Meet people in the School, Psychology

Introducing a new professor in the School, Peter Hegarty

This week we introduce Peter Hegarty, our new Professor in Psychology. 

Tell us about your interests and the area of psychology that you work in.  I work in the area of social psychology – which examines how social systems shape individuals’ thoughts, feelings and behaviour and the history of psychology, which examines both the history of psychologists and the history of the concept of the “psychological.”    

What are your current projects? I authored a book and edited a special issue on the history of psychology’s relationships with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender movements (Hegarty, 2018; Rutherford & Hegarty, 2019).  My experimental work focuses on how people reason about marked and unmarked social identities. For example, in news stories, same-gender relationships are often framed in terms of their similarities and differences from heterosexual relationships, whilst heterosexual relationships are rarely described or defined in terms of their difference from same-gender relationships (Hegarty, Sczerba, & Skelton, 2020).  

I have collaborated with medical experts and qualitative psychologists to examine how healthcare professionals conceptualize and frame medical necessity and other matters when patients present variable sex characteristics (Liao et al., 2019; Roen & Hegarty, 2018). 

What were you doing before you came to the Open University? Since 2002, I worked at the University of Surrey (with visiting appointments at the University of Michigan, Trinity College Dublin, and Université Libre de Bruxelles).  

Surrey afforded me several leadership opportunities; I was Head of the School of Psychology from 2012 to 2015. Teaching the history of psychology at Surrey over the last decade was a joy. For example, I delivered a module on Conceptual and Historical Issues in Psychology to our MSc Conversion students. I also lead the Social Emotions and Equality in Relations (SEER) research group ( In the context of COVID-19, this group (with our friends) delivered the European Association of Social Psychology’s 2020 Summer School to 62 students as a virtual event.

What are you looking forward to about working for the OU? Among HEI’s, the OU has earned a unique place in the hearts of the UK’s public. FASS is inclusive of several arts and social sciences disciplines, where I hope to find collegiality and collaboration. Finally, I expect to become a better teacher by working within the OU’s systems of preparing and delivering modules. 

What are your plans for teaching and research in the School?I will be working with the team producing new modules for postgraduate qualifications in psychology, and preparing the new module for the first year of the undergraduate psychology degree. 

I will begin a new EU funded project on gender diversity in organizations in Autumn 2020 at the OU. 


Hegarty, P. (2018). A recent history of lesbian and gay psychology: From homophobia to LGBT. London: Routledge. 

Hegarty, P., Sczerba, A., & Skelton, R. (2020). How has cultural heterosexism affected thinking about divorce? Asymmetric framing of same-gender and mixed-gender divorces in news media and in minds. Journal of Homosexuality, 67,  1118-1134 

Liao, L.-M., Hegarty, P., Creighton, S., Lundberg, T., & Roen, K. (2019). Clitoral surgery on minors: An interview study with clinical experts of differences of sex development. BJM Open, 9, e025821. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2018-025821

Roen, K., & Hegarty, P.  (2018). Shaping parents, shaping penises: How medical teams frame parents’ decisions in response to hypospadias. British Journal of Health Psychology, 23, 967-981. 

Rutherford, A., & Hegarty, P. (2019). 50 years since Stonewall: The science and politics of sexual orientation and gender diversity.  American Psychologist, 74, 857-986.  

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