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.



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


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 🙂

Teaching in Hong Kong

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting Hong Kong to deliver the beginning of Social Psychology 2 to students studying BA (Hons) Social Sciences at HKU Space University.  This was my first experience teaching overseas and my first visit to Hong Kong.  What a time to visit the Pearl of the Orient…  In the week I was there planned student protests were confined to the financial district (Central) and Tamar Park.  I followed these with interest and while there was widespread awareness of the protests and TV coverage, there was no real disruption in the city and I managed to get about quickly and easily.  The real escalation in activity began about 24 hours after my departure and I am following developments through some excellent accounts on twitter such as Occupy Central and Varsity CUHK.  I support the students in Hong Kong and I hope they can all keep safe.

Teaching overseas was intense and hard work.  After about 19 hours of travelling from Edinburgh I arrived at 5.30pm on Sunday and went straight into meetings at 9am on Monday (no mercy for my cold or the considerable jet lag!)  Tiredness inevitably strikes in the mid afternoon when it is bed time in the UK.  On Tuesday morning teaching began at 9am for an intensive three and a half hours.  This is where I made an effort to get to know my new students for the few days I would be with them.  The students at HKU Space were very friendly and very keen to learn.  It was a genuine pleasure to meet and work with them.

My Social Psychology 2 class at HKU Space.

My Social Psychology 2 class at HKU Space.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was going to be learning a lot alongside my students.  I had never considered how much cultural information I take for granted when teaching – examples, jokes, prices, imagery – all of these things have to be adapted for your teaching to have the same meaning in a different context.  Sometimes my efforts were met with amusement (e.g. when I decided to talk about the Happy Valley Racecourse in Hong Kong for my gambling example instead of betting on football matches at William Hill!).  The next day I was teaching again for a four hour block in the afternoon and my students showed impressive focus during a week where they attended from 9am to 5.30pm almost every day.  I found such long periods of teaching hard work but then had a day free to explore wonderful Hong Kong.

View from The Peak.

View from The Peak.

Dim Sum on the Street.

Dim Sum on the Street.

My teaching in Hong Kong raised some questions for me about the value and meaning of psychology.  In May I attended a conference in Singapore where Professor Olwen Bedford spoke about indigenous psychology.  I really enjoyed her presentation – it quickly made sense to me and I was keen to know more.  For Social Psychology 2 I was teaching attitude formation and heuristics developed in a western culture.  This is essential for a British psychology degree and my Hong Kong students are specifically working towards a British degree, but I can’t deny it felt strange telling them what was ‘normal’ when for them, it may not be.  Both of my visits to Asia this year have caused me considerable reflection on psychology and teaching and I’m glad of that.  I think Hong Kong will be in my thoughts for some time.


Research Participants Wanted!

I am currently working on an interdisciplinary research project which focuses on feederism.  Earlier in the year my co-author (Michael Palkowski) and I were delighted to sign a contract with Palgrave Pivot to write the first academic book on feederism – due for completion in summer 2015.  Feederism has varying definitions but it is commonly used to refer to individuals who gain sexual pleasure from gaining weight (feedee) or from feeding another person so that the other person gains weight (feeder).  There are also individuals who classify themselves as ‘mutual gainers’ because they enjoy both the feeder and feedee role.

You might have read or heard about feederism in the media through magazine articles or documentaries with titles such as Fat Girls and Feeders.  These representations do not accurately show the full spectrum of behaviours and attitudes in the feederism community.  They offer a niche view of feederism and are produced for entertainment.  They suggest that feederism is mainly about coercion and this has not been substantiated by research.  There is some interesting work in sociology which seeks to explore and understand feederism (most notably by Bestard (2008)) but there is very little in the psychological literature.  Michael and I will be making both a psychological and sociological contribution to this field with our forthcoming book.

If you would like to be involved in our research we would love to hear from you.  We are currently looking for participants who have experience of feederism either as a feeder, feedee, or mutual gainer.  We are interested in hearing about your experiences, feelings, and opinions on this topic.  We promise you complete confidentiality and anonymity.  We’re happy to provide further information if you have questions and getting in touch with us doesn’t mean you have to take part in our research.  Thanks and we hope to hear from you!

Kathy Charles ( or @kathy_charles on twitter) or Michael Palkowski (