The acquisition but not adaptation of contextual memories is enhanced in action video-game players

Visual search is facilitated when a target item is positioned within an invariant arrangement of task-irrelevant distractor elements (relative to non-repeated arrangements), because learnt target-distractor spatial associations guide visual search. While such configural search templates stored in long-term memory (LTM) cue focal attention towards the search-for target after only a few display repetitions, adaptation of existing configural LTM requires extensive training. The current work examined the important question whether individuals claimed to have better attention performance (i.e., action video game players; AVGP) show improved acquisition vs. adaptation of configural LTM (relative to no-gamers; NAVGP) in a visual-search task with repeated and non-repeated search configurations and consisting of an initial learning phase and, following target relocation, a subsequent adaptation phase. We found that contextual facilitation of search reaction times was more pronounced for AVGP relative to NAVGP in initial learning, probably reflecting enhanced learn-to-learn capabilities in the former individuals. However, this advantage did not carry over to the adaptation phase, in which gamers and non-gamers exhibited similar performance and suggesting that attention control required for overcoming visual distraction from previously learned (but no more relevant) target positions is relatively uninfluenced by action-game experience.

Artyom Zinchenko, Ludwig-Maximilians, Universität München, Department Psychologie

Thomas Geyera, Universität München, Department Psychologie and Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, NICUM – NeuroImaging Core Unit Munich

Julia Föcker, University of Lincoln, School of Psychology

Interdisciplinarity of Sport and Exercise

Performance Research Group

The goal of the Performance Research Group is to conduct research to explore fundamental and applied sport science topics for enhancing sport performance. The complexity of living beings lends itself to multi- and inter-disciplinary research to investigate how humans and other living organisms are able to achieve and improve their performance. Consequently, we conduct research from a range of perspectives on topics including: Biomechanical feedback in sport; Physiology of the female athlete; Professional practice issues and interventions in sport psychology, and; Psychological states underlying excellent performance in sport.

Wellbeing Research Group

The goal of the Wellbeing Research Group is to explore and understand issues influencing health, exercise, sport and physical activity. Our focus includes understanding the ways in which individuals and social groups experience and give meaning to physical activity, health and illness conditions, which can help inform policy and practice by taking into account people’s everyday lives. We conduct fundamental and applied multi-disciplinary research that aims to develop understanding of a range of topics including: Sociology of port; the lived experience of health and illness conditions; physical-cultural embodiment; Psychology of physical activity and exercise; optimal experiences in exercise and physical activity; athlete mental health and help-seeking; race, masculinity and its representation in the media.

Dr Hannah Henderson, Associate Professor

An Overview of research Groups and Centres in the School of Psychology

The presentation will begin with an overview of the diverse domains of expertise and specialism in the School of Psychology by showcasing our principal research groups (Cognitive Psychology Research Group; Development and Behaviour Research Group; Forensic and Crime Research Group; Psychological Health & Wellbeing (PheW); Social Psychology Research Group) and research centres (Autism Research Innovation Centre and Lincoln Sleep Research Centre). It will then showcase three different areas within our groups to give examples of research underpinning some impact case studies. The School of Psychology scored highly on impact in the recent REF. The first example will showcase work on the conservation of the Barbary Macaque, which has led to changes in international trade laws, an updated assessment of conservation status and greater public awareness with regard to eco-tourism. The second will showcase OnlinePROTECT which aims to improve practitioner approaches to online child sexual exploitation. The work has been integrated into staff training within Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Services, which has been rolled out across England and Wales Probation Services. The final example will document some of the negative consequences and harms experienced by disordered gamblers, specifically work that was carried out to investigate the relationship between gambling and violence in nationally and internationally representative samples. This research was cited in Parliamentary briefing papers and influenced the introduction of gambling harm minimisation measures, including the introduction of an amendment to gaming machine legislation to limit fixed odds betting terminal stake size.

