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20042022

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Personal profile

Personal profile

I am Professor of Social Cognition in Abertay's Division of Psychology and Forensic Sciences. I joined Abertay in 2011, following completion of my PhD and two post-doctoral research fellowships at the University of Aberdeen.

My research focuses on social cognition across the lifespan. In particular, I am interested in self-processing biases, through which information associated with self attracts attention and is better remembered. My work explores both the development of self-processing biases, and the extent to which they can be applied in education to support children's processing and retention of information.

I am also interested in stereotypes and prejudice, particularly looking at gender stereotype development and the impact of gender stereotypes and social learning on young people's decision-making.

My research has been funded by ESRC, ERC, the Leverhulme Trust and the Carnegie Trust. For more details, please see my lab webpage.

Teaching

I teach on the following modules:

  • PSY216: Psychology in the real world
  • PSY314: Social cognition across the lifespan (Module Lead)
  • PSY408: Advanced social and cognitive psychology

Research interests

My research is focused on social cognition, exploring the mechanisms and biases through which we process information about the self and other people.

Particular areas of interest include:

  • the early development of self-processing biases, and implications for learning and education (visit the Self Lab webpage)
  • self-reference effects in memory (visit the  'Me in Memory'  lab webpage)
  • effects of stereotypes on cognition and behaviour
  • the impact of gender stereotypes on young people's decision-making

Funding

Research grants include:

2022-2025: CI on £75,000 RLINCS2 PhD studentship award

2020-2023: PI on £484,575 project grant awarded by ESRC

2018: CI on £8,500 grant awarded by the Carnegie Trust

2018-2021: CI on £75,000 RLINCS PhD studentship award

2017-2020: CI on £363,321 grant awarded by the ESRC

2017-2018: CI on £7,490 grant awarded by the Carnegie Trust

2015-2018: PI on £106,396 grant awarded by the Leverhulme Trust

2014: PI on £3,500 workshop grant awarded by the Experimental Psychology Society

2009-2012: Named RF on 791,549€ awarded by the European Research Council

Esteem

I peer review manuscripts for international journals including Consciousness and CognitionDevelopmental ScienceJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and CognitionQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, and Memory. I guest-edited a special issue on self-processing biases for the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology.

I am an elected committee member of the British Psychological Society's Developmental Section. I am a member of several academic societies including Experimental Psychology Society, the British Psychological Society and the Association for Psychological Science. I also work with the Scottish Graduate School for the Social Sciences, sitting on a working group for the ESRC recommissioning bid.

Knowledge Exchange

ACADEMIC CONFERENCE PRESENTATIONS

Ahmed, Z., Mclean, J., March, J., Golden, K., Wilks, C., Ross, J., & Cunningham, S. J. How can ‘you’ support children’s maths word problem solving? British Psychological Society Developmental Section, Sheffield, UK. September 2022.

Hutchison, J., Wood, L., & Cunningham, S. J. Boys copy boys: Social learning in adolescence. British Psychological Society Developmental Section, Sheffield, UK. September 2022.

Ahmed, Z., Mclean, J., March, J., Golden, K., Wilks, C., Ross, J., & Cunningham, S. J. How can ‘you’ support children’s maths word problem solving? The Mathematical Cognition and Learning Society, Antwerp, Belgium. June 2022

Golden, K., March, J., Ahmed, Z., McLean, J. Ross, J., & Cunningham, S. J. Effects of personal pronouns on children's numerical problem solving. Cognitive Development Society Biennial Conference, Madison, WI. April 2022.

March, J., Cunningham, S. J., McLean, J., Golden, K., & Ross, J. The influence of self-referential cues and problem consistency on children's maths performance. Meeting of the Experimental Psychology Society, Keele University. March 2022.

Cunningham, S. J., Hutchison, J., & Ross, J. How do self-reference effects change across childhood? Society for Research in Child Development Biennial Meeting (virtual). April 2021.

Ahmed, Z., Cunningham, S. J., & McLean, J. Can the ‘self’ enhance children’s verbal working memory? Society for Research in Child Development Biennial Meeting (virtual). April 2021.

March, J., Golden, K., Ahmed, Z., McLean, J. & Cunningham, S. J. Investigating the effect of self-referential cues and working memory on children's maths performance. Society for Research in Child Development Biennial Meeting (virtual). April 2021.

Ahmed, Z., Cunningham, S. J. & McLean, J. Investigating the relationship between self-referencing and children’s visuospatial working memory: can ownership support working memory? BPS Developmental and Social Annual Conference. Stoke, August 2019.

Cunningham, S. J., Ahmed, Z., Rhodes, S., Gow, A., Macmillan, K. & Ross, J. Self-processing in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). International Convention on Psychological Science. Paris, March 2019.Ross, J., Hutchison, J. & Cunningham, S. J. Development of self-reference effects. International Convention on Psychological Science. Paris, March 2019.

Cunningham, S. J., Hutchison, J., & Ross, J. Development of incidental and explicit self-reference effects reveals distinct cognitive mechanisms. BPS Cognitive Section Annual Conference, Liverpool, Sept. 2018.

Ross, J., Hutchison, J., & Cunningham, S. J., The me in memory: Using the self-reference effect to measure development in the
autobiographical self. BPS Cognitive Section Annual Conference, Liverpool, Sept. 2018.

Ahmed, Z., Cunningham, S. J., Ross, J. & Rhodes, S. Exploring the self-reference effect in ADHD. BPS Developmental Section Annual Conference, Liverpool, Sept. 2018.

