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Lincoln Psychology Explores How Tourists Can Misread Signs of Aggression in Wild Monkeys

01 Aggressive or threatening -  raised eyebrows, staring, and opening the mouth to show the teeth, or having the lips protrude to form a round mouth Credit Laetita Marechal

Wildlife tourists frequently fail to identify aggressive and distressed emotional states in wild monkeys – mistaking animals’ warnings of aggression for ‘smiles’ and ‘kisses’. This can lead to welfare problems for primates and risk of injury for people, according to new research published today.

A new study by a team of behavioural ecologists and psychologists examined whether educational tools intended to help tourists recognise different facial expressions in monkeys – such as 2D images and information signs like those found in zoos or animal parks – were effective in reducing harm to humans and distress to primates in destinations where wild macaques freely interact with humans.

The researchers found that tourists made significant mistakes in interpreting macaques’ emotions – such as believing a monkey was ‘smiling’ or ‘blowing them kisses’ when they were in fact displaying aggression – despite exposure to pictures designed to demonstrate what the animals’ facial expressions mean.

This level of misunderstanding could lead to increased risk of injury to humans and have a negative impact on the welfare on the animals, particularly in places where wild macaques interact with people, the study concluded.

The research, led by researchers from the University of Lincoln, UK, suggests videos or supervised visits led by expert guides would be better placed to educate tourists about how best to read emotions in animals in zoos and wildlife parks, along with advice on maintaining safe distance from the animals.

Dr Laëtitia Maréchal, from the School of Psychology at the University of Lincoln said: “There is a growing interest in wildlife tourism, and in particular primate tourism. People travel to encounter wild animals, many of them attempting to closely interact with monkeys, even though this is often prohibited.

“However, serious concerns have been raised related to the safety of the tourists interacting with wild animals. Indeed, recent reports estimate that monkey bites are the second cause of injury by animals after dogs in South East Asia, and bites are one of the main vectors of disease transmission between humans and animals.

“Our findings indicate that people who are inexperienced in macaque behaviour have difficulties in recognising monkey’s emotions, which can lead to dangerous situations where they think the monkeys are happy but instead they are threatening them.

“Education, guided visits, and keeping a safe distance with animals could be implemented as measures to reduce such issues, improving both animal welfare and tourist experience. Video might be a particularly effective tool to help people recognise animal emotion based on their facial expressions, behaviour or vocalisations, reducing any misunderstanding.”

Researchers quizzed three groups of participants – those with little to no experience of Barbary macaques, those with exposure to 2D images of different monkey faces, and those who had worked with primates for at least two months – on what emotions were being portrayed in a series of images showing aggressive, distressed, friendly and neutral faces.

Macaques present aggressive or threatening stances through raised eyebrows, staring, and opening the mouth to show the teeth, or having the lips protrude to form a round mouth. When the mouth is widely open and the animal is yawning, or the corners of the lips are fully retracted revealing the upper and lower teeth, it signals that they are distressed or submissive.

Macaques will have their mouths half open and the lips slightly protruding with a chewing movement and clicking or smacking of the tongue and lips to indicate they are friendly; and neutral faces feature a closed mouth and relaxed face.

They found that all participants, regardless of their levels of experience, made some mistakes confusing aggressive faces with non-threating faces such as neutral or friendly faces. Experts made just under seven per cent of mistakes, participants who were exposed to 2D images of monkey faces made just over 20 per cent of mistakes, and participants who had never or rarely encountered live monkeys made nearly 40 per cent of mistakes.

Dr Maréchal added: “When on site in Morocco, I often heard tourists in saying that the monkey seemed to blow them a kiss when they actually displayed a threatening face.

“The tourists often responded by imitating the monkey’s facial expression, which generally ended by either aggression by the monkey towards the tourists or the monkey leaving the interaction.

“If we can educate people, and prevent monkey bites, we can not only reduce the risk of disease infection, we can improve on the tourism experience. These findings are highly relevant to the general public and any professional in wildlife tourism, where wild animals can interact with the general public.”

If you have something you would like us to post here, please email: collegesocialscience@lincoln.ac.uk

Suffrage Science Award for Lincoln Psychology Professor

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A psychology professor whose research on childhood development has helped to teach children safe behaviour with dogs has been recognised for her work with a Suffrage Women in Science Award.

