School of Psychology

People and Society


Investigating key issues in our society

The People and Society group carry out research on individual differences, health, social, clinical and personality psychology.

The People and Society research group investigates socio-cognitive drivers for attitudes and behaviour, individual differences, and how people input into, and are shaped by, society and their experiences. 

We study why people behave in the way that they do, and how their attitudes and behaviour may change in the future, and as a result of the life experiences that they have. We also examine how enduring personality differences between people affect attitudes, behaviour tendencies and decisions.  

This allows us to predict, for example, how people may be impacted by positive or traumatic life experiences, more structured environmental changes such as policy changes, as well as more transient exposure to information campaigns. 

Researchers here are engaged in theory development within a range of disciplines including: health psychology, behavioural economics, social cognition, environmental psychology, occupational psychology, and clinical models of health and well-being.  

Research Areas

  • Blood donation 

  • Post traumatic growth and resilience 

  • Mortality salience and death reflection 

  • Self-harm and suicide – see the Self-harm research group here  

  • Public perceptions of climate change 

  • Engagement with new energy technologies 

  • Pro-environmental behaviour 

  • Addiction 


Example projects and Outcomes



We collaborate across the university with colleagues in biosciences, geography, life sciences, mathematics,  medicine, and pharmacy. We also participate in several interdisciplinary university-wide research groups and initiatives, including: 

Horizon Digital Economy Research  

Energy Institute  

UKRI Trustworthy Autonomous Systems Hub  

Institute of Mental Health  


In addition, we have active UK and international collaborations, including with industry partners. 


Join us

If you are interested in working with us towards a PhD, please contact the group member who you wish to work with. 

We offer projects through the ESRC and MRC Doctoral Training Programmes. Some staff also offer supervision of projects through Horizon Digital Economy Research and the Sustainable Hydrogen CDT . These programmes typically have deadlines between November and January for PhD projects starting in September of the following year. Please contact the staff member you wish to be supervised by for more information on funding support. 

We also welcome enquiries from candidates who have secured their own funding from other sources. 


Laura Blackie
Associate Professor

I am interested in understanding how people adjust and find meaning from challenging life events.

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My research into post-traumatic growth investigates when and how positive personality change can occur in the wake of significant trauma and adversity. I have examined this question in community samples in the UK and USA and in genocide-affected and civil war-affected populations in Rwanda and Sri Lanka. My experimental research into death reflection is focused on isolating the social conditions and personality characteristics that enable healthy individuals to respond to reminders of their mortality in a non-defensive and life-affirming manner.

Sarah Cassidy
Associate Professor

I am interested in understanding and preventing mental health problems in autism.

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My research aims to understand and prevent mental health problems such as depression, self-injury and suicidality in those diagnosed with autism. My ESRC funded research is developing new assessment tools for autistic adults, to help clinicians and researchers more effectively identify and explore depression and suicidality in autism. My NIHR and Autistica funded research is exploring why autistic people may be more likely to die by suicide than other clinical groups, in order to develop new ways to prevent suicide in autism. My research is designed in partnership with the autistic community, to ensure that our work is relevant and helpful.

Eamonn Ferguson
Professor of Health Psychology

Eamonn Ferguson is a chartered health and occupational psychologist, a Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health, an Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society, and co-founding president of the British Society for the Psychology of Individual Differences.

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My current theoretical work focuses on the integration of theory and models from psychology, in particular personality theory, with behavioural economics, to address questions focusing on (i) the overlap of personality and pro-social preferences, (ii) understand blood and organ donor behaviour, (iii) resource allocation and, (iv) subjective wellbeing and emotion processing.

Daniel Jolley
Assistant Professor in Social Psychology

Daniel Jolley's research explores the intriguing realm of conspiracy theory psychology, seeking to uncover the reasons behind their widespread appeal.  He also strives to understand the social consequences of endorsing conspiracy theories and actively works on developing interventions to mitigate their adverse impact. His work has been funded by bodies such as The Leverhulme Trust and The British Academy.

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Passionate about science communication, he has appeared on TV (e.g., BBC One Show, BBC News, Sky News), radio (e.g., BBC Radio Scotland, TalkRADIO, BBC Five Live), and in print (e.g., New York Times, The Guardian, Financial Times). He has also given many invited public talks on his research (e.g., New Scientist Live, Cheltenham Science Festival, Standon Calling).

