Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Patrick Cooper to represent the University of Newcastle at the Three-Minute-Thesis finals

Congratulations to Patrick Cooper who recently participated in the University of Newcastle’s Final of the Three Minute Thesis Competition. Patrick, an RHD student supervised by Frini Karayanidis, presented his research "Theta oscillatory networks influence individual differences in cognitive control ability" to beat off some stiff competition from the other faculties and will now be representing the University of Newcastle at the Trans-Tasman Final to be held at the University of Queensland in October 2015.

Well done Patrick and good luck for the finals!







Friday, 26 June 2015

JUST PUBLISHED: Task uncertainty can account for mixing and switch costs in task-switching.

Our everyday world is bubbling with information; from commuter timetables and text messages to advertisements and infotainment. How do our brains sieve through this information and select where to allocate precious cognitive resources? PhD students in the School of Psychology, Patrick Cooper and Jaime Rennie, and Honours student, Paul Garrett, are certain that uncertainty plays an important part. In this paper, they mathematically quantified the amount of uncertainty present in different stimuli and examined whether this affected the resources needed to process these stimuli. They then applied this algorithm to many different studies. Regardless of the source of uncertainty, similar levels of equivocation affected performance in the same way, with more ‘uncertain’ stimuli requiring more cognitive resources. These findings suggest that a simple and parsimonious process of resolution of uncertainty may help explain how the brain allocates cognitive resources.

Patrick S. Cooper, Paul M. Garrett, Jaime L. Rennie & Frini Karayanidis (2015). Task uncertainty can account for mixing and switch costs in task-switching. PLoS ONE 10(6): e0131556. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0131556

The article is published in the open access journal PlosONE, and can be accessed directly here:

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Early Carreer Award for an Affiliate Member of the UoN Social Psychology Lab by Sylvie Graf

On 2nd June, Sylvie Graf - an Affiliate Member of the UoN Social Psychology Lab - received an Otto Wichterle Award from the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, her home institution. You may not know Otto Wichterle but you probably do know about his invention – soft contact lenses. Otto Wichterle lent his name to an honorary recognition for “selected, exceptionally outstanding, promising young scientists at the Czech Academy of Sciences for their remarkable contributions to the advancement of scientific knowledge in a given area of science”.

Sylvie describes the festive event:
"The laureates attended Vila Lana, a representative building of the Czech Academy of Sciences, to receive the Award during an official ceremony. Unlike Oscar winners, we were not given space to thank those who contributed to our award. Here, I would like to express how much indebted I feel to two UoN academics – Dr Stefania Paolini and Dr Mark Rubin. I was lucky to collaborate with Drs Paolini and Rubin during my 9-month stay at the University of Newcastle, starting in October 2012. The collaboration has decisively boosted my knowledge, skills and orientation in the field. Drs Paolini and Rubin were always prepared to contribute with an immense share of work to our joint projects or help with key advice. I am sure I would not have been a candidate for the prize without their continuous kind support.

Our collaboration has not ended with my departure from Newcastle and I’m happy to continue with exciting joint projects. Currently, we are preparing an article about the role of intimate contacts in the effect of negative and positive intergroup interactions on prejudice reduction, another article about ambivalent contact experiences and a book chapter about valence in intergroup contact. Our collaboration has generated many thrilling ideas and the Otto Wichterle Award is yet another indicator of how fruitful it has been."



Friday, 5 June 2015

A Guest Presentation by Steve Blurton, Carsten Søren Nielsen, and Søren Kyllingsbæk, on visual identification.

The Cognitive Research Group is proud to present a talk by some research guests, Steve Blurton and Carsten Søren Nielsen (University of Copenhagen).

TITLE: A Poisson Random Walk Model for Response Time and Pure Accuracy Tasks

WHEN: Thursday 11th June 12-1pm.

WHERE: Keats Reading Room (AVLG17)

ABSTRACT: Based on a simple ‘what first comes to mind’ rule, a Theory of Visual Attention (TVA; Bundesen, 1990) has been successful in explaining human performance in pure accuracy tasks with non-confusable stimuli. However, for mutually confusable a ‘what has the most evidence’ rule is more suited (Kyllingsbæk et al., 2012). Based on this work we propose and test a common model of the time course of visual identification of mutually confusable single stimuli in two-alternative, response time and pure accuracy tasks. The central model assumption is that during the analysis of a single stimulus in the visual field, tentative evidence for one of two categorizations of the stimulus is generated by a Poisson process at a constant rate in such a way that a tentative categorization automatically counts against the other categorization. Visual identification is thus assumed to follow a simple random walk with exponential distributed interstep times. An identification is conclusively made if and when evidence reaches one of two thresholds. If a threshold is not reached before the analysis is stopped, then an informative guess will be made based on ‘what has the most evidence’. One important question that is to be addressed in an application of the model is whether it is possible to identify invariances of model parameters across conditions of pure accuracy task and speeded responses. With Poisson rate estimates being in the same range across conditions our common model provides a close fit to individual data on identification of Gabor patches in a two-alternative, response time and pure accuracy task.

