Individuals, Society and Health Research

Individuals, Society and Health Research

Our mission is to promote excellence in applied psychology research on health and social aspects of individuals, groups, and organisations and to share our expertise by translating theory into practice.

Members of the group


Environmental determinants of the human psychological need for autonomy and intrinsic motivation in individualist and collectivist cultures and groups

Dr Panagiotis Rentzelas

The aim of this research project is to examine the effect of individualist and collectivist group environments and situational contingencies that support and enhance intrinsic motivation. Specifically, it is investigated experimentally and in applied settings whether individualist and collectivist orientations at situational and individual difference levels can influence the effect of choice on intrinsic motivation and the effect of autonomous motivation on behaviour.

Consistent with cross-cultural studies in the area, the group norms of individualism and collectivism and the situational contingency of choice are the main focus of the experimental studies. This will achieve direct methodological and theoretical comparison with the cross-cultural studies of Chirkov et al. (2003) and Iyengar and Lepper (1999). In addition, individualism and collectivism will be examined as individual difference constructs and the moderating role that they can play in the relationship between intrinsic motivation and intentional behaviour in safe sex practices.

The Effects of Threatened Civil Liberty

Dr Panagiotis Rentzelas, Dr Philip Cozzolino (University of Essex) and Dr Netta Weinstein (Cardiff University)

In October of 2009 it was reported that one in 10 people who live in the United Kingdom now have their profiles stored on what is the largest DNA database in the world. On the same day that report was released, a national survey of more than 1,300 residents conducted by the campaign group ‘Big Brother Watch’ found that 79% of respondents believe that freedoms in the U.K. are being eroded by a Big Brother state. In fact, the most recent annual survey by Privacy International and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (2007) classified the U.K. as an “endemic surveillance society” that ranked worst in the European Union regarding policies relevant to freedom and privacy.

What are the psychological consequences of social policies that restrict and/or threaten civil liberties? Are policies that are designed to ensure safety and security (e.g., CCTV, National ID cards, expanded ‘stop-and-search’ laws) generating unintended outcomes that negatively impact individuals, and in turn, society? The programme of research proposed in this project is a novel first step toward a larger goal of understanding how individuals are affected by real and/or perceived threats to their liberty.

This project relies on an experimental approach to test the effects of threatened civil liberty, while also employing varying methodologies. In particular, the research will investigate the behavioural and psychological consequences of threatened civil liberty across multiple levels of analysis, that include psychophysiological measures as well as evidence from neuroscientific techniques.

The project will build upon a burgeoning research programme that has already established a valid experimental manipulation of liberty threat, and that has demonstrated early support for a theoretical model of ‘the psychology of liberty’. Briefly, this theoretical model asserts that humans have an innate need for freedom, and that when liberty is restricted individuals experience immediate reactions of anger and hostility.

As the need for liberty is inherently connected to basic, core features of the self, the model additionally predicts that when individuals perceive that their freedom is restricted, they will experience a decreased sense of self-awareness. In sum, the ‘psychology of liberty’ model predicts that the effects of civil liberty threats will occur at the affective level, the cognitive level, and the existential level (i.e., self-awareness), and that these effects will combine to generate among individuals an automatic state of vigilance and less agentic behaviour. 

Cross-cultural Validity of Psychological Interventions

Dr Panagiotis Rentzelas, Dr Athfah Akhtar and Mrs Devinder Rana-Rai

The aim is to look at the number of individuals from ethnic minority groups who access psychological services on a regular basis (i.e. weekly/fortnightly). These are ethnic minority individuals who suffer from a severe mental illness and are under the care of secondary mental health services. This study is part of a wider research project aiming to investigate the cross-cultural validity of psychological interventions employed by the NHS Mental Health Trusts in Birmingham and Nottingham.

Although mental health professionals (including psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists) are trained to take into consideration individual characteristics such as age, gender, education, personality and mental health symptoms.

Research carried in the West suggests individuals from ethnic minority groups engage with treatment differently, mainly due to their religious beliefs, their culture and their beliefs about mental health (Bernal and Saez-Santiago, 2006; Kim, Zane and Blozis, 2012). Therefore it is important that mental health professionals consider the role of religion and cultural background when treating individuals from certain ethnic backgrounds (Chowdhary et al, 2014).

Good practice guidelines have been set out by the APA and the BPS highlighting that mental health professionals need to be aware of cultural diversity. However according to the NICE guidelines (CG178; 2014) healthcare professionals are inexperienced in working with individuals from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds and therefore lack the expertise in understating and delivering therapy according to their needs.

Also, there is no clear evidence showing how well individuals from ethnic minority backgrounds engage with treatment, what kind of psychological interventions they find acceptable, and whether interventions are effective in treating individuals from the ethnic minority group (Cardemil, Nelson and Keefe, 2015). This is mainly due the fact that the main focus of research is usually on the general effectiveness of the psychological intervention and individuals from ethnic minority groups are generally underrepresented in research.