‘Time for Psychology 2.0?’ Keynote Lecture, PSI Annual Conference, 8 November 2018

Keynote Lecture at the 2018 Psychological Society of Ireland Annual Conference

‘Time for Psychology 2.0?’

Abstract: After its formalization as a science in the late 1800s, psychology went viral. Suddenly there were psychology departments in universities around the (Western) world, and exciting new psychological professions offering services to a diversity of clients. Given this energy, the map of psychology’s subject area was rapidly embedded and its main research and analytic approaches firmly established. While psychology has certainly changed in the interim, its Victorian architecture remains visible today.

In more recent times concern has grown about whether Psychology 1.0 is fit for purpose in the modern world. There appears to be widespread systematic error in psychology research, and unease about the arbitrary ways in which psychologists draw conclusions from data. As mainstream culture becomes more psychologized, psychology faces increased pressure to supply answers to political questions and to produce evidence in support of public policy. Psychology faces a host of challenges relating to reproducibility, coherence, measurement, statistics, sampling, and systematic exaggeration. To make things even more interesting, the way science as a whole is produced and published is currently in the throes of a modern revolution.

This talk assesses whether our field is quite ready for this helter-skelter twenty-first century. I ask, do we now need a ‘New’ Psychology: a Psychology 2.0?



‘eTherapy: What the evidence shows…and doesn’t show’, Mental Health Reform, Dublin, 9 October 2018


eMental Health: The Next Big Thing in Psychological Practice?

Register now for the FREE international seminar on eMental Health in Psychological Practice, organised jointly by Mental Health Reform and the Psychological Society of Ireland.

The event will be held on the 9th October 2018, 8:30 AM – 4 PM in the Hilton Hotel, Charlemont Place, Dublin 2.

This seminar is part of the eMEN project – funded by Interreg North West Europe and the HSE.

The seminar will focus on the implications of technology-supported therapy for psychological practice…is this ‘the Next Big Thing’ for psychology in Ireland?

The seminar will be addressed by the Minister of State for Mental Helath and older People, Jim Daly T.D.

Updates and announcements will be made on this webpage on the eMental Health Reform Twitter – follow us @eMHReform

Registration is now open!


8:30 – 9:00 AM – Registration, tea and coffee

9:00 – 9:35 AM – Welcome and seminar opening

  • Shari McDaid, Mental Health Reform
  • Terri Morrissey, Psychological Society of Ireland
  • “eMental Health State-of-the-Art”, Kevin Cullen, Work Research Centre

9:35 – 10:30 AM – Session 1: Telemental health: eTherapy: psychological therapy sessions at a distance

  • The session will combine a number of short presentations of online services – including MyMind, Turn2Me, and Helplink – followed by a panel discussion.

10:50 – 11:20 AM – Tea and coffee break

11:20 – 1:15 PM – Session 2: eTherapy: Technology-supported therapy

  • eTherapy: What the evidence shows…and doesn’t show, Prof. Brian Hughes, NUI Galway
  • The importance of personalised experience in eTherapy, Dr. Conal Twomey, UCD
  • Address of the Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People, Jim Daly T.D.

1:15 – 2:00 PM – Lunch 

2:00 – 4:00 PM – Session 3: The future – Utopian or dystonia?

  • Virtual Reality for Anxiety Disorders, Prof. Youseff Shiban, University of Göttingen, Germany
  • The Future: Utopia or Dystopia, Dr. Marie Murray, University College Dublin
  • Woebot, Dr. Alison Darcy, Woebot
  • Youth Panel discussion

4:00 PM – Seminar closes



Tue, October 9, 2018

8:30 AM – 4:00 PM IST

Add to Calendar


Hilton Dublin

Charlemont Place

Dublin 2

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‘The PACE Trial: Psychology in Crisis’, Public Talk for Hope 4 ME & Fibro NI, Newry, 2 October 2018

Newry 2

From Eventbrite:


Dr. David Tuller and Professor Brian Hughes have investigated and written extensively on the subject and will provide attendees with a unique opportunity, of the importance of their investigations being made available to decision makers, healthcare providers, academics and patients alike.