Friday, 29 May 2015

JUST PUBLISHED: From simple dot-detection to a nightclub gatekeeper’s duty: two distinct applications of workload-capacity measurement

Last week was a good week for our workload-capacity coefficient. The capacity coefficient is a measure of processing efficiency developed by Jim Townsend and his colleagues at Indiana University (e.g., Townsend & Nozawa, 1995). In the Newcastle Cognition Lab we use it to assess how people are affected by an increase in the amount of information they need to process. We developed a model-based parametric version (Eidels, Donkin, Brown, & Heathcote, 2010) and extended the use of the capacity coefficient to novel tasks.

Two articles from our lab that make use of workload capacity assessment were accepted for publication last week. Interestingly, they tackle the issue of processing efficiency at rather different levels. A paper by Hawkins, Houpt, Eidels, and Townsend in the journal Vision Research tested whether Gestalt advantage in processing can be found with stimuli as simple as a pair of dots. Typically, Gestalt (aka ‘configural’) processing is measured with complex stimuli, such as faces. Ours was a quest for the simplest Gestalt, using simple stimuli in a very simple perceptual task.

Hawkins, R. X. D., Houpt, J. W., Eidels, A., Townsend, J. T. (in press). Can two dots form a Gestalt? Measuring emergent features with the capacity coefficient. Vision Research.

On the other end of the spectrum is another study, by Heathcote et al. (Memory & Cognition). Here, the task was quite complicated, requiring information from both auditory and visual streams as well as use of working memory, and accompanied by an elaborate cover story; in this computer-based game, called ‘Gatekeeper’, the participant is said to be the door person of an exclusive nightclub. Patrons are trying to sneak in and the Gatekeeper’s job is to decide who is allowed in based on auditory and visual cues. Capacity in this case is gauged at a very different level, compared with simple dots.

Heathcote, A., Coleman, J., Eidels, A., Watson, J., Houpt, J. W., & Strayer, D. (in press). Working memory’s workload capacity. Memory & Cognition.




Together, the two papers show how modelling tools can be quite general, used to understand human behaviour at different and rather distinct levels. To read more about these studies and their results, please access copies via Researchgate or via our lab’s website: newcl.org.

You can also request a copy via email from the authors:
Andrew Heathcote: Andrew.Heathcote@utas.edu.au
Ami Eidels: Ami.Eidels@newcastle.edu.au

Guest presentation by Dr. Danielle Sulikowski, on Threat and Caution in Visual Attention

The Cognitive Research Group is proud to host a guest presentation by Dr. Danielle Sulikowski. (http://www.comparativecognition.com/)

TITLE: Threat and caution during visual search

WHERE: Keats Reading Room (AVLG17) Callaghan Campus
WHEN: Thursday 4th June, 12-1pm.

ABSTRACT: Many studies have established that threatening stimuli (such as spiders, snakes and weapons) tend to be located more quickly in visual search tasks than superficially similar, but not threatening, stimuli (such as beetles, lizards, tools and gadgets).  Response times in visual search tasks can therefore be used as an index of threat evaluation and attentional priority.  However, many other aspects of visual search stimuli influence response times. Low level characteristics, such as luminance, contrast and colours within a target, and differences between targets and distracters are important. In addition, attentional priority may be given to some types of stimuli over others, for reasons other than the threat level they imply. In this presentation I will describe a new behavioural measure of responding for visual search tasks that attempts to separate the effects of threat evaluation from low-level stimulus properties on participants' response times in these tasks.  This ‘caution score’ increases as threat level of targets increases (from beetles, to non-lethal spiders, to lethal spiders, to lethal spiders depicted in peri-personal space), does not seem to be affected by changes in the threat level of distracter stimuli, increases when weapons are depicted wielded compared to when they are not, and has also revealed sex difference, with males responding to weapons, but no other target stimuli, more cautiously than females.  I will also discuss the limitations of this caution score and some methodological changes that might increase its sensitivity.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Bayesian Workshop on MCMC Sampling and Parameter Estimation

