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Audio engagement and the power of a podcast

Dr Christian Jarrett talks PsychCrunch

PsychCrunchWhat difference can research findings make in real life? PsychCrunch is the regular and hugely popular podcast from the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest, which aims to get to the heart of this question for psychology research.

Presented by Dr. Christian Jarrett, each episode features interviews with psychologists, discussing their research and whether they apply what they’ve discovered in their own lives. Sponsored by Routledge Psychology, we interviewed him to find out more about PsychCrunch, and its potential to engage the public in research.

Could you tell us about your background and work?                                            
At university, I studied psychology and then neuroscience. After six months doing post-doctoral research in Manchester, I decided that a career in academia was not for me. Thankfully, I managed to carve out a niche as a science writer specialising in psychology and neuroscience. I love sharing new psychology findings with people and showing how psychology research might help make a real difference to their lives. I’m always excited by new findings, but am also a sceptic at heart, and I try to balance these perspectives. Today I work full time as editor of the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest, including the blog, email newsletter, app and podcast. I also write for other publications in my spare time – I currently have a column “Personology” on personality at BBC Future, and I write about the psychology of creativity and productivity for 99U.com. Before becoming the father of twins two years ago, I also found the time to write some books, including The Rough Guide to Psychology and Great Myths of the Brain.

How did you get involved in the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest?
While I was finishing my PhD, I saw an advert to become editor of a new “Research Digest” email service for the Society. I already had a fair amount of popular science writing under my belt and thankfully this helped me get the job as the new editor. That was in 2003. The email quickly became very popular and, in 2005, I sought to build on this success by creating the Research Digest blog, which now attracts millions of page views every year. Further expanding the scope of the Research Digest, we launched the PsychCrunch podcast in 2015 and a Digest app for Android and iOS in 2016.

“…a light-hearted look at how to live according to psychology.”

How do you select the content for each podcast?
I agree on a topic with my manager, Dr Jon Sutton, or with our freelance producer Lorna Stewart, who helped us get the podcast off the ground.  We then look for suitable guests and research studies to discuss. We try to choose guests whose research we’ve covered previously on the Digest blog, but we do cover other research too. I’m mainly looking to discuss research that’s easily applicable to everyday life and that suggests ways to live more healthily and successfully. The remit for the podcast is essentially a light-hearted look at how to live according to psychology. We also want to lift the mask on the scientists who do this kind of psychology research, to find out what motivates them and whether they apply the lessons from their research to their own lives.

“We’re all endlessly fascinated by ourselves and by our relationships…”

Did you realise how popular the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest would be?
When the Research Digest launched in 2003, psychology was already growing in popularity, especially as an A-level and undergraduate subject. For this reason Jon and I anticipated huge interest in the Research Digest among students, but I think what caught us by surprise was the enormous appetite for accessible bite-sized reports on psychology among qualified psychologists and the wider public. We’re all endlessly fascinated by ourselves and by our relationships. We want to get ahead and live better. The Research Digest provides plain English, evidence-based answers and insights that feed this interest (all served with a light sprinkling of scepticism).

Which podcast is your favourite so far?
My favourite is episode three on How to Win an Argument, not just because it features some really fascinating research about changing people’s minds, but also because as an extra feature I had the chance to argue with Jon about why Michael Jackson is the greatest entertainer ever, which he is.

“Don’t be afraid to reflect on how your findings might be relevant to people’s everyday lives…”

If you could give one tip to researchers that would help in engaging the public in their research, what would it be?
Don’t be afraid to reflect on how your findings might be relevant to people’s everyday lives – you can always include plenty of cautions and caveats. If the findings really aren’t relevant, explain why, and what we still need to find out in order for the science to become more useful from a practical point of view.

Tell us in one sentence why everyone should listen
PsychCrunch is a chance to hear about fascinating psychology findings from the researchers themselves.


Listen to the Psychcrunch podcasts now, and read our companion article collection on the topics discussed in each episode.