacy of Joint Investigative Interviewing Training in Scotland through analysis of the quality of trainee interviewers' role-play interviews with adult actors’; ‘Interaction Style and Specification of the Occasional User of Digital Interfaces: Perspectives from Interdisciplinary Assessment of Virtual Agent Spatial Guidance’; and ‘Individual Differences in the Use of Behavioural Regulation: Differentiating The Influence of Future-Orientation and Personality Traits on the Perception of Well-Being’.