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UOA4 – Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience

Psychology Research at Abertay

Much of the psychological research conducted at Abertay is associated with the activity of 4 research groupings that are aligned with the research themes at the University level.

  • Security - Abertay psychologists have extensive experience conducting the highest quality research and applying the findings to improve police interview procedures especially in the area of child witnesses. The Unit also has expertise in: the treatment, evaluation, and management of offenders with an intellectual disability; the role of cognition and vision in understanding the demands of CCTV monitoring; and the role of individual differences in the ability of x-ray operatives in the aviation industry.
  • Whitespace Grouping - a multi-disciplinary grouping of psychologists, vision scientists, sociologists, and computer animators who work with industry partners to develop programmes of research that implement creative and animated solutions to problems associated with display technologies - e.g. next generation automated touchscreen technology. The group also has extensive expertise in the perception of shape from shading and camouflage.
  • The Evolutionary and Biological Basis of Behaviour group (EBAB) takes an evolutionary and biological approach to the study of a range of behaviours in humans and other animals with a unifying theme of examining the role hormones play in the expression of behaviour. Particular interests include: laterality, hand preference and personality; social skills in humans and primates; and the socio-cognitive responses that underpin adaptive social interactions with potential mates and rivals.
  • The Cognition and Language group conduct research into: second language learning; language production;, the cognitive neuropsychology of language; and the mechanisms and biases through which humans process information about the self and others.

All groupings have a translational and, where appropriate, a multi-disciplinary approach to knowledge creation. Many of the research programmes embed end users in all stages of the research process. The Unit has a rich history of working with the police, criminal justice sector, mental health charities, industrial partners, the aviation industry and other end user organisations.

Specific case studies of note include:

Helping the Police with their inquiries

Abertay Psychologists alongside researchers at the University of Portsmouth and Florida International University have developed an innovative investigative tool called the ‘Self-Administered Interview’ (SAI©). The tool has been shown to enhance witness statements and protect memory. The SAI© was developed and tested in a series of controlled lab-based studies at Abertay, and later field-tested with eyewitnesses to real crimes with the support of the Association of Chief Police Officers. The SAI© is already standard police practice in some UK and European forces with over 2,500 officers trained in its use. It has also been used in major Health and Safety investigations in the off-shore Oil and Gas industry.

Questionnaire on Attitudes Consistent with Sex Offending (QACSO)

Abertay psychologists have developed a clinical tool (QACSO) designed to assess the distorted cognitions of offenders with an intellectual disability. The tool discriminates between offenders and non-offenders. The QACSO is routinely used internationally in forensic services in the treatment and management of offenders with an intellectual disability. Practitioners using the tool the tool now have a better means of monitoring the effectiveness of their treatment of offenders with an intellectual disability.