Vintage Leon Festinger

Last month I discovered a collection of cassette recordings of interviews with famous psychologists of the 1970s.  There are quite a few of them and some of the names instantly brought back memories from my undergraduate lectures of the 1990s.  Not wanting to throw them away, but also having no equipment to listen to them or share them, I decided to buy a cassette to MP3 converter and patiently digitize them to see what they’re all about.  Some of the cassettes were produced by ‘Psychology Today’ which is still well and truly in business, but there are others produced by ‘BSIP Ferranti Limited’ which appears to no longer exist.  For that reason I am going to share the Ferranti recordings as I think they are no longer owned by anyone and I am hoping not to get into any trouble (anyone out there who thinks otherwise please let me know!)

The tapes originally retailed at £2.50 + VAT according to a 1974 edition of the New Scientist.  The recordings are part of a collection called the ‘Brain Science Briefings Library’ and the first one I am sharing is Tape 4 featuring an interview with Leon Festinger (1919-1989) recorded in 1973.  A very comprehensive obituary for Festinger was published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, and obituaries also featured in major newspapers such as the New York Times.  Festinger was best known for his work on cognitive dissonance.  Scroll below the picture to hear the recording.


Vintage recordings of the 1970s.



Gladstone’s Library and Happy Christmas

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of spending a few days at Gladstone’s Library in Wales.  Visiting this Prime Ministerial library gave me a chance to spend some time reading and preparing a piece of writing on the trafficking of cultural property and organised crime*.  I wanted to share my experiences of this beautiful library in case there is anyone else out there who would like to escape and make some writing progress in 2017.  Gladstone’s Library is a residential library so you really can spend days silently working in the wood panelled library itself, being sociable in its open spaces, or enjoying one of the courses delivered there.  Many modern libraries have been rebranded as learning centres and it can sometimes be difficult to find somewhere that is a genuinely silent working space.  Escaping the sound of cappuccinos being made, tinny music seeping out of headphones, and the frantic battering of dozens of computer keyboards can be difficult, but not at Gladstone’s Library.  This place really is silent and also incredibly cosy.  Sitting still for long periods of time in a Victorian building in December could have required a blanket but the library is warm and welcoming in every sense.  The food is also excellent and there is very little reason to leave once you’re there!  The only discomfort I experienced at the library was hand pain.  I haven’t written so much with a pen since taking my exams as an undergraduate.  The exam induced bump on my right middle finger came back after hours of writing, but this minor malformation is a small price to pay for being able to sit quietly and learn about something again.

So, if you need peace and quiet to write in 2017, you should try to get to Gladstone’s Library and enjoy an inspiring environment.

Happy Christmas everyone.

* Once I’ve finished my essay and received some feedback on it, I’ll share it.

Remembrance Sunday

Today I attended the Remembrance Sunday service for Edinburgh’s four universities.  The service took place in the Playfair Library Hall of the Old College followed by the laying of wreaths in the Quadrangle.

For several years now I have reflected on how many of the soldiers in the First World War were the same age as most of my students, and some even younger.  Around 250,000 boys under the age of 19 joined the British Army and went to the front in the First World War.  I have probably taught fewer than one per cent of that number in the 13 years I have been teaching.

Today’s service required academic dress which, along with the location, made the connection between these very different young lives feel even more poignant.  The words of the Kohima epitaph capture the sense of sacrifice and loss better than I ever could.

When You Go Home,
Tell Them Of Us And Say,
For Their Tomorrow,
We gave Our Today


International Congress of Psychology 2016

From July 24-29 2016 the 31st International Congress of Psychology was held in Yokohama, Japan.  I had the privilege of attending this huge event with contributors from 90 different countries.  I was presenting research published last year exploring the topic of feedism.  My presentation slot was limited to 15 minutes including questions so it was difficult to condense a year’s research into such a small amount of time but I just about managed it.  Have a listen to my first ever SoundCloud!

The abstracts from ICP2016 are published online with open access here.  Slides and photos below.

Yokohama Slides PDF

Yokohama 3

Opening ceremony featuring traditional Koto players.


Outside the conference venue.


Conference venue from the Landmark Tower (top left around the bottom of the curved hotel).


One Year On

I’m not sure a year between blog posts is normal, but that is what has happened here!  Last Easter I wrote with a great deal of optimism about the challenges and opportunities for the year ahead.  Twelve months have passed incredibly quickly and I thought it was time for an update before I reached the anniversary of the last post.

Our new MSc programme in Applied Criminology and Forensic Psychology is now just weeks away from the end of trimester 2.  We recruited 15 students onto the programme and they are all still with us and staying on to write their dissertations in trimester 3.  We’ve already made some offers for next year and have more interviews lined up.  It has been great to see the course up and running and to get such positive feedback from our students.


Some of our undergraduates and postgraduates getting to grips with probability (March, 2016)

I’m also happy to report that the book on Feederism I was writing with Michael Palkowski was successfully published last Autumn and we have had some very encouraging feedback from members of the community.  It is disappointing that it sometimes takes me so long to reply to e-mails but I get a few hundred e-mails a week at the moment and it can be impossible to get through them all in a timely way.  I do get there in the end though!  I will be presenting a paper on our research at the 31st International Congress of Psychology in Yokohama, Japan, later this year and I really looking forward to it.