A controversial medical trial for the treatment of myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), known as the PACE trial, has been found to be ‘not reliable’ by a major new study. Described during the recent 3 hour Westminster Parlamentary Debate, as “One of the greatest medical scandals of the 21st Century.”

The large-scale, government-funded PACE trial cost £5 MILLION made claims that psychotherapy and exercise helped the estimated 250,000 sufferers of ME. Also known as chronic fatigue syndrome, ME presents symptoms such as unrelenting fatigue and profound pain. It has no known cure and can be exacerbated by physical exertion.

The PACE trial was funded by the UK Medical Research Council, Department of Health and Social Care (UK) for England, Scottish Chief Scientist Office, it is the most expensive piece of research into ME/CFS ever conducted. The trial dominates clinical policy in the United Kingdom and other countries, in both government funded health care and private medical insurance.

PACE stands for “Pacing, graded activity and cognitive behavioural therapy; a randomised evaluation“

Refreshments are included in all ticket options, will be provided after the speaker’s presentations

More on the speakers.

David M. Tuller, DrPh, is a Senior Fellow in Public Health in Journalism at the Center of Global Public Health, School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, California. Previously to this appointment in July 2017, he was of academic coordinator of the University of California, Berkeley’s joint masters program in public health and journalism. He’s worked as a reporter and editor for ten years at the San Francisco Chronicle, served as health editor at and frequently writes about health for The New York Times.

David covered the PACE trial results for The New York Times in February 2011. However he became concerned about the trial and wrote a further article regarding case definitions which resulted in an immediate response from the PACE trial authors which resulted in him investigating the trial and its authors further after contact with others in the patient community.

Brian Hughes is a Professor in Psychology, and a specialist in stress psychophysiology. He is the author of Conceptual and Historical Issues in Psychology (London: Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2012), Rethinking Psychology: Good Science, Bad Science, Pseudoscience (London: Palgrave, 2016) and Psychology in Crisis (London: Palgrave, 2018).

He serves as Dean of International Affairs at NUI Galway, and sits on the university’s Academic Management Team. He sits on the editorial boards of a number of international journals of psychophysiology, health psychology, and behavioural medicine, and is an Associate Editor of the International Journal of Psychophysiology.


Tue 2 October 2018
19:00 – 21:00 BST


Mourne Country Hotel
52 Belfast Road
BT34 1TR
United Kingdom

Tickets here


‘Time to rethink psychology’ keynote lecture, 7 April 2017

Keynote Lecture at the Annual Congress of Psychology Students in Ireland

‘Is it Time to Rethink Psychology? (Spoiler alert: Yes)’

Abstract: Given recent political upheavals, it is suddenly fashionable for intellectuals to bemoan fake news, the post-truth society, and the wanton rejection of expertise. In reality, psychologists have been grappling with (if not performing) these activities for years. Psychology has long co-existed with pseudoscientific practices and is often happy to be mistaken for them. But more worryingly, mainstream psychology regularly promotes its own forms of fake news, post-truth conspiracies, and expert-baiting. In other words, academic psychology regularly offers “alternative facts” (by overselling findings produced by poor research) while practitioner psychologists regularly behave as though they “have had enough of experts” (by rejecting or ignoring empirical evidence concerning their work). In short, the demise of logic in public politics simply mirrors that seen within academia. The future of psychology – and by extension that of public rationality – lies in the hands of the next generation.


FameLab Galway, 21 February 2017

(Main photo by Aengus McMahon)

Contribution as interval entertainment at FameLab Galway, February 21st 2017.

Launch of LGBT Helpline Connaught Guide, 2 December 2016

On Friday I had the privilege of launching the national LGBT Helpline’s guide for services in the Connacht region. I was invited to speak on the subject and to launch the guide at what was a very gratifying event. What follows is the text of my speech, which you can also download in pdf format here.

Remarks on the launch of the LGBT Helpline Connaught Guide,
2 December 2016

Professor Brian Hughes

Recent years have seen enormous positive changes in the way LGBT diversity has become welcomed and accepted as a core part of Irish society. As well as changing attitudes, we have seen society itself, through its laws and policies, increasingly recognize and protect important progressive norms.

