Friday, 8 December 2017

Vice-Chancellor's 2017 Award for Early Career Research and Innovation Excellence

Congratulations to Dr Guy Hawkins from the School of Psychology who recently received two research awards from the University of Newcastle.

At the end-of-year Faculty of Science Awards Ceremony , Guy received the Faculty of Science Award for Early Career Research and Innovation Excellence.

Last week, at the Vice Chancellor's Awards night, Guy received a Vice-Chancellor's Award for Early Career Research and Innovation Excellence.

Both awards noted Guy as a rising star of the Australian cognitive science community who is now recognised for his research excellence beyond Australia's borders, and also beyond the borders of cognitive science. Congratulations Guy!

For more information on the Vice Chancellor's Awards and an overview of 2017 recipients, click here.

Friday, 1 December 2017

E&D SERIES: Presentation on Indigenising psychology curricula closes a busy year for the UON Psychology-Led Aboriginal Equity and Diversity Working Party

Please come and join us for a presentation on Indigenising psychology curricula by Dr Mem Mahmut from Psychology at Macquarie University. This presentation is co-sponsored by the Psychology-led Aboriginal, Equity and Diversity working party and the Social and Organisational Research Group. It will encourage our school to think deeper about our own process of making the psychology curricula relevant and responsive to the needs and aspirations of individuals from varied Equity and Diversity groups.

Dr Mahmut was recently awarded a Churchill Fellowship which will allow him to travel overseas to discover the world's best practice for embedding Indigenous perspectives and teaching in psychology degrees.

WHEN: Tuesday 12th December, 12-1pm

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

WHAT: Presentation entitled “Indigenizing our psychology curricula by individual-led collective action”

An abstract and bio for Dr Mahmut can be found below.

This presentation, as part of our Equity and Diversity Series, marks the end of the activities for 2017 of the busy Psychology-Led Aboriginal Equity and Diversity Working Party. The Psychology-led Aboriginal, Equity and Diversity working party was established in February 2016 to educate staff, students, general public about Aboriginal and Equity and Diversity issues and ensure that teaching, research, service, and governance in Psychology, at UON, and in the local community are cognizant and responsive to the needs, sensitivities, and aspirations of Aboriginal peoples and other E&D groups.

Since its inception, with A/Prof Stefania Paolini’s headship, the AE&D working party has been instrumental in leading, coordinating, facilitating a host of important school-wide AE&D activities, initiatives, achievements towards cultural safety and cultural competence of students, staff, and the broader community. The AE&D working party’s efforts and achievements were recognised by the 2017 UON Faculty of Science’s Collaboration Award high commendation.

DR MAHMUT’S ABSTRACT: We all have the ability to contribute towards closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and the aim of this talk is to demonstrate the small role everyone can play to enact big changes. In this presentation, I will outline the process we have started to embed Indigenous perspectives into Macquarie University's psychology curriculum. I will also detail the international research I will conduct to discover the best approach for Indigenizing psychology curricula as part of my Churchill Fellowship and conclude with the support I need from you to ensure my findings translate into change.

DR MAHMUT’S BIO: Dr Mem Mahmut is a senior lecturer in the Department of Psychology at Macquarie University where he convenes an introductory psychology unit and is the co-director of the Food, Flavour and Fragrance lab. Mem's research investigates the impact a poor sense of smell and low level of empathy has on human behaviour, including the impact on romantic relationships. Mem was recently awarded a Churchill Fellowship which will allow him to travel overseas to discover the world's best practice for embedding Indigenous perspectives and teaching in psychology degrees.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Equity & Diversity Series: UON Psychology researcher secures book contract on transgender health and The Australian Marriage Survey

On 15th November 2017, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that 61.6% of Australians and 88.7% of the electorates indicated that they favoured same-sex marriage (see ABS statistics here). With nearly 13 million people returning the survey, the measurement error is minuscule (approx: .00028%). Hence, one would expect a quick enactment of legislation reflecting these views.

Despite the celebrations that have ensued nationwide in the last week, the long survey cycle and campaigning may have exacerbated distress among members of the LGBTIQ community. It is well-established that LGBTIQ people suffer higher levels of distress than the rest of the Australian population, including increased risk of self-harm and suicidal thoughts, especially among the young and gender diverse individuals. From experiences in other countries, however we also know that LGBTIQ people’s lives have improved considerably after their community has legalized same-sex marriage. This includes a 7% reduction in suicide-attempt rate in a US study, and evidence of improvements in various dimensions of same-sex couples’ lives in other studies.

