Professor John A Parkinson has held an academic position at Bangor University since 2004 and was appointed Head of School in October 2013. He completed his BSc in Durham and PhD in Cambridge and is a psychologist and neuroscientist. His research expertise is in the interactions between motivation, cognition and behaviour with a particular focus on positive psychology and the promotion of optimal functioning and resilience. John is a founder of the Wales Centre for Behaviour Change a joint project of the Wales European Funding Office and Bangor University. A primary remit of the Centre is to promote innovation, economic activity and social regeneration using behavioural science. John also acts to facilitate interdisciplinary research at Bangor University through his role with Arloesi Pontio Innovation promoting communication, collaboration and engagement both within and without the University.
John’s research focuses on the interface between cognition and motivation. He is interested in how motivational signals are generated, how they interact with ongoing cognitive processes and how this affects behaviour. From the perspective of ‘motivation’ he has studied physiological systems (hunger) as well as higher-order motives including power, achievement and affiliation. His research also touches on Positive Psychology concepts such as well-being, happiness and flow. In terms of cognition he is primarily interested in the processes that directly contribute to the control of behaviour such as goal-valuation and goal-setting, as well as the inhibition (or enhancement) of prepotent responses. In order to direct behaviour we need to understand the causal structure of the world around us (and our own abilities within that world). At one level this can be accounted for through theories of Pavlovian and instrumental learning. At another level this includes the cognitive processes of causal attribution, optimism and self-efficacy.
Dr Rhi Willmot, Research Officer, Bangor University; Lead Behavioural Scientist at Wales Centre of Behaviour Change
The world of behavioural science is fascinating and varied. Rhi explores the diverse application of this knowledge in a variety of settings, and is particularly interested in promoting both physical and mental health. She undertook BSc and MSc degrees in Psychology at Bangor University, before completing a PhD in partnership with Public Health Wales. This project investigated the interface between psychological wellbeing and health behaviour, and in particular addressed how more enduring and meaningful forms of happiness can support us in making healthy lifestyle choices.
As lead behavioural scientist at the Wales Centre for Behaviour Change, Rhi explores the translation of empirical research into real-world impact. She has previously provided consultancy services for the Royal Air Force, the British Mountaineering Council, and most recently the Welsh Government’s Covid-19 response. She also has commercial experience, including collaborative work with organisations such as Tesco, Redrow and Clogau Gold, as well as opening her own pop-up shop which brought ‘ugly foods’ to the high-street in 2016.
Rhi also regularly writes evidence based opinion pieces, and has published with outlets including The Conversation, The British Psychological Societies’ Research Digest, The Psychologist, The Independent and Tonic by VICE. She originally came to Wales to pursue her surfing dreams, and was overwhelmed by the variety of sporting delight on offer – sailor, windsurfer and runner, Rhi’s most recent venture is triathlon!
Carter PJ, Hore B, McGarrigle L, Edwards M, Doeg G, Oakes R, Campion A, Carey G, Vickers K & Parkinson JA (2018): Happy thoughts: Enhancing well-being in the classroom with a positive events diary, The Journal of Positive Psychology, DOI: 10.1080/17439760.2016.1245770
Bazzaz MM, Fadardi JS & Parkinson, JA (2017) Efficacy of the attention control program on reducing attentional bias in obese and overweight dieters. Appetite 108, 1-11.
Parkinson JA, Eccles K and Goodman A (2014) Positive impact by design: the wales centre for behaviour change. Journal of Positive Psychology 9 (6), 517-522.
Parkinson JA (2014) Positive emotions and reward: Appetitive systems – Amygdala and striatum, Reference Module in Biomedical Sciences. Elsevier. doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-801238-3.04498-6.
Piech, R.M.; Lewis, J.; Parkinson, C.H.; Owen, A.M.; Roberts, A.C.; Downing, P.E.; & Parkinson, J.A. (2010). Neural correlates of affective influence on choice. Brain and Cognition. 72, ((2)) 282-288.
Grahn, J.A.; Parkinson, J.A.; & Owen, A.M. (2009). The role of the basal ganglia in learning and memory: Neuropsychological studies. Behavioural Brain Research. 199, ((1)) 53-60.
Roberts A C, & Parkinson J A (2006) A componential analysis of the functions of primate orbitofrontal cortex. In D. Zald and S. Rauch (ed.) The Orbitofrontal Cortex. Oxford University Press, UK.
Parkinson, J.A.; Cardinal, R.N.; & Everitt, B.J. (2000). Limbic cortico-ventral striatal systems underlying appetitive conditioning. Progress in Brain Research. 126, 263-285.
Keeping your sense of meaning during lockdown The Psychologist. April 2, 2020. Rhi Willmot.
Why We Continue to Believe False Information Even After We’ve Learned It’s Not True BPS Research Digest. November 12, 2019. Rhi Willmot.
Acting Dishonestly Impairs Our Ability To Read Other People’s Emotions BPS Research Digest. September 26, 2019. Rhi Willmot.
What Counts As Altruism? People Judge Good Acts Harshly When They Are Performed For Selfish Ends. BPS Research Digest. February 19, 2019. Rhi Willmot.
Exercise can fast-track your workplace well-being – here’s how The Conversation. January 17, 2019. Rhi Willmot.
Want to become self-compassionate? Run a marathon The Conversation. November 3, 2017. Rhi Willmot.
Why we taught psychology students how to run a marathon The Conversation. September 14, 2017. Rhi Willmot.
Want to develop ‘grit’? Take up surfing The Conversation. July 20, 2017. Rhi Willmot.
Teaching students to survive a zombie apocalypse with psychology The Conversation. May 22, 2017. John Parkinson and Rebecca Sharp
How Pokemon Go turned couch potatoes into fitness fanatics without them even realising it The Conversation. August 11, 2016. John Parkinson
Wonky veg and ugly fruit are making a comeback – here’s why The Conversation. February 15, 2016. Rhi Willmot.