Monday, 24 October 2016

SCAN PhD Students win awards at PRC-Brain and Mental Health Post-graduate Conference

Students from SCAN’s Cognitive Control group headed by A/Prof Frini Karayanidis excelled at the recent Priority Research Centre for Brain and Mental Health Post-doctoral and Post-graduate conference that was held at HMRI on Wednesday 12 October. 

Patrick Cooper was awarded the prize for best oral presentation, Olivia Whalen was awarded the prize for best poster and Montana McKewen was a runner up for the poster prize. The titles of their presentations are listed below; readers interested in more details concerning these presentations are invited to contact the authors via the email addresses listed below.

Functional gradients of prefrontal cortex organisation have corresponding oscillatory hierarchies. 
Patrick S. Cooper, Frini Karayanidis, Francisco Barceló

The methodology behind eye tracking in early infancy.
Olivia Whalen, Frini Karayanidis, Linda Campbell, Alison Lane

Rapid adjustments of frontoparietal networks underpin proactive cognitive control.
Montana McKewen, Patrick S. Cooper, Aaron S. W. Wong, W. Ross Fulham, Patricia T. Michie, & Frini Karayanidis

Friday, 21 October 2016

Health and Clinical Psychology Research Group Seminar

Prosocial attitudes as mediators of the attachment and psychological health relationship: The case for self-compassion and gratitude.

Associate Professor Ross Wilkinson
School of Psychology, University of Newcastle

Date: 26th October
Time: 12 noon
Place: Keats Reading Room (video to Ourimbah Science Offices)

Abstract: There is an increasing interest in the link between prosocial attitudes and psychological health from both a ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ psychology perspective. In this talk I will present data examining the extent to which a prosocial construct (gratitude) and a quasi-prosocial construct (self-compassion) are related to interpersonal expectancies (attachment) and psychological adjustment (depression, anxiety, stress). A model is proposed in which both gratitude and self-compassion partially mediate the link between attachment and psychological (ill-)health. Participants were 506 (397 women) university students and members of the general public who completed an online survey. Ages ranged from 18 to 82 years (M = 31.4, SD = 14.2). Correlations between all variables investigated were significant. Using structural equation modelling, the hypothesized mediational model was evaluated and supported, with some modifications based on whether psychological health was indicated by anxiety, stress, or depression. In the models evaluated attachment anxiety was more related to self-compassion while attachment avoidance was more related to gratitude. Overall, the pattern of direct and indirect effects indicate that a self-compassionate attitude plays a greater role in psychological adjustment than dispositional gratitude both directly and as a mediator of attachment insecurity. Limitations of the research are discussed and implications for clinical practice explored.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

SCAN seminar hosting Prof. Jakob Hohwy from Monash, Monday Oct 24

The SCAN seminar on Monday 24th October will be delivered by Prof. Jakob Hohwy from Monash University at 12:00 noon in the Keats Reading Room.

Title: "Better believe the free energy principle"

Many believe that an important part of brain function is to form predictions of sensory input. Fewer believe the free energy principle, which is an extreme version of the idea that the brain is predictive. So it ought to be reasonable to believe that prediction is an important part of brain function while not believing the free energy principle. Using simple considerations from philosophy of science, I argue that if one begins with the idea that prediction is an important part of brain function, then it is reasonable to also believe the free energy principle.

Jakob is Professor of Philosophy at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. He studied in Aarhus, Denmark, obtained his masters from St. Andrews, Scotland, and did his PhD at the Australian National University. Jakob has established the Cognition & Philosophy Lab at Monash University, which conducts empirical experiments and theoretical explorations in consciousness science. His approach is highly interdisciplinary, and he collaborates with neuroscientists, psychologists, and psychiatrists on topics such as the neural correlates of consciousness, bistable perception, multisensory integration in autism, and bodily self-awareness. Jakob is the author of The Predictive Mind (OUP, 2013), which seeks to unify many aspects of consciousness under the notion of prediction error minimisation.

Jakob will be available to meet with staff and students after 2pm on Monday. Please contact Dr. Bryan Paton ( if you wish to meet with Jakob.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

JUST PUBLISHED: new paper examines whether mental health problems in high school students vary by socio-demographic factors

PhD candidate Julia Dray and A/Prof Jenny Bowman of the Health and Clinical Psychology Research Group and colleagues, recently published a study which investigated prevalence of mental health problems in high school students, and how such prevalence varies by age, gender, Aboriginal status, remoteness of residential location and socio-economic disadvantage.

The recently published paper relates to one of three studies presented last month by Julia at the 22nd International Association for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Allied Professions World Congress, Calgary Canada, which Julia attended as one of twenty international early career researchers to be awarded a place in the Donald J Cohen Fellow program at the World Congress.

The research team surveyed a regional sample of almost 7,000 high school students… so what did they find?

Almost 1 in 5 students scored in the ‘very high’ range for general mental health problems, with girls more likely to have mental health problems overall and in particular internalising problems (e.g. emotional symptoms), and boys more likely to have externalising problems (e.g. hyperactivity). Aboriginal students consistently scored higher for mental health problems than non-Aboriginal students.

A particular strength of the study, the research team developed the paper through a cultural advice process which involved an internal cultural advice group within the research team, an external cultural steering group and external Aboriginal researchers and community members to ensure that results relating to Aboriginal students were correctly interpreted embedded in the context of multi-generational trauma for Aboriginal people in Australia. The paper highlights the need for the development and validation of culturally appropriate measures of mental health for use with Aboriginal young people, and the equal importance of considering resilience and strengths within Aboriginal individuals and communities including strong family and interpersonal relationships, maintenance of a unique cultural identity and connection, and the development of coping skills.    

