Collaboration with a new Nuffield funded study exploring the impacts of COVID-19 on low-income families

A new Nuffield funded study examining the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic has officially been launched today. Led by Dr Ruth Patrick (University of York), Dr Kayleigh Garthwaite (University of Birmingham) and Dr Maddy Power (University of York), the study has several ambitious aims and objectives, including:

• Drawing on evidence from welfare rights advisors to consider how the social security system and those reliant upon on it, respond to the pandemic;
• Collating data from ongoing studies to explore how families in poverty are experiencing the crisis now and in the longer term;
• Developing a dedicated space for researchers to consider how best to research with families in ethical and sensitive ways; and
• Supporting families themselves to document their experiences as they unfold.

The ‘Following Young Fathers Further’ team is honoured to be included as a collaborator for this research. As Ruth and her colleagues note in their article for Discover Society, this crisis is likely to affect us all, albeit in markedly different ways. Young fathers may already be facing a specific set of disadvantages across their parenting journeys, including any combination of poverty; limited support in education, training or employment; unstable homes; volatile family backgrounds and periods in care; mental health issues; and experiences of offending and domestic violence (as both victims and perpetrators). They are also likely to have a range of associated health and social care support needs across their parenting journeys and are often dependents themselves when they enter parenthood (Neale et al. 2015). We do not yet know to what extent the crisis may further compound this complex constellation of issues.

As part of our qualitative longitudinal study, we are especially well-placed to put in place strategies for capturing these effects as they unfold over time. Our hope is that by working alongside a national group of social researchers and with young fathers and their families, that we are better able to understand the impact that the crisis has on the parenting experiences of young men, to influence the evolving policy response in participatory ways, and contribute to a much longer history of evidence about how low-income families experience and respond in crisis contexts.

Nonlinear transduction of emotional facial expression

Dr Tessa Flack, University of Lincoln, College of Social Science, School of PsychologyTo create neural representations of external stimuli, the brain performs a number of processing steps that transform its inputs. For fundamental attributes, such as stimulus contrast, this involves one or ore nonlinearities that are believed to optimise the neural code to represent features of the natural environment. Here we ask if the same is also true of more complex stimulus dimensions, such as emotional facial expression. We report the results of three experiments combining morphed facial stimuli with electrophysiological and psychophysical methods to measure the function mapping emotional expression intensity to internal response. The results converge on a nonlinearity that accelerates over weak expressions, and then becomes shallower for stronger expressions, similar to the situation for lower level stimulus properties. We further demonstrate that the nonlinearity is not attributable to the morphing procedure used in stimulus generation.

University of Lincoln, College of Social Science Research

Katie L.H. Gray,  University of Reading, School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences

Tessa R. Flack, University of Lincoln, School of Psychology 

Miaomiao Yu, University of York, Department of Psychology

Freya A. Lygo, University of York, Department of Psychology

Daniel H. Baker, University of York, Department of Psychology and York Biomedical Research Institute

The effects of goal types on psychological outcomes in active and insufficiently active adults in a walking task: Further evidence for open goals

Miss Rebecca Hawkin, University of Lincoln, College of Social Science, School of Sport and Exercise ScienceDr Trish Jackman, University of Lincoln, College of Social Science, School of Sport and Exercise Science





This study aimed to extend recent work on the effects of goal types in physical activity (PA; Swann, Hooper et al., 2020) by comparing the effects of SMART, open, and do-your-best (DYB) goals on performance and psychological responses in active and insufficiently active adults in a walking task.

It is common practice in exercise and physical activity settings to adopt a SMART approach (setting specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound goals), which is widely recommended by leading health organisations. However, more recent scrutiny of the theoretical basis for such practices has been recently questioned for its lack of consideration of task complexity and stages of learning.

Indeed, if an individual is in the early stages of learning to be physically active, and physical activity can be considered complex for such an individual, then the SMART approach may be less effective. More recently, open goals (e.g., “see how well you can do”) have been evidenced as beneficial for physical activity promotion for these individuals.

This research extends this evidence by examining the use of open goals, and comparing other goal types previously adopted in this research area, to determine if insufficiently active and active individuals respond differently to a range of psychological variables during a walking talk.

The results indicated that insufficiently active individuals experienced significantly higher levels of pleasure, higher levels of enjoyment, decreased perceptions of effort and performed more favourably in the open goal condition compared to the active group. Conversely, the active group experienced significantly higher levels of pleasure, higher levels of enjoyment and performed more favourably in the SMART goal condition compared to the insufficiently active group.

These results support theoretical predictions in goal setting practices based on task complexity and stages of learning, and indicate that open goals may be more beneficial for the purposes of physical activity promotion.

University of Lincoln, College of Social Science Research

Rebecca M. Hawkins, University of Lincoln , School of Sport and Exercise

Lee Crust, University of Lincoln , School of Sport and Exercise

Christian Swann, Southern Cross University Centre for Athlete Development, Experience & Performance

Patricia C.Jackman, University of Lincoln , School of Sport and Exercise

Understanding sickness absence in the ambulance service

Ambulance service employees have high sickness absence rates compared to other National Health Service (NHS) occupations. The aim of this study was to understand factors linked to sickness absence in front-line ambulance service staff by determining whether there was an association between work and daily (non-work-related) stress, coping styles, demographic variables (health conditions, overtime hours, length of time in service, shift pattern, age and sex) and sickness absence.

 We used a cross-sectional design. An opportunity sampling method was utilised to recruit full-time clinical and management employees from a UK ambulance service to complete an online questionnaire. Multiple linear regression was used to determine whether and to what extent variation in sickness absence could be explained by the independent variables of interest listed.

Innovation in wild Barbary macaques (Macaca sylvanus)

Dr Bonaventura Majolo, University of Lincoln, College of Social Science, School of Psychology

Innovation is the ability to solve novel problems or find novel solutions to familiar problems, and it is known to affect fitness in both human and non-human animals. In primates, innovation has been mostly studied in captivity, although differences in living conditions may affect individuals’ ability to innovate. Here, we tested innovation in a wild group of Barbary macaques (Macaca sylvanus). In four different conditions, we presented the group with several identical foraging boxes containing food. To understand which individual characteristics and behavioural strategies best predicted innovation rate, we measured the identity of the individuals manipulating the boxes and retrieving the food, and their behaviour during the task. Our results showed that success in the novel task was mainly affected by the experimental contingencies and the behavioural strategies used during the task. Individuals were more successful in the 1-step conditions, if they participated in more trials, showed little latency to approach the boxes and mainly manipulated functional parts of the box. In contrast, we found no effect of inhibition, social facilitation and individual characteristics like sex, age, rank, centrality, neophobia and reaction to humans, on the individuals’ ability to innovate.

University of Lincoln, College of Social Science Research

Federica Amici, University of Leipzig, Faculty of Life Science

Alvaro L. Caicoya, University of Barcelona, Faculty of Psychology

Bonaventura Majolo, University of Lincoln, School of Psychology

Anja Widdig, University of Leipzig, Faculty of Life Science