Personal profile

Research interests

My background is in the field of Social Psychology and my own research involves the study of groups, falling into two main areas: crowd behaviour and collective resilience.

My main body of interest is explaining how people behave in crowds and I am part of a group of Social Psychologists who seem to spend a lot of their time overcoming the classic myths associated with collectives, as crowds often behave much better than they are usually given credit for! My own particular area of interest is mass emergency behaviour and how this influences disaster planning and response guidelines. What we are increasingly finding is that communities affected by emergencies are often much more resilient to adversity than was previously expected, and this has profound implications for emergency policy and planning. I have recently been applying what we know about emergency behaviour to the COVID-19 pandemic, and my current research is looking at community mutual aid and social support in the South East during the lockdown March- May 2020  

Following on from this, I am also interested in looking at how people can come together if they have a shared experience of adversity, and how this collective resilience might also help mitigate the effects of exposure to stress. I have explored the emergence of collective resilience in a variety of diverse groups, such as Nurses, Paramedics, and young people dealing with the everyday stresses of growing up.

Supervisory Interests

I am interested in supervising people with an interest in social psychology, crowd behaviour, or collective action. I am currently interested in public intervention in emergencies/mass casualty incidents (a concept known as 'zero-responders') and public behaviour during the COVID-19 pandemic, and its implications for emergency planning and response. Therefore, I would be especially interested in supervising emergency responders and other public health professionals who wish to do PG research. 

I am also interested in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and the broader area of collective resilience in response to general adversity. I would be keen to work with health professionals interested in postgraduate research in any of these areas.  

Scholarly biography

I began my academic career at the University of Sussex, doing a BSc in Developmental Psychology 1990-3. I then did postgraduate research at Surrey University and was awarded a PhD in Social Psychology in 1999. I did my Nurse training at Brighton 2000-2 and worked as a MH nurse in CAMHS 2003-4 before doing postdoctoral research at Sussex 2004-7. From 2007-2011, I was a Senior Lecturer at London Metropolitan University, before moving back to Brighton in 2011. I have been a Principal Lecturer in the School of Health Sciences since March 2018.   

Approach to teaching

I feel fortunate that my areas of interest (crowd behaviour and CAMHS) are usually easy to include in my own teaching in a way that people can relate to, as everyone at University was a teenager once and most people have also been in a crowd at some point! In our fast changing world, I have also found that my research on mass emergencies can feed back into the curriculum for emergency health responders, and so has direct relevance for students in the school of Health Sciences (such as Nurses & Paramedics). In teaching sessions I try to engage students by building upon topical events and/or their own experiences, and applying this knowledge in appropriate role-play exercises. I also use social media (such as my blog and Twitter) to disseminate further application of my theoretical ideas based on real-world events.     

Knowledge exchange

I am very passionate about ensuring that my research has direct impact in the real world, and so spend a lot of time involved in knowledge exchange. Most recently, in early 2019 I was involved in a series of Knowledge Exchange Events (KEEs) with Ambulance Trusts across England to explore the implications of the Kerslake report into the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing (which cited my work recognising the concept of 'zero-responders in mass emergencies). I also regularly advise organisations from the public and private sector invoved in emergency palnning and response on how to best incorporate my research to ensure safer and more efficient responses to mass emergencies.   


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