You can read the full paper at:

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Health and Clinical Research Group Seminar
Applications of positive psychology to psychotherapy and clinical practice

Presenter: Professor Stephen Joseph (University of Nottingham)
Time: 19th October, Noon
Location: Keats  Room (AVLG17), Callaghan Campus (video to Ourimbah Science Offices) University of Newcastle

In this seminar Stephen will discuss his research interests in the field of positive psychology. It was in the late 1980’s as a new researcher in the field of posttraumatic stress he observed that survivors of disaster reported positive changes in their outlook on life. Changing the course of his career to focus on how adversity can be a springboard to higher levels of psychological functioning he was one of the pioneers of the field of study now known as posttraumatic growth. Posttraumatic growth attracted much research interest in the subsequent two decades becoming one of the flagship topics of the positive psychology movement. It offered clinicians new ways of thinking about psychotherapeutic practice with survivors of trauma. More recently, as a positive psychologist concerned not only with the alleviation of suffering but also the promotion of well-being, and curious as to how these ideas can be applied more widely, he has gone on to develop new research into the psychology of authenticity. Can helping people to live a life that is true to themselves be a road to a fully functioning life?

Stephen Joseph, PhD, is a professor at the University of Nottingham where is convenor of the human flourishing research group. Known internationally as a leading expert in positive psychology, he is the editor of the ground breaking book Positive Psychology in Practice: Promoting human flourishing in work, health, education and everyday life. He studied at the London School of Economics, before going on to gain his doctorate from Kings College London Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience for his pioneering work in the field of psychological trauma. His previous book What Doesn’t Kill us: The new psychology of posttraumatic growth is available in translation across the world. His most recent book is Authentic. How to be yourself and why it matters (

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Two PhD students submitted their theses

Two SCAN PhD students from the FNL, Patrick Cooper and Alex Conley, recently submitted their PhD theses.  Both students were supervised by Frini Karayanidis and submitted their theses within 24 hours of each other  – 12th and 13th Sept respectively.  A huge effort by everyone.  Alex has been offered a postdoc at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.  Patrick will be leading the EEG program for the Priority Research Centre in Stroke and Brain Injury.  

Patrick Cooper – thesis title “Oscillatory mechanisms of goal-directed control: A central role of frontoparietal theta”

Adjusting our behaviours and thoughts in line with current contextual demands is a key part of daily living. Decades of neuroimaging have reached a consensus that these top-down, cognitive control processes rely on extensive frontoparietal networks. Yet, how information is adjusted within these networks is still poorly understood. That is, we know where in the brain control arises from but not strictly how. My thesis explored the role of low frequency oscillations (known as theta) within frontoparietal networks during cognitive control tasks. I report novel evidence that theta oscillations are ubiquitous with cognitive control, facilitating communication between frontal and parietal cortices, promoting integration of distinct neural frequencies and oscillate over both short and long time-scales to achieve flexible control over behaviour. These factors suggest that theta may serve as a functional scaffold for goal-appropriate information to be propagated within frontoparietal networks. 

Alex Conley - thesis title “Effects of anodal transcranial direct current stimulation over the motor cortex on response processes.” 

The neuromodulatory technique transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) has been proposed as a beneficial intervention for stroke patients, with the goal of improving upper limb function. However, despite over a decade of research in healthy and clinical samples, there is still little knowledge of how tDCS might produce these benefits in motor performance. My thesis investigated the effectiveness of tDCS over the motor cortex to enhance the cognitive processes that occur in the lead up to the execution of a motor response. I examined these processes in healthy younger and older adults, as well as in chronic stroke patients. I report a consistent pattern of results across all three groups showing no improvement following tDCS over the motor cortex on responding. These findings indicate that tDCS may not be a reliable option for enhancing response processing in stroke patients.

We wish them both well in their future careers!

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

JUST PUBLISHED: paper by UoN PhD student examines if people are as good as they think at basic tasks

If you’re anything like most people, you’re probably extremely good at performing basic tasks while making very few errors. Although it’s very important to be able to make very few errors on a task - such as in an important test or exam - this is not always the requirement of the task. For example, when playing a timed arcade basketball game, going faster will lead to more overall chances, even if some baskets are missed. This means that the best performance in the task would require the most efficient one, which is making the most baskets in the quickest time possible. However, can people also perform extremely well at maximizing efficiency in basic tasks?

This was the exact question of interest for PhD studnet Nathan Evans and Dr. Scott Brown of the Newcastle Cognition Lab, who aimed to explore how efficiently people could complete basic perceptual tasks when they were explicitly given this goal. Interestingly, people naturally failed to perform with extreme efficiency, with their performance favouring accuracy over efficiency. However, when people were given more explicit feedback on how they could change their performance to be more efficient, their performance closely matched that of the most efficient performance possible.

For those who are interested, the full paper can be found at:

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

APS awards UON honours student with APS Peace Prize and formally apologises with First Australians

At the 2016 International APS congress in Melbourne last week, Fatima Azam, UON psychology honours student was awarded the 2016 APS Peace prize. This in recognition of her research on the social psychological factors that make some people open to approaching diversity in society and others avoidant of these groups.  Under the supervision of Dr Stefania Paolini, Fatima investigated these dynamics in non-Muslim women’s responses to an educational Muslim-led hijab stall run on university campuses.

Researchers at the APS psychologists for peace symposium praised the uniqueness of Fatima’s study design which incorporated a peace-making initiative building bridges between Muslims and non-Muslims within the community with a research team of 30+ individuals of varied backgrounds. They see this design and partnership model as the way forward in psychological research and encouraged other researchers to incorporate peace-making initiatives as part of their future study designs.

Fatima has been invited to drive with Stefania’s help the establishment of a NSW Psychologists for Peace interest group.

