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Applied Social Change (ASCh) Hub

Eight people in a circle putting one hand each together in the centre

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.


A hand holding a banner showing the Earth in space with the words "One World"
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.

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A pair of legs standing on a sandy beach with a plant next to them and the sea in the background
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 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2021.11.002


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The word "Equality" spelled out in different colours of plasticine letters
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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Fans in a stadium watching a football match
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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A hand holding a smartphone with the screen showing a picture of a person using a camera
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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A road sign showing a stick person digging
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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A person sitting on the ground with two small dogs
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.

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21 February 2022: Sarah Gradidge and Dr Magdalena Zawisza have written for the Vegan Society on the psychology of vegetarianism and veganism (collectively known as veg*nism), exploring why people go veg*n, why and how they stay veg*n (or not), and how we can encourage others to go veg*n.

13 February 2022: The National Post interviewed Sarah Gradidge about the ‘meat paradox’, following her published ‘meat paradox’ review co-authored with Societies Research Hub members Dr Magdalena Zawisza and Dr Annelie Harvey, alongside Prof Daragh McDermott from Nottingham Trent University.

11 February 2022: Sarah Gradidge and Dr Magdalena Zawisza have had an article published at The Conversation on the meat paradox – why we care about animals and yet also eat them.

23 January 2022: Doctoral candidate Sarah Gradidge was featured on the Psychology of Human-Animal Intergroup Relations (PHAIR) Society blog in a student showcase article.

30 November 2021: Technology Networks interviewed Sarah Gradidge about the ‘meat paradox’, following a published review on the same topic authored by Societies Research Hub members Sarah Gradidge, Dr Magdalena Zawisza and Dr Annelie Harvey, alongside Prof Daragh McDermott from Nottingham Trent University. The interview feature accrued more than 181,000 pageviews in the first week.

18 November 2021: Dr Magdalena Zawisza and Sarah Gradidge's talk from the British Science Festival was featured by the British Science Association for International Men’s Day. The feature explores how performative masculinity affected responses to COVID-19.

October 2021: An experiment on how species and identifiability of animal victims affects perceptions of them, led by Sarah Gradidge in collaboration with Societies Hub members Dr Annelie Harvey and Dr Magdalena Zawisza, alongside Prof Daragh McDermott from Nottingham Trent University, has been accepted for publication in Human-Animal Interaction Bulletin. This experiment found that people typically view dog victims more positively than pig victims. Yet, contradicting previous research on the ‘identifiable victim effect’, identifiability of animal victims did not inform perceptions of them.

23 September 2021: A structured literature review, led by Sarah Gradidge in collaboration with Societies hub members Dr Magdalena Zawisza and Dr Annelie Harvey, alongside Prof Daragh McDermott from Nottingham Trent University, has been published in Social Psychological Bulletin. The literature review explored the ‘meat paradox’ – the conflict between eating meat and yet simultaneously caring for animals.

9 September 2021: Dr Magdalena Zawisza and Sarah Gradidge presented at the British Science Festival in Chelmsford. The talk informed the public of how gender has informed responses to the pandemic (e.g., through gender roles) and implications of how gender has been represented within advertising during COVID-19. The talk also presented original research findings from some of Dr Magdalena Zawisza’s students: Ellie Cornwell, Louise Kelly, Pietro Stefanello and Isaac Volpicelli. Reference - Zawisza, M., Gradidge, S., Cornwell, E., Kelly, L., Stefanello, P. & Volpicelli, I., (2021, Sep 9). How Gender is Shaping the Pandemic. Paper presented at British Science Festival, Anglia Ruskin University, Chelmsford, UK.

19 May 2021: Dr Magdalena Zawisza chaired a panel talk webinar that sold out at 300 registrations - Zawisza-Riley, M., Gradidge, S., Roeloffs, S., Keyes, H., Harvey, A. & Gibson, N., (2021, May 19). Society going viral! The hidden psychology of pandemics across time and contexts. Panel talk webinar, Open Cambridge, ARU Public Engagement, ARU, Cambridge, UK.

24 July 2020: Men 'less supportive' in more egalitarian nations. A new 42-country study, co-authored and co-designed by Dr Magdalena Zawisza, has found that the more gender egalitarian the country, the less likely men are to support women's causes.

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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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