The Schools of Psychology at UoN and UNSW are delighted to announce a FREE Bayesian Workshop on MCMC Sampling and Parameter Estimation

Organisation: Chris Donkin (UNSW) and Don van Ravenzwaaij (UoN)
Location: UoN, Callaghan Campus (precise location tbd)
Date: Friday 19 June 2015, 11AM-5PM
Cost: free (but bring your own laptop)

The application of Bayesian statistics is becoming more and more common in psychological research. Advantages include being able to quantify evidence in favour of the null hypothesis, monitoring evidence as data comes in (as opposed to having to specify your sample size a priori), and being able to quantify the relative support of one hypothesis over another.

In this workshop, we are going to focus on Bayesian parameter estimation. We will cover the basics of MCMC sampling and show how to implement such algorithms in practice for simple problems by means of the program WinBUGS. A working knowledge of Matlab or R is handy, but by no means necessary, as WinBUGS has its own graphical user interface.

We will be going through the first three chapters of Lee and Wagenmakers (2014). The first two parts of the book, associated code, and answers to questions can be downloaded freely at
http://bayesmodels.com.

To reduce the amount of troubleshooting required on the day, please ensure that when you arrive on the day you have

1) your own laptop, or someone with whom you can share.

2) already successfully installed WinBUGS (or JAGS) on that laptop. If you come across any issues, then the first couple of chapters of the book should help iron those out.

3) downloaded the materials available from the www.bayesmodels.com website, including the pdf of the book, and the associated code.

WinBUGS can be downloaded freely at: http://www.mrc-bsu.cam.ac.uk/software/bugs/the-bugs-project-winbugs/


Note that WinBUGS is, as the name suggests, a Windows-based application. People using a MacBook have two options:
1) Use a windows emulator - for advice on how to do this, see the end of Chapter 2 in the book.
2) use JAGS (downloaded freely at http://mcmc-jags.sourceforge.net/) instead of WinBUGS.
Jags is essentially identical to WinBUGS, but does not have a graphical user interface and thus needs to be used in conjunction with either Matlab or R.

Participation is free, but capacity is limited, so please sign up beforehand by emailing one of the organisers:


Dr. Don van Ravenzwaaij
E: don.vanravenzwaaij@newcastle.edu.au
W: www.donvanravenzwaaij.com

Dr. Chris Donkin
W: http://www.psy.unsw.edu.au/contacts-people/academic-staff/dr-chris-donkin


Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Social and Organisational Psychology Research Group Seminar

Please come and join us for a research presentation by Dr Dennis Rose

WHEN: Tuesday 2rd June, 12-1pm

WHERE: Keats Reading Room, Aviation Building, Callaghan (Video link to Ourimbah Meeting room, Science Offices)

WHAT: Research presentation by Dr Dennis Rose (School of Psychology, the University of Newcastle) entitled “Reconsidering leadership in an aging workforce"




ABSTRACT:The current economic situation encourages people to stay in the workforce longer than they may have in times past. This, and flatter work structures, can lead to considerable frustration and disengagement of younger employees, who may feel blocked in career progression and excluded from development opportunities and decision-making participation. Traditional forms of leadership may have elements of inclusiveness but tend to focus on the leaders, their characteristics and behaviours. Younger people have recent exposure to contemporary knowledge and also higher levels of fluid intelligence. Older employees may have continued to develop their crystallised intelligence through experience and long learning and are likely to have a broader overview of context, as well as filling the higher positions in an organisation.

How may current forms of leadership and management be adapted to engage all employees, across the entire age spectrum? Commentaries on the difficulties of managing Gen Y employees abound in the HR and management literatures. Yet, this cohort has been shaped by conditions created by previous generations. Perhaps the solution lies in exploring traditional leadership forms in new ways.

Distributed leadership has appeared in the education literature over the past decade and is beginning to attract the attention of management theorists. Distributed leadership is used as a ‘lens’ for understanding how current leadership theory may be extended to share leadership. The recently published paper on the topic by Dennis Rose argues that all employees need to be engaged and contributing with behaviours and ideas to business competitiveness and sustainability. As people age there is likely to be a gradual fall in fluid intelligence – the ability to solve problems in conditions of incomplete information – and in working memory. This may become problematic in advanced age and under conditions of continuous change, such as new technology. On the other hand, decision making unaccompanied by knowledge, maturity, strategic perspectives and insight may be problematic. Thus, the distributed leader recognises that they do not have all the answers and there is considerable opportunity to draw on the creativity of younger employees and provide opportunities for contribution to decision making and engagement. The distributed leader will thus provide a safe environment for younger employees to contribute towards innovation and decisions and create opportunities for growth. This may involve removing barriers to participation, encouraging networks, developing leadership, coaching and mentoring and so-forth.












