Department of Psychology

News Highlights

Orgasms used as Sexual Currency

Humans have evolved to use intense sexual pleasure, especially orgasm, to control our partners, according to new research.

The research into sexual pleasure and orgasms also examines why women orgasm less consistently than men and asks if orgasms are one of nature’s ways of ensuring reproductive success.

Dr Diana Fleischman, a psychologist at the University of Portsmouth, says that orgasm and intense sexual pleasure are such strong forms of positive reinforcement and reward that they can motivate and change our behaviour. Evolution, she says, has trained us into using orgasm and high sexual arousal as currencies. 

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Diana Fleischman

One in ten burglary victims moves house

Being a victim of burglary has such a profound effect on some, that more than a million in the UK moved house as a result, according to new research.

Victims of burglary have also suffered physiological conditions including sleep deprivation (25 per cent) and illness (eight per cent). Some experienced psychological trauma, with six per cent losing confidence and needing counselling to cope with the trauma. More than one in ten (11 per cent) victims couldn’t be home alone after their home was broken into.

The survey of 2,000 victims of burglary was carried out by Churchill Home Insurance and supported by Dr Claire Nee, a Reader in forensic psychology at the University of Portsmouth.

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claire nee

Dogs may know what is ‘relevant’ to humans

Dogs may be able to understand what information is most relevant to us, according to a new study into the way they communicate with people.

Scientists found that dogs taking part in observational tests at the University of Portsmouth’s Dog Cognition Centre were able to differentiate between hidden objects based on their relevance to a human partner.

The study by Patrizia Piotti and Dr Juliane Kaminski, published today in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, looked at dogs’ interactions with a human partner who was looking for an object that she – but not the dog – had an interest in.

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Guilt subject of new research

Psychologists at the University of Portsmouth have been awarded a research grant of £106,827 to study guilt in human social interaction.

Dr Bridget Waller, Professor Aldert Vrij and PhD student Eglantine Julle-Daniere will carry out behavioural experiments in two different cultures – European and East Asian – over three years.

The funding was awarded from the Leverhulme Trust.

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New study finds link between walk and aggression

The way people walk can give clues to how aggressive they are, a new exploratory study from the University of Portsmouth has found.

The researchers from the Department of Psychology assessed the personalities of 29 participants, before using motion capture technology to record them walking on a treadmill at their natural speed.

The study found that the exaggerated movement of both the upper and lower body indicated aggression.

Lead researcher Liam Satchell said: “When walking, the body naturally rotates a little; as an individual steps forward with their left foot, the left side of the pelvis will move forward with the leg, the left shoulder will move back and the right shoulder forward to maintain balance. An aggressive walk is one where this rotation is exaggerated.”

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aggressive walking

Autism centre wins national prize

The highly innovative Autism Centre of Employment has won first prize for outstanding adult services in the national Autism Professional Awards.

The centre adopts an unusual approach. Unlike other employment services for people with autism, it primarily targets employers and the results include better job retention by providing a satisfactory experience for both employers and employees.

Judges highly praised the centre’s work in helping those with autism and employers understand each other’s needs and strengths.

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ACE award

Students help psychiatric patients in Sri Lanka

Two Portsmouth psychology students travelled almost 3,500 miles to provide care for mental health patients in Sri Lanka.

Anastasia Finch and Matthew Siu Chang worked for five weeks in psychiatric hospitals in the island nation, where mental health care is still in its infancy.

They hope the experience will help them gain places on a Clinical Psychology doctorate course, for which competition is fierce.

As part of their placement – organised by the SL Volunteers organisation – they shared their skills and ran therapeutic activity sessions.

SL Volunteers spokesman Lee Mendeloff said: “Since 2014 we have had ten University of Portsmouth students join us in Sri Lanka, and we have found them all to be incredibly hard-working and professional.

“Mental health care in Sri Lanka is still in its infancy. The stigma for those with mental health issues is still widespread, and with just one psychiatrist for every 500,000 people, there is still a long way to go.”

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psychology volunteers

Launched: national centre for security threat research

The University of Portsmouth will be at the forefront of the UK’s new centre for the development and use of economic and social science research to understand, mitigate and counter security threats.

The Centre for Research and Evidence on Security Threats (CREST) brings together world leading researchers at the universities of Birmingham, Cranfield, Lancaster, Portsmouth and the West of England to deliver a national hub for independent research, training and knowledge synthesis.

The founding partners will oversee programmes of activity that attract the best social scientists from the UK and abroad to partner with industry and government and break new ground in our understanding of and capacity to counter contemporary threats.

Launched on October 1, the Centre was commissioned by and will be administered by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) with a focus on conducting independent research and knowledge synthesis to inform approaches to countering contemporary security threats to individuals, communities and institutions.

The centre is funded for three years with £4.35 million from the UK security and intelligence agencies and a further £2.2m invested by the founding institutions.

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Lorraine Hope