PBS MSc dissertation research

Every year, MSc students from our department take on ambitious dissertation projects to bring together all they have learnt throughout their programme and apply it to their own research.

The MSc dissertation offers every student in our Department the opportunity to be supervised by an academic to collect and analyse data related to a real-world issue that they want to explore in greater detail.

Here you can see a handful of research projects from our 2016/2017 MSc and Executive MSc programme cohorts: MSc Organisational and Social Psychology, MSc Psychology of Economic LifeMSc Social and Cultural PsychologyMSc Social and Public Communication and Executive MSc in Behavioural Science (research examples coming soon)

Dissertation conference

In December 2017, students from the 2016/17 cohort presented their dissertation research to friends, family and current students. The conference presents a fantastic opportunity for alumni to reflect on their work, share the impact of their findings and to give current MSc students the chance to hear first-hand about the dissertation experience. You can read more about DisCo 2017 here

Organisational and Social Psychology

Sally-Ann Tingle

Abstract: Social entrepreneurs are championed as modern heroes changing the world for the better (Bornstein, 2007). While the benefits of social entrepreneurship for society are clear, the benefits for social entrepreneurs themselves are less so. What are the rewards and risks of this line of work? How do social entrepreneurs sustain their prosocial motivation? Empirical investigation in the area is sparse. The present study addressed this gap by exploring the lived experience of social entrepreneurship. Semi-structured interviews with 38 social entrepreneurs from eight countries were conducted. A hybrid of inductive and deductive thematic analysis was used. Universal rewards of meaning, belonging, fulfilment and enjoyment were found in the sample. Risks of sacrificing health, social isolation, disillusionment and financial insecurity were also identified. Findings suggest that type of prosocial motivation affects the experience of reward and risk. A combination of high other-interest and high self-interest sustained prosocial motivation in the sample. By contrast, either low other-interest (egoism) or low self-interest (altruism) increased the risk of burnout. 

Vandita Dhariyal

Title: How likely are you to leave your first job? – A study exploring the role of Psychological Contracts in the experiences of graduate newcomers.

Abstract: Soren Kierkegaard said that life is lived forwards, but understood only backwards. And one of the processes utilized to understand life events is ‘sense-making’. Transitioning from being a student to an earning member of the society is one of the biggest changes/life-events that an individual experiences in the first quarter of their lives. And whilst entering an organisation, a signed legal contract containing the details regarding the employment isn’t the only one that an individual signs. They also sign an un-written agreement, i.e. the psychological contract. Hence, to understand what the work-place is like for graduate newcomers and what happens to their expectations and beliefs, this study explored their experiences based on the role of their psychological contracts with their organisation and employers. Though individuals may vary in their reactions to the breaking and making of psychological contracts, the ‘sense-making’ process is often a common theme amongst the youngsters as they attempt to adjust and adapt to these changes. And thus, this study utilised the sense-making and social-exchange theory to map the process of adaption and modifications to this contract. The graduate newcomers were recent graduates from LSE currently employed in their first jobs in professional services sectors in London. The in-depth interview method was utilized due to the sensitive and personal nature of the study. The thematic analysis revealed that accepting the changes in role and responsibilities from being a student to being an employee is often the biggest challenge, and why graduate newcomers face dissatisfaction. For instance, not being in full control of their activities, being in the bottom of the hierarchy after reaching the ultimate stage in academic life, adjusting to the corporate culture, accepting un-wanted/disliked tasks created dissatisfaction and frusturation; which they coped with by ‘learning as much as they can’ and then finding a future in a better place. Often adapting to the business needs required the graduate newcomers to indulge in sense-making processes. In essence this study also tapped into the inability of modern employers and/or organisations to retain fresh and new talent for more than 2 years.

Psychology of Economic Life

Sofia Mutinelli

Title: The Psychology of Waste : A Subjective Evidence-Based Ethnography for Domestic Activity.