Professor Kerstin Meints from the University of Lincoln’s School of Psychology specialises in the study of infant and child development and human-animal interaction. Her interdisciplinary work has seen the creation of language assessment tools as well as educational tools. The latter are designed to help children and parents behave safely with dogs and to recognise when a dog might be distressed, which can in turn lead to a reduction in dog bite incidents.

She has now been presented with the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences (MRC LMS) Suffrage Women in Science Award which celebrates women in science for their scientific achievement, their ability to inspire others, and for encouraging women to enter scientific subjects and to stay in those fields.

The award itself is represented through a piece of specially-designed jewellery, a brooch which symbolises the Suffrage movement. The brooch comes in a box with ribbons depicting the three colours of the suffrage movement: green, white and purple. In the UK, those colours were worn by the Women’s Social and Political Union, led by Emmeline Pankhurst.

Professor Meints, who is the director of the Lincoln Infant and Child Development Lab, will keep the jewellery for the next two years before choosing her own nominee to pass it on to. The aim is to create a network of connected female scientists around the world who help to inspire others to enter science, and to stay.

Professor Meints said: “I feel very honoured to receive this award. I will do my very best to inspire, encourage and mentor women in science and to help them to speak up, be visible and reach their goals.

“For the next two years, and beyond, I will dedicate time to supporting colleagues and students through mentoring. I believe that encouragement and a belief that they can achieve what they aim for is vital to succeed.

“Handing on the Suffrage Science jewellery is a vote of confidence by one female scientist for another, and I look forward to nominating the next awardee in two years’ time.”

Professor Meints was one of twelve scientists to receive an award. They were presented on International Women’s Day 2017, to recognise their scientific achievements and ability to inspire others.

She was nominated by previous winner Professor Susan Condor, a social psychologist at Loughborough University whose work addresses identity and prejudice in England. Professor Condor said: “Professor Kerstin Meints’ BabyLab at Lincoln is pioneering innovative work which brings together research on infant and toddler communicative development with knowledge of animal behaviour. Her research on how young children misinterpret dogs’ facial expressions has led to the development of successful educational tools for dog bite prevention.”

The ceremony was hosted by science communicator Dr Kat Arney and took place at the Royal Society in London. It included a discussion which explored boundaries in science, be those by gender, by nationality or by scientific discipline, with three panellists.

If you have something you would like us to post here, please email: collegesocialscience@lincoln.ac.uk

Student Blog: A Quick Guide to Finding Work Experience in Psychology: Part 2 – by Madeleine Pownall

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1. Use the right language

Most psychology services will be used to emails and letters from students hoping to gain work experience. So much so, that the very words ‘work experience’ may be enough for a prospective employer to stop reading. From speaking to a few psychologists, there is the mindset that offering ‘work experience’ is often costly – in both time and energy. Therefore, by proposing a working relationship which is mutually beneficial, this original hesitation can be changed. For example, offering to be “an assistant” sounds a lot more encouraging that “I am seeking work experience”. A short summary of your specific strengths and ways in which you believe you can make a valued contribution to a service is also a great way to get noticed and be memorable. Which brings us on to the next point…

2. Research each service

There is little point offering to help with admin if the psychologist you are contacting works independently.  Research everywhere that you contact (before you contact them) and make a few bullet-pointed notes on every service. It sounds a lot better to say “I am really interested in working with you because you specialise in X” than something more generic. This is particularly important with research positions; explain why that specific project/researcher is of interest to you and try to draw from your university course for evidence: “In second year I had a module called X which got me really interested in etc…” Knowledge and interest in your course is a really strong quality to be able to offer a potential employer (particularly if, like me, your work experience is limited).

3. Manage expectations.

As psychology (and other social science) students will be used to hearing – confidentiality is key. Although shadowing therapy sessions may sound like a brilliant way to get experience (and I’m sure it is), this will rarely be possible. Psychologists are bound by ethics in every part of their work and particularly in the most sensitive environments; this means that work experience is even more difficult to obtain. Having an understanding of these ethical considerations can really work in your favour when first approaching prospective employers. It will show that you understand the field you’re hoping to go into, and you have full awareness of the extent of your role in the service. This is important in terms of maintaining professional boundaries and protecting the confidentiality of the clients. Also, as mentioned in part 1 of this series, contacting psychologists early can allow plenty of time for DBS clearance (which can take up to 6 weeks).

