psychologist working with a child's mental health

Psychology rooted in setting and context

Our research explores how we impact and are impacted by people, places and things

Within the Centre for Situated Action and Communication, we study psychological phenomena in relation to the contexts and situations in which they emerge. Our work covers different methods such as naturalistic observations, experiments, conversation analysis, cross-cultural studies and longitudinal studies.

Our focus on situation and context takes the body and the social and material world as fundamental to all psychology. Many of our studies focus on the processes through which beings are influenced by and shape their immediate worlds. In this vein, ‘things’ in the world — often seen as physical objects — are often deeply social as well.

As one of the University's areas of research expertise, our work in situated action and communication also study the implicit and non-verbal ways in which we engage with other people, and the way in which these processes influence social understanding, identity and culture.

You can visit our research portal, Pure, to see a full list of staff and researchers in the Centre.

Our research focuses on the following topics


  • Developmental psychology — research programmes include attentional and intentional engagements in infants, phonemic and semantic skills, and against the theory of mind.
  • Human movement — Looking at gaze and steering, gaze and non-verbal information during interpersonal interactions, faking injuries in football, sniffing robots, the kinematics of giving, and falls in older life.
  • Autism — research looks at sensory processing and perceiving intentions in AS and typical adults, employment issues in autism, interactional competences in autism. We also house the Autism Research Network in this centre.
  • Disability and empowerment — research programmes include critical interrogations of services and systemic practice in working with people with intellectual disability, constructions of challenging behaviour in services, and analysing talk: choice, control and power relations.
  • Communication and identity — looking at community and identity in health care, language development and socialisation, identity and memory, and constructions of identities within learning disability services.


We have links with the following international institutions:

  • Centre for Research in Life, Mind and Society (CLMS), University of the Basque Country, San Sebastian, Spain
  • Centre for Subjectivity Research (CSR), University of Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Institute for Advanced Study, University of Konstanz, Germany
  • Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, NL
  • Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (Developmental Psychology), Leipzig, Gemany
  • Enactive Network (EN), Universite de Technologie de Compiegne, France
  • Wales Autism Research Centre, University of Cardiff, Wales
  • Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland
  • Klinik fuer Allgemeine Psychiatrie fuer Psychsoziale Medizin, Universitaet Heidelberg
  • Centre for Neural and Cognitive Sciences, University of Hyderabad, India
  • Aesthetics of Interaction in the Design of Intelligent Products and Systems, Technische Universiteit, Eindhoven, NL

Autism Research Network

The Centre houses the Autism Research Network (ARN), set up in response to informal discussions with parents and practitioners in the Hampshire area. Our goal is to create a forum to promote communication amongst researchers, practitioners, carers, parents and individuals on the Autism Spectrum.

These collaborations have resulted in the creation of the Autism Centre for Research on Employment (ACRE), which specialises in conducting research to increase employment outcomes for people in the spectrum.

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