Dr Sheila Cunningham

Senior Lecturer

School School of Social and Health Sciences

Department Division of Psychology

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 Trust, ESRC 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)

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)

Cunningham, S. J., Scott, L., Hutchison, J., Ross, J., & Martin, D. (2018). Applying self-processing biases in education: Improving learning through ownership. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 7, 342-351. doi: 10.1016/j.jarmac.2018.04.004

Cunningham, S. J. (2018). The thoughtful self. In Hauke & Kritikos (Eds.) Embodiment in Psychology – A Practitioner’s Guide. Springer.

Gillespie-Smith, K, Ballantyne, C, Branigan, H, Turk, D. J., & Cunningham, S. J. (2018). The I in Autism: Severity and social functioning in Autism is related to self-processing. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 36, 127-141. doi: 10.1111/bjdp.12219

Hutchison, J., Martin, D., Slessor, G., Urquhart, J., Smith, K., & Cunningham, S. J. (2017). Shared cognitive biases influence the cumulative cultural evolution of stereotypes, Cognitive Science, 1-27. doi: 10.1111/COGS.12560

Martin, D., Cunningham, S. J., Hutchison, J., Slessor, G. & Smith, K. (2017). How societal stereotypes might form and evolve via cumulative cultural evolution? Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 11, 1-13. doi: 10.1111/SPC3.12338

Allan, K., Morson, S., Dixon, S., Martin, D. & Cunningham, S. J. (2017). Simulation-based mentalizing generates a ‘proxy’ self-reference effect in memory. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 70, 1074-1084. doi: 0.1080/17470218.2016.1209532

Cunningham, S. J. & Turk, S. J. (2017). A review of self-processing biases in cognition. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 70, 987-995. doi: 10.1080/17470218.2016.1276609

Cunningham, S. J. (2016). The function of the self-attention network. Cognitive Neuroscience, 7, 21-22http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17588928.2015.1075485

Ross, J., Martin, D.. & Cunningham, S. J. (2016). How do children develop a sense of self? The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/how-do-children-develop-a-sense-of-self-56118

Sparks, S., Cunningham, S. J., & Kritikos, A. (2016). Culture modulates implicit ownership-induced self-bias in memory. Cognition, 153, 89-98. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0010027716301184

Martin, D., Swainson, R., Slessor, G., Hutchison, J., Marosi, D., & Cunningham, S.J. (2015). The simultaneous extraction of multiple social categories from unfamiliar faces. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 60, 51-58. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022103115000311

Turk, D. J., Gillespie-Smith, K., McGowan, L., Havard, C., Conway, M. A., Krigolson, & Cunningham, S. J. (2015). Selfish learning: The impact of self-referential encoding on children’s literacy attainment. Learning & Instruction, 40, 54-60. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959475215300220

Cunningham, S. J. (2014). Person perception. In D. S. Dunn (Ed.) Oxford bibliographies in psychology. New York: Oxford University Press. http://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780199828340/obo-9780199828340-0136.xml?rskey=lA6gdH&result=1&q=person+perception#firstMatch

Cunningham, S. J., Brebner, J. L., Quinn, F., & Turk, D. J. (2014). The self-reference effect on memory in early childhood. Child Development, 85, 808-823. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cdev.12144/full

Martin, D., Hutchison, J., Slessor, G., Urquhart, J., Cunningham, S.J., & Smith, K. (2014). The spontaneous formation of stereotypes via cumulative cultural evolution. Psychological Science, 25, 1777-1786. http://pss.sagepub.com/content/25/9/1777.short

Cunningham, S. J., Vergunst, F., Macrae, C.N., & Turk, D. J. (2013). Exploring early self-referential memory effects through ownership. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 31, 289-301. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/bjdp.12005/full 

Cunningham, S. J., Brady-Van den Bos, M., Gill, L., & Turk, D. J. (2013). Survival of the selfish: Contrasting self-referential encoding and survival processing. Consciousness and Cognition, 22, 237-244. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1053810012002395

Turk, D. J. Brady-Van den Bos, M., Collard, P., Gillespie-Smith, K., Conway, M. A., & Cunningham, S. J., (2013). Divided attention selectively impairs memory for self-relevant information. Memory and Cognition, 41, 503-510. http://link.springer.com/article/10.3758/s13421-012-0279-0

Cunningham, S. J. & Macrae, C. N. (2011). The colour of gender stereotyping. British Journal of Psychology, 102, 598-614. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.2044-8295.2011.02023.x/full

Cunningham, S. J., Van den Bos, M., & Turk, D. J. (2011). Exploring the effects of ownership and choice on self-memory biases. Memory, 19, 449-461. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09658211.2011.584388

Smallwood, J., Schooler, J. W., Turk, D. J., Cunningham, S. J., Burns, P., & Macrae, C.N. (2011). Self-reflection and the temporal focus of the wandering mind. Consciousness and Cognition, 20, 1120-1126. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S105381001000276X

Van den Bos, M., Cunningham, S. J., & Turk, D. J. (2010). Mine to remember: The impact of ownership on recollective experience. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 63, 1065-1071. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17470211003770938

Cunningham, S. J. Turk, D. J., Macdonald, L. M. & Macrae, C. N. (2008). Yours or mine? Ownership and memory. Consciousness and Cognition, 17, 312-318. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S105381000700030X

Turk, D. J., Cunningham, S. J. & Macrae, C. N. (2008). Self-memory biases in explicit and incidental encoding of trait adjectives. Consciousness and Cognition, 17, 1040-1045. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1053810008000299

Cunningham, S. J. & Macrae, C. N. (2007). Priming. In R. Baumeister & K. Vohs (Eds) Encyclopedia of social psychology. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. https://uk.sagepub.com/en-gb/eur/encyclopedia-of-social-psychology/book227442

Cunningham, S. J. & Milne, A. B. & Crawford, J. R. (2007). The effects of acute alcohol intoxication on person memory: The stereotypic drunk. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 37, 187-199. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.0021-9029.2007.00155.x/full

Cunningham, S. J. & Russell, P. (2004). The influence of gender roles on evolved partner preferences. Sexualities, Evolution and Gender, 6, 131-150.http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14616660412331332909

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

I peer review manuscripts for international journals including Consciousness and Cognition, Developmental Science, Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, Quarterly 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

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

Ms Pamela Miller

Ms Pamela Miller

Division of Psychology | Teaching Fellow

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Professor Vera Kempe

Professor Vera Kempe

Division of Psychology | Professor of Psychology and Language Learning

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