We have seen legislation on same sex-parenting rights and on gender recognition. We have seen the removal of discriminatory clauses from the Employment Equality Acts. And of course we have seen the recognition of Marriage Equality within our constitution, as the result of a direct vote by the Irish people just last year.

To say that the Marriage Equality referendum was an important milestone is guaranteed to be something of an understatement. Words can barely describe its significance, in both legal and human terms. Not only did it result in the legal recognition of all marriages, but the entire referendum experience changed the way Irish people think and talk about LGBT diversity forever. It was an overwhelming period, and one which was moving and emotionally draining for many.

Living through such moments in cultural history, while historic and profound, can also be intensely anxiety-provoking and stressful. We can note for example that last year, the year of the referendum, traffic to the LGBT Helpline website grew by over 65%. We can hardly be surprised that such a period, when people’s experiences and even their very existence is a matter of daily public argument, much of it vitriolic and deliberately demeaning, will place upon them a significant emotional load.

I am a professor of psychology and my expertise ostensibly is in the experience of stress and anxiety. Most of this expertise has been built up professionally through my research and study, but like others my understanding of stress and anxiety is clearly intertwined within my own experience of life itself. From my point of view, all lives are to some degree stressful. But that is not to deny that some are more stressful than others.

In the few moments I have here, I would like to say a few words about why I believe the LGBT Helpline Connaught Guide that we launch here today is so important and welcome, and why such supports are not just laudable as humanitarian initiatives, but why they should be seen as part and parcel of a society in which life is lived well.

* * *

First of all, positive social change often serves to reorganize the experiences of its beneficiaries. For example, as social acceptance for LGBT diversity increases, more people are willing to come out. But coming out can be a very challenging thing to do, all the more so as life goes by and people find themselves embedded in situations that may not reflect their true personalities, and so it can appear to carry significant costs as well as benefits.

Also, positive social attitudes lead people to come out at younger and younger ages. One consequence of this is that, nowadays, more and more LGBT youth come out at precisely those life stages in which young people struggle most with social identity, friendships, peer influence and opinion, and peer victimization.

Social acceptance has made coming out more possible, but for many the age of coming out now frequently coincides with periods of intense interpersonal stress and anxiety.

* * *

I would like to give some facts and figures to explain why I believe supports and services like LGBT Helpline are so important. Much of them come from research conducted by psychologists. But before I do I want to acknowledge that, believe it or not, psychologists do not know everything.

In fact, psychology has not always been sensitive or rational about LGBT issues. Up until the 1980s, psychology listed ‘homosexuality’ as a mental pathology in its lists of clinical disorders. In my own undergraduate education, ‘homosexuality’ was covered in a textbook on human abnormality, and in a section of that textbook placed just after the topic of rape.

Psychology likes to congratulate itself on having moved forward on LGBT issues since the 1980s and 1990s. But a legacy remains. Even in the most recent clinical guidelines, controversy surrounds the way psychology depicts transvestic disorder and gender dysphoria. Transvestic disorder is defined in terms of the distress a person feels when harassed by others. But to suggest that a person who is victimized by others has a mental disorder, rather than to challenge and blame those around them who do the victimizing, seems to me very unfortunate indeed. Gender dysphoria is defined as when biological gender as classified (by others) at birth is contrary to one’s own self-identity. But why is this considered a psychiatric problem as opposed to a physical one? To me this reflects a heteronormative legacy bias within the psychological professions.

In short I believe that psychology still has some way to go on these matters.

* * *

Nonetheless, it is worthwhile to consider what the psychological research has revealed about LGBT experiences, both negative and positive.

By way of a preview, I can tell you that the research consistently shows us that LGBT persons benefit clearly from supports unique to their circumstances and experiences, not because they are somehow ‘mentally disordered’ or at particular biological or intrinsic risk of mental health problems — but rather, because LGBT persons face largely extrinsic challenges associated with environmental, social, and community factors, such as isolation, victimization, discrimination, and a range of adverse social attitudes many of which are held and communicated unintentionally by those around them.

