Applied Social Change (ASCh) Hub

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The ASCh Hub within the ARU Centre for Societies and Groups (ARU-CSG) is an interdisciplinary group that leads research and debate on community change, public policy, and psychological well-being in societal contexts.

About us

Topics currently being researched by members of the group include gendered issues in advertising, determinants of food choice, victimisation and injustice, driving behaviour, and the development of resilience.

Our work illuminates and challenges social behaviour to benefit local, national, and international communities, and influences public policy.

Please contact our hub lead, Dr Magdalena Zawisza, for more information.

We offer a Psychology PhD and a range of innovative research project opportunities for postgraduate researchers.

Shyanne Roeloffs
Contact: [email protected]
Supervisory team: Dr Suzanna Forwood, Prof Viren Swami, Dr Flavia Cardini, Prof Daragh McDermott 
Thesis title: Revisiting Perceived Hunger; Examining the Role of Socio-Psychological Influences and Energy Balance
Research summary: Shyanne’s PhD work focuses on examining the conflict between the concept of hunger as a regulatory energy balancing process and the more multi-dimensional view incorporating broader cognitive influences. The impact learned behaviour and socio-psychological beliefs have on common daily experiences of hunger and appetite will be explored and measured.

Rachel Ownsworth
Contact: [email protected]
Supervisory team: Dr Claudia Washcer, Prof Claire Pike
Thesis title: Investigating Predictors of Academic Career Trajectories in STEM
Research summary: A mixed-methods investigation into the experiences that contribute to the career trajectories of students and academics from marginalised communities in STEM.

Evelin Kis
Contact: [email protected]
Supervisory team: Prof Viren Swami, Dr Emma Kaminskiy, Dr Barbara Vohmann 
Thesis title: Adapting wise belonging interventions for race minority students in STEM to transform their experiences, relationships, and achievements
Research summary: This project looks at adapting wise belonging interventions developed in the US to improve the attainment and retention levels of race minority students in the UK higher educational context.

Sarah Gradidge
Contact: [email protected]

Research: Sarah's PhD explored the phenomenon of pet speciesism, exploring why we love dogs and yet eat pigs.


Three Societies Hub members, Dr Magdalena Zawisza, Dr Annelie Harvey and Sarah Gradidge, are collaborating on an international 70+ country project to test effective interventions to encourage collective climate action (project leads: Dr Madalina Vlasceanu, Dr Kimberly Doell & Prof Jay J. Van Bavel). This topic is increasingly important in light of worsening climate change and is a highly ambitious project to test climate action interventions which work on a global scale.

Read more about read more about this project.

Two of our Societies Hub members, Dr Magdalena Zawisza and Sarah Gradidge, are part of a 63-country project to explore if exposure to nature has implications for body image. The international project is led by Prof Viren Swami, Dr Ulrich Tran, Prof Stefan Stieger and Prof Martin Voracek and aims to collect the richest dataset on this topic to date. The protocol for the project can be viewed at

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Towards Gender Harmony is the biggest thus far mega-study investigating a potential key barrier to gender equality progress globally: masculinity threat. Data from 67 countries over 100 collection sites was completed at the end of 2019. This corpus of data updates our knowledge on contemporary cross-national understanding of femininity, masculinity, gender stereotypes, attitudes and related behaviours as they link to gender (in)equality.

The project was awarded £136k by the Polish National Science Centre, and Dr Magdalena Zawisza is a co-applicant together with Dr Natasza Kosakowska (principal investigator, University of Gdansk, Poland), Prof Joseph Vandello and Prof Jennifer Bosson (University of South Florida, USA) and a team of six researchers.

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Our ASCh Hub members worked collaboratively analysis secondary data from 7,249 adults from the Taking Part 2019-20 survey of UK households. We found that attending live sporting events such as football matches improved subjective wellbeing and reduced loneliness above and beyond demographic predictors. This study has been published in Frontiers in Public Health and attracted media attention.

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This interdisciplinary research project is led by Dr Dawn Wooley in collaboration with others including Prof Sally Dibb and Dr Magdalena Zawisza. It aims to reduce the use of harmful gender stereotypes in selfies. While gender stereotypes have been recognized as psychologically harmful and were banned in British advertising in 2019, the regulations do not apply to other media content, such as selfies posted on social media. A whistle-blower at Facebook recently revealed that photo sharing on Instagram makes 30% of teen girls feel worse about their body image, while 13% of British teenagers who report suicidal thoughts have linked them to Instagram. Drawing on digital, psychological and creative approaches, this project will investigate the impact of gender stereotypes in selfies and find ways to counter their undesirable effects on young women.

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This interdisciplinary project applies expertise from cognitive psychology (Dr David Pearson, lead) and consumer psychology (Dr Magdalena Zawisza) together with built environment (Dr Fred Sherratt) research to understand and improve health and safety practices across different structures in a road maintenance company.

It is conducted in partnership with Ringway Jacobs, a large highway service provider, and it worth £194,375, including a 50% grant from Innovate UK.

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Two of our members, Dr Nicola Gibson (lead) and Sarah Gradidge, are investigating links between viewing playfulness in pet animals and greater wellbeing and reduced anxiety regarding COVID-19. Links between pets' playfulness and wellbeing have not yet been explored, nor has this relationship been investigated in the context of a global pandemic.

Collaborating cross-disciplinarily with animal behaviourists (Dr Claudia Wascher and Dr Andrew Smith) and across institutions with a psychologist from the University of Edinburgh (Dr Steve Loughnan) and an animal behaviourist from the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna (Dr Raoul Schwing), the researchers foresee positive implications of this project for reducing loneliness and improving wellbeing both during and after COVID-19, especially among people who live only with pets.

Read more about read more about this project.

ASCh Hub members offer a diverse set of expertise that lend itself to consultancy. We’ve worked with large industry partners such as Unilever, Qualtcomm, Dolby, Ringway Jacob, as well as local SMEs, government institutions such as Essex Police and County Councils as well as charities such as Mind, Furia and The Conversation.

Logos for England Marketing, Unilever, Qualcomm, Dolby, dzined, kiss, Misuszatek, Cambridge Biolabs, Stemnovate, Gorilla, Ringway Jacobs, furia, University of Cambridge, Essex Police, Mind and The Conversation


The projects ranged in time and scale from 1 day 1 to 1 consultancy to 3 year-long programmes of interdisciplinary research. These included in-depth brand image diagnosis, social media communication campaigns, company culture audit, help with designing and analysing audience surveys, press releases, optimising websites for user experience, and staff development guest talks for companies.

We offer expertise in four key areas:

  • Inclusivity
    • Equality and diveristy
    • Responsible marketing
    • Staff development
  • Sustainability
    • Transportation and sustainability
    • Food choices
  • Health
    • Wellbeing
    • Animal welfare
  • Technical and digital
    • Digital marketing and analytics
    • Brand image diagnosis
    • Research methods and statistics
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