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The University of Southampton

Thinking outside (and inside) the box

Published: 9 September 2010

Psychology’s new mobile research unit means two-way benefits

Psychology are justly proud of their new mobile unit. Based on a Citroën Relay long wheelbase van, the vehicle was carefully customised by the Devon-based specialists GM Coachwork. The finishing touch, an exterior ‘wrap’ with the University name and strapline, was completed in early September.

“We’ve been thinking about this project for a couple of years,” explains Pete Dargie, the Psychology’s Senior Experimental Officer, “as a means of both helping us to work more effectively, and achieving greater public involvement.”

But what‘s inside the box? "GM Coachwork spent several months working with some of our academics as well as myself on the technical side,” says Pete. “This was a first for all of us, and we worked hard as a team to get it right.”

The interior sports a lab environment with battery derived 240V ac power supply enabling a wide range of laboratory equipment to be used away from the University. Additionally, with flexibility designed in from the start, the unit can be tailored for each assignment. This could range from face to face interviews being recorded on video to studies involving eye tracking equipment to investigate how participants respond to visual images or text.

Traditionally, for face-to-face experiments or observations, researchers have had to ask volunteers to come onto the university campus.

“For a study of children’s eye movements when reading, we have until now had to ask them to come in after school with their parents. Younger children are often tired by this time, and it has been simply impracticable for some families. Now we will be able to take the equipment we need into the school.”

The new vehicle also opens up possibilities for working with groups of adults whose workplaces are some distance away, for instance MoD personnel.

But the mobile unit is not just about research for today. A visit to a school or sixth form college will give young people a real flavour of what psychologists do. After trying out professional experimental equipment it may be possible to recruit some of the researchers of the future.

So if you see that distinctive silver van on the M3, now you know what is inside the box!

Technician Paul Reynolds makes a final check
Ready to go?

Contact us

For more information on the Psychology Mobile Research Unit, contact Pete Dargie.

The Mobile Research Unit is a means of both helping us to work more effectively, and achieving greater public involvement.

Pete Dargie - Senior Experimental Officer

Expanding our horizons

Our Mobile Research Unit in the community

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