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About Dr Megan Birney

Megan has been part of the Applied Psychology group at University Centre Shrewsbury since its opening in 2015. Her current research projects focus on two main areas: Understanding how perceptions of non-native accents influence the relationship between immigrants and host country natives and investigating the role of identity processes within variants of the Milgram paradigm.


Megan is the module leader for Self and Society (PS4203), Power, Privilege and Social Change (PS5208), Becoming an Advanced Researcher (VP7002), and Psychology in the Workplace (VP7003). She also supervisers Community Projects and Dissertations at both undergraduate and postgraduate level.


Megan has been involved in a variety of research projects focusing on topics within social psychology. Broadly, her work on accent perception focusses how perceptions of non-native language patterns shape the relationship between immigrants and host country natives. Her work demonstrates that, although host country natives place importance on immigrants ‘speaking English,’ weaker accents (those more similar to native speech patterns) are not always preferred: For example, if the immigrant is from a low status country, natives tend to feel more comfortable if they speak in a way that differentiates them from their group (via a strong accent). Megan has also explored this issue from the non-native speaker’s perspective and found that experiencing accent-based stigma can temporarily impair people’s ability to communicate effectively in their non-native language.

Megan is also involved in developing ethical variants of Milgram’s obedience study which aim to challenge traditional interpretations of his work. More specifically, Megan and others have found evidence of an ‘engaged followership’ model of obedience which suggests that people’s tendency to follow the orders of their superiors is due to their belief that what they are doing is right (rather than to blind obedience).

Published Work

Birney, M. E., Roessel, J., Hansen, K., & Rakic, T. (2020). Prologue: Language challenges in the XXI century. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 39(4),

Birney, M. E., Rabinovich, A., & Morton, T. A. (2020). Where are you from? An investigation into the intersectionality of accent strength and nationality status on perceptions of non-native speakers in Britain. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 39(4),

Birney, M. E., Rabinovich, A., Morton, T. A., Heath, H. & Ashcroft, S. (2020). When speaking English is not enough: The consequences of language-based stigma for non-native speakers. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 39(1).67-86.

Gonzalez-Franco M, Slater M, Birney ME, Swapp D, Haslam SA, Reicher SD (2018) Participant concerns for the Learner in a Virtual Reality replication of the Milgram obedience study. PLoS ONE, 13(12). e0209704

Morton, T.A., Wilson, N., Haslam, C., Birney, M., Kingston, R., & McCloskey, L. (2016). Activating and guiding the engagement of seniors through social media: Experimental findings from the AGES 2.0 project. Journal of Aging and Health, 30(1), 27-51.

Haslam, S.A., Reicher, S.D., & Birney, M.E. (2016). Questioning authority: New perspectives on Milgram’s ‘obedience’ research and its implications for intergroup relations. Current Opinion in Psychology, 11, 6–9.

Haslam, S.A., Reicher, S.D., & Birney, M.E. (2014). Nothing by mere authority: Evidence that in an experimental analogue of the Milgram paradigm participants are motivated to continue not by orders but by appeals to science. Journal of Social Issues, 70(3), 473 – 488.

Haslam, S.A., Reicher, S.D., Millard, K., & Birney, M. (2014). Just obeying orders? New Scientist, No. 2986 (September 13), 28 – 31.

Rabinovich, A., Morton, T.A., & Birney, M. E. (2012). Communicating climate science: The role of perceived communicator’s motives. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 32(1)11–18.


Megan completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology and Interdisciplinary Studies (specialising in International Studies and Business Leadership) from Virginia Tech (USA). She received her MSc (with distinction) in Social and Organisational Psychology in 2010 and her PhD in Psychology in 2014, both from the University of Exeter. During her PhD, Megan worked as a Research Fellow at the University of St. Andrews before joining the University of Chester at University Centre Shrewsbury as a lecturer in 2015. Megan became a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy in 2016 and was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2017.