Friday, 20 February 2015

Health and Clinical Psychology Research Group Seminar

Please come and join us celebrate Tanya Hollier’s DPsych completion.

When: Monday, 2nd March 12-1pm
Where: Keats Reading Room, Psychology Building, Callaghan (Video link to Ourimbah Science Meeting Rooms)
What: Tanya Hollier’s Doctor of Psychology Completion Seminar 

The impact of therapeutic engagement on mental health outcomes in a short stay mental health unit.

Objective: To investigate the contribution of recovery-focused engagement and interventions in a 6 week stay non-acute inpatient unit for people with serious mental illness (SMI). More specifically, to investigate patterns of change for measures of clinical and personal recovery, and observe whether patterns of change are sustained at 6 month follow-up. A subsequent evaluation was conducted to investigate the association between change indices of therapeutic engagement, mental health outcomes and other key mental health measures. Methods: Twenty-seven people with SMI completed three self-report measures, one collaborative recovery measure and five clinician rated measures 2-3 days post-admission. Measures were repeated at discharge, 3 and 6-month follow-up. Twenty-three and 20 people respectively completed measures at the final two follow-up points. Results: Regression analysis found significant linear improvements in therapeutic engagement, symptomatology, functionality, self-determination and collaboratively determined recovery. A subcomponent of the recovery measure, social connectedness, also demonstrated linear improvement across follow-up periods with a large magnitude of change recorded. Therapeutic engagement and the initial change for the MHRS total score also showed conventionally large effect sizes (greater than 1). An association between therapeutic engagement and mental health outcomes; and mental health outcomes and functioning were also found. Conclusions: Although the study design incorporated limitations, the findings suggest that higher levels of wellness, self-determination and connectedness are achievable in a recovery-focused inpatient setting. The study also showed that these improvements were sustained at 6 month follow-up. However, given the limitations of this study, further work is required to explore the factors that overcome stigma and develop and sustain individual levels of hope in recovery.

Discovering the structure of cognitive processes - a guest presentation by Dr. Joe Houpt (Indiana University).

The Cognitive Research Group is proud to host a talk by Dr. Joe Houpt (Indiana), who is visiting us for a few weeks. The talk will take place 12-1pm on Thursday 26th February in AVLG17 (a/v link to Ourimbah Science Offices).

Title: Quantifying Configural Superiority with the Capacity Coefficient.

Abstract: Inform
ally, configural superiority refers to situations in which perception is better with certain contextual information, beyond what would be expected from the informativeness of the context.  The nature of these effects are an important component of our understanding of visual perception of many types of stimuli and can be used diagnose privileged perceptual dimensions and potentially specialty perceptual systems.  We propose the capacity coefficient as common framework for measuring configural superiority across a wide range of stimulus types. This measure has a number of advantages. The coefficient is based on a comparison of responses to the configuration with a baseline of unlimited-capacity, independent, parallel processing of each of the parts. Response times for processing the parts in isolation are used to estimate that baseline performance. Better than baseline performance, or better than unlimited-capacity, independent parallel processing, of a configuration of parts, indicates configural superiority. Furthermore, because the capacity coefficient accounts for the difficulty of processing each part, the capacity coefficient for one type of configuration can be compared to the capacity coefficient of another configuration, even if the parts are not exactly the same. We applied the capacity coefficient to three domains in which configural superiority effects have been previously demonstrated: the orientation of a pair of dots, words, and faces. We found that participants had better than baseline performance for detecting differences in the location of dots relative to reference points if there was also a difference in the orientation. The capacity coefficient was much higher than when there was not a difference in orientation; in fact, when there was no difference in orientation, the capacity coefficient indicated worse than baseline performance. Likewise, we found that participants performed better than baseline with words. Participants’ capacity coefficients were higher for words than random consonant sequences, which tended to have equal to or worse than baseline capacity coefficients. Finally, we found that participants had better than baseline performance with aligned upper and lower face halves, but lower capacity coefficients with misaligned face halves, usually below baseline.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Semester 2 Highlights

Academic Promotions 

Congratulations to Scott Brown (Level E) and Darren Burke (Level D) on their recently awarded academic promotions.

Congratulations to Dr Lousie Houlcroft.
Under the authority of the University Council, Louise was admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the School of Psychology on 9 December. A great effort and well within RTS time. Congratulations also to Louise’s supervisors: Miles Bore and Don Munro.

2015 ARC Funding Recipients - an excellent outcome for the School of Psychology
  • Professor Simon Dennis, Professor Andrew Heathcote and Associate Professor Vladimir Sloutsky (Ohio State University) were awarded $757,800 for a project that aims to develop a model of episodic memory, the category of memory that allows people to recall specific experiences, events and times. Professor Dennis' project will apply the model to both adult and child development data, enhancing understanding of when episodic memory develops in children and young adults. This grant was the largest given for Psychology or Cognitive Science in the 2015 round, and was the second largest grant obtained by UON.
  • Dr Stefania Paolini, Professor Jake Harwood, Associate Professor David Neumann and Professor Miles Hewstone received $293,400 for their research into intergroup contact (face-to-face interactions between people of opposing groups).
Academic Promotions
Congratulations to Scott Brown (Level E) and Darren Burke (Level D) on their recently awarded academic promotions.