 At the 2016 International APS congress in Melbourne last week, Peacemaking was very much a theme of this year’s APS conference. Its annual meeting is likely to make history for a milestone in the Reconciliation process. The society formally apologised with First Australians for psychologists contributing to the exploitation or mistreatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with misplaced research, past use of assessment tools, or silence.  

To learn more about this significant development, click here.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Health and Clinical Psychology Research Group

The Curious, Collaborative, Courageous Challenge of Sabbatical! 

Dr Lynne McCormack PhD 

What is the purpose of research if we don’t pass on our findings for others to use and expand for the good of humankind? I couldn’t wait to go on sabbatical because I knew so much of what I had done as a researcher in the last 6 years was still needing a voice. So my sabbatical in the first six months of this year was a great time for forging and securing links with my international research colleagues and getting down to co-writing and future projects, freeing my mind from the everyday administrative and interruptive nature of academic work, and spending endless hours closeted away writing and thinking and submitting to various journals. Though the focus of my overall research is complex trauma and subsequent psychological growth, mostly with veterans, military, and humanitarian personnel, the lot of children whose early and secure sense of self has be thwarted by parental mental health problems, unspeakable abuse and sexual violence, Out-of-Home care cumulative trauma on first-family trauma, are growing research interests thanks to many of my students. In light of the many commissions of enquiry into child abuse throughout the western world, this perhaps, is timely. And so from time out for thinking and writing on sabbatical 10 papers are now in press, 2 are resubmitted with minor corrections, 6 are submitted and under review and 4 others are in preparation for submission. I think this is a grand achievement for my students who tolerate my passion for getting our work published and thus influencing evidence-based practice, their willingness to play-act and squirm learning to interview not counsel so that good rich data is the outcome of their efforts, allow me to undo everything they know about lab report writing for very personal phenomenological investigations, and their humility as I critique their writing and turn them into published psychologists. Out of my sabbatical a further 10 former students are now published, two others are passed the second hurdle, and another 10 should be published sometime in 2017. The VC’s call for a Curious, Collaborative and Courageous new future for our University requires the think tank of Sabbatical.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Emeritus Professor Pat Michie to receive a prestigious award

Emeritus Professor Pat Michie from the School of Psychology at the University of Newcastle has been awarded the APS Distinguished Contribution to Psychological Science Award for 2016.

The Distinguished Contribution to Psychological Science Award recognises outstanding theoretical or empirical contributions to psychology at the mid or later career stage, and Pat's achievements have been recognised by the Division of Psychological Research, Education and Training (DPRET) of the Australian Psychological Society (APS).

This latest award joins an already-crowded trophy room, and we hope there are more yet to come.

Congratulation Pat for this fantastic recognition of her achievements.

to read more about Pat's research intrests:

Monday, 12 September 2016


Dr. Duncan Sinclair:  NHMRC CJ Martin Early Career Fellow, NeuRA.

12 – 1 pm: 19 September,
Keats Room, Psychology.

Title: Using the senses to study brain disorders- an avenue to personalized treatment?

Sensory systems, such as audition and olfaction, can be leveraged powerfully and non-invasively to gain insight into brain function. In a disease context, this approach has been valuable for neurodevelopmental disorders such as Fragile X syndrome, Autism Spectrum Disorder and schizophrenia, all of which are characterized by abnormal behavioural responses to sensory stimuli. Interrogation of auditory sensory processing in these disorders (and their relevant rodent models) using electroencephalography (EEG) has shed light on underlying circuit dysfunction and its behavioural correlates. EEG measures such as auditory event-related potentials and neural oscillations have also been useful for evaluation of candidate drugs in preclinical studies, such as GABA-B agonists in the Fmr1 knockout mouse model of Fragile X syndrome. Promising findings from these studies have prompted the question “Could we plausibly use EEG to identify treatment-responsive clinical subtypes, or monitor treatment response?”

Brief Bio
Dr. Duncan Sinclair completed his PhD in 2012 with Professor Cyndi Shannon Weickert at Neuroscience Research Australia and the University of New South Wales. He then moved to the US to work as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, in the laboratories of Associate Professor Chang-Gyu Hahn and Professor Steven Siegel as part of an NHMRC CJ Martin Early Career Fellowship. After three and a half years, Duncan returned to Australia at the beginning of 2016, resuming his postdoctoral research in Cyndi's laboratory. Broadly speaking, his research has focused on understanding risk factors for psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders, and how they exert their effects at the molecular, cellular and neural circuit levels.

Hosted by Dr. Lauren Harms, Postdoctoral Fellow, School of Psychology.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Seminar by Prof John Endler on bird courting habits, Thur 12-1

The Cognitive Research Group is proud to host a seminar by Professor John Endler. Professor Endler is visiting from Deakin University, hosted by Dr. Andrea Griffin.

TITLE: Visual tricks and illusions used by great bower birds when courting females.

WHEN: Thursday September 8, 12-1pm.

WHERE: Psychology / Aviation Building, Keats Reading Room (AVLG17).


Bowerbird males build and decorate bowers which are used only for attracting mates and mating, and they steal from and destroy each others' bowers.  This and the fact that bird vision is fairly well understood gives an unparalleled opportunity for experimenting with various aspects of signalling in undisturbed wild birds. Using principles of bird colour vision physiology we can show that they choose coloured objects which significantly contrast with their own plumage, the bower and the visual backgrounds.  We can also show that the choice of colours is innovative; the idea of bowerbirds choosing colours which elaborate their own plumage is an artifact of biases in human vision. Great Bowerbird males make a 0.6m long bower avenue opening up to 1 m courts at each end. The courts are covered with gray and white objects and coloured objects are displayed on or over them.  The coloured objects are outside the female's field of view until he displays them and then tosses them outside her view again, further increasing colour contrast.  The courts consist of gray and white objects which increase in size with distance from the female within the bower avenue and this creates forced perspective which gives the illusion of a very regular pattern.  This pattern regularity could be a direct target of female choice but also generates further illusions with the coloured objects. The quality of the forced perspective illusion significantly predicts female mating preferences.  Bowerbirds also create illusory effects by painting the inside of the avenue, resulting in chromatic adaptation. Finally, they present colours and shapes as "now you see it now you don't", and also without repeating, which prevents other forms of sensory adaptation.  Given that almost all visual displays of almost all animals are presented from a predetermined direction and orientation relative to the receiver this raises the possibility that illusions may be used in communication in a wide variety of species.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

