Dr Megan Birney

Lecturer - University Centre Shrewsbury

Megan is based at University Centre Shrewsbury where she is the module leader for Introduction to Self and Society, Exploring Psychology in Society, and Introduction to Child Psychology and the Psychology of Learning. Megan also contributes to Applied Psychology at Level 4 and Research Methods at Levels 4 and 5. Her current research projects focus on two main areas:  Understanding how perceptions of non-native accents influence the relationship between immigrants and host country natives and investigating the role of identity processes within variants of the Milgram paradigm.

Qualifications

Megan completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology and Interdisciplinary Studies (specialising in International Studies and Business Leadership) from Virginia Tech (USA). She received her MSc (with distinction) in Social and Organisational Psychology in 2010 and her PhD in Psychology in 2014, both from the University of Exeter. During her PhD, Megan worked as a Research Fellow at the University of St. Andrews before joining the University of Chester at University Centre Shrewsbury as a lecturer in 2015. Megan became a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy in 2016.

Overview

Megan is a social psychologist interested in issues related to identity processes, intergroup contact, communication, social stigma (particularly related to language), obedience, gender, and social exclusion.

Email: m.birney@chester.ac.uk

Phone: 01743 297173

Teaching

Megan is the module leader for Introduction to Self and Society (PS4203), Exploring Psychology in Society (PS5203) and Introduction to Child Psychology and the Psychology of Learning (PS4204). She also teaches on Introduction to Psychological Investigation (PS4201), Research Methods in Applied Psychology (PS5201) and Introduction to Applications of Psychology (PS4205).

Research

Megan has been involved in a variety of research projects focusing on topics within social psychology. Broadly, her PhD investigated how perceptions of non-native language patterns shape the relationship between immigrants and host country natives. Her work demonstrates that, although host country natives place importance on immigrants ‘speaking English,’ weaker accents (those more similar to native speech patterns) are not always preferred: For example, if the immigrant is from a low status country, natives tend to feel more comfortable if they speak in a way that differentiates them from their group (via a strong accent). Megan has also explored this issue from the non-native speaker’s perspective and found that experiencing accent-based stigma can temporarily impair people’s ability to communicate effectively in their non-native language.

While conducting research for her PhD, Megan was employed as an Associate Research Fellow and later as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow. The projects she has worked on include exploring the link between social networking technologies and well-being in older adults, assessing the factors that influence the way climate science is communicated, and developing ethical variants of Milgram’s obedience study to challenge traditional interpretations of this work.

Megan is currently in the process of publishing her findings in these areas.

Published work

Morton, T.A., Wilson, N., Haslam, C., Birney, M., Kingston, R., & McCloskey, L. (2016). Activating and guiding the engagement of seniors through social media: Experimental findings from the AGES 2.0 project. Journal of Aging and Health, doi:  10.1177/0898264316664440

Haslam, S.A., Reicher, S.D., & Birney, M.E. (2016). Questioning authority: New perspectives on Milgram’s ‘obedience’ research and its implications for intergroup relations. Current Opinion in Psychology, 11, 6 – 9.

Haslam, S.A., Reicher, S.D., & Birney, M.E. (2014). Nothing by mere authority: Evidence that in an experimental analogue of the Milgram paradigm participants are motivated to continue not by orders but by appeals to science. Journal of Social Issues, 70, 473 – 488. doi: 10.1111/josi.12072

Haslam, S.A., Reicher, S.D., Millard, K., & Birney, M. (2014). Just obeying orders? New Scientist, No. 2986 (September 13), 28 – 31.

Rabinovich, A., Morton, T.A., & Birney, M.E. (2012). Communicating climate science: The role of perceived communicator’s motives. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 32, 11 – 18. doi: 10.1111/josi.12072.