Psychology at Kent offers a supportive, dynamic and diverse environment for creative research and learning.
During your research, you are supported by a panel including a main and secondary supervisor. Your supervisors are individually selected for you based on their compatibility with your research interests. Typically, you meet with your supervisors more frequently at the initial stages of research than during the phases of data collection and analysis.
You receive training in research-specific and broader 'transferable' skills, including academic writing, career management and presentation skills. You also have the opportunity to train for an advanced teaching qualification (ATAP). The Advanced Statistics and Methodology module from our taught MSc programme is available for doctoral students that have not already completed an advanced statistics and methods course.
During term-time, our research groups hold weekly meetings to discuss ongoing work, and weekly seminars also take place featuring external speakers. Numerous data analysis and research methods workshops are available (recent examples include structural equation modelling; hierarchical linear modelling; meta-analysis; EPrime experimental software), as well as individual training opportunities.
Read our student testimonial to find out what it's like to be a postgraduate researcher in Psychology at Kent.
The School of Psychology
Kent's School of Psychology supports research in a number of areas, including: social psychology; developmental psychology; forensic psychology; cognitive psychology; existential psychology; personality and motivation.
We conduct both basic and applied research in several areas, and we are highly regarded as a leading European centre for postgraduate research. We have a long-established international reputation in social psychology, and this is complemented by our strengths in cognitive, developmental and forensic psychology. The School attracts excellent visiting scholars and postgraduate students from both within the UK and overseas.
Some of our PhD students are self-funded, and others are funded by grants or awards either from the School, UK or their countries of origin. You may also fund your studies through part-time teaching within the School.
All our taught Master's (MSc) programmes have been recognised by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as meeting the nationally recognised criteria for preparation training for PhD research. The School has a strong track record of attracting ESRC research studentship funding, which involves partnerships with external organisations such as Age Concern England and the Equality and Human Rights Commission and collaborative studentships with partners such as People United.
In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, research by the School of Psychology was ranked 11th in the UK for research intensity.
An impressive 95% of our research-active staff submitted to the REF and 97% of our research was judged to be of international quality. The School's environment was judged to be conducive to supporting the development of world-leading research.
Our postgraduate students commonly go into the fields of health, teaching or further education. For instance, many of our graduates take up roles as assistant psychologists in the NHS with a view to becoming a professional clinical or forensic psychologist. Upon completing our Master's courses, graduates have also pursued doctoral study and academic careers at higher education institutions.
The programmes we offer help you to develop general critical, analytic and problem-solving skills that can be applied in a wide range of settings.
The School of Psychology is highly regarded as a leading European centre for postgraduate research, with an international reputation for excellence in social psychology (including group processes and intergroup relations); cognition and neuroscience; developmental psychology; and forensic psychology. We have staff who can supervise research degrees in all of these areas. The research environment is designed to sustain a strong, vibrant research culture, encourage collaboration, and unite staff and students with shared research interests. Our themes ensure critical mass and create a highly energetic and stimulating intellectual climate.
Research activity is supported by:
- centrally co-ordinated provision and use of laboratories and technical support
- selection of speakers for our weekly departmental research colloquia
- weekly research meetings within each theme
- developing, reporting and analysing research, and hosting our many visiting scholars
- several monthly small meeting series on specific areas of cross-cutting research (such as forensic, social development, emotion, social cognition and health).
Much of our social psychology research is co-ordinated through the Centre for the Study of Group Processes (CSGP), the largest research group in this area in Europe. CSGP attracts a stream of major international social psychology researchers, who are officially affiliated to the Centre and regularly visit to work with our staff. The Social Psychology group also includes the co-editor of Group Processes and Intergroup Relations (Abrams).
Social psychology research at Kent is funded by a variety of British and international sources, currently and recently including ESRC, British Academy, Leverhulme, Age Concern, European Commission, European Science Foundation, Home Office, Equality and Human Rights Commission, Nuffield, and Joseph Rowntree Foundation, as well as government departments such as the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Department for Work and Pensions.
The Social Psychology group includes the following themes:
Prejudice, intergroup contact and social categorisation
This research is carried out in our social psychology laboratories, at schools and in business organisations. For example, research within this topic focuses on questions such as: how contact between members of different social groups is represented psychologically, how intergroup contact affects prejudice, when outgroups are seen as less human, when and why children show prejudice, and why organisational mergers sometimes fail.