The biggest challenges flow from something we now call “minority stress” – the distinct stress associated with minority identities. Usually we find three risks: the risk of facing actual hostility and rejection; the expectation that one will be treated this way (which is often as powerful as the reality); and, on occasion, the internalizing of other people’s expressed negative attitudes about you.

Much data now suggest that LGBT persons are at elevated risk of stress, anxiety and depression. Recent US studies report past-year prevalence among LGBT adolescents as 25% for anxiety disorders, and 10% for mood disorders, much higher than in the rest of the population. Studies also show elevated rates of PTSD, alcohol abuse, and suicide ideation and attempts among LGBT communities.

Studies have also implied distinct measurable health disparities, such as elevated risk of physical health problems, most likely resulting as secondary consequences of stress (due to low mood, poor diet, alcohol use, and so on).

* * *

The research also tells us much about what makes stress worse, but in so doing it tells us what protects us against this kind of stress.

The interesting point is that the research points primarily to risk factors relating to institutional and community issues, rather than issues concerning the specific person themselves.

For example, where there is a lack of support from life-relevant institutions – schools, faith communities, even families – we find elevated risk of problems with anxiety, depression, and stress. A logical conclusion is that we can enhance lives by intervening to change these institutions to make them more supportive. A specific example relates to antibullying laws. In the US, LGBT youth living in counties with weaker LGBT-specific antibullying policies are twice as likely to report past-year suicide attempts that other youth. It stands to reason therefore that such laws enhance the public good and should be the norm and not the exception.

Family repudiation, where a person’s family reacts negatively toward an LGBT family member, is another risk factor, and one which highlights the benefit of supporting families and LGBT persons through the coming out process.

* * *

But the research also shows us clearly that, just like people in general, the vast majority of LGBT persons live full lives as healthy and productive adults. In fact there is nothing in the research to suggest that LGBT persons are any less likely to do so than anyone else alive.

The research picture suggests that the a number of factors are particularly effective in promoting good mental health:

  • Affirmative and protective environments
  • Explicit inclusion of LGBT experiences in mainstream contexts (such as inclusive school curricula)
  • Parental and peer support — many studies show that having sexual minority friends is associated with good mental health, for both LGBT and non-LGBT persons
  • And romantic relationships — but note the challenge here that people will face when there are social and cultural restrictions on same-sex romantic behaviour.

* * *

Finally I want to make a few brief points about the other dimension of the LGBT Helpline Connaught Guide, one that may not otherwise be referred to. This is the fact that it is a guide for Connacht in particular.

So why is this important? Well, let’s face it. As cool as Connacht is, it is distinct in some ways in which we may wish it were different. For example, even though the Marriage Equality referendum was overwhelmingly carried and euphorically welcomed, you might recall that the only county in which a majority voted against marriage equality was, in fact, located in Connacht.

By and large, there can often be differences between urban centres like Dublin and the largely non-urban and small town environments we have here in the west. These differences are well known to psychologists and mental health professionals.

Non-urban places afford less anonymity, and can present relatively fewer peers and role models to whom you can look to for tangible consolation and validation.

Non-urban places also tend to show greater levels of religious and cultural conservatism, no matter how these influences diminish over time at the national level. In the days before the Marriage Referendum, I read in one local newspaper in the west (not in Galway city) that it was not interested in the outcome, because none of its readers cared about LGBT issues. According to this paper, the Marriage Referendum was a politically correct concern solely of well-to-do arty-farty celebrity snobs in Dun Laoghaire and Dublin 4.

Although this might seem benign, such formal denial of what was an issue of mass public interest – to be assumed given the turnout in the west as everywhere else – has the effect of subtly excluding the LGBT experience from mainstream consideration. The newspaper might consider respect for LGBT diversity to be an urban affectation. In psychology we consider this type of attitude a ‘micro-aggression’.

So it matters that we give attention to the fact that the LGBT experience in Connacht has its own features and realities.

* * *

I want to congratulate the National LGBT Helpline in producing this Connaught Guide, and indeed on all its work. As you now, the LGBT Helpline was established in 2010 and provides a network of local helplines, and latterly online instant messaging services, where trained volunteers offer support and advice to thousands of callers of all ages across Ireland.

