Psychology Student Prize Winners 2023

Friday, September 22, 2023 - 08:45

At our recent graduation ceremony, we were delighted to award a number of prizes to graduates across our undergraduate programmes in the Department of Psychology.  

Carmel Staunton Prize for Best Final Year Projects (Awarded for the highest score achieved in the final year Research Project module) 

Kate Rochford


W. J. Smyth Prize for Best Performance in BA (Hons) Psychology  (Awarded for the highest score in the Final year psychology class)   

Marcus Broughill 

Psychology prize Winner 2023

Final Year Prize in Psychology Through Science  (Awarded for the highest score in the Final year psychology through science class) 

Owen Victor Jack 

Final Year Prize in Psychological Studies 

Anna Byrne 


A summary of the winning projects follows: 

Instagram Use Motives and Problematic Instagram Use: The Moderating Role of Individual Differences 
Marcus Broughill 

Background: Instagram is the most problematically used social media platform. The term problematic refers to when using Instagram negatively impacts a person’s life, such as negatively affecting their mental wellbeing or preventing them from engaging in daily tasks. To better understand problematic Instagram use, this study examined people’s motivation to use Instagram, and if certain motivations are more problematic than others. The study also assessed whether the findings differed depending on a person’s sex, personality traits, or time spent using Instagram.  

Method: 425 Instagram users completed an online survey. Motivations of ‘Social Interaction’ (using Instagram to keep up with others), ‘Documentation’ (archiving one’s life), ‘Creativity’ (expressing oneself creatively, or seeking creative inspiration), ‘Escapism’ (using Instagram to escape reality or pass time), and ‘Self-Promotion’ (using Instagram to gain likes, comments, and followers) were examined. Time on Instagram was measured objectively by inspection of the app’s tracker. 

Results: Using multiple statistical methods, the study found that higher levels of escapism and self-promotion motives were associated with more problematic Instagram use. These findings did not depend on a person’s sex, personality, or time spent using Instagram, except for one unique finding which was that being motivated by creativity was associated with problematic use when individuals spent less time on the platform.  

Conclusion: As escapism and self-promotion motives were significantly associated with problematic Instagram use, parents of child users, or adults concerned about their own use of Instagram, may want to consider their engagement with the platform if major motivations for use are escapism or self-promotion. Furthermore, creative individuals who spend less time on Instagram but consider their use as more problematic may be consuming certain content (e.g., influencers’ lives) that elicits negative emotions (e.g., envy, worthlessness). 


Ukrainian Refugees’ Access to Employment Opportunities and their Subsequent Integration into Irish Society 
Owen Victor Jack 

Refugee integration and employment has historically been a topical social discussion and governmental issue. This has recently been exacerbated due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with approximately 85,000 Ukrainians presently housed in Ireland. Employment is a key factor in refugees’ integration and adaption into new societies with considerable socio-economic and wellbeing benefits. Nonetheless, integration and employment are mediated by multiple factors, namely language, childcare, policies, and societal experiences.  

As I work in a hotel that houses up to 150 Ukrainian people, I was aware of many struggles Ukrainian people faced at different stages of their time after being relocated into accommodation. Through casual conversations with Ukrainian individuals in work I was drawn towards investigating their experiences at a deeper level and examining the many factors that come into play for refugees being embedded into Irish society and the labour market.  

This study aimed to examine the experiences of Ukrainian refugees in accessing Irish labour markets, while also evaluating their integration into Irish society, both through the lens of their own unique interactions with local/national employers and the general Irish public. 

It was found that childcare responsibilities and the language barrier were the primary obstacles to accessing employment opportunities or feeling wholly integrated into local communities. Ukrainian individuals displayed a strong willingness to obtain employment and integrate through attending courses and job searching. Significantly, positive experiences with the Irish public produced a seamless adjustment into new communities for participants. 

Importantly, interviews gave Ukrainians a platform to voice unique experiences surrounding vital individual and social aspects, to which they had not been previously questioned about. Vitally, such findings can incentivise governmental organisations to make immediate improvements to Ukrainian livelihoods. Overall, these results can be monumental for eradicating social prejudices that may surround the influx of refugees into Ireland and misconceptions surrounding willingness to integrate and obtain employment. Such research can set a foundation for supports to be developed and made available to refugee populations, further enhancing their chances of employment and integration.  


An examination of the Parents under Pressure (PuP) program for mothers and fathers in the wider Irish community  
Kate Rochford

Background: Extensive research underscores the pivotal role of early childhood experiences in shaping an individual's health, development, and lifelong trajectories. Central to these experiences is the parent-child relationship, contingent upon a parent's capacity to provide essential care for their child's needs. This capacity can be compromised by internal factors, such as parental mental illness, and external factors, including social challenges, elevating the risk of negative outcomes for the child. Parenting interventions such as the Parents under Pressure (PuP) program aim to support the parent in tackling these factors, thus enhancing parenting and child developmental outcomes. Although previous research has focused on PuP's efficacy in addiction populations, primarily with mothers as 'primary caregivers,' this study assesses its effectiveness in the broader Irish community and investigates its suitability for both mothers and fathers. 

Methods: Secondary data analysis was conducted using self-report data obtained through the parent's interaction with their PuP therapist. A number of analyses were conducted to assess both the differences and relationships between mother and father engagement, session attendance, changes in negative emotional states, and mindfulness capabilities.  

Results: The findings revealed higher maternal engagement in the PuP program compared to fathers. However, there were no significant differences between mothers and fathers regarding session attendance or improvements in negative emotional states and mindfulness capabilities. Additionally, no significant relationship was identified between the number of sessions attended and outcomes for both mothers and fathers. 

Conclusions: The PuP program proves to be an effective intervention for the broader Irish community. While more mothers engage in the program, both mothers and fathers benefit equally from participation. This suggests that the program is suitably effective for both mothers and fathers, however further research is required to improve the promotion of parenting programs to fathers. These findings underscore the program's potential to foster positive child outcomes and contribute to healthier parent-child relationships in the Irish context.