4. Keep track of your contacts

I found that due to the large number of contacts that I eventually made, it could have been quite difficult to remember which conversations were with every service. I made a simple spreadsheet that allowed me to keep on top of who I had contacted, who had replied and so on (see below for an example. Be persistent, but respectful – if somewhere declines your offer firmly, then take their word for it.

Name of service Emailed? Telephoned? Posted letter? Reply: Y/N? Reason/feedback given Date.
MP Psychology Yes. mppsychology@uol.com N N
  1. Reply from Joe Bloggs on 05/01/2017
They don’t offer work experience. Given details of another service which might.

01/01/2017.

 

 

Madeleine Pownall is a second year psychology student at University of Lincoln. She runs a blog www.thoughtbubblesblog.co.uk which discusses current issues in a psychological context. Find her on twitter: @1thoughtbubbles

If you missed part 1 of this blog series, catch up here:

If you have something you would like us to post here, please email: collegesocialscience@lincoln.ac.uk

Student Blog: A Quick Guide to Finding Work Experience in Psychology: Part 1 – by Madeleine Pownall

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Psychology – and other social sciences – are notoriously difficult fields to find work experience in. The need for relevant, clinical experience is ingrained into students from the moment they walk into their first lecture, and yet it is a feat which is easier said than done in many respects. Last summer I worked for two independent psychotherapy services and an NHS specialist service. All these experiences taught me a massive amount, and here is some advice to secure these placements and (more importantly) get the most out of them.

1. Contact Contact Contact

Research your field – where do you want to work? Why? What kind of services are near you? Find them, look at their websites and gather as much information as you can, and then contact them. I found that short-term placements (suitable for 3-4 months over the summer) were almost never advertised on recruitment websites. The larger, most popular companies are usually inundated with student requests for work experiences, so I targeted smaller independent firms by telephone. Phone calls are the easiest way to communicate personality, enthusiasm and are less likely to be ignored (unlike emails). I wrote letters to 48 practices and the ones that accepted me for work experience were the ones I telephoned directly.

2. Be creative and realistic

If – like me – you’re a psychology student, the most typical work experience that you will hope to get is a clinical placement. These opportunities are often few and far between, which means that it is time to get creative. Have a long think about where you want your degree to take you and explore the opportunities which are likely more ‘off the beaten track’. I worked with a lovely psychotherapist who specialises in mindfulness and holistic therapies – the experience was hugely relevant to my course and due to the small nature of the business gave me a real insight into alternative psychology practices. Despite the obvious appeal of large clinical practices, smaller more niche companies can offer a rather unique and personable experience. If you’ve approached all the NHS/private sectors near you and haven’t had any luck, do not despair. Expand your search criteria and keep your options as open as possible. For example, although typing “psychology services” into google may seem a fail-safe plan, using slightly more creative language can give you more hits.

3. Join a staff bank

NHS and independent sectors advertise for bank staff throughout the year. This is perfect for students, because there are no contracted hours (you work as and when available/required). Health care support worker posts are the most frequently advertised and are often available in secure units, psychiatric wards and private hospitals. Additionally, there are temporary recruitment agencies (I worked for TaskMaster Resources) who employ cover staff for the NHS. These are well worth pursuing, particularly for short-term opportunities.

4. Look early

It is likely that psychology practices receive many requests from students, particularly just before the summer or other holidays. Start your search early and build up a bank of contacts which you can later approach when you know your university holidays (with exam dates etc.) For example, I started looking for placements starting for May in January time, and was able to relax during exam time knowing that relevant work experience had been secured.

5. Be prepared to volunteer

Two of my work experience placements were voluntarily. Expenses were paid (train tickets etc.) but other than that, the work I did was entirely free. When the offers first came in I was suitably sceptical and had to secure full time paid work to fund myself, working around the volunteer positions. However, these opportunities gave me genuinely invaluable experience and contacts. Show enthusiasm, invest in your long-term career and be prepared for placements which don’t pay (especially the most competitive sectors).