Social inequality and cohesion
Research on this topic combines theory-driven research and engagement with policy. It is conducted in real-life settings such as the workplace, and involves national and international surveys. For example, the research focuses on the well-being of elderly people in Britain, work participation and motherhood, and discrimination against different groups in society.
Group dynamics and social influence
Laboratory studies and community-based research are conducted on this topic. For example, research focuses on co-operation in small groups, group decision-making, perception and influence of leaders, social communication and language, subjective group dynamics in adults and children, the dynamics of prison gang activity, and the impact of alcohol on group processes.
Personality and social motivation
Much of this research is carried out in laboratories, through surveys and in clinical or other applied settings. For example, research has examined aggression, the adaptive functions of perfectionism, and consequences of mortality salience.
Cognition and Neuroscience
Research under this theme has an international reputation in the topic areas of Visual Cognition, Attention and Memory, and Language and Communication. Some of this research activity occurs in the Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience and Cognitive Systems, a strategic partnership between the Schools of Psychology and Computing.
Visual cognition, attention and memory
Research on this topic focuses primarily on the role of vision and visual perception in human performance. The fundamental aim of this work is to identify the cognitive processes and neurological mechanisms underlying various visual tasks. Studies involving neurologically healthy volunteers examine issues such as face recognition and identification, eyewitness testimony, person detection, emotion processing, episodic memory and pattern and motion recognition.
Language and communication
Research in this group examines various aspects of semantic, pragmatic and syntactic understanding. Research questions on healthy populations include the role of executive functions in successful language use and communication, how language influences attentional processes and perspective taking, anomaly detection, and the effect of interruptions on reading. Work on developmental populations examines issues such as how children learn to understand and produce sentences in their own language, and how they learn conversational conventions and self-repair. Research also examines developmental disorders of communication, including autism spectrum disorders and dyslexia. This research group has links with researchers in the School of European Culture and Languages, as part of the Centre for Language and Linguistic Studies.
Forensic Psychology research at Kent and all forensic-related teaching operates through our newly constituted Centre of Research and Education in Forensic Psychology (CORE-FP). Current research is focused on bullying in prisons, prison gang behaviour, jury decision-making, child sexual offending, rape, rape proclivity, female sexual offending, theories of offender rehabilitation, firesetting, sexual harassment, violence, aggression and alcohol, and the infrahumanisation of offenders. Other areas of research include social cognition, social and moral emotion, and group process theory, all of which are applied to the study of offending behaviour or court process issues.
Forensic psychology research at Kent is funded by various national and international sources, which include: The British Academy, Economic and Social Research Council, Home Office, Leverhulme, Ministry of Justice and the Nuffield Foundation.
Research may be carried out with staff or offenders/ex-offenders in a variety of settings, including prisons, youth offender institutions, secure mental health units and probation offices. Alternatively, research may take place with students or members of the community in our newly equipped laboratories.
Much of the research conducted by members of the Developmental Psychology group is conducted with neurotypical infants, children, and adolescents. However, we also take a lifespan approach to the study of development and conduct research with older adults. Moreover, a key focus of our research is on neuro-developmental disorders. Central research topics include:
Developmental group members are particularly interested in the expression and control of ethnic and gender prejudice, social ostracism and inclusion, conversational norms and group identity in children. We also conduct research on social aspects of older adulthood, in particular self-stereotyping and prejudice against elderly people.
Cognitive development is a major focus of many of our developmental psychologists. In particular, members of the Developmental Psychology group actively research topics such as the development of social cognition and theory of mind, language, information and sensory processing, and conversation and pragmatic skills.
Our developmental research also focuses on adolescence, as well as infancy, childhood and older adulthood. In particular, we are interested in the emergence of gang activity and antisocial behaviour during this period of development.
We also conduct cutting-edge research into neuro-developmental disorders, such as autism and language impairment, with a view to understanding the nature and basis of, and best ways to treat, these disorders.
The School of Psychology currently includes three formally constituted research centres, representing areas of concentration and excellence in research.
Centre for the Study of Group Processes
The Centre for the Study of Group Processes (CSGP) was set up in 1990 to consolidate the School