Dr Sheila Cunningham

Senior Lecturer

School School of Applied Sciences

Department Division of Psychology and Forensic Sciences

Contact info

+44 (0)1382 30 8592

Biography

I’m a Senior Lecturer in the Psychology Division, with research focusing on social cognition in both adults and children. Before joining Abertay in 2011, I was a Research Fellow at the University of Aberdeen where I completed both my undergraduate psychology degree and my PhD in person perception. My work on social cognition explores the mechanisms and biases through which we process information about ourselves and other people, with a particular focus on memory formation in children and adults.

My research is currently funded by the Leverhulme TrustESRC and the Carnegie Trust, as well as internal studentships. For more details, please see my lab webpage.

I teach on the following modules:

  • PSY205: Cognitive and social psychology
  • PSY408: Advanced social and cognitive psychology (Module leader)
  • PSY507: Social and Developmental Psychology (Module leader)

Interests

My research is focused on social cognition, exploring the mechanisms and biases through which we process information about the self and other people.

Particular areas of interest include:

  • self-reference effects in memory (visit the  'Me in Memory'  lab webpage)
  • the early development of self-processing biases, and implications for learning and education (visit the Self Lab webpage)
  • the impact of ownership on cognition
  • effects of stereotypes on cognition and behaviour
  • person perception across the lifespan (visit the Person Perception lab webpage)

2018

The thoughtful self

Cunningham, S. J. (2018) The thoughtful self. In: Embodiment in psychotherapy: a practitioner’s guide. Hauke, G. (ed.), Kritikos, A. (ed.). p. 69-82. . Springer.
View in Research Portal

The me in memory

Ross, J. ., Hutchison, J. & Cunningham, S. J. (2018) The me in memory. . . .
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2017

The I in Autism

Gillespie-Smith, K., Ballantyne, C., Branigan, H. P., Turk, D. J. & Cunningham, S. J. (2017) The I in Autism. . . p. 127-141. .
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How societal stereotypes might form and evolve via cumulative cultural evolution

Martin, D., Cunningham, S. J., Hutchison, J., Slessor, G. & Smith, K. (2017) How societal stereotypes might form and evolve via cumulative cultural evolution. . . .
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Applying self-processing biases in education

Cunningham, S. J., Scott, L., Hutchison, J., Ross, J. . & Martin, D. (2017) Applying self-processing biases in education. . . p. 342-351. .
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Context and perceptual salience influence the formation of novel stereotypes via cumulative cultural evolution

Hutchison, J., Cunningham, S. J., Slessor, G., Urquhart, J., Smith, K. & Martin, D. (2017) Context and perceptual salience influence the formation of novel stereotypes via cumulative cultural evolution. . . p. 186-212. .
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2016

A review of self-processing biases in cognition

Cunningham, S. J. & Turk, D. J. (2016) A review of self-processing biases in cognition. . . p. 987-995. .
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Simulation-based mentalizing generates a ‘proxy’ self-reference effect in memory

Allan, K., Morson, S., Dixon, S., Martin, D. & Cunningham, S. J. (2016) Simulation-based mentalizing generates a ‘proxy’ self-reference effect in memory. . . p. 1074-1084. .
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2015

Selfish learning

Turk, D. J., Gillespie-Smith, K., Krigolson, O. E., Havard, C., Conway, M. A. & Cunningham, S. J. (2015) Selfish learning. . . p. 54-60. .
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Culture modulates implicit ownership-induced self-bias in memory

Sparks, S., Cunningham, S. J. & Kritikos, A. (2015) Culture modulates implicit ownership-induced self-bias in memory. . . p. 89-98. .
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The function of the self-attention network

Cunningham, S. J. (2015) The function of the self-attention network. . . p. 21-22. .
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The simultaneous extraction of multiple social categories from unfamiliar faces

Martin, D., Swainson, R., Slessor, G., Hutchison, J., Marosi, D. & Cunningham, S. J. (2015) The simultaneous extraction of multiple social categories from unfamiliar faces. . . p. 51-58. .
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2014

Person perception

Cunningham, S. (2014) Person perception. In: Oxford bibliographies in psychology. Dunn, D. (ed.). . Oxford University Press.
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The spontaneous formation of stereotypes via cumulative cultural evolution

Martin, D., Hutchison, J., Slessor, G., Urquhart, J., Cunningham, S. J. & Smith, K. (2014) The spontaneous formation of stereotypes via cumulative cultural evolution. . . p. 1777–1786. .
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2013

The self-reference effect on memory in early childhood

Cunningham, S. J., Brebner, J. L., Quinn, F. & Turk, D. J. (2013) The self-reference effect on memory in early childhood. . . p. 808-823. .
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2012

Survival of the selfish: contrasting self-referential and survival-based encoding