Charles Ogunbode
Assistant Professor in Applied Psychology

I am interested in understanding how people experience and respond to complex ecological problems.

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My research investigates people’s experiences of environmental issues, as well as their related beliefs, feelings, and action tendencies. The purpose of my work is to generate psychological insights that can be used to promote ecologically sustainable behaviour and psychological wellbeing. My ongoing projects span a range of topics including climate change and mental health, public understanding of climate justice, experiences of eco-anxiety in non-western contexts, climate resilience, inclusion, and wellbeing.

From 2019 – 2022, I led an international study on the links between climate anxiety, pro-environmental behaviour, and mental wellbeing involving over 50 collaborators across 32 countries. This resulted in an article titled: “Climate anxiety, wellbeing and pro-environmental action: correlates of negative emotional responses to climate change in 32 countries”. Our article received the Editor’s Choice award at the Journal of Environmental Psychology in 2023.

I have also conducted research into lived experiences of the mental health and wellbeing impacts of the 2022 UK heatwave and have co-led a landmark study on how people of colour in the UK experience and engage with climate change. In 2024, I featured in a short documentary on climate change and mental health produced by the BBC.

Alexa Spence
Associate Professor

My research experience includes time spent within both the academic and public sectors, and I hve been involved with research within social, economic, and environmental psychology.

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Her primary area of expertise is within social cognition and risk and she has professional memberships of the British Psychological Society, the European Association of Social Psychologists, the European Social Cognition Network, the National Energy Research Network and the Society for Risk Analysis. She is also a member of the UK Energy Research Centre.

She completed her doctorate at the University of Nottingham on the topic of perceptions and behaviour relating to genetically modified (GM) food. Her postdoctoral experience comprises several posts based both at the University of Nottingham and Cardiff University and has focused on applying social psychological theory to current topical risk issues. In particular she has been involved in research on climate change and energy issues, examining related public perceptions, issues of acceptance, and behaviour.

She currently works across Psychology and Horizon Digital Economy Research where she brings her social and environmental theoretical backgrounds to new digital technology innovations, in particular energy display development and smart grid understandings. Notably Alexa leads a large 5 year project titled  Creating the Energy for Change that examines how to encourage cooperation in reducing energy use in the workplace, and is involved with a range of projects examining public perceptions of energy systems and technologies, and climate change.

Have a look at our video overviews of our research that  makes sense of energy data and our research that explores  perceptions and behaviour change in relation to energy use.

Current Funding

Ellen Townsend
Professor of Psychology

I am a Professor in the School of Psychology at the University of Nottingham and PI leading the Self-Harm Research Group (SHRG).

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Our group researches psychological factors associated with self-harm and suicidality, and interventions that promote recovery, especially in young people using a range of techniques including sequence analysis, the Card Sort Task for Self-Harm (CaTS), experiments, questionnaires, epidemiology, interviews and systematic reviews. This work has been funded by the NHS, NIHR and the ESRC. Our work has influenced policy - earlier versions of our systematic review of interventions for self-harm were included in the 2011 NICE Guidance on the Longer Term Management of Self-Harm.

I led a national Clinical Research Group on self-harm funded by the Mental Health Research Network (NIHR) and am a Fellow of the  Institute of Mental Health. I am a collaborator on the  Multicentre Study of Self-Harm in England and am co-leading the development of  INTERACT - a new research initiative for participatory research and public engagement working with colleagues from across the university. I am PI on a Wellcome Trust People Award supporting the development of our Café Connect model of public engagement. We were finalists in the UoN Knowledge Exchange and Impact Awards 2016 for this work.

I am PI on a project investigating self-harm in looked-after young people funded by the Department of Health Policy Research Programme. See our project website: for more information. I am a Fellow of the  International Academy of Suicide Research and a member of the BPS Expert Panel on the Psychology of Suicidal Behaviour. I was a participant in the  Nottingham Research Leaders Programme 2015-16. I have recently been awarded a  Miegunyah Distinguished Visiting Fellowship at the University of Melbourne, Australia which will take place in April 2017.

In 2016 a publication co-authored with Dr Katie Glazebrook received the Institute of Mental Health 'Best Overall Publication Award' - Glazebrook K, Townsend E, Sayal K (2015). The role of attachment style in predicting repetition of adolescent self-harm: a longitudinal study. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior. DOI: 10.1111/sltb.12159.


School of Psychology

University Park
The University of Nottingham
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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