Ross, J., Hutchison, J., & Cunningham, S. J.,Growing me: The development of the self-reference effect across childhood. BPS Developmental Section Annual Conference, Liverpool, Sept. 2018.

Cunningham, S. J., Hutchison, J., Ross, J. & Martin, D. Self-biases in recall: Applying ownership effects in education. BPS Developmental Section Annual Conference, Stratford-upon-Avon, Sept. 2017.

Ross, J., Hutchison, J., & Cunningham, S. J. Self-processing biases in event memory: Implications for the development of self-awareness. BPS Developmental Section Annual Conference, Stratford-upon-Avon, Sept. 2017.

Cunningham, S. J., Hutchison, J., & Martin, D. The ownership effect in memory: applications for learning. International Convention on Psychological Science, Vienna, March 2017.

Hutchison, J. Cunningham, S. J., & Ross, J. The me in memory: Using self-reference effects to predict autobiographical memory development. BPS Cognitive Section Annual Conference, Barcelona, Sept. 2016.

Gillespie-Smith, K., Branigan, H., Ballantyne, C., Turk, D. J., & Cunningham, S. J. Level of functioning in Autism associated with self-processing ability: Evidence from an ownership paradigm. BPS Developmental Section Annual Conference, Belfast, Sept. 2016.

Gillespie-Smith, K., Ballantyne, C., Turk, D. J., & Cunningham, S. J. Children with autism spectrum disorder do show self-processing biases: Evidence from an ownership paradigm. Meeting of the Experimental Psychology Society, Oxford, July 2016.

Martin, D., Swainson, R., Slessor, G., Hutchison, J., & Cunningham, S. J. The simultaneous extraction of emotion and social categories from unfamiliar faces. Meeting of the Experimental Psychology Society, Oxford, July 2016.

Cunningham, S. J. Applying self-processing biases in an educational context. Meeting of the Experimental Psychology Society, Durham, April 2016.

Cunningham, S. J. & Ferguson, A. The effects of self-referencing on children’s mathematical processing. BPS Developmental Section Annual Conference, Manchester, September 2015.

Cunningham, S. J. & Turk, D. J. The selfish learner: advantages of applying a self-referential approach to children's learning. Society for Research in Child Development, Seattle, WA, April 2013.

Cunningham, S. J. Exploring incidental self-reference effects in memory. International Conference on Memory (ICOM) 5, York, August 2011.

Cunningham, S. J. & Turk, D. J. Applying the self in learning. Society for Applied Research in Memory and Cognition XI, New York, June 2011.

Cunningham, S.J. The self-reference effect on memory in early childhood. Society for Research in Child Development, Montreal, Canada, April 2011.

Cunningham, S. J. A world of my own: The emergence of ownership effects in early childhood. 1st joint conference of EPS and SEPEX, Granada, Spain, April 2010.

Cunningham, S. J. It's mine! Children's memory bias for self-owned items. BPS Developmental Section Annual Conference, Nottingham, UK, September 2009.

Cunningham, S. J. Turk, D. J. & Macrae, C. N. Remember your own: The development of self-biases in early childhood. 15th General Meeting of the European Association of Experimental Social Psychology, Opatija, Croatia, June 2008.

Cunningham, S. J. Turk, D. J. & Macrae, C. N. Each to his own: Self-biases in memory for owned objects. 8th Annual Society for Personality and Social Psychology Conference, Memphis, Tennessee, January 2007.

Cunningham, S. J., Milne, A. B. & Crawford, J. R. Alcohol and the control of stereotyping behaviour. Conference of the Society for Experimental Social Psychology, Boston, Massachusetts, September 2003.

Cunningham, S. J. & Milne, A. B. The consumption of executive resources during stereotype suppression. Society for Applied Research in Memory and Cognition V, Aberdeen, July 2003.

Cunningham, S. J. & Milne, A. B. Stereotype suppression: Ironic effects on memory and executive resource consumption. Annual Conference of the British Psychological Society, Bournemouth, March 2003.

McGeorge, P., Milne, A. B., Cunningham, S.J & Rutland, A. Implicit attitudes amongst Scots: The effect of varying the comparison group. Meeting of the European Association of Experimental Social Psychology, San Sebastian, Spain, June 2002.

Outreach

PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT

I have been involved in a number of scientific public engagement sessions, including the British Science Festival and Dundee Science Festival ("I heard it on the Grapevine: The social evolution of information") and Cafe Science Dundee ("Pink for girls and blue for boys? The colour of gender stereotypes").

 

SCHOOL OUTREACH

I have delivered talks to children in primary and secondary schools on psychology topics such as stereotyping, brain development and self-referencing. 

Our lab group runs CPD workshops for teachers aimed at increasing awareness of the application of self-processing biases in the classroom (see www.selflab.co.uk). I also deliver workshops on this topic to teachers via national CPD provider SSERC, and have published a number of  related resources for teachers:

  • Cunningham, S. J. (2021). The importance of self-referencing as a learning technique. Futurum: A Science, Research and Tech Mag for the Next Generation, 11, 26-29. https://futurumcareers.com/Issue-11.pdf

Article and resources also published in:

Times Educational Supplement: https://www.tes.com/teaching-resource/the-importance-of-self-referencing-as-a-learning-technique-12581921

Teachers Pay Teachers: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/The-importance-of-self-referencing-as-a-learning-technique-7288477?st=a02158a03274c139fe0221f544c3f81b

 

 

 

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality

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