Cunningham, S. J., Brady-Van den Bos, M., Gill, L. & Turk, D. J. (2012) Survival of the selfish: contrasting self-referential and survival-based encoding. . . p. 237-244. .
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Divided attention selectively impairs memory for self-relevant information

Turk, D. J., Brady-Van den Bos, M., Collard, P., Gillespie-Smith, K., Conway, M. A. & Cunningham, S. J. (2012) Divided attention selectively impairs memory for self-relevant information. . . p. 503-510. .
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2011

The colour of gender stereotyping

Cunningham, S. J. & Macrae, C. N. (2011) The colour of gender stereotyping. . . p. 598–614. .
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2010

Exploring early self-referential memory effects through ownership

Cunningham, S. J., Vergunst, F., Macrae, C. N. & Turk, D. J. (2010) Exploring early self-referential memory effects through ownership. . . p. 289-301. .
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Self-reflection and the temporal focus of the wandering mind

Smallwood, J., Schooler, J. W., Turk, D. J., Cunningham, S. J., Burns, P. & Macrae, C. N. (2010) Self-reflection and the temporal focus of the wandering mind. . . p. 1120-1126. .
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Exploring the effects of ownership and choice on self-memory biases

Cunningham, S. J., Brady-Van den Bos, M. & Turk, D. J. (2010) Exploring the effects of ownership and choice on self-memory biases. . . p. 449-461. .
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2009

Mine to remember

van den Bos, M., Cunningham, S. J., Conway, M. A. & Turk, D. J. (2009) Mine to remember. . . p. 1065-1071. .
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2007

Self-memory biases in explicit and incidental encoding of trait adjectives

Turk, D. J., Cunningham, S. J. & Macrae, C. N. (2007) Self-memory biases in explicit and incidental encoding of trait adjectives. . . p. 1040-1045. .
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Priming

Cunningham, S. & Macrae, C. N. (2007) Priming. In: Encyclopaedia of social psychology. Baumeister, R. (ed.), Vohs, K. (ed.). 1 ed., p. 700-701. London: Sage Publications.
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The effects of acute alcohol intoxication on person memory

Cunningham, S. J., Milne, A. B. & Crawford, J. R. (2007) The effects of acute alcohol intoxication on person memory. . . p. 187-199. .
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2006

Yours or mine? Ownership and memory

Cunningham, S. J., Turk, D. J., Macdonald, L. M. & Macrae, C. N. (2006) Yours or mine? Ownership and memory. . . p. 312-318. .
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2004

The influence of gender roles on evolved partner preferences

Cunningham, S. J. & Russell, P. A. (2004) The influence of gender roles on evolved partner preferences. . . p. 131-150. .
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More Information

Funding

Research grants include:

2018: CI on £8,500 grant awarded by the Carnegie Trust

2018-2021: CI on £75,000 PhD studentship awarded by Abertay University's R-Lincs program

2017-2020: CI on £363,321 grant awarded by the ESRC

2017-2018: CI on £7,490 grant awarded by the Carnegie Trust

2015-2018: PI on £106,396 grant awarded by the Leverhulme Trust

2014-2015: PI on £3,500 workshop grant awarded by the Experimental Psychology Society

2009-2012: Named RF on 791,549€ awarded by the European Research Council

Esteem

Esteem

I peer review manuscripts for international journals including Consciousness and CognitionDevelopmental ScienceJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and CognitionQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, and Memory. I am currently editing a special issue on self-processing biases for the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology.

I am a member of the following academic societies:

  • Experimental Psychology Society
  • Association for Psychological Science
  • European Association of Social Psychology
  • Self & Identity

Knowledge Exchange

ACADEMIC CONFERENCE PRESENTATIONS

Cunningham, S. J., Hutchison, J., & Ross, J. Development of incidental and explicit self-reference effects reveals distinct cognitive mechanisms. BPS Cognitive Section Annual Conference, Liverpool, Sept. 2018.

Ross, J., Hutchison, J., & Cunningham, S. J., The me in memory: Using the self-reference effect to measure development in the
autobiographical self. BPS Cognitive Section Annual Conference, Liverpool, Sept. 2018.

Ahmed, Z., Cunningham, S. J., Ross, J. & Rhodes, S. Exploring the self-reference effect in ADHD. BPS Developmental Section Annual Conference, Liverpool, Sept. 2018.

Ross, J., Hutchison, J., & Cunningham, S. J.,Growing me: The development of the self-reference effect across childhood. BPS Developmental Section Annual Conference, Liverpool, Sept. 2018.

Cunningham, S. J., Hutchison, J., Ross, J. & Martin, D. Self-biases in recall: Applying ownership effects in education. BPS Developmental Section Annual Conference, Stratford-upon-Avon, Sept. 2017.