The book arrived in October 🙂

Visiting Singapore and spending some time at Nanyang Technological University and with the Singapore Police Force was a great experience.  Dr Majeed Khader ensured I had a fascinating visit and gave me unique ideas for teaching materials.  I was looked after really well and I used the experience to bid for some research funds to study cross cultural differences in forensic interviewing.  Unfortunately I didn’t get the cash I asked for, but I’ve still got the idea ready to go when the time is right.


Visiting the police psychologists in Singapore (August, 2015)

Last year also gave me the opportunity to explore some very different research methods.  After being a quantitative researcher through and through for over a decade, I finally explored qualitative approaches and went all the way by trying some auto-ethnography.  At the end of October I gave a paper at the 2nd British Auto-ethnography Conference at the University of Aberdeen.  It was a little daunting to talk about personal experiences and photography rather than statistics and participants, but I found the experience very uplifting.  It was also novel to present a paper inside a large art classroom rather than a traditional conference space in bureaucrat beige.


Charles, K. (2015).  Photographs and memory work in grieving: an auto-ethnography.  The 2nd British Auto-ethnography Conference 30-31 October University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen.

At the of August in 2015 Dr Phyllis Laybourn (my boss and all round decent lady) retired from Edinburgh Napier University.  Phyllis had been with us for 30 years and she gave me my job in the Psychology Subject Group in 2007.  Phyllis has been greatly missed and I am currently standing in as the Psychology Subject Group Leader until we find a replacement.  I have been doing the role now for seven months and didn’t expect to be in the position for so long.  It is a challenging post with many competing demands but it is an exciting time for our group as we develop new programmes and expand our links with practitioners.

So what is there to look forward to for the year ahead?  Visiting Japan for sure and having the opportunity to present the feederism research in an academic context.  I am keen to hear thoughts from other researchers on this topic.  I am also looking forward to starting my new role as an Independent Prison Monitor later this year once I have completed my training.  My new module in Advanced Forensic Psychology covers therapeutic jurisprudence in a lot of detail and the IPM role links very closely to this.  I shall also be making more trips to England in 2016 as I am the new External Examiner for Edge Hill University’s BSc (Hons) Psychosocial Analysis of Offending Behaviour.  This programme blends academic and practical skills alongside a work placement option which is just what we have done with our MSc so I am very happy to be involved in examining a course like this.

I shall endeavour to update this again before April 2017, but I better not make any promises…  There are several hundred e-mails waiting for me.


Over recent years I have started to find Easter a better time than January for making new plans and thinking about the coming year.  The story of Easter alongside the lengthening days and warmer weather generally puts me in a more positive frame of mind than the relentless dreich darkness of January.  There is also the added benefit of the end of the academic year being in sight.  It might only be April but in another month almost all of my students will have drifted away from university to await their grades and make plans.  There are exciting things ahead for the coming year and I also thought it was time to change my website theme after three years of the same thing…

I am now the programme leader for a newly approved MSc in Applied Criminology and Forensic Psychology.  After being in the pipeline for a very long time this course is now open to applicants and I’ve already interviewed the first candidates.  This course is a collaboration between criminology and psychology and it offers a great blend of topics covering the entire legal process.  I am really looking forward to this programme starting in September and then teaching on it after Christmas.

The deadline is also rapidly approaching for the submission of my first book.  Co-authored with Michael this book will explore the subject of feederism and it has been a fascinating process putting it together.  Between us we have interviewed over 20 people involved in feederism making our book a qualitative analysis of one of the largest samples ever published.  Interest in our book has been really encouraging (thanks in part to Vice) and I hope people enjoy reading it as much as we’ve enjoyed writing it.  It’s due in September/October time this year.

Before all this September excitement I will also be heading to Singapore to spend some time working with the Singapore Police Force and Nanyang Technological University.  After a thoroughly enjoyable visit in May last year to attend a psychology conference I can’t wait to return to exotic Singapore.  I am grateful for the Santander Universities grant I have been awarded to help me make this visit.

I have also had the pleasure this year of taking part in the Leadership Foundation‘s Aurora Programme.  Held in a range of beautiful venues around Edinburgh this programme has really helped me think about how to work more effectively with my colleagues as well as helping me plan better and think bigger.  I have met some great women on this programme and I’ve really changed the way I listen to others.  There is one more session to go and after initially being sceptical I am now looking forward to it!

All in all, there are many reasons to be positive for the rest of the year ahead and I look forward to sharing them here.

Happy Easter!

A Big Thank You!

Last August I wrote a blog post hoping to recruit participants for the Palgrave Pivot book Michael Palkowski and I are writing on Feederism. Our recruitment was very slow to get going initially and as recently as Christmas we were wondering if we would reach our target. We tweeted, and our link was shared on ExtremeFeeding, but our biggest breakthrough came thanks to the creator of Horngry Magazine who really spread the word about our study in January. Since then we have had a huge response from the feederism community and we’ve managed to meet our initial recruitment target four times over! Michael and I have interviewed a diverse range of people engaged in feederism from the perspective of feeder, feedee, mutual gainer, and with every sexual persuasion. We have heard some fascinating stories and experiences and we cannot wait to get these stories out there in our book. We have to finish writing at the end of May (just over three months away!) and our book should be available in hard copy and as an e-book in September/October this year.

I want to say a big thank you to everyone who gave their time to be interviewed and shared very personal stories and feelings with us. I also want to thank people who spread the word about our study and helped us get such diverse respondents. I appreciate people trusting us when there have been some very extreme and distasteful portrayals of feederism in the past. I am looking forward to writing a blog post in the autumn which announces the publication of our book 🙂