New paper examines the most recent Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) outcomes

The research performance from all Australian universities, in all fields of research, is evaluated by the Australian government in an exercise called the "Excellence in Research for Australia", or ERA. This ranks each field of research from one to five: for example, Cognitive Science at the University of Newcastle (Field of Research code 1702) was awarded a rank of five, meaning "well above world standard".

In the most recent ERA (2015) there was a new outcome produced for just a few fields of research in a few universities: "not ranked". While fewer than 1.5% of submissions were not ranked, these few outcomes surprised both the universities and the public, and generated substantial public debate. The debate focused on practices of gaming or ‘coding errors’ within university submissions as the reason for this outcome, laying the blame for the outcomes at the door of the universities and the submissions they made to the ERA process.

In a recent paper, Paul Henman (from UQ), Scott Brown, and Simon Dennis argue that the universities' submissions were only part of the explanation. With the support of statistical modelling, they showed that unrated outcomes are more likely to have arisen from particular practices within the ERA's ranking committees; particularly the committee which ranked the discipline of Psychology.

The full paper is available here:

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

UoN Psychology alumnus Sharna Jamadar awarded prestigious prize

Congratulations to SCAN Alumni, Dr. Sharna Jamadar, who will receive the prestigious SPR (Society for Psychophysiology Research) New Investigator Award at the annual SPR conference to be held in Minneapolis in Sept, 2016.  The title of her address is “The study of executive function: Past, present and future challenges.”  After completing her PhD under Frini’s supervision in 2010, Sharna moved to the United States to take up a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Institute of Living with Dr. Godfrey Pearlson (Yale University). Since 2012, she has held a Research Fellowship at Monash Biomedical Imaging and School of Psychological Sciences.  She was awarded a DECRA in 2015. Sharna is still very much involved with the SCAN group – she is a co-supervisor of current SCAN RHDs, collaborates with SCAN staff and worked with Bryan at Monash.

well done Sharna!

you can read more about Sharna's research intrests and achievements at:

Thursday, 25 August 2016

JUST PUBLISHED: A new paper by Newcastle’s PhD student uses arm-reaching trajectories to uncover complex cognitive processes

You probably spend so much time reading books, magazines, and Facebook posts, that reading has practically become automatic. Sometimes reading can get in the way of other things we might want to do. For instance, naming the print colour of the word GREEN will take longer than the word RED, if both are printed in red colour. This is the well-known Stroop effect (1935) named after John Ridley Stroop. 80 years later we are still trying to understand the source of the Stroop effect.

Recent technological advances in the measurement of arm-reaching trajectories may provide us with a unique window into the human mind. Gabriel Tillman and Ami Eidels from the Newcastle Cognition Lab teamed up with Matthew Finkbeiner from Macquarie University to design and conduct a motion-tracking Stroop task. Participants had to identify the colours of words by reaching out to response locations (see Figure). By analysing movement trajectories we found that interference from the word grows with the time available for processing, although people were instructed to ignore the words the whole time.

However, our results also suggested that in contrast to common belief we may not read each and every word that enters into our visual field, but rather only read some proportion of these words.  

Read more:

Friday, 19 August 2016

Congratulations to Dr Samineh Sanatkar

Congratulations to Dr Samineh Sanatkar on being awarded her PhD today. Samineh’s thesis is titled “When does independent problem-solving have negative psychological effects?” and it shows that independent and interdependent problem-solving are related to negative affect among people who are low and high in openness respectively. We wish you tons of positive affect on this great achievement Samineh.

Friday, 22 July 2016

EQUITY & DIVERSITY SERIES: Research Presentation by Dr Mark Lock on Aboriginal Voices in the Health System

Come and join us for a research presentation by Dr Mark Lock (UoN Faculty of Health) on Aboriginal voices in the Australian health system.

This presentation is part of our Equity and Diversity Series and is jointly sponsored by the School of Psychology's Social and Organisational Psychology Research Group (SOPRG) and the Health and Clinical Psychology Research group.  

WHEN: Tuesday 2nd August, 12-1pm
WHERE: Keats reading room, Aviation Building (Callaghan campus)-video-conferenced to Science Offices' Meeting Rooom (Ourimbah campus)  

TITLE: The structuration of Australia’s National Safety and Quality Health Service Standards as an example of cultural blindness to Aboriginal voice in the duality of citizenship and participation of corporate governance.

Whilst cultural diversity is emblematic of Australia, in the health care system a person’s culture is only considered at the point of communication between the clinician and the patient. This is of rather limited scope for addressing the systemic factors related to health inequalities. A broader tactic would be to integrate cultural competence into the corporate governance of organizations; thereby, Aboriginal voice could permeate into and through every point and pathway of an organisations routine processes. In this case study I critique the evidence gathering process that informed the development of Australia’s National Safety and Quality Health Service Standards (the NSQHS Standards). Lead by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (ACSQHC), the ten NSQHS Standards aim to provide a high quality of health care to patients. This is signalled by an extensive accreditation process where organisations are required to established sophisticated monitoring and reporting mechanisms for every aspect of an organisation’s governance. That presents a strategic opportunity to incorporate cultural competence into system-level reform processes. Drawing-on original project documentation, literature review, and health care data, this paper critiques the governance of evidence gathering by the ACSQHC, which plans to improve the care of the most disadvantaged minority cultural group – the First Australians – whose safety and quality needs are to be incorporated into the second edition of the NSQHS Standards. The methodology is sensitised by Anthony Giddens’ Structural Theory as shone through the concept of corporate governance. Whilst this reveals a number of limitations in the evidence behind the NSQHS Standards process, it nevertheless provides a policy window through which Aboriginal voice may become an institutionalized norm rather than an afterthought in the Australian health care system.