If you want to know more about Dennis Rose’s article, visit: http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/JMD-07-2013-0094?journalCode=jmd 




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Sunday, 24 May 2015

JUST PUBLISHED: Age-Related Cognitive Changes and Distributed Leadership

In a recently published paper, School of Psychology’s organisational psychologist Dr Dennis Rose discusses the applicability of distributed leadership to current and future workforce.

 
The current economic situation encourages people to stay in the workforce longer than they may have in times past. This, and flatter work structures, can lead to considerable frustration and disengagement of younger employees, who may feel blocked in career progression and excluded from development opportunities and decision-making participation. Traditional forms of leadership may have elements of inclusiveness but tend to focus on the leaders, their characteristics and behaviours. Younger people have recent exposure to contemporary knowledge and also higher levels of fluid intelligence. Older employees may have continued to develop their crystallised intelligence through experience and long learning and are likely to have a broader overview of context, as well as filling the higher positions in an organisation. 


How may current forms of leadership and management be adapted to engage all employees, across the entire age spectrum? Commentaries on the difficulties of managing Gen Y employees abound in the HR and management literatures. Yet, this cohort has been shaped by conditions created by previous generations. Perhaps the solution lies in exploring traditional leadership forms in new ways.

Distributed leadership has appeared in the education literature over the past decade and is beginning to attract the attention of management theorists. Distributed leadership is used as a ‘lens’ for understanding how current leadership theory may be extended to share leadership. The recently published paper by Dennis Rose (of the above title) argues that all employees need to be engaged and contributing with behaviours and ideas to business competitiveness and sustainability. As people age there is likely to be a gradual fall in fluid intelligence – the ability to solve problems in conditions of incomplete information – and in working memory. This may become problematic in advanced age and under conditions of continuous change, such as new technology. On the other hand, decision making unaccompanied by knowledge, maturity, strategic perspectives and insight may be problematic. 


Thus, the distributed leader recognises that they do not have all the answers and there is considerable opportunity to draw on the creativity of younger employees and provide opportunities for contribution to decision making and engagement. The distributed leader will thus provide a safe environment for younger employees to contribute towards innovation and decisions and create opportunities for growth. This may involve removing barriers to participation, encouraging networks, developing leadership, coaching and mentoring and so-forth.

If you want to know more about Dennis Rose’s article, visit: http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/JMD-07-2013-0094?journalCode=jmd



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Friday, 22 May 2015

Guest Speaker: A/Prof. Dan Navarro, on the Origins of Data, Thursday 28th May, 12-1pm.

The Cognitive Research Group is proud to host a talk by our esteemed visitor, A/Prof. Dan Navarro (Adelaide).

TITLE: On the origins of data: The critical role of sampling assumptions in generalisation, categorisation, inductive reasoning and the evaluation of expert opinion.

WHEN: Thursday 28th May 2015, 12-1pm

WHERE: Keats Reading Room (AVLG17), Callaghan Campus.

ABSTRACT: The study of human inductive inferences typically presents people with problems of the following form: "Objects A, B and C are known to possess property P. How likely is it that object D also possesses property P?" In much of the theoretical literature, such problems are characterised as "inference from givens" (A, B and C), with little if any consideration given to the process by which such facts came to light. Yet in many real world situations the manner in which facts are put together is just as informative as the facts themselves: what we believe about D depends not just on the truth of facts A, B and C, but on how such facts were selected, and perhaps even upon what social agenda we think underpins this selection. That is, the sampling method for facts matters.

In this talk I discuss experiments examining the effect that sampling assumptions have upon inferences. The core of this talk discusses category based induction problems, and presents experiments showing how people reason differently when facts are presented as a helpful hint versus when they are perceived to be randomly generated truths, and show that people's inferences closely match the predictions of standard Bayesian models. Time permitting, I will talk about how specific agendas shape people's inferences about non-randomly selected facts, how sampling assumptions affect basic categorization tasks, and how cognitive models can capture these effects.