Prof Amanda Roberts, Professor of Psychology and Director of Research

Dr Hannah Merdian, Deputy Head of School

Prof Bonaventura Majolo, Professor of Social Evolution


Suicide in/as politics

The ‘Suicide in/as Politics’ project is a three-year, interdisciplinary, and qualitative research project (funded by Leverhulme Trust), which examines the ways in which suicide is constructed within public and political discourses. Our project recognises that suicide is complex and is shaped by social, cultural, and political factors which are not reducible to individual mental health problems. Situated between sociology and political studies ‘Suicide in/as Politics’ is generating new knowledge on suicide. We have investigated the ways in which suicide is constructed and employed in formal political discourse and policy documents, an area where there has been very limited academic attention. We did this by analysing all UK suicide prevention documents in use in all four nations of the UK between 2009 and 2019, by examining debates on suicide in all four UK legislatures and by exploring third sector campaigns which address suicide. In the next phase of the project, we are reaching out to and engaging with diverse publics in England and Scotland to share our research and explore public understandings of suicide. Through innovative and collaborative arts-based research workshops we will investigate how community members respond to, and make sense of, political and policy meanings and uses of suicide.

Dr Ana Jordan, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Lincoln
Dr Alex Oaten, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Lincoln
Dr Amy Chandler, School of Health in Social Science, University of Edinburgh
Dr Hazel Marzetti, School of Health in Social Science, University of Edinburgh


Improving cognitive health in people with neurological conditions

Through their diverse effects on the nervous system, neurological conditions like multiple sclerosis and dementia can lead to a range of difficulties with profound impacts on everyday life. For people living with these conditions, cognitive difficulties (including problems with attention, planning, and problem-solving) are a common and particularly debilitating and distressing consequence. Cognitive rehabilitation is not routinely offered in the NHS – and, when it is offered, largely focuses on teaching people to compensate for deficits (e.g., using memory aids) rather than retraining cognitive skills. Moreover, the efficacy of cognitive rehabilitation remains unclear, leaving a need to establish suitable
evidence-based treatment options.

In response to the current state of evidence, we have been examining the potential of SMART (Strengthening Mental Abilities with Relational Training) – a theory-based online cognitive training programme – as a treatment option for improving cognitive health in people with neurological conditions. Focussing initially on people with multiple sclerosis – and extending to people with Mild Cognitive Impairment (at risk of dementia progression) – we are exploring the suitability of SMART across multiple studies: encompassing usability and acceptability testing, a proof-of-principle caseseries, and two feasibility randomised-controlled trials. In this talk, I will give a critical overview of emerging findings from our work.

Dr Nima G Moghaddam, Dr David L Dawson and Dr Rupert Burge, School of Psychology, University of Lincoln
Prof Roshan das Nair, University of Nottingham
Dr Nikos Evangelou, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust
Dr James Turton, PPI Lead, University of Lincoln
Miss Alexandra Frost, Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
Prof Graham Law and Dr Elise Rowan, LinCTU, University of Lincoln
Dr Annie Hawton and Dr Elizabeth Goodwin, University of Exeter
Dr Bryan Roche, Maynooth University


Time to question the (over)use of SMART goals for physical activity promotion?

The SMART acronym (e.g., Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timebound) is widely used for setting goals in physical activity, including my leading health organisations and exercise practitioners. Despite its widespread use, there has been little research that has critically examined the scientific underpinnings of the SMART acronym and its application to physical activity promotion. Given concerns surrounding levels of physical inactivity in society, such a critical examination is important as goal setting is one of the most widely used behaviour change strategies in research and practice. This talk will draw on a narrative review and empirical research by the research team to critically examine the scientific basis for SMART goals in the context of physical activity promotion. We will highlight some of the issues and misconceptions with SMART goals and identify some important implications for research and practice.