13th Australian Conference on Personality and Individual Differences
Miles Bore and Don Munro organised the 13th Australian Conference on Personality and Individual Differences (ACPID) held at the Newcastle Travelodge 27 and 28 November. The conference, officially opened by HoS Prof Simon Denis,  was attended by 80 delegates from around Australia and included keynote addresses, symposia,  individual papers and a rapid poster presentation sessions (much like the 3 minute thesis format).

Three Minute Thesis Finalist
Kate Bartlem  presented her research "Changing Practice: Addressing Physical Health in Mental Health Services" at the Faculty Heat of the Three Minute Thesis Competition. Kate was one of three Faculty finalists to go through to the University Final held in July. Well done Kate!

Tuesday, 16 December 2014


The 13th annual 4th Year Psychology Research Conference was held at Panthers Newcastle on Wednesday 12th November.  It was opened by the PVC of the Faculty of Science and IT, Prof Bill Hogarth, who commented that one thing he had learnt about Psychology over the years, is that it is multidisciplinary.  And this variety was obvious at the Conference:  97 4th Year students presented their year’s research project in 44 individual oral presentations and 13 group posters ranging from neuroscience and physiology of brain processing to mathematical models of cognition and memory to wide ranging topics in clinical, social, health and applied Psychology. The presentation abstracts were all recorded in a Program Booklet designed and produced by the Conference organiser, Dr Sally McFadden who initiated the first Conference back in 2002.  This year, for the first time, the Conference was open to other Psychology students and the School of Psychology UoN Academy Members. Those who attended the Conference were rewarded with high quality presentations that made all staff extremely proud of their student’s efforts and their impressive ability to answer tricky questions and enthusiastically explain their project outcomes.  The annual photograph (shown below) managed to get everyone’s face showing with a smile and was taken with much fun.  The atmosphere of the day was also captured  with outstanding snaps taken by our Deputy Head of School and in-house photographer, Dr Stuart Marlin.

The variety of topics during the day meant that there was something to stimulate everyone interests with one of the most popular presentation awards going to Amanda Boer for her talk on the development of a Subjective Sexual Arousal Scale for the Affective Neuroscience Personality Scale!  At the end of the day, staff and students retired to the Cocktail party room, and Prof Deborah Hodgson, the UoN Acting PVC for Research, presented the awards to a happy crowd. The top award went to Stephanie Watters for her intriguing work on how disturbance of neonatal hormones influence pain processing in adulthood. Philippa Ditton-Phare, Amanda Mazzoni and Michelle Hedgecoe won Best Presentation Awards for their research investigating  training effects on communication skills in Psychiarists, uncovering female spatial ability, and understanding how sound and touch are integrated in brain processing respectively, while the best poster award went to Karen Andrew, Selina Chapman, Elizabeth Doel and Craig Pinchbeck  for their work on the impact of different types of Cigarette Packaging.  After the awards, frivolity and celebrations continued with music and dancing, and students from the Ourimbah campus who had to travel to Newcastle for the day, made the most of the evening and were the last to leave.

Next year we will hold our Conference at Ourimbah in the first week of November, so save the date and come and see what The School of Psychology is up to!

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Cognitive Psychology Colloquium Thursday 10th December

When: Thursday 11th December, 12-1pm
Where: Keats Reading Room, Psychology Building

What: Rachel Vickery's PhD Confirmation Seminar  

Criterion setting has been largely assumed and unexplored in psychology. Traditionally criteria are used in signal detection models to distinguish between the presence or absence of stimuli on a given trial or in decision making models to quantify the decision criterion or threshold. This thesis will investigate criterion setting via two experimental streams; 1) Best-Worst choice scaling in recognition memory, and 2) Trial-to trial changes in speed accuracy tradeoff criterion settings. The aim of this thesis is to provide insight into criterion setting using different experimental paradigms and analysis methods and to also determine the time course of criterion setting.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Synergy Between UON School of Psychology and HNE Health Makes a Great 2014 Psychology Professional Day

During this year’s Psychology Week, UoN School of Psychology successfully hosted and co-organised with Hunter New England Health the largest Psychology Professional Day in the Hunter. More than 200 psychologists and psychology trainees gathered together on campus from the Health Service, the University, private practice, government agencies and NGOs for a day of professional development on promoting clinical excellence and culturally respectful practices.

Psychology across the lifespan was the key theme of this year’s conference. The key note speaker A/Professor Ross Wilkinson from UoN School of Psychology has been a ‘big draw’ card for this year’s conference. Ross is a very experienced and respected clinician and academic in the area of attachment across the lifespan; he kept the audience together despite stratospheric temperatures on the day!

The UoN School of Psychology's  
key note speaker: A/Prof Ross Wilkinson

Several members of staff, postgraduate, and undergraduate students attended and played an active role in the day, including the zealous members of our vibrant psychology society. Simon Dennis welcomed the conference delegates on behalf of the school and psychology clinic at the beginning of the day. On the day Frini Karayanidis and Kerry Chalmers convened a stimulating symposium on Newcastle-led research on lifespan psychology. Tanya Hanstock has run a well-attended and engaging workshop on Parent Child Interaction. Tony Kemp has offered continuous AV assistance on the lead to the conference and on the day and Stefania Paolini, as active member of the conference organising committee, has acted as a key conduit between HNE and UoN. 

The conference showcased the great talent of psychologists we have locally, demonstrated the varied areas of clinical excellence in practice, and stressed the importance of effective interaction between educators in the school, psychologists working in the community, and the needs of diverse clients.

This year’s event has been a nice demonstration of the psychologists from HNE Health service and The University of Newcastle working together. We look forward to newer opportunities in the future!