Thursday, 21 May 2015

Social and Organisational Psychology Research Group Seminar

Please come and join us for a research presentation by Kirstie Carrick

WHEN: Tuesday 26th May, 12-1pm

WHERE: Keats Reading Room, Aviation Building, Callaghan (Video link to Ourimbah Humanities Meeting Room HO1.73)

WHAT: Research presentation by Kirstie Carrick (School of Psychology, the University of Newcastle) entitled “Australian aviators’ conception of airmanship"

 

ABSTRACT: Airmanship is important for safe operations in aviation, but the concept is not well defined and is loosely interpreted. This project aimed to explore any differences in the conceptions of airmanship between military and civilian aviators in Australia and to compare their views with Kern’s (1996) model of airmanship with a view to developing a more comprehensive model. An on-line survey was piloted with 40 participants, mostly from the general aviation sector. A revised and expanded survey was later completed by 83 aviators; 40 from a civilian background and 43 from a military background. Analysis of responses to open ended questions about the definition of airmanship indicated broad agreement with Kern’s model, but with some additional concepts mentioned. Participants were also asked to rate the importance of 26 airmanship-related concepts, selected from comments made in the pilot survey. The ratings and rankings indicated a broad view of airmanship, including both technical and non-technical skills, with examples of non-technical skills considered most important.Interviews with a cross-section of flight instructors were conducted to explore the concepts further and to examine how airmanship is included in the training of aviators in Australia. Participants were 39 flight instructors drawn from civilian and military training establishments, and were training either novice pilots or more experienced pilots with established careers. Again, non-technical skills were emphasised, but general definitions of airmanship also included technical flying skills. In terms of training, the most interesting finding was that just over half of the advanced civilian and advanced military instructors stated that at that level, airmanship is assumed to be adequate and so little additional attention to airmanship is required at that level of training. A revised model of airmanship is presented as an alternative to the Kern model, including knowledge, preparation, personal qualities, non-technical and technical skills and taking into account the context in which airmanship is displayed.


BIOGRAPHY: Professionally, Kirstie has worked as an Aviation Psychologist since 1983 when she joined the Commonwealth Department of Aviation (now, CASA) in the area of specialist staff selection and validation of Licensing Examinations.
Kirstie has also worked as a Principal Research Officer (Human Factors) with the Federal Office of Road Safety, before taking up a Post-Graduate Research Fellowship (Human Factors) with the Department of Defence. This Fellowship involved working on cognitive aspects of visual displays for command and control systems, at the ANU in Canberra.
Kirstie joined the Aviation Department at the University of Newcastle in 1993. Now in the School of Psychology, Kirstie is the Program Convenor for the Master of Aviation Management while also teaching into the Psychology undergraduate program.
Kirstie is currently carrying out research towards a PhD under the supervision of Dr Kerry Chalmers and is a member of the Australian Association for Aviation Psychology, the Australian Psychological Society and the Ergonomics Society of Australia.



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Thursday, 14 May 2015

JUST PUBLISHED: 'Task Switching' in the new Brain Mapping Encyclopedic Reference

Jamadar, S., Thienel, R., Karayanidis, F. (2015). Task switching. In: Toga AW (Ed). Brain Mapping: An Encyclopedic Reference. (pp.327-335) Amsterdam: Elsevier           

Associate Professor Frini Karayanidis and her colleagues are very proud to have contributed to the first edition of this authoritative and comprehensive resource that has been compiled under the expert guidance of Editor-in-Chief Arthur W. Toga, Professor at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, University of Southern California and member of the renowned LONI lab. This 3-volume resource will enable graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, researchers and professionals to gain an in-depth and panoramic overview of neuroimaging concepts with applications across the neurosciences and biomedical research. Brain Mapping features over 300 articles and a media rich environment, providing exhaustive coverage of the methods and systems involved in visualizing the brain's anatomy.


link:
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=RefWorkIndexURL&_idxType=GI&_cid=312432&md5=432611076dd940575defa5c92441dbb4

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Social and Organisational Psychology Research Group Seminar

Please come and join us for a research presentation by Dr Emina Subasic

WHEN: Tuesday 19th May, 12-1pm

WHERE: Keats Reading Room, Psychology Building, Callaghan (Video link to Ourimbah Science Offices Meeting Room)

WHAT: Research presentation by Dr Emina Subasic (School of Psychology, the University of Newcastle) entitled “Leading organisational change by giving us a voice: Implications for follower commitment to change, productivity and grievances”


