Students Staff

15 February 2010

Social scientists help us understand our world

Colchester Campus

Happiness, police interviews, competitive conversations and workplace smells are just some of the subjects that academics from the University of Essex will be talking about in a week of presentations aimed at explaining to the general public what it is that social scientists do.

The series of free public lectures, to be held in the Minories Bistro in Colchester on five successive evenings, are part of the nationwide Festival of Social Science, which helps people to discover the world of social science. As one of the top ten research institutions in the UK, the University of Essex is showcasing some of the exciting research currently being undertaken at its Colchester-based campus.

In the first public talk, which takes place on Monday 15 March at 6pm, Dr Kathleen Riach explores the importance of smell in the workplace and will demonstrate how companies use smells as a managerial tool to change workplace atmospheres or increase workers’ productivity.

The rest of the week’s events include:

Tuesday 16 March – ‘Happier by Design?’ Professor Elaine Fox from the Department of Psychology talks about the ‘happiness gene’ that makes some people inherently optimistic and resilient to stress and the impact of negative events.

Wednesday 17 March – Dr Rebecca Clift from Language and Linguistics gives a talk called  ‘Beating you to it: Competition and Cooperation in everyday conversation'. The talk explores the ambivalence in interaction by taking what appears to be a wholly cooperative action – agreement in conversation – and revealing how it can be highly competitive.

Thursday 18 March – ‘Banged to Rights: Analysing the Confession in the Police Interview’. Using extracts from real police interviews, this talk by Dr Elisabeth Carter from the Department of Sociology explores the reality of the confession. What techniques do officers use to elicit information from suspects under arrest and how do these techniques differ from popular perception?

Friday 19 March – ‘Food for the Soul: Should Public Money Fund the Arts?’ Dr  Chris Land and Dr Marjana Johansson fronm Essex Business School talk about What is the ‘value’ of culture? Can it be measured?

Dr Kathleen Riach, from the University’s Business School, who is organising the week, said, “First and foremost, social science research is about trying to increase our understanding of day to day experiences. We hope that this series of events will give members of the public in Essex a chance to hear about some of the interesting academic research that is being undertaken within their own community. The informal nature of the events will also give them the opportunity to share some of their own beliefs or experiences in relation to the topics under discussion”.

All the presentations are free, open to the public and start at 6pm. Seating is limited, so anyone interested in attending should book their place in advance by emailing Linette Edonya on 872925 or

...more news releases