Sunday, 19 October 2014

Cognitive Psychology Group Colloquium (and The Great Bayes Debate!)

This week we have two special events.

First, a colloquium from Prof. Cliff Hooker (a pioneer of Cognitive Science at Newcastle, now an Emeritus Professor) in our usual time slot.

Then on Friday we debate whether "Bayesian cognitive models advance our understanding of the human mind." with Dan Navarro (University of Adelaide, and Don van Van Ravenzwaaij in the affirmative and Ben Newell ( and Scott Brown in the negative.

When: Thursday 23th October, 12-1pm (Colloquium)  and
            Friday 24th October, 1-2pm (Bayes Debate)

Where: Keats Reading Room, Psychology Building


Title: A Universal Model for Deep Problem Solving
Authors: Robert Farrell, Cliff Hooker

This paper provides a specific proposal for the internal drive and organisation of a problem solving process capable, if anything is, of solving initially strongly ill-defined (= deep) problems, and an explanation of why it is so cognitively powerful. Arguably it works, if anything does, everywhere deep problems arise, including in design, science, management and detective work, and performs as well or better than alternatives on most wicked problems. The proposed model arose from our study of the development of research into ape linguistic capacities using our high-level organisational model of learning process: self-directed anticipative learning (SDAL) combined with the standard model of design process in which problem and solution are iteratively reformulated.


Robert Farrell holds a PhD (ANU) in Philosophy of Science, has published a well received book on Paul Feyerabend's critique of the common, too simplistic, accounts of scientific method, and 8 papers on the present research.

Cliff Hooker, PhD (Physics), PhD (Philosophy), FAHA is emeritus prof. of Philosophy at NewcastleU. he has published 150+ papers (incl. 7 of Farrell's 8 papers) and authored/edited 20+ books on foundations of physics, biology and complex systems, and on rationality, philosophy of science, applied ethics and kindred topics.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

JUST PUBLISHED: Resilience and Responses to Persistent Pain

The concept of resilience is of considerable interest in clinical practice.  The resilient person shows relatively speedy recovery from a disturbance and an ability to resume their former work practices, habits and normal life.  In addition, they are able to maintain that recovery over the long-term.

The maintenance of recovery is of particular interest in patients suffering from chronic pain, since the presence of persistent pain leads to a raft of behavioural and cognitive changes all aimed at coping with the pain.  And since the pain is persistent, the adaptations are chronic, be they beneficial or not.

In a recently published study, Christie Mason, Toby Newton-John and Mick Hunter interviewed 101 patients attending a pain clinic and administered a range of self-report and assessment scales.  The scales covered areas of perceived pain intensity; attitudes to the pain; functional disability; mental health and wellbeing and available social support, as well as measures of resilience and self-reliance.

The results showed clear association between greater pain intensity and poor coping scores.  The measures of coping (scores showing fear of movement and of re-injury, evidence of catastrophising, depression and disability) were negatively associated with measures of resilience and self-efficacy.  Importantly, for this group, there was a significant positive relationship between resilience and the likelihood of the patient attending work.  However, the very strong relationship between pain intensity and depression, which explained much of the variance in a hierarchical regression of the variables, illustrates the difficulties faced by clinicians in treating these patients.

For further information, please see the following article:

Newton-John TR, Mason C, & Hunter M (2014). The role of resilience in adjustment and coping with chronic pain. Rehabilitation psychology, 59 (3), 360-5 PMID: 25019306

***Our hearty congratulations go to Christie Mason on her recent graduation with a Clinical Doctorate.***

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Cognitive Psychology Group Colloquium

When: Thursday 16th October, 12-1pm
Where: Keats Reading Room, Psychology Building
Prof. Michael Humphreys, University of Queensland
Dr. Kerry Chalmers, University of Newcastle

Title: Episodic Memory
The distinction between episodic and semantic memory dominates most introductions to the study of human memory.  However, in practice this distinction is often ignored.  In an effort to understand whether the distinction is really important and whether it is the best way to introduce students to the study of memory we look at the history of the episodic/semantic distinction.  The object is to understand the problems the distinction addresses and to evaluate the possibility of defining episodic memory. We also consider why it is so difficult to answer questions about whether non-human animals and young children have episodic memories.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

JUST PUBLISHED: A Trial to Evaluate the Efficacy of an Integrated Smoking Cessation Intervention among Mental Health Patients

Depending on diagnosis and setting, between 33 and 90 per cent of people with mental illness smoke tobacco, both in Australia and worldwide. As a result, tobacco-related diseases are one of the leading causes of mortality among this population subgroup. A paucity of research to date has examined the efficacy of cessation strategies to assist people with mental illness to quit smoking. However, limited findings have suggested that aids that have been found to be effective for the general population of smokers, including counselling and nicotine replacement therapy, are also efficacious for people with mental illness. The introduction of smoke free policies within mental health inpatient settings in Australia and other countries has created an opportunity to intervene and address the health and social inequities experienced by people with acute mental illness. An admission to a smoke-free psychiatric inpatient facility, where nicotine dependence was adequately treated, has been shown to increase patient self-efficacy to make longer term changes to their smoking. However without the provision of support post discharge, preadmission smoking levels typically resume.

To assess the efficacy of integrating inpatient smoking care with community based support upon discharge, a randomised controlled trial is being undertaken across four mental health inpatient settings within the Hunter New England Local Health District, New South Wales, Australia.  All inpatients will be approached, assessed for eligibility and, if applicable, offered the opportunity to participate. All adult inpatients that smoked and had the capacity to give consent were eligible, regardless of their readiness to change or diagnosis. At the time of recruitment, participants were allocated to receive either standard hospital care or 16 weeks of support post discharge (consisting of NRT and supportive telephone calls).

As follow-up data collection is not yet complete, the outcomes of this trial have not been ascertained. However, analysis of process data suggests this project was well received by mental health inpatients; a finding that is contrary to current beliefs surrounding persons with mental illness receptivity to the offer of smoking care.  Of the 2,317 patients approached, 91% agreed to discuss smoking with the research staff and, of the eligible patients, on average 65-70% agreed to participate (N = 754). Among the participants who were eligible to receive support post discharge (n= 379), 84% opted to utilise psychosocial and/or pharmacological support in the community. These findings suggest that people with mental illness are receptive to the offer of smoking cessation care and choose to utilise such care when offered.

For further information, please see the following article:

Metse, A., Bowman, J., Wye, P., Stockings, E., Adams, M., Clancy, R., Terry, M., Wolfenden, L., Freund, M., Allan, J., Prochaska, J., & Wiggers, J. (2014). Evaluating the efficacy of an integrated smoking cessation intervention for mental health patients: Study protocol for a randomised controlled trial Trials, 15 (266), 1-7 DOI: 10.1186/1745-6215-15-266

or contact Alex Metse.