Ross, J., Hutchison, J., & Cunningham, S. J. Self-processing biases in event memory: Implications for the development of self-awareness. BPS Developmental Section Annual Conference, Stratford-upon-Avon, Sept. 2017.

Cunningham, S. J., Hutchison, J., & Martin, D. The ownership effect in memory: applications for learning. International Convention on Psychological Science, Vienna, March 2017.

Hutchison, J. Cunningham, S. J., & Ross, J. The me in memory: Using self-reference effects to predict autobiographical memory development. BPS Cognitive Section Annual Conference, Barcelona, Sept. 2016.

Gillespie-Smith, K., Branigan, H., Ballantyne, C., Turk, D. J., & Cunningham, S. J. Level of functioning in Autism associated with self-processing ability: Evidence from an ownership paradigm. BPS Developmental Section Annual Conference, Belfast, Sept. 2016.

Gillespie-Smith, K., Ballantyne, C., Turk, D. J., & Cunningham, S. J. Children with autism spectrum disorder do show self-processing biases: Evidence from an ownership paradigm. Meeting of the Experimental Psychology Society, Oxford, July 2016.

Martin, D., Swainson, R., Slessor, G., Hutchison, J., & Cunningham, S. J. The simultaneous extraction of emotion and social categories from unfamiliar faces. Meeting of the Experimental Psychology Society, Oxford, July 2016.

Cunningham, S. J. Applying self-processing biases in an educational context. Meeting of the Experimental Psychology Society, Durham, April 2016.

Cunningham, S. J. & Ferguson, A. The effects of self-referencing on children’s mathematical processing. BPS Developmental Section Annual Conference, Manchester, September 2015.

Cunningham, S. J. & Turk, D. J. The selfish learner: advantages of applying a self-referential approach to children's learning. Society for Research in Child Development, Seattle, WA, April 2013.

Cunningham, S. J. Exploring incidental self-reference effects in memory. International Conference on Memory (ICOM) 5, York, August 2011.

Cunningham, S. J. & Turk, D. J. Applying the self in learning. Society for Applied Research in Memory and Cognition XI, New York, June 2011.

Cunningham, S.J. The self-reference effect on memory in early childhood. Society for Research in Child Development, Montreal, Canada, April 2011.

Cunningham, S. J. A world of my own: The emergence of ownership effects in early childhood. 1st joint conference of EPS and SEPEX, Granada, Spain, April 2010.

Cunningham, S. J. It's mine! Children's memory bias for self-owned items. BPS Developmental Section Annual Conference, Nottingham, UK, September 2009.

Cunningham, S. J. Turk, D. J. & Macrae, C. N. Remember your own: The development of self-biases in early childhood. 15th General Meeting of the European Association of Experimental Social Psychology, Opatija, Croatia, June 2008.

Cunningham, S. J. Turk, D. J. & Macrae, C. N. Each to his own: Self-biases in memory for owned objects. 8th Annual Society for Personality and Social Psychology Conference, Memphis, Tennessee, January 2007.

Cunningham, S. J., Milne, A. B. & Crawford, J. R. Alcohol and the control of stereotyping behaviour. Conference of the Society for Experimental Social Psychology, Boston, Massachusetts, September 2003.

Cunningham, S. J. & Milne, A. B. The consumption of executive resources during stereotype suppression. Society for Applied Research in Memory and Cognition V, Aberdeen, July 2003.

Cunningham, S. J. & Milne, A. B. Stereotype suppression: Ironic effects on memory and executive resource consumption. Annual Conference of the British Psychological Society, Bournemouth, March 2003.

McGeorge, P., Milne, A. B., Cunningham, S.J & Rutland, A. Implicit attitudes amongst Scots: The effect of varying the comparison group. Meeting of the European Association of Experimental Social Psychology, San Sebastian, Spain, June 2002.

Outreach

Outreach

PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT

I have been involved in a number of scientific public engagement sessions, including the British Science Festival and Dundee Science Festival ("I heard it on the Grapevine: The social evolution of information") and Cafe Science Dundee ("Pink for girls and blue for boys? The colour of gender stereotypes").

 

SCHOOL OUTREACH

I work in school outreach programmes, delivering talks to children in primary and secondary schools on psychology topics such as stereotyping and brain development.

We are currently developing our programme of CPD workshops for teachers, aimed at increasing awareness of the application of self-processing biases in the classroom (see www.selflab.co.uk).

Meet the rest of the team

Dr George Lovell

Dr George Lovell

Division of Psychology and Forensic Sciences | Lecturer

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Dr Christopher Watkins

Dr Christopher Watkins

Division of Psychology and Forensic Sciences | Senior Lecturer

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