Miss Rebecca Hawkins, School of Sport and Exercise Science, University of Lincoln
Dr. Patricia Jackman, School of Sport and Exercise Science, University of Lincoln


The agenda is to have fun’: exploring experiences of guided running in visually impaired and guide runners

The partnership between a visually impaired runner (VIR) and sighted guide runner (SGR) constitutes a unique sporting dyad. The quality of these partnerships may profoundly impact the sport and physical activity (PA) experiences of visually impaired (VI) people, yet little is known about the experiences of VIRs and SGRs. This study aimed to explore qualitatively the running experiences of VIRs and SGRs. Five VIRs and five SGRs took part in in-depth, semi-structured interviews (M length = 62 minutes) exploring their running journeys and perceptions of running-together. We analysed the dataset using reflexive thematic analysis. Four themes were generated, comprising: becoming and being a running team; a multi-faceted intercorporeal experience; running-together promotes change; and disabling social interaction within running. Participants were generally positive about their running experiences, highlighting a range of benefits derived from the activity. Nevertheless, some examples of barriers to participation were also identified. Although the positive experiences described by the runners suggest guided running holds promise to increase PA in VI people, our findings illustrate the importance of directing attention towards developing high-quality relationships between VIRs and guides, alongside reinforcing the need for further change to promote inclusivity.

University of Lincoln, College of Social Science Research

Dona Hall, University of Lincoln, School of Sport and Exercise Science

Jacquelyn Allen-Collinson, University of Lincoln, School of Sport and Exercise Science

Trish Jackman, University of Lincoln, School of Sport and Exercise Science


New Study finds Dogs may reduce Stress Levels in Children

Originally posted on

New research from the University of Lincoln has found that dog-assisted interventions can lead to significantly lower stress levels in children both with and without special needs.

The findings were published this week in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Kerstin Meints, Professor in Developmental Psychology at the University of Lincoln, and colleagues.

The study compared cortisol levels in primary school children who participated in dog-assisted intervention sessions, relaxation sessions, or no intervention. 

Prolonged exposure to stressors can cause adverse effects on learning, behaviour, health and wellbeing in children over their lifespan. Several approaches to alleviating stress have been explored in schools including yoga, mindfulness, meditation, physical activity, teaching style interventions and animal-assisted interventions.

Researchers measured levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the saliva of 105 8- to 9-year-old children in four mainstream schools as well as 44 similarly aged children from seven special education needs schools. The children were randomly stratified into three groups: a dog group, relaxation group or control group.

In the dog group, participants interacted for 20 minutes with a trained dog and handler; the meditation group involved a 20-minute relaxation session. Sessions were carried out twice a week for four weeks.  The control group went to school as normal.

Dog interventions lead to significantly lower cortisol levels in children in both mainstream and special needs schools. In mainstream schools, children in the control and relaxation groups had increases in mean salivary cortisol over the course of the school term. In contrast, children who participated in either group or individual sessions with dogs had no statistically significant increase in stress levels. In addition, their cortisol levels were, on average, lower immediately after a single dog session.

For children with special educational needs, similar patterns were seen, with decreases in cortisol after dog group interventions. The authors conclude that dog interventions can successfully attenuate stress levels in school children but point out that additional research into the ideal amounts of time and contact with dogs for optimal effect is needed.

Coach-athlete relationship, social support, and sport-related psychological well-being in National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I student-athletes

The coach-athlete relationship and social support are stressors that impact athletes’ well-being, however, most research in this area focusses on the relationship between these variables and burnout. Researchers have shown differences in stressors experienced between sport types (individual and team) where evidence suggests individual sport athletes report higher mental health concerns compared to those in team sports. This study aimed to understand the relationships between the coach-athlete relationship, social support, and psychological well-being among collegiate athletes, and the impact of sport type on these variables. A total of 153 National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I student-athletes completed coach-athlete relationship, social support, and well-being measures online. Results indicate the coach-athlete relationship and social support were both positively correlated with well-being, but there were no significant differences between sport type on any outcome variables. Findings from this study may influence future coaching practices and support networks, thus positively impacting student athletes’ well-being.

University of Lincoln, College of Social Science Research

Eadie Simons, University of Lincoln, School of Sport and Exercise Science

Matthew Bird, University of Lincoln, School of Sport and Exercise Science