Wednesday, 13 August 2014

JUST PUBLISHED: Decision Making on the Go: The Case of Australian Football League Umpires

Welcome back to the Just Published section of the School of Psychology's Newsline. Hot off the press this month is work by PhD candidate Nathan Elsworthy and his colleagues. Below Nathan explains his recently published research:


Believe it or not, Australian Football League (AFL) umpires are human...they do make mistakes (only about 6 per game). Umpires award about 44 free kicks per game, with many other decisions (about 2,000) often going unnoticed. So 6 errors out of about 2,000 decisions is pretty good! This is even more impressive when you consider the physical aspect of their role, whereby they cover between 10-12 km per game. Low intensity exercise has been shown to be beneficial to cognitive performance, however, at near maximal intensities such as those often completed by umpires, the ability to correctly perceive perceptual information is limited. As such, our study examined how the position and movement of an AFL umpire may impact their decision-making accuracy.

Umpire coaches review every free kick decision made by the umpire and classify them as correct, missed or unwarranted. We used this information to identify when and where free kicks were awarded, and to identify the umpire movement at this time. This approach identified the instantaneous speed when a decision was made, and how far they were positioned from play. We also assessed their movement demands prior to a free kick being awarded by examining the GPS devices worn by umpires during these games.

Umpires were often positioned between 15-20 m from the ball when a free kick was awarded, however this did not impact on their decision-making accuracy, nor did their movement speed at the time of a decision. However, increased running speed 5 seconds prior to a decision resulted in a greater likelihood of an error being made. These increased running demands may elicit various physiological changes, which negatively impact the umpires’ information processing abilities. So, although umpires make the correct decision in most circumstances, this study identified that by limiting their high intensity activity, they may be less likely to make an error.

For more information about this research, please contact Nathan Elsworthy and/or check out the following journal article:

Elsworthy, N., Burke, D., Scott, B., Stevens, C., & Dascombe, B. (2014). Physical and decision-making demands of Australian football umpires during competitive matches Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 14 (2), 401-410 DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000567

Monday, 10 March 2014

Stop-Signal Task: Methods, Statistics, and Applications.

The School of Psychology is proudly hosting a talk by Dr. Dora Matzke,
Department of Psychological Methods, University van Amsterdam. See
the attached flyer for details, including:

TITLE: A Bayesian parametric approach for the estimation of stop-signal
reaction time distributions.

WHEN & WHERE: Thursday 13th March 12-1pm, AVLG17 (videoconferenced to room AV3 in Ourimbah).

ABSTRACT: The cognitive concept of response inhibition is frequently measured using the stop-signal paradigm. In this paradigm, participants perform a two-choice reaction time task where, on some of the trials, the primary task is interrupted by a stop-signal that instructs participants to withhold their response. The dependent variable of interest is the latency of the unobservable stop response (stop signal reaction time or SSRT). Recently, Matzke, Dolan, Logan, Brown and Wagenmakers (2013) have developed a Bayesian parametric approach that allows for the estimation of the entire distribution of SSRTs. The Bayesian parametric approach is based on the assumptions of the horse race model and rests on the concept of censored distributions. The method assumes that SSRTs are ex-Gaussian distributed and uses Markov chain Monte Carlo sampling to obtain posterior distributions for the model parameters. First, I will illustrate the use of the Bayesian parametric approach with published stop-signal data. I will then introduce BEESTS, a user-friendly software implementation of the Bayesian parametric approach that can be applied to individual as well as hierarchical data structures. I will conclude by discussing possible extensions and future research directions.

Monday, 16 December 2013

PRESENTATION: The neuroscience of attention, by Dr. Søren Kyllingsbæk (Copenhagen). Thursday 19th December 10:30am-11:30am

The School of Psychology is proudly hosting a talk by Dr. Søren Kyllingsbæk, Department of Psychology, University of Copenhagen.  If you're interested in meeting with Dr. Kyllingsbæk while he visits Newcastle, please email Dr. Ami Eidels (

TITLE: A Neural Theory of Visual Attention

WHERE: Keats Reading room (Aviation Building, AVLG17).

WHEN: Thursday 19th December 2013, 10:30am-11:30am.

ABSTRACT: The neural theory of visual attention (NTVA) developed by Bundesen, Habekost, and Kyllingsbæk (2005) is a neural interpretation of Bundesen’s (1990) theory of visual attention (TVA). The theory accounts both for a wide range of attentional effects in human performance (reaction times and error rates) and for a wide range of effects observed in firing rates of single cells in the primate visual system. NTVA provides a mathematical framework to unify the two fields of research—formulas bridging cognition and neurophysiology. I will present NTVA and related new theoretical ideas regarding visual encoding and visual short-term memory.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

JUST PUBLISHED: Personal Qualities Assessment Across Cultures

Myself (Miles Bore), Don Munro and David Powis have spent the last 15 years developing and testing personality questionnaires and ability tests for use in the selection of medical students. While much of the focus of our research has been the use of these tests in Australia and the UK, we have also had opportunities to trial the tests in countries where English is not the first language such as Sweden, Israel, Japan, Taiwan, Nepal and Fiji. Recently we were approached by Saharnaz Nedjat from Tehran University of Medical Sciences asking if we would be interested in running the Personal Qualities Assessment tests with her in Iran. We leapt at the chance of course!

We emailed three tests to Tehran for translation into Persian: the Mental Agility Test (a 48-item high powered IQ test), the Mojac Moral Orientation Scale and our Self-Appraisal Inventory which measures the personality traits of Involvement (being empathic, confident with others and not aloof or narcissistic), Resilience (being emotionally stable and not neurotic) and Self-Control (being conscientious and not disorderly). The tests were then back-translated into English so we could check that all 240 questions in the battery, not to mention the instructions for each test, had maintained their original meaning: quite a detailed job! After checking back and forth with Saharnez on a handful of questions that were proving difficult to translate we finally had it all sorted. The real test of this was whether the tests actually worked when given to applicants in Tehran.

The tests were administered to a cohort of medical students at Tehran and the findings reported in a recently published article for the journal Medical Teacher. While the article presents only basic analysis (mean differences between students who entered directly from secondary education compared to those who entered with a tertiary degree) it is the finding that the tests performed reliably when translated into Persian that pleased us most. More detail on that and other cross-cultural comparisons are for another paper.

For more details, please see the following journal article:
Nedjat, S., Bore, M., Majdzadeh, R., Rashidian, A., Munro, D., Powis, D., Karbakhsh, M., & Keshavarz, H. (2013). Comparing the cognitive, personality and moral characteristics of high school and graduate medical entrants to the Tehran University of Medical Sciences in Iran Medical Teacher, 35 (12), 1632-1637 DOI: 10.3109/0142159X.2013.826791

Further information can be found at the Personal Qualities Assessment website: