What do you work on?
So, I have three main strings to my research bow: 1) social feminist psychological research on stereotyping and sexism, 2) pedagogical research on student experiences in Higher Education, 3) scholarship on the movement to improve open and reproducible research. Sometimes these three interests come together, for example, in projects that look at open science teaching with undergraduates, or studies on feminist psychology and reproducibility, or applications of social psychology to student wellbeing.
My PhD work (that I’m just about wrapping up now) investigates whether theories from social psychology (namely stereotype threat theory and objectification theory) may provide insights into the cognitive performance of women in pregnancy.
What did you do using Gorilla and what did you find?
I used Gorilla in one of my PhD studies that investigated whether explicitly activating a ‘baby brain’ stereotype, which suggests that pregnant women have impaired cognitive abilities, can harm actual performance across cognitive tasks. This was a conceptual replication of another study I ran which investigated this effect with memory ability. Thanks to Gorilla, I was able to attempt to replicate this effect using a wider range of cognitive abilities, using the Open Materials that Gorilla share. In my study, I used tasks including a Flanker task, Levels of Processing task, and a maths test.
Has this study been published?
Yes, it’s published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology. You can find it here.
For you, what is the stand-out feature in Gorilla?
The support! Twitter advisers, Facebook support groups, responsive emails — Gorilla has so many different ways to get help, which is fab when you’re an early career researcher figuring out this stuff as you go.
How do you think online research is going to change your field?
I actually think that there’s a real social justice/accessibility/inclusivity benefit of online research methods. For example, if my studies (which typically recruit pregnant women) had to be done in the lab, I would likely only be able to reach people who were able to take time out of their day to visit the campus. That limits my sample enormously and perpetuates the problem of psychology research only hearing from one kind of demographic group. Online research is fabulous for widening that net, particularly when it’s done with funding in a way that allows participants to be properly and fairly remunerated for their contributions too.
On a personal level, what are you most proud of?
My academic baby – my book! I spent 2020 writing an entry-level textbook for undergraduates called “A Feminist Companion to Social Psychology”, which is forthcoming in November 2021 with Open University Press. I’m so proud of it because it is the book that I was desperate for when I was an undergraduate. It essentially takes the core social psychology curriculum and provides a companion commentary to it through a feminist lens. My co-author, Wendy Stainton-Rogers, and I were keen for the book to be fun and accessible, which I think we managed to pull off. It was so much fun to write and a really proud moment.
How did Gorilla make your life or research better, easier or faster?
I simply wouldn’t have been able to run my study using different cognitive tasks without Gorilla. I have written quite a bit about the escalating demands and expectations on PhD students and early career researchers, so I think any way of running complex studies that doesn’t require long and expensive training courses is very welcome to me. Gorilla is perfect for that.
Who or what originally inspired you to work in your field of research?
When I was an undergraduate student at the University of Lincoln, I attended a lecture by Dr Nathan Heflick on objectification theory and remember thinking “This is it! This is what I want to do”. Nathan was kind enough to let me work as a research assistant on some projects with him and I soon had a long list of PhD ideas. I love research which has a really practical, meaningful outcome – for example, objectification or stereotype threat have been found to affect actual performance on tests. That has huge consequences for continuing inequalities and harming self-concept and self-esteem. I got really interested in this kind of research, in an attempt to understand these processes a bit better.
What is the most exciting piece of work or research you’ve ever done?
I’m doing some work at the moment which investigates how body functionality (i.e., thinking “look at what my body can do!” rather than “what my body looks like”) may be protective against self-objectification in pregnant women. This is an open conceptual replication and extension of a study published ten years ago (Rubin & Steinberg, 2011) and it’s in collaboration with Erin Nolen at the University of Texas. I’m really enjoying the whole process of working openly and building directly from previous literature.
Why did you choose Gorilla?
I chose Gorilla because a) it allowed me to do the complex behavioural tasks that I wanted to do, and b) the Gorilla team give off great vibes, so I felt confident that they would be able to help me if I got stuck. I like the interface of Gorilla so much that I convinced our department to get a whole department licence when we pivoted to online dissertation supervision, and it’s been going really well since then.
What are the main ways people misunderstand your thesis?
In my PhD thesis, I’m investigating how social psychology may provide insights into the so-called “baby brain” that pregnant women experience and report. One misconception that I’ve come across is people who think that I’m trying to claim that ‘baby brain’ is a made-up construct/myth/stereotype. Instead, I’m trying to see the extent to which social phenomena (such as stereotype activation and objectification) exacerbates performance deficits.
What’s your favourite paper to use for teaching and why?
My favourite paper ever is by Dr Rachel Calogero (2013) and it’s called “Objects don’t object!: Evidence that self-objectification disrupts women’s social activism.” I think it’s such a beautiful paper because it has the cleverest pun ever in the title and it looks at the behavioural consequences of self-objectification, which I think is really important to study. Every year students have to sit through a lecture with me saying “Objects don’t OBJECT, get it? Do you get it?!” when we discuss objectification and body image. I always enjoy that.
Are there any online courses, podcasts, discussion groups or resources that you’d recommend to others?
PsyPAG! The Psychology Postgraduates Affairs Group. If you’re a postgraduate (PhD, masters, professional trainee, anything) then do join PsyPAG. I’ve met so many friends, collaborators, and colleagues through them and they’re a really friendly bunch.