Mark J. Lock is descended from the Ngiyampaa people (an Australian Aboriginal tribe), from Scottish convicts, a Latvian immigrant, and from English people. He has PhD (The University of Melbourne), a BSc. in Biochemistry, Honours in Nutrition, and a Master of Public Health. He only examines policy concepts such as holistic health, participation, and integration along a research trajectory where he seeks to interrogate the underlying rules and resources (using Anthony Giddens' Structuration Theory) enabling and constraining Aboriginal voice integration and diffusion in social policy processes. His current position is Research Fellow at the University of Newcastle (Australia), funded by the Australian Research Council for three years to study Aboriginal voice integration and diffusion in public health collaboratives (the AVID study). Twitter handle: @MarkJLock, LinkedIn:; University of Newcastle Profile:;
Research Gate:; Email:

Paper to be presented at the 76th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management - August 5-9, 2016 - Anaheim, California, United States.
Conference Theme – Making Organizations Meaningful. Australian Research Council Discovery Indigenous Grant IN14010001

Friday, 15 July 2016

JUST PUBLISHED: Meta-analysis shows a Goldy Lock’s effect in stereotype change and paves the way to UON-Oxford Research Centre for Social Inclusion

Negative stereotypes—along ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability and mental health—are a real and ongoing problem within Australia and around the world. Researchers, politicians and policy makers are allies in trying to reduce them, at times with limited success. A meta-analysis of over three decades of diverse research on stereotype change just published on the European Review of Social Psychology by UON Kylie McIntyre and Stefania Paolini and Miles Hewstone from Oxford University identifies a Goldilocks effect and a critical role of meta-cognitions in stereotype change.

The meta-analysis reveals that people change their stereotyped views of others especially when they receive the right ‘quality’ and ‘quantity’ of information not fitting their stereotype. To paraphrase Goldilocks (yes, the one with the three bears) the stereotype incongruent information cannot be ‘too much’ or ‘too few’, but needs to be ‘just right’. It should not be ‘too extremely’ or ‘too typical’ but again needs to be ‘just right’.

Interestingly, McIntyre, Paolini and Hewstone’s meta-analysis also found that people use higher level meta-cognitive skills when building up their stereotyped judgments. As a result of accessible  meta-information cues, stereotype incongruent information can paradoxically exacerbate stereotypes and stereotype congruent attenuate them depending on the cognitive inclusion or exclusion of available information from the judgment under construction and information quality. Their paper invites further research onto these interesting ironic effects to fully understand the role of meta-cognition in changing negative stereotypes.

The publication serves as a welcome milestone in strengthening existing ties between UON School of Psychology and Oxford University towards the establishment of a new UoN-Oxford Centre for Research on Social Cohesion and conflict. The long-term vision for the Centre is to lead research on social integration and conflict between groups in the Australasian region and be recognised internationally for its impact on policy making and interventions.  

The article ‘McIntyre, K., Paolini, S. & Hewstone, M. (2016). Changing people’s views of outgroups through individual-to-group generalisation: Meta-analytic reviews and theoretical considerations. European Review of Social Psychology’ can be accessed as penultima here's_views_of_outgroups_through_individual-to-group_generalisation_meta-analytic_reviews_and_theoretical_considerations

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Psychology seminar by Prof. Brian D'Onofrio: How Can Translational Epidemiology Inform Clinical Psychology?

The Cognitive Psychology Research Group, in conjunction with the Health and Clinical Research Group, is proud to host a seminar by visiting researcher Professor Brian D'Onofrio.

Dr. Brian D’Onofrio is Professor and Director of Clinical Training in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Indiana University. His research, rooted in the field of developmental psychopathology, explores the etiology and treatment of psychological problems using advanced statistical and epidemiological methods. In particular, he studies the processes that underlie the association between putative risk/protective factors and psychological problems using (1) large datasets; (2) family-based or quasi-experimental designs; and (3) longitudinal analyses.

If you would like to arrange a meeting with Professor D'Onofrio during his visit, please email Ami Eidels at

Details of the seminar are as follows:

TITLE: How Can Translational Epidemiology Inform Clinical Psychology?

WHEN: Thursday 30th June 12-1pm.

WHERE: Keats Reading Room, AVLG17.

ABSTRACT: Recent reviews stress how little we know about the true causes of psychopathology because research is stuck in the “risk factor” stage. Numerous risk factors are known to predict psychological problems, but the underlying causal mechanisms through which these factors influence individuals are not known. Specifically, it is unclear whether putative risk factors have a causal influence or whether part—or most—of the associations with these risks are due to alternative explanations, including confounding from genetic and environmental factors. This talk will illustrate how rigorous translational epidemiological approaches can help specify the processes underlying the associations between risk factors and psychological problems by testing competing, theory-driven hypotheses. In particular, the talk will provide examples of research on early risk factors (e.g., maternal smoking during pregnancy) and the treatment of ADHD (e.g., psychotropic medications).

Link to Dr. D'Onofrio's lab: 

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

The world renowned Biennale art festival reaches out to expertise in Animal Cognition from the UoN School of Psychology

On one of the first chilly winter afternoons in May this year, London-based artist and sculptor, Marco Chiandetti, and School of Psychology animal cogniton scientist, Dr Andrea Griffin, held a public discussion at the magnificant, recently renovated, Sydney Mortuary Station. In the presence of about 40 members of the public, Chiandetti and Griffin discussed the symbolic significance of birds in human culture alongside the biology, ecology and fate of the common myna in Australian society. The discussion provided a unique, relaxed and wonderful opportunity for science undertaken by the UoN School of Psychology in avian behaviour, cognition and ecology and that of other scientists to be shared with the larger public.

But what brought a scientist and an artist together to discuss such a seemingly odd topic at the Mortuary Station in Sydney?

The public discussion was one of a series of public talks organised in the context of the 20th Biennale of Sydney. The Biennale of Sydney was the first biennale to be established in the Asia-Pacific region. It provides an international platform for innovative contemporary art and, in 2014, it received over 665,000 visitors. In the 20th Biennale of Sydney, the exhibition took place at seven main venues convinced as ‘embassies of thought’. Mortuary Station was the Embassy of Transition, one of the leading non-museum venues of the Biennale of Sydney and the official site of Marco Chiandetti’s work.

When Mr Chiandetti first contacted Dr Griffin in June 2015, asking her to share her long-standing knowledge of the ecologically highly successful common myna, she thought that like often in her experience, he was mistaken. Surely, he actually wanted to know about the native noisy miner? But no, his interest was well and truly in the introduced myna. It soon became clear that the choice of this uniquely displaced avian species could not have been more appropriate choice as a vehicle for the symbolism of his art. Over the following 12 months, Dr Griffin helped guide the implementation of his creation.

For the 20th Biennale of Sydney: The Future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed, Chandetti designed an installation that took the form of a series of sculptural aviary structures inhabited by common mynas. The temporary exhibition of myna birds at Mortuary Station was designed to raise a greater social consciousness about our contemporary condition in relation to the excessive expansion of human population, prompting audiences to reconsider the way we perceive such a resilient species. It was encouraging to discover in the Q&A session that the public had interest in both the artistic exemplars as well as the biology, behavior and science of common mynas.

Friday, 10 June 2016

UoN Psychology alumnus awarded prestigious prize

Dr. Chris Donkin, who earned his PhD in the Newcastle Cognition Lab, has just been awarded one of the most prestigious awards for young researchers in our field, the Early Career Award from the Psychonomic Society:

Chris is currently a staff member and an ARC Early Career research fellow at the University of New South Wales, where he studies cognitive psychology, and in particular computational and mathematical models of cognitive processes.

Congratulations Chris!

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Seminar by A/Prof Richard O'Kearney - Identifying heterogeneity in childhood OCD and disruptive disorder

The Health and Clinical Psychology Research Group presents a seminar by A/Prof Richard O'Kearney

Research School of Psychology, ANU

Title: Identifying heterogeneity in childhood OCD and disruptive disorder: Theoretical and treatment implications.
When: 15th June 12 noon
Place: Keats Reading Room (AVLG 17). Video conferenced to Ourimbah science offices.

Abstract: Developmental psychopathology is currently being shaped by two key principles. The first is that to better understand the development of psychological disorders in children we need to know more about the nature of problem heterogeneity and what child factors account for this heterogeneity. Second, in order to achieve better treatment outcomes we need to better understand how contextual factors, particularly family processes, map onto this heterogeneity and how to modify our treatments accordingly. This presentation illustrates how these two issues play out in regard to paediatric OCD and childhood disruptive disorders. It examines the evidence for specific child factors in each of these disorders factors (dysregulated anger in paediatric OCD; low prosocial emotions in disruptive disorder) which predict responsiveness to the most effective psychological treatments (CBT with ERP for paediatric OCD; Parent Management training for Disruptive disorders). The presentation puts forward proposals about the underlying nature of these child factors and considers the evidence for these proposals. These child factors impact on and interact with family functioning and relationship quality within the family. These considerations lead to suggestions about how to modify the most effective psychological treatments for paediatric OCD and disruptive disorders in order to enhance the outcomes for all children with these disorders.

Bio: Associate Professor Richard O’Kearney is a senior research fellow with the Research School of Psychology at the Australian National University. His primary area of research is developmental psychopathology with major research streams in emotion development; language and psychopathology, preventing mental health problems in children and adolescence, post-traumatic adjustment and narrative processes, and paediatric obsessive compulsive disorder. He has a strong interest in evidence-based practice and using evidence about variability in treatment efficacy to better understand the nature of the development of childhood disorders and to enhance the efficacy of our treatment.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Seminar by Dr Paul Atkins - PROSOCIAL: Enhancing psychological flexibility in groups to improve cooperation

The Health and Clinical Psychology Research Group presents 

A seminar by Dr Paul Atkins

ACU Institute for Positive Psychology and Education

Title: PROSOCIAL: Enhancing psychological flexibility in groups to improve cooperation
Date: Wednesday 8th June 12 noon
Place: Keats Room (AVLG17) - Video conferenced to Ourimbah Science Offices

Abstract: PROSOCIAL is a process for improving co-operation among people. It is built on strong foundations – drawing upon Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), evolutionary theory of group selection, and the Nobel prize winning work of Elinor Ostrom exploring how groups successfully manage common-pool resources. Cooperation is often undermined by avoidance of aversive experience, and the tensions between individual and collective interests. PROSOCIAL relies upon first building psychological flexibility, perspective taking and trust in the group using techniques deriving from ACT, and then proceeds to explore eight aspects of group functioning: purpose and identity, equity, decision making, tracking behaviour, sanctions for misbehaviour, conflict management, autonomy to act and relations with other groups. In this talk, I will describe the principles informing PROSOCIAL and give a very brief experiential introduction to the process. I expect this talk will be of interest to anyone working with people to improve relationships. More information about PROSOCIAL is available at and

Bio: Dr. Paul Atkins is a Senior Research Fellow with the Institute for Positive Psychology and Education at the Australian Catholic University. He holds grants exploring the processes influencing stress and wellbeing in the NSW Police force, the hospital system and among school principals. He is an endorsed Organisational Psychologist. His research focuses upon the impacts of compassion, mindfulness, values and identity upon relationships and wellbeing. Paul has extensive experience teaching and researching mindfulness based treatments such as Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). His work draws primarily upon contextual-behavioural thinking such as Relational Frame Theory and he is President Elect of the Australia and New Zealand Association for Contextual Behavioural Science – the peak body for ACT. Recent publications include a mixed method approach to measuring mindfulness and values-based living in natural language texts (Atkins & Styles, 2016, "Measuring psychological flexibility in what people say: A behavioral measure of self-discrimination predicts wellbeing." Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science) and an edited volume with CUP called “Mindfulness in Organisations” (

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

EQUITY & DIVERSITY SERIES: research presentation on cognitive styles and mental health

The next meeting of the Social and Organisational Psychology Research Group will be held at 12.00pm on Tuesday 31st May in the Keats Reading Room, Psychology/Aviation Building (AVLG17), with video link to the Science Offices at Ourimbah.

We will be listening to Monica Gendi’s PhD Research Presentation titled “Moderators and Mediators of the Relation Between Need for Closure and Mental Health.” Monica’s supervisors are Mark Rubin and Emina Subasic. Her abstract and bio are provided below.

A negative relationship between need for closure and mental health has been established (e.g., Roets & Soetens, 2010). However, the mechanisms of this effect remain largely unexplored. In this research we aim to a) investigate the causal direction of the relationship between need for closure and mental health, b) identify the moderators and mediators of the relationship, and c) parse out the relative effects of the five subfactors of the need for closure. We hope that this investigation will help identify possible avenues for interventions to improve the mental health of people with a high need for closure.

Monica Gendi is a PhD candidate in social psychology under the supervision of Dr Mark Rubin and Dr Emina Subasic. She completed her Bachelor of Psychology with Class 1 Honours at the University of Newcastle in 2015 and was awarded the Australian Psychology Society Award for Effort and Achievement for her honours project. Monica has dabbled in various kinds of research assistant work since 2013, including involvement with systematic literature reviews, project management, and data analysis. After graduation Monica hopes to work as a researcher in academia, government, or industry.

Friday, 20 May 2016

EQUITY&DIVERSITY SERIES: Research presentatin on Gender Equality Processes

The Social and Organisational Psychology Research Group sponsors ane Equity and Diversity Series event at 12.00pm on Tuesday 24th May in the Keats Reading Room, Psychology/Aviation Building (AVLG17), with video link to the Science Offices at Ourimbah.

We will be listening to Stephanie Hardacre’s PhD Research Presentation titled “Mobilising Men and Women in Support of Gender Equality: Does Leader Gender Matter?” Stephanie’s supervisors are Emina Subasic and Dr Mark Rubin Her abstract and bio are provided below.

ABSTRACT: This research investigates how to mobilise a broader audience for gender equality by focusing on men as agents of change. It examines how leadership as a form of influence based on shared ingroup membership (i.e., male leaders influencing men more so than female leaders) can lead to the silent majority (men) embracing a cause of a minority (women) as their own via the process of political solidarity. This research will aim to investigate (a) under what conditions are men (and women) likely to be mobilised to fight for gender equality, (b) whether male (compared to female) leaders are more effective in mobilising male (and female) followers towards this goal, and (c) if so, how can female leaders’ disadvantage be alleviated.

BIOGRAPHY: Stephanie Hardacre is a PhD candidate in social and organisational psychology under the supervision of Dr Emina Subasic and Dr Mark Rubin. She graduated from the University of Newcastle with a Bachelor of Psychology (Honours) First Class in 2015. Stephanie was placed on the FSCIT commendation list in 2011 and 2012, before taking time off to live and travel throughout Europe. Stephanie recently presented at the Society of Australasian Social Psychologists conference, coming to the conclusion that social psychology is the most exciting field one could hope to pursue a career in. Upon graduating Stephanie hopes to work as a researcher

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Seminar by Professor Rich Bischoff

The Health and Clinical Psychology Research Group of the School of Psychology presents a seminar by Professor Rich Bischoff.

Addressing disparities in access to mental health services for rural and regional families

When: 25th May at 12 noon

Location: Keats Room (AVGL17) Psychology Building (Video conferenced to Ourimbah Science Offices)

Background: Richard J. Bischoff, Ph.D., is the Gwendolyn A. Newkirk Professor of Leadership and Departmental Chair of Child, Youth and Family Studies at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. 
His research is in the area of mental health care disparities. It includes ways family therapists can make a difference by collaborating with families and communities to determine health care provision and needs. He has published research on experiences with mental illness through the eyes of rural patients and families. He is currently conducting research in rural Nebraska, USA to determine the effectiveness of an innovative approach to overcoming mental health care disparities that integrates community capacity building, collaborative care, and telemental health. His research team is initiating projects to test the effectiveness of this model in Brazil, Portugal and India. He is in Australia through a University of Newcastle International Visiting Research Fellowship.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Seminar by Professor Amanda Baker

The Health and Clinical Psychology Research Group of the School of Psychology presents a seminar by Professor Amanda Baker.

