CRACKLE PROJECTS involve research in “applied” or real-world aspects of cognition, learning and emotion with implications for psychological well-being. This involves research in natural and community situations alongside associated laboratory research, including EEG (electroencephalography) studies of relevant brain activity.

Recent and current projects include topics such as: Well-being in carers and care professionals; Forensic psychology issues: including psychological aspects of sexual offences and Forensic neuroscience (brain activity associated with psychopathy); Safety and Risk in Fireground Decision-making; Occupational Well-being including temporary worker issues; Neuroscience of Emotional Intelligence; Medical (Obstetric) Decision-making; Educational psychology issues including studies of ADHD, dyslexia and autism and the use of therapy animals in regard to special needs education ; Theoretical issues central to well-being research (e.g., nature-nurture debate); Health Psychology issues (aspects of Alzheimer’s Disease and study of the psychological correlates of diabetes); Neuroscience of unconscious emotion in learning and decision-making; Psychological aspects of military service; Neuroscience of mind-wandering (and meditative states); Psychological aspects of usage of internet facilities including you-tube, Situation Awareness during Sporting activity (rock-climbing) and Cognitive/Brain Effects of Exercise.

Examples of current or recent CRACKLE research projects

Psychological aspects of Crime

Forensic psychologist Claire Cooke has numerous research interests involving key aspects of the psychology of crime including issues about sexual offending, female offending, policing, the right to carry weapons, vigilantism, death penalty, children’s understanding of the law and authority, cross-cultural crime issues and the philosophy of punishment.

Claire Marsh also has research interests in Forensic Psychology driven by her previous applied experience as a Crime Analyst.  Claire has a particular interest in sexual offending and allied topics, such as the impact for professionals of working in forensic fields. She is currently engaged in a project working with Mankind, a Brighton-based counselling organisation that provides specialist support to adult men who have experienced sexual assault. Her research is focused on the lived experiences of the practitioners in this project.

Safety and Risk in Firefighter Decision-making

Geoff Sallis, Di Catherwood and Graham Edgar, Steven Baker, David Brookes recently won an Erasmus Plus award with Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Services, Falck Fire Services Centre (Denmark); Fire Service Academy (Netherlands); CN-BOP (Laboratory of Fire Service, Poland); Provincial Centre for Education and Training (Emergency Services) (PLOT, Belgium). This is a further development of the project with Andrew Medley which was awarded the GORE/FIRE award and Emerald Publishing Literati awards. The aim is to produce an online portal for self-testing and training of fireground situation awareness (FireMind).

Occupational well-being Issues

David Biggs, Simon Toms and Nazahar Rahim have research interests in occupational recruitment, training and organizational change. Their research interests include highly topical  issues about temporary/permanent employment (agency working, zero-contract hours, etc.) and the consultancy industry. This work also addresses issues about recruitment especially in terms of applicant reactions to decisions, assessment centres and psychometric testing. David Biggs’s work was the focus for a recent CRACKLE Research Spotlight celebrating his 100th publication in these fields of research.

In addition, a new and growing area of CRACKLE research is that for Kerry Rees and Claire Cooke who are researching the well-being of carers and have found concerning issues in this regard which they recently reported at a CRACKLE research seminar.

Decision-making under uncertain conditions: This CRACKLE project was funded by a grant from the MoD won by Graham Edgar, Di Catherwood, doctoral student Dritan Nikolla and Chris Alford to study decision-making under conditions of the kind that may underlie “friendly fire”. Dense-array EEG was used to map brain activity in tasks that involved emotional arousal and uncertainty. Key findings from the research are that emotional arousal may distort perception of time and that loss of certainty or situation awareness may induce rapid onset of brain activity in regions associated with expectation and memory. These findings can help explain errors or distortion of judgment in real-world decision-making contexts.

Nonconscious processes in decision-making: This successful and innovative doctoral project explored the influence of unconscious emotional cues on choices and decision-making (Steven Baker with Kerry Rees; Graham Edgar, Di Catherwood). Brain activity was mapped using dense-array EEG and evidence of unconscious processing of emotional cues was observed. Such cues may be the basis of somatic markers (“gut reactions”) which may be critical in human decision-making and intuition and may play a role in unconscious emotional learning.

Medical Decision-making

This successful doctoral research was conducted by Sharon Davis with CRACKLE staff (Graham Edgar and Di Catherwood) and obstetric consultants at St. Michael’s Hospital (Bristol) and University of Bristol (Bryony Strachan). It explored aspects of obstetric decision-making and error in regard to the interpretation of foetal heart-rate recordings. Sharon recently presented well-received papers at international conferences on this work in USA and London.

Cognition in the Arts

A project is being developed with staff from CRACKLE and the Faculty of Media, Arts and Technology and University of Brighton to explore the cognitive processes underlying use of metaphor in different aspects of the arts (Helen Gregory-Johnson, Graham Edgar, Tico Romao, Nigel McLoughlin, Di Catherwood, Steven Baker). The project is unusual in its amalgamation of both qualitative methods and EEG analysis to identify patterns of thought and emotion associated with making metaphors.

Cognition and Sporting Performance and Exercise

A project is being piloted that addresses the effects of physical activity on cognitive functions. This involves John Parker and Simon Fryer (School of Sort and Exercise) and Graham Edgar and Di Catherwood in a study to examine the effects of exercise on the function and activity of the frontal lobes of the brain. This will involve the use of NRIS technology to map these effects.