Originally from the Netherlands, Dr Gwenda Simons has been living and working in the UK since January 2000. She qualified with a MA in Social Psychology from the University of Amsterdam (the Netherlands) in 1998. Following her master studies, Gwenda completed a year of independent research at the University of Würzburg, Germany with the help of a scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). She subsequently studied for her PhD in psychology at the University of Portsmouth, UK. After completing her PhD in 2003, she continued working at the University of Portsmouth on a pan-European project which saw the development of a patient education programme for people with Parkinson’s disease and their carers. This was followed by a period of more experimental work at the University of Oxford, exploring various aspects of interpersonal emotion and emotion regulation. Gwenda’s move to the University of Birmingham in 2012 meant a return to more applied social psychology and she currently works within the area of behavioural medicine on a project looking at the perceptions of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and decisions to seek help in the general public.
Many of Gwenda’s current research interests centre around illness perceptions, attitudes towards illness and help seeking and health interventions (including health campaigns and educational programmes).
Perceptions of Rheumatoid Arthritis and decisions to seek help in the general public:
Gwenda is currently working on a project supported by the Dunhill medical trust which explores the public knowledge and perceptions of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and how people without a diagnosis of RA might react to experiencing the initial symptoms of RA. Research with RA patients has shown that they often delayed for an extended period of time before seeking help for their initial symptoms. This long patient delay is problematic as treatment for RA is ideally started within the first 3 months of symptom onset. The current project (acronym RAPID: Rheumatoid Arthritis the Public InformeD) investigates people without a diagnosis of RA. Besides exploring the general public’s knowledge and perceptions of RA, the project aims to explore the potential barriers and drivers to help seeking in members of the general public. In addition, the research is looking at the role of health literacy. The project uses multiple approaches including qualitative interviews, vignettes and a cross-sectional postal survey. This research will inform the development of a public health intervention to promote early help seeking behaviour with symptoms of RA. This is collaborative research involving both researchers from the University of Birmingham (Professor Karim Raza, Dr. Rebecca Stack & Kanta Kumar) and the University of Keele (Professor Christian Mallen). More information on the project can be found here: http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/ra-rapid
Patient education in Parkinson’s disease
Another health intervention project Gwenda has been involved in saw the development and evaluation of a patient programme for people with Parkinson’s disease and their carers. This pan-European project (EduPark) was carried out with the financial support from the EU. The education programme focuses on psycho-social support for patients and carers and deals with issues such as depression, anxiety, the burden of care and social support. It consists of 8 sessions, each of which deals with a particular issue. The ultimate aim of the programme is to empower people with Parkinson and their carers by teaching them the tools to deal with some of the symptoms and problems associated with Parkinson’s disease and to seek out information from healthcare specialists and other relevant sources (for example regarding carers’ benefits). The wellbeing of both the patient and their carer is central to this programme and some of the sessions were specifically developed with the carers in mind. A manual has been published in each of the contributing countries for people wishing to deliver the education programme. Gwenda continues to be involved in this project, at present mainly in an advisory role for potential users of the programme and researchers who are looking to adapt the education programme for their own purposes.
Other research interests
Gwenda’s other research interests include interpersonal emotions, inter and intra-personal emotion regulation and nonverbal behaviour, in particular facial expressions.
Whilst at the University of Oxford she has conducted a series of studies looking at these processes in close (romantic) relationships together with Dr Brian Parkinson (PI). In particular, she has studied the habitual patterns of emotion regulation in romantic and other close relationships using a variety of techniques, including video cued recall, interviews and diaries. A related line of research she has pursued is how our own and other people’s emotions influence our appraisal of ambiguous situations, for example when making decisions. She has further researched the regulation of crying and emotional eating as a regulating behaviour.
Stack, R., Simons, G., Kumar, K., Mallen, C. Raza, K. (2013). Patient delays in seeking help at the onset of rheumatoid arthritis: the problem, its causes and potential solutions. Aging Health, 9: 425-435.
Simons, G, Bruder M, van der Löwe I and Parkinson B (2013). Why try (not) to cry: Intra- and inter-personal motives for crying regulation. Frontiers in Psychology 3:597, 1-9.
Parkinson, B, & Simons, G. (2012). Worry spreads: Interpersonal transfer of problem-related anxiety. Cognition & Emotion, 26: 462-479
Parkinson, B., Phiri, N., & Simons, G. (2012). Bursting With Anxiety: Adult Social Referencing in an Interpersonal Balloon Analogue Risk Task (BART). Emotion, 12: 817-26
Macht, M., Simons, G. (2011). “Emotional eating”. In I. Nyklicek, A. Vingerhoets & M.
Zeelenberg (eds.) Emotion regulation and well-being. Heidelberg, Berlin, New York: Springer, 281-296
Simons, G. & Ellgring, H., Beck-Dossler, K., Gaebel, W. & Woelwer, W. (2010). Facial expression in male and female schizophrenia patients. European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience, 260: 267-276.
Simons, G & Parkinson, B. (2009). Time-dependent observational and diary methodologies for assessing social referencing and interpersonal emotion regulation. Contemporary Social Science, 4: 175-186
Parkinson, B, & Simons, G. (2009). Affecting Others: Emotion Contagion and Social Appraisal in Everyday Decision- Making. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35: 1071-1084.