Tom Buchanan

Senior Lecturer

Tom Buchanan

Could you please describe yourself in a few sentences?

I graduated in Psychology from the University of Aberdeen where I also did my PhD. I joined the University of Westminster in 1999, where I am now a Professor of Psychology. I'm also Research Director in the Faculty of Science and Technology.

What is your area of academic interest and which courses are you involved in?

After early work on media violence and aggression, most of my research since the mid 1990s has revolved around how people behave 'on the Internet', and what the Internet has to offer for psychologists (an area that has become known as 'cyberpsychology'). Much of my work has been methodological in nature, focusing on web-based psychological measurement, validity of online research techniques, and ethics of online data collection. Other projects have generally involved application of these techniques to substantive topics including online self-disclosure, self-presentation, privacy concern, effects of recreational drug use and nutritional supplements. My current focus is generally on how people present themselves in various online spaces, factors affecting how they engage with online technologies, and potential influences of online stimuli on our behaviour.

Could you please tell us a bit about the courses that you are involved in?

My teaching is mainly in the areas of individual differences, social psychology and the Internet. I have a long-standing interest in the use of student-centred approaches to learning, especially when supported by Internet technology. I'm currently module leader for our Level 5 module on "Individual Differences" - this is the study of personality, intelligence, and psychological assessment.

What was your first job? What did you learn from it?

I had a lot of part time, temporary jobs - agricultural labour, working in burger places and so on. I learned that it's always possible to go on to better things!

What did you do in your career before coming to Westminster?

I was a Lecturer in Psychology at another institution, for about five years.

What advice would you give to the students during their studies and after graduation so that they make the right decisions for their career?

Remember that your success, or otherwise, is down to you. People need to take responsibility for their own learning – whether in a formal study environment or later in life. Within universities there's currently a focus on 'student centred learning’ which is really all about reinforcing that idea. The same is true of work, and life in general: take responsibility for what you do, in every area.

If you were asked to give one piece of advice to students who are considering going into postgraduate study what would that be?

Think really carefully about what you are doing and why. Do you need this course to support your planned career? Don't drift into it as a natural 'next thing' – do it because you want or need to.

How do you relax out of work? What are your interests/leisure activities?

I think it's important to maintain some distance between our work and private lives – cultures of long working hours and 'always on' communication can interfere with other areas of life. Therefore my main way of relaxing out of work is being clearly 'out of work' and turning my attention to other things. I think that's relevant for students too – university is a big part of your life, but not the only part, and you need to make space for other things as well.

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