The Connaught Guide is very comprehensive, providing information on services offering social support, groups and events, family support, support to people young and old, help with coming out, advice on sexual health, trans support, and practical guidance on dealing with negative experiences with other people.

The Connaught Guide is not just a useful resource. It is good for the soul! It is just so gratifying to see listed on its pages the activists and supportive services who work in this area right here in Connacht. It is not just a bibliography of services, it is a beacon of hope, part of the fabric of the new Ireland that we are simply privileged to see unfolding before us.

Thank you very much for asking me here today. It is my honour to be here, to congratulate all involved, and to formally declare the LGBT Helpline Connaught Guide launched!

Professor Brian Hughes, School of Psychology, NUI Galway

* * *

‘Bad science in psychology’ invited workshop, Psychological Society of Ireland Annual Conference, 12 November 2016

From the Psychological Society of Ireland

46th Annual PSI Conference

“Who are we: where have we come from and where are we going?” – Exploring the psychology of identity, 9 – 12 November 2016, Sheraton Athlone Hotel, Athlone, Ireland

Conference Highlights

Prof Brian Hughes (NUIG) will run a one day workshop on Saturday 12th as part of the Conference programme. The workshop, entitled Bad science, pseudoscience, and anti-science in psychology: Professional obligations and courses of action, will form Stream C of the programme and is open to Conference delegates to attend from 10.00 – 16.00.

Bad science, pseudoscience, and anti-science in psychology: Professional obligations and courses of action

Name of presenter: Brian Hughes

Workshop topic: Communication and outreach skills

Title of workshop: Bad science, pseudoscience, and anti-science in psychology: Professional obligations and courses of action

Date of workshop: Saturday, 12 November 2016

Duration of workshop: 10 am – 4 pm

Maximum number of attendees: 30

CPD credits: 4

This workshop will support participants in addressing and responding to controversies regarding scientific and evidence-based psychology. As such, it will support participants in promoting psychology, in securing the cooperation of stakeholders in their work, and in advocating for public policy to be informed by psychological expertise. This workshop is aimed at psychologists from all areas of specialism.

The PSI Code of Professional Ethics highlights that psychologists are scientist-practitioners whose professional practice is grounded in a body of scientific knowledge. Moreover, the Code requires that psychologists remain up-to-date on latest research methods and techniques, be aware of their “scientific responsibilities” to clients, and assume overall ethical responsibility for the scientific activities of psychologists whose work they supervise (e.g., students, trainees, assistants, mentees, and employees).

Nonetheless, because of its popular appeal as a discipline, psychology often attracts attention from audiences who hold ambivalent, or even deeply negative, views about science. Sometimes psychologists themselves, or their colleagues, exhibit negative attitudes towards the scientific basis of their field. This workshop will support participants in considering, discussing, and defending the scientific aspect of psychology, and will examine the extent to which imperfect science threatens the impact and credibility of our work.

Participants will be introduced to practical approaches to: (a) achieving appropriate self-evaluation as a scientist-practitioner; (b) approaching sensitive conflicts around pseudoscientific ideas or practices; (c) to counteracting pseudoscientific advocacy (including in professional domains), and (d) promoting positive views about psychology in social and mainstream media.

Presenter’s biography:
Brian Hughes is Professor of Psychology at the National University of Ireland, Galway. He is the author of Rethinking Psychology: Good Science, Bad Science, Pseudoscience (2016, Palgrave), and Conceptual and Historical Issues in Psychology (2012, Prentice-Hall), as well as over 100 academic journal articles and chapters. He served as President of the international Stress and Anxiety Research Society from 2014 to 2016 and as President of PSI from 2004 to 2005. In 2015 he was made a Fellow of PSI.

As well as his permanent position at NUI Galway, he has held visiting academic positions at a number of universities internationally, including King’s College London, Leiden University, and the University of Birmingham.

While specialising in research on stress and psychophysiology, Brian has also written extensively on the status of science in psychology, both for professional audiences via academic journals and for wider popular audiences via blogs and general media. He has been a contributor to the Irish Times and the Irish Independent, and to several radio documentaries and talk shows dealing with science, psychology, and philosophy.