ABSTRACT: Organisational change is ubiquitous, yet fraught with risks for organisations and their leadership. It is well established that those leading organisational change can boost support for their initiatives by enabling employees  to have a say or voice their concerns as part of the change process. Only some of the views canvassed are ever implemented, however, while many are shelved indefinitely. We propose that this competitive process is not lost on followers. Rather, people are less likely to embrace change processes in which their views are canvassed without fundamentally affecting the nature of leaders’ decisions and actions. Further, it matters whether it is ‘our’ or ‘their’ idea that leaders have decided to adopt and materialise into standard practice. In line with this reasoning, I will present findings from field surveys that demonstrate that follower commitment to change stems from the view that leaders are willing to go beyond consulting to implement change that accommodates ‘our’ needs and concerns. Findings from laboratory experiments further show that people work harder and complain less when leaders implement a change initiative that (ostensibly) has been proposed by ‘us’ rather than ’them'. Interestingly, the experimental findings were observed despite participants working on an (objectively) identical task and following identical instructions. Implications for leading organisational change in multi-audience contexts will be discussed.

***

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Newcastle researchers contribute to the new Oxford Handbook of Mathematical and Computational Psychology

Researchers from the School of Psychology at the University of Newcastle, Australia, are among major contributors to the new Oxford Handbook of Mathematical and Computational Psychology.

Have you ever wondered what you can do with data beyond the standard t-tests and ANOVA? Have you wondered what cognitive models are all about? Or, know all about them and would like to implement them in your research?  This Handbook can be your first step into the realm of sophisticated approaches to the study of human cognition and behaviour.

The Handbook offers a comprehensive and authoritative review of important developments in computational and mathematical psychology. With chapters written by leading scientists across a variety of subdisciplines, it covers the key developments in elementary cognitive mechanisms (signal detection, information processing, reinforcement learning), basic cognitive skills (perceptual judgment, categorization, episodic memory), higher-level cognition (Bayesian cognition, decision making, semantic memory, shape perception), modeling tools (Bayesian estimation and other new model comparison methods), and emerging new directions in computation and mathematical psychology (neurocognitive modeling, applications to clinical psychology, quantum cognition).

Our School’s staff members and students are well represented in this prestigious volume: Dr. Ami Eidels is one of the editors, and UoN researchers Eidels, Scott Brown, Andrew Heathcote, and Simon Dennis contributed chapters on Mathematical Models of Cognition, Perceptual Judgments, and Models of Memory. PhD students Babette Rae and Paul Williams provided important contribution to both content and reviewing.


Friday, 8 May 2015

Health and Clinical Psychology Research Group Seminar

Please come and join us for a seminar by Associate Professor Carmel Loughland

When: 11th May, 12:00

Where: Keats Reading Room, Psychology Building, Callaghan (Video link to Ourimbah Science Meeting Rooms)

What: Seminar by Dr Carmel Loughland, Associate Professor for Translational Mental Health; a joint funded position between Hunter New England Mental Health Service and the Faculty of Health and Medicine, University of Newcastle.

Title: ComPsych: Improving communication with mental health patients and their families.

About Carmel Loughland:

Carmel has had a diverse career. She is a senior psychologist with several years clinical experience working in mental health. Her research focus and clinical expertise is in schizophrenia. She was invited to the Hunter in 1996 to establish the Schizophrenia Research Register, a bio-databank and recruitment resource to support schizophrenia research in the Hunter.  This grew into a national resource called the Australian Schizophrenia Research Bio-databank (ASRB), which Carmel still manages.

More recently, Carmel has helped to develop a communication skills training program for mental health clinicians called ComPsych to improve clinician-patient communication and foster better health outcomes for patients with schizophrenia by better informing them of their diagnosis and treatment.  It is this topic that she will discuss today.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

JUST PUBLISHED: Recent research by Danielle Sulikowksi and Darren Burke has been chosen as a feature article by Animal Behaviour

We have previously shown that Noisy miners (omnivorous Australian Honeyeaters) engage spatial memory mechanisms when they are foraging on nectar, but fail to engage (or at least fail to use) these mechanisms when foraging for insect prey. In all previous studies the birds have searched an array of feeders (typically 12) looking for either insect or nectar rewards, but in the current study we had them search arrays that contained both nectar and insects. Half of the birds searched through arrays containing only grey feeders, but the other half searched through arrays containing colour coded food - insects were in black (or white) feeders and nectar was in white (or black) feeders. When the birds knew what food was in which feeder, they planned their search behaviour, preferentially visiting the same feeder type in sequence, and avoiding revisits to already emptied feeders, but only when the reward was nectar. It seems that route planning, like the use of spatial memory, is engaged during nectar foraging, but not during insect foraging, even when both kinds of food are being searched for at the same time.

http://www.journals.elsevier.com/animal-behaviour/featured-articles/the-food-search-strategies-of-noisy-miners/


Sunday, 3 May 2015

Social Psychology Shines on Newcastle!