When: 18th May at 12 noon

Location: Keats Room (AVGL17) Psychology Building (Video conferenced to Ourimbah Science Offices)

Title: A healthy lifestyles approach for people living with co-existing mental health and substance use problems

Abstract: Addressing co-existing mental health and substance use problems can be challenging. Over the last decade, research into the treatment of co-existing mental health and substance use problems has grown. Studies cover the spectrum of comorbidity, including a range of mental health (psychoses, depression, or anxiety) and substance use problems (tobacco, alcohol or illicit drug use). Interventions include brief motivational interventions, intensive face-to-face therapy, computer-based delivery, and telephone delivered interventions. The 20 year gap in longevity between people with versus without co-existing mental health and substance misuse problems has drawn recent focus to quality of life and physical health more broadly. The progression from single focus (mental health or substance misuse) to dual focus (mental health and substance misuse) and then to a broader healthy living / recovery focus is described. Recommendations for conceptualising, screening and addressing co-existing mental health and substance use problems within a healthy lifestyles approach will be described.

Career Summary: Professor Amanda Baker (BAHons Psychology UNSW 1981, MPsych USyd 1984, PhD UNSW 1996) is a senior clinical psychologist who has worked in mental health, alcohol and other drug and forensic settings in the UK and Australia. Located at the University of Newcastle, School of Medicine and Public Health, she is the recipient of the prestigious Faculty of Health and Medicine’s Gladys M Brawn Senior Fellowship. Her research has been supported by NHMRC fellowships continuously since 2003. She is Co-Director of the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence (CRE) in Mental Health and Substance Use. Professor Baker leads an internationally renowned program of clinical research trialing novel interventions that target co-existing mental ill health and substance misuse.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

EQUITY & DIVERSITY SERIES: research presentation on seeking diversity with 'the other'

The next meeting of the Social and Organisational Psychology Research Group will be held at 12.00pm on Tuesday 17th May in the Keats Reading Room, Psychology/Aviation Building (AVLG17), with video link to the Science Offices at Ourimbah.

We will be listening to Matylda Mackiewicz’s PhD Research Presentation titled “Seeking Intergroup Contact: Investigation into Personal and Contextual Determinants of Approaching ‘the Other’” Matylda’s supervisors are Stefania Paolini and Emina Subasic and her research is supported by an ARC Discovery project awarded to her supervisor and research collaborators at Griffith, University of Arizona and Oxford (Paolini, Harwood, Neumann, & Hewstone, 2015-2018).

 ABSTRACT: It is well established that contact between opposing groups leads to less prejudice. However widespread informal segregation means that contact between dominant groups and minority groups, rather than being frequent and spontaneous, requires deliberate pro-outgroup contact choices on the part of individuals. Drawing on research from clinical psychology, we seek to apportion individuals based on their spontaneous choice to approach/avoid outgroup members in the presence/absence of contact-related anxiety, into four behavioural types: brave, fearless, fearful or indifferent. Using this typology as a framework, the proposed research aims to identify the key personal and contextual determinants which drive some individuals to seek out contact with outgroup members and others to avoid it.

BIOGRAPHY: Matylda Mackiewicz is undertaking her PhD in social psychology under the supervision of Dr Stefania Paolini and Dr Emina Subašić. Matylda’s investigative interests lie in the realm of intergroup contact. Her research examines the personal and situational determinants of people’s approach and avoidance behaviours towards outgroup members. Specifically, she hopes to develop a more systematic understanding of the factors that contribute to that rare species of event, by which a person spontaneously seeks out intergroup contact over contact with other members of their own group. In so doing, she hopes to get us all a little friendlier with each other.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Dementia Research Grant Awarded to Team Lead by Dr Michelle Kelly

A multidisciplinary research group lead by Dr Michelle Kelly from the School of Psychology has recently been awarded the Cecilia Margaret Hudson Dementia Research Grant worth $50,000. This award is given to the highest ranking applicant within the Alzheimer’s Australia Dementia Research Foundation (AADRF) - Victoria category. 
This 12 month grant will fund investigation into the role of social functioning in quality of life for people with dementia. This research will further be supported by a Project grant from the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) to examine whether the social skills impairments associated with dementia impact on quality of caregiver relationship and carer burden.
The multidisciplinary research team is based at the University of Newcastle though includes collaborations with Hunter New England Local Health District and the University of New South Wales. Dr Michelle Kelly from the School of Psychology UoN leads the team of Professor Skye McDonald UNSW, Dr Tracy Brown (Gerontologist, HNE Health), and Ms Katryna Harman (Clinical Nurse Specialist, HNE Health).
or contact Dr Kelly at

Thursday, 5 May 2016

University of Newcastle PhD students present at the Annual Conference of the Society of Australasian Social Psychologists – Brisbane

Social psychology PhD students Olivia Evans, Stephanie Hardacre, and Matylda Mackiewicz (along with Dr Stefania Paolini and Dr Emina Subasic) recently attended the Annual Society of Australasian Social Psychologists (SASP) conference in Brisbane, Australia. SASP is the most popular avenue for the dissemination of current social psychological research within Australasia, and attracts between 130-180 pre-eminent national and international researchers. The 3-day conference was the first chance for us to showcase our research to a wider academic audience.

Olivia participated in a symposium titled “Social Psychology in Policy Domains”, presenting findings on the relationships between social class, mental health and social integration in first year university students. Stephanie delivered a talk on the effects of leader gender and equality message framing on mobilising men and women for gender equality. Matylda discussed her findings on the effects of applicable emotions on use of stereotypes.

The conference served as an excellent opportunity for us to start communicating our work, build collaborative networks, and gain feedback early on in our PhDs. It allowed us to communicate exciting new findings in a targeted fashion to a key Australian (and international) forum for social psychology, and proved to be both awe-inspiring and intimidating. Meeting established academics whose names were riddled throughout our Honours theses was an incredible privilege.

Given SASP is characterised by a strong postgraduate student representation, it offered a unique atmosphere compared to typical academic conferences, in that it allowed us to network with both our peers and senior academics. The postgraduate workshops in particular were extremely useful – outlining how we as social psychologists have a responsibility to take our research to the world, and how we might go about doing so. We look forward to attending next year’s conference in Melbourne.