Abstract: Household overconsumption has become a dominant topic of investigation. However, little research addresses house waste as a psychosocial phenomenon. This research aimed to fill this gap using a method of Subjective Evidence-Based Ethnography (SEBE), which allows analysing waste from the perspective of people who experience it in a private context. The main objective was to investigate motives underlying wasteful activity in the house, intended as an installation where physical, embodied and social factors interact with one another and shape individuals’ activity beyond intention. First, a background on household practices and a theoretical framework for analysing them was provided. Secondly, data was gathered from thirteen people, asked to record their domestic activities through body-worn miniature cameras (Subcam) and further comment their recordings in a face-to-face replay interview. Finally, data was interpreted in relation to the literature as conceptual tools to understand and manage waste. Findings showed that wasteful practices are mainly energy and water related and derive from physical and social stimuli (objects and people) interacting with less visible psychological factors (embodied habits and experiences). This study hopes to stimulate research in finding opportunities of improvement to make householders’ life easier and more sustainable for the planet.

Maria Zimbron-Alva

Title: Practices to face and avoid engaging in corruption: Public officials’ experiences at their everyday job in a Mexican city.

Abstract: Corruption is a pressing issue in the world and Mexico is no exception. The mainstream fight against corruption has been focussed in following the best practices around the world, designing a new institution (Sistema Nacional Anticorrupción) in charge of co-ordinating the multiple efforts across the government. However, the strategies to fight corruption are prominently rule-based and focused on creating severe sanctions (OECD, 2017). The contribution of this study has been to shed light on the practices and perspectives to avoid engaging in corruption of one of the key players: the public official. When public officials are facing bribery, the practices found to avoid engaging in corruption are divided in two moments of the interaction (1) preventing insinuations from the citizens, and (2) facing the insinuations. The first set of practices entails following the procedures strictly, having an appearance and non-verbal communication according to their role, and avoiding misinterpretations and the influence of the briber. The second set refers to stating a definitive straight no, using their emotions, making visible the consequences, and giving further advice. When public officials face traffic of influences and/or abuse of functions situations, the finding is that public officials tend to be obedient to a higher authority due to the emphasis in a hierarchichal structure. Public officials see speaking-up as costly or pointless due to the lack of consequences, and transfer the responsibility to the authority that gave the order. Overall, these findings call for a more comprehensive perspective in the design of the anticorruption strategies, one that takes into account cognitive and societal processes, the power of socialisation of effective practices, and the study of the mechanisms of influence at play when facing corrupt interactions.

Social and Cultural Psychology

Elisavet Panagiotou

Title: Who are “we”, who are “they” and why do they collide? A dialogical social representational approach to the Cyprus Conflict

Abstract: The current study focuses on the Cyprus Conflict by investigating Social Representations of Greekcypriots (GCs) about the conflict. More specifically, using data from focus groups and semi-structured interviews, the study explored GCs’ representations on themselves, Turkishcypriots (TCs), Turkey and the Republic of Cyprus. It studied the dialogical processes taking place in debate when referring to TCs’ perspectives. Main findings suggest that GCs conquer the “Cypriot Identity” and attribute to it a "Greek Character". They represent themselves and TCs as weak while Turkey is being represented as an essentially bad and distrustful country and a manipulator of TCs. Using semantic barriers such as undermining the motive and prohibited thoughts, participants block any transformative effect of the TCs’ voice even though they seemingly talk positively about them. The findings highlight the danger of implicitly marginalising minorities and of remaining passive to the Cyprus Conflict due to perceived ingroup weakness and outgroup strength and to the conquest of the superordinate identity. 