One hundred and seventy social psychologists from 23 Australasian and 15 overseas institutions have gathered at Noahs on the beach between the 9-11th April for the annual meeting of the Society for Australasian Social Psychologists (or SASP2015). This year’s conference was organised and hosted by UON school of psychology—including Stefania Paolini, Mark Rubin, Emina Subasic, Kylie McIntyre, Saminhe Sanaktar, Scott Turnbull and Nicholas Harris and an engaged crew of research student volunteers from the school’s social and organisational psychology research group.


Eighteen months of careful planning have led to a successful event, which contributes to mark UON’s 50th birthday anniversary. Prof Nick Haslam, SASP president, explicitly praised UON’s efforts: “The consensus among delegates was that this conference will be hard to match in future
years. The conference certainly raised the profile of psychology at the University of Newcastle, serving as a significant celebration of its 50th birthday, and it shone a very favourable light on your social psychology program in particular.”

The scientific program consisted of 12 symposia and 20 thematic sessions. It included key note addresses by John Dixon (Open University, UK) on intergroup segregation and collective action, Norm Feather (Flinders U) on tall poppy syndrome and Danny Osborne (Uof Auckland) on system justification beliefs.

This high profile initiative in the Australasian landscape comes in tandem with another important event for social psychology at UON—the selection process for the appointment of a professor for the Daphne Keats Chair in cross-cultural psychology. Through this process, we expect a senior scholar to take the social and organisational research group in the school of psychology to new and important milestones in UON growing profile in this important disciplinary area.     

Monday, 27 April 2015

School’s social psychologist helps bridging Australasia and North America into the future

On April 7th, 2015, Dr Stefania Paolini from UON School of Psychology had the pleasure to officially inaugurate a new small group conference series jointly sponsored by the Society for Australasian Social Psychologists (SASP) and the largest professional society of social scientists in the world, (American-led) Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (or SPSSI). The small group meeting is aimed at facilitating research cross-pollination and research training around areas of mutual interest of the two societies. It is expected to gather 20-30 senior and junior scholars from Australasia and North America and take place yearly in alternate geographical locations.

The inaugural SASP-SPSSI small group conference meeting was held in Brisbane on the topic of ‘Collective harmdoing’. It gathered prominent social psychologists: John Dixon (Open University, UK) and Daniel Bar-Tal (Tel-Aviv University, Israel), Jolanda Jetten, and Alex Haslam (UQ, Australia). Stefania, as co-chair of SPSSI internationalisation committee and SASP representative, has been the main driver in the establishment of this new scheme. Her opening words were nicely complemented by a video message to the conference delegates by SPSSI President, Alice Eagly, and the 15+ people SPSSI council.

Stefania was also asked to open the scientific program of the meeting with an overview of her programmatic work on valence asymmetry in intergroup relations. This line of research indicates that, while positive interactions between members of opposing groups bring about positive outcomes (less prejudice, more trust etc.), negative interactions have a disproportionately larger (detrimental) impact—the so called ‘negative valence asymmetry’. Her presentation included recently published findings suggesting that individuals’ positive and diverse histories of contact with members of opposing groups can lessen the impact of these negative asymmetries even in conflict-ridden settings, like Cyprus or Northern Ireland. These asymmetries are further diluted by the greater prevalence of positive (vs. negative) contact in most people’s ordinary life experiences. If you want to know more about these findings, see: Paolini, Harwood, Rubin, Husnu, Joyce, & Hewstone here  and Graf, Paolini, & Rubin here.  

Negative valence asymmetries: A case of negative being louder than positive in intergroup relations

Friday, 24 April 2015

UON 50 Year Anniversary Graduate Parade


I had the great pleasure of taking part in the graduation parade and ceremony held on Thursday 16th April. There was a parade through town and the graduation ceremony in the Civic Theatre to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of UoN. I was very happy  to take part in the academic procession and I got to wear the Doctorate of Clinical Psychology gown from UoN which matched our students' gowns. We had the Doctorate of Clinical and Doctorate of Clinical and Health Psychology students receiving their degrees. They, and the University Medal winners, were also the only graduates who were in the academic procession with the staff, VC and Chancellor and also got to sit on the stage. It was a lovely day and the DPSYC students felt very special. It was such a big turn out during the parade and the civic theatre was full.
 