Madeleine Pownall is a second year psychology student at University of Lincoln. She runs a blog www.thoughtbubblesblog.co.uk which discusses current issues in a psychological context. Find her on twitter: @1thoughtbubbles

If you have something you would like us to post here, please email: collegesocialscience@lincoln.ac.uk

Lincoln Psychology academic published by The Conversation

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Dr Kay Ritchie, Lecturer in Cognitive Psychology, has recently had an article published by TheConversation.com, looking at the challenges faced by facial recognition technology.

The article, “The trouble with facial recognition technology (in the real world)”, which can be read HERE, was written in collaboration with Robin Kramer of the University of York and highlights both the shortcomings of current facial recognition technology as well as the general difficulties humans have in recognizing unfamiliar faces.

 “In general, passport officers are no better than university students when matching unfamiliar people – and research shows that training in this area doesn’t seem to make a difference – you’ve either got it or you haven’t.”

To read the article in full, please visit The Conversation website.

Dr Ritchie can be found on Twitter @kayritchiepsych, as well as on ReasearchGate.

[The Conversation is an independent source of news and views, sourced from the academic and research community and delivered direct to the public.]

If you have something you would like us to post here, please email: collegesocialscience@lincoln.ac.uk

Lincoln psychology representitives win prize for RAISE workshop

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The RAISE (Researching, Advancing and Inspiring Student Engagement) annual two-day conference was held at Loughborough University in September 2016. There was a strong representation from staff and students from the College of Social Science, making presentations on a variety of teaching and learning research pertaining to student engagement.

Dr Rachel Bromnick, Dr Ava Horowitz and former student Megan Kemp from the School of Psychology, ran a workshop based on their SEED funded project looking at the problem of students packing away their belongings before their university lecturer has finished talking. Their research applied Conversation Analysis as a way into understanding why this behaviour occurs, what triggers it and how it might be managed.

Their lively workshop was well attended and their presentation went on to win the prize for the best presentation of the conference, as voted for by delegates. The RAISE committee congratulated the team and said that delegates were fulsome in their praise about how good the workshop was.

The college would like to extend their congratulations to Dr Rachel Bromnick, Dr Ava Horowitz and Megan Kemp on their prize winning workshop, as well as our thanks to all the Social Science staff and students who attended the conference to present their hard work.

If you have something you would like to post here, please email: collegesocialscience@lincoln.ac.uk

Sarah Swift Building Update, Nov 2016

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Following on from last month’s topping out ceremony the new £19 million Sarah Swift Building has seen more rapid progress. Through all weathers, the construction company has forged ahead with the project which will provide a new state-of-the-art home for the schools of Psychology and Health & Social Care, each of them being brought together under one roof for the first time.

There is still lots to be done, but so far the progress made has been remarkable, and we are all looking forward to its completion next year. The roof is in place, external walls are going on, glass is being delivered, and the internal structure is beginning to take shape. The building is beginning to look more whole, but if you can’t wait until next year to see it completed you can get a feel for what the finished building will look like in the short animated video below.

The new building is named after Dame Sarah Swift GBE RRC, nurse and founder of the College of Nursing (now the Royal College of Nursing), born in Kirton Skeldyke in south Lincolnshire. It will be located next to the David Chiddick building – the current home of the College Executive Office, School of Law, and Lincoln International Business School – and will be accessible via Brayford Wharf E, as well as connecting to St Marks Street via Brayford Way and the High Street.

Below is a short gallery of recent photos provided by the Estates team, more of which can be viewed on their website HERE.

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Second Year Student Published by The Psychologist

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Second year psychology student and blogger, Maddi Pownall has had an article published by the British Psychological Society’s publication The Psychologist.

The article titled “New voices: Slam science”, published on The Psychologist blog page, looks at the language of slam poetry and its appeal to both literary academics and psychologists with Maddi stating:

“The psychological mechanisms at play in the act of slam poetry are vast. Self-expression, emotional capacity and the pursuit of meaning in contemporary culture are all in force when enacting a slam poem.”

Maddi had previously had a letter relating to the topic of School Skirt Bans published in the August edition of the Magazine, and republished on their website. It is a fantastic achievement from one of our students for which the School of Psychology as well as the College of Social Science would like to congratulate her.

To read the article in full please visit The Psychologist website.

Maddi can be found on Twitter @maddi_pow, and on her own blog Thought Bubbles (Twitter: @1thoughbubbles). She will also have another article published in PsychTalk Magazine’s January edition, and hopefully many more to come.