Social and Public Communication

Feiyang Wang

Title: Animals Are Friends, Not Food: Effects of Ontological Metaphor on Omnivores’ Attitudes towards Meat-Eating

Abstract: Drawing on the conceptual metaphor theory and the cognitive dissonance theory, this research investigated whether the ontological metaphor “Animals Are Friends” can alter omnivores’ attitudes towards meat-eating. In three studies, we experimentally demonstrated that exposure to the verbal expression of the “Animals Are Friends” metaphor decreased omnivores’ positive attitudes towards meat. However, we did not find evidence that the nonverbal expression of the same metaphor (i.e., the cuteness level of meat animals) made any difference to omnivores’ attitudes towards meat, which was presumably resulted from the multivocal nature of the nonverbal stimuli. Hopefully, our findings will help develop more effective strategies to discourage excessive meat consumption and to promote animal protection worldwide.

Antone Christianson-Galina

Title: Information Decay on Social Media

Abstract: This research looked at the struggle between greater simplicity and greater complexity in online conversations. The author lay out two different feedback loops that shape online conversations, the Simplicity loop and the Complexity Loop. By online conversations, the author refers to the process by which people come together and decide what means what. Are GMOs good or bad? Is the president a sinner or a rogue? Was the film genius or mad? The first feedback loop, which called the Simplicity Loop in this study has three parts that generate each other. 1) A simple conversation becomes 2)popular and 3) generates a consensus which leads to greater simplification. The second loop, called the Complexity Loop also consists of three parts: 1) an intricate and complex conversation 2) breaking into diverging positions 3) generating new ideas and positions. The Complexity Loop generates and recombines ideas, but does not make them popular. The author then lay out a process of how to study the two loops using Yule I measure. The measure is a statistical index of linguistic complexity and can be used to study the degree to which online conversations are becoming more simple or complex. The author then illustrated the utility of the theory and used the Yule I measure to study conversations on Reddit, an online messaging board.

Executive MSc Behavioural Science 

Marcin Lella

Title: Does Context Matter in Social Media Communication?

Abstract: The messenger matters: the individual who communicates a piece of information may evoke feelings of trust, liking or authority that will sway how others perceive that information (Dolan et al. 2012). For example, advertisements often feature doctors or celebrity endorsements because these are seen as credible advisors intheir respective areas of expertise. Does a similar effect exist in social media channels? Facebook, Instagram and others are used everyday by millions of people - could it be that there is a “messenger effect” amongst these networks and a multitude of online communications are perceived not only based on the content but also the contextual cues coming from the social media platforms?

Yes, this research find multiple examples of “messenger effects”: an online interaction or a piece of shared content may be congruent with the perceived persona of one social network but not another. LinkedIn evokes statistically significant lower feelings of connectedness across requests to connect with others, sending text messages and “likes”. Study participants also rated LinkedIn lower in terms of the likelihood to remain in touch with the hypothetical contact inthe study. On the other hand, Facebook and Instagram produced higher feelings of connectedness when it came to receiving picture messages, possibly because they are perceived as more visual platforms. All these effects were valid controlling for demographic data including gender, age, education and employment.

The method used to determine these findings was an online experiment that randomized the social media channel while keeping the social interactions and content constant. After being allocated to one of the social networks, study participants were shown mock-ups screenshots that looked like real images of that channel and were asked about their feelings of connectedness following the interactions. The dissertation used an ordered probit analysis in Stata to tease out the effects and control for demographics.

Kim Nguyen

Title: Can indoor plants harm you? A randomised controlled trial of an indoor plant on cognitive performance. 

Abstract: Objective. This study investigated the effect of an indoor plant on computer-based cognitive tasks (two logical reasoning, a divergent creativity and a convergent creativity task). 

Method. A between-subjects randomised controlled trial (indoor plant vs. no plant) was used for 241 participants at the LSE Behavioural Research Lab. Interactions between the treatment condition and gender were examined.

Results. Contrary to expectations, the indoor plant produced no improvement across any of the cognitive tasks. To the contrary, female participants with an indoor plant in the computer cubicle performed worse on the divergent creativity test. 

Conclusion. This study adds to the body of growing literature on biophilic effects. The results of this study casts doubt on the application of indoor plants.  Further studies are required to increase the depth and robustness of research in this area and to delineate effective interventions.