Happy Days - Congratulations!!

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Predicting responses from MEG-recorded brain activity: A talk by Tijl Grootswagers, J. Brendan Ritchie, and Thomas Carlson (from Macquarie University).

The Cognitive Research Group is proud to host a talk by our visitors from Macquarie University:

Predicting Reaction Times from the Emerging Representation of Degraded Visual Objects.

Tijl Grootswagers, J. Brendan Ritchie, and Thomas Carlson
Macquarie University



ABSTRACT: Object recognition is fast and reliable, and works even when our eyes are focused elsewhere. The aim of our study was to examine how the visual system compensates for degraded inputs in object recognition by looking at the time course of the brain's processing of naturally degraded visual object stimuli. In Experiment 1, we degraded the images by varying the simulated focus so that each image was equally recognizable. In Experiment 2, subjects categorized intact and degraded images, while their brain activity was recorded using magnetoencephalography (MEG). As expected, reaction times for the task were slower for the degraded object stimuli. We assessed several neurally-based models to explain this reaction time difference, including distance-based models, which predict reaction times using distance from a decision bound through neural activation space. We found that the distance-based models were the best predictors, which we also related to the linear ballistic accumulator (LBA) model of choice and reaction time behaviour.

WHEN: Thursday 16th April, 12-1pm.

WHERE: Aviation Building, room AVLG17, with audiovisual link to Ourimbah Science Offices.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Getting Social at UoN

 Record numbers of social psychologists from Australia, New Zealand, and the rest of the world have submitted presentations to the Annual Meeting of the Society of Australasian Social Psychologists, which will be hosted by academics from the University of Newcastle in April this year. High profile international researchers include keynote speaker Professor John Dixon from the Open University in the UK.

Speaking about the unprecedented interest, conference organiser Dr Stefania Paolini said, “Australia has always punched above its weight in the area of social psychology, and it is great to see Newcastle taking an active role in supporting this important area.”

Social psychology is currently enjoying a great deal of success at Newcastle. Dr Paolini was recently awarded an Australian Research Council Discovery Project to investigate the social psychological bases of people’s interest in approaching versus avoiding social diversity. The University has also strengthened its commitment to the field, with the School of Psychology establishing a new Social and Organisational Psychology Research Group and appointing new staff in the area. The School is also currently recruiting high profile candidates for a Chair in Cross-Cultural Psychology.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

A stochastic adventure in RT modeling: From random walks to nonlinear dynamics. A talk by Dr. Rachel Heath in the Cognitive Research Group

On Thursday 19th March, 12-1pm, the Cognitive Research Group will host a talk by Dr. Rachel Heath. Dr. Heath has been at the forefront of cognitive science in Australia for 40 years, studying diverse topics from simple decision making to complex cognition.

TITLE: A stochastic adventure in RT modeling: From random walks to nonlinear dynamics.

WHERE: Keats room, AVLG17, v/c to Ourimbah Science Offices.

ABSTRACTIn a broad summary of RT modeling since 1975, I first discuss the basic premises of Relative Judgment Theory and show how this relatively simple sequential sampling model can explain many important features of RT data in a variety of psychological contexts. Next I present a general nonstationary stochastic extension that includes the drift diffusion model and the Ornstein-Uhlenbeck model as special cases. I show how this complex model can be simplified by a tandem random walk decision process, which serves as a useful approximation for tasks involving brief stimuli. The talk concludes with evidence of nonlinear dynamics in sequential RT data using conventional techniques and multifractal spectra.

See also: 
Link, S.W. & Heath, R.A. (1975). A sequential theory of psychological discrimination. Psychometrika, 40, 77-105.
Heath, R.A. (1981). A tandem random walk model for psychological discrimination. British Journal of Mathematical and Statistical Psychology, 34, 76-92.
Heath, R.A. (1992). Nonstationary diffusion models for two-choice decision making. Mathematical Social Sciences, 23, 283-309.
Link, S.W. (1992). The wave theory of difference and similarity. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum & Associates.
Heath, R.A. (2000). Nonlinear dynamics: Techniques and applications in psychology. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum & Associates.
Kelly, A., Heathcote, A., Heath, R., & Longstaff, M. (2001).Response-time dynamics: Evidence for linear and low-dimensional nonlinear structure in human choice sequences. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 54, 805-840.