A lot has happened in this area of Equity and Diversity over the last decade nationally and internationally: Community, media and political debate have widened and often become heated, the number of published research articles on LGBTIQ issues has similarly escalated. UON Psychology is actively engaged in this process: Psychology conjoint Associate Professor Rachel Heath and her collaborator recently secured a contract from a US publisher to write an update to Rachel's 2006 book with the new title “A guide to transsexual and transgender health: State-of-the-art information for gender-affirming people and their supporters”. The book is intended to provide a readable and scientifically valid account of the main issues associated with people’s goal of attaining an appropriate confirmation of their gender aspirations towards increased wellbeing, happiness and productivity. A/Prof Rachel Heath hopes to have the book available for purchase by delegates to the biennial World Professional Association of Transgender Health Conference to be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina in November 2018.

We need more research and more balanced dissemination of research findings in this area. When asked to comment on the science community’s role, A/Prof Heath said: “It is difficult for scientists to comprehend the complexities revealed by the infinite diversity of sexual orientation and gender expression. There is much research to be done in this field from a psychological perspective, as well as by researchers in cognate disciplines”. In 2006 A/Prof Rachel Heath published one of the first comprehensive research volumes on the topic, a volume that is available in the University of Newcastle and Mater Hospital libraries, and in over 400 libraries worldwide. We look forward to UON Psychology and researchers to continue playing an active role in E&D research and advocacy for the wellbeing and self-determination of E&D groups and LGBTIQ communities.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Grant success in the recent ARC Discovery Projects round

Congratulations to researchers from the School of Psychology at the University of Newcastle who secured ARC support for Discovery Projects in the 2018 funding round.

Dr Guy Hawkins, who is already holding a prestigious ARC-DECRA fellowship, landed a $327,000 Discovery Project grant to study the "value of time during decisions". The grant was awarded to Guy, as lead CI, and Scott Brown.

Scott is also an investigator on another successful ARC-DP grant via UNSW, to study applied aspects of Decision Making.

Finally, Juanita Todd is an investigator on a successful ARC-DP grant via Macquarie University, on "statistical learning and the adapting auditory brain."

You can click here to read more about these projects as well as other ARC funded projects.           Profile Image          Profile Image
Left to right: Guy Hawkins, Juanita Todd, and Scott Brown.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

UoN School of Psychology researchers lead industry collaboration with Airbus and Hensoldt

Researchers from the Newcastle Cognition Lab and the School of Psychology at the University of Newcastle lead industry collaboration with aviation-giant Airbus and sensor-house Hensoldt.

Earlier this month, UoN researchers Ami Eidels and Scott Brown, along with PhD students Zachary Howard and Reilly Innes, had spent a week in Airbus' helicopter-simulator facility in Brisbane, testing the effects of degraded visual environment on pilots' performance. The team combined forces with experts from Airbus and Hensoldt to assess cognitive workload during various flight scenarios, and to evaluate the synthetic reality portrayed on the helmet visor using on-board sensing equipment as part of the Hensoldt Sferion System.

The testing was preceded by the signing of a Teaming Agreement between Airbus, Hensoldt, and the University of Newcastle (represented by DVC-R Prof Kevin Hall), during the Pacific2017 exhibition in Sydney.

This pioneering work intends to shed light on how much the new synthetic environment will help to keep pilots, crew and passengers safe in the most demanding scenarios that are the cause of many accidents. This work is also a continuing demonstration of how industry and academia work together to answer to the ever demanding needs and requirements of real-world operators.

Teaming Agreement signing in Pacific2017. From left: Prof Kevin Hall, Deputy Vice Chancellor Research and Innovation at the University of Newcastle, Mr Marc Condon from Hensoldt Sensors GmbH, and Mr Tony Fraser, Managing Director of Airbus Australia Pacific.

The Newcastle research team next to Hensoldt's stand in Pacific2017. From left: Ami Eidels, Scott Brown, Zach Howard, and Reilly Innes.

The simulator testing environment. 

Monday, 30 October 2017

Scott Brown nominated editor of Computational Brain & Behavior

Kudos to Prof Scott Brown from UoN School of Psychology, who had just been nominated the inaugural Editor-in-Chief of Computational Brain & Behavior.

Computational Brain & Behavior is a completely new journal, driven and owned by the Society for Mathematical Psychology. Among other chores, Scott will have to shape the journal's vision and establish an editorial board. It is a big challenge, but we're certain he is the right man for the job.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Keats grant supports cross-cultural research on university student adjustment.

Relationships and Psychological Health Lab (RAPHLab)

School of Psychology PhD candidate Jichun (Jessy) Hao and her supervisors, A/Prof Ross Wilkinson and A/Prof Mark Rubin, were fortunate enough to be awarded a grant from the John and Daphne Keats Endowment Research Fund in 2017 to contribute towards research examining university student adjustment in Australia and China. University students experience high rates of mental ill-health that threaten academic engagement, performance and completion. This project, ‘Psychological health in Chinese and Australian university students: A longitudinal study of attachment, mindfulness, social integration, and collectivism-individualism’, seeks to examine the interaction of selected intrapersonal, interpersonal, social, and exogenous factors that may affect psychological health in both Australian and Chinese university students in the first two years of study.  Jessy, with the assistance of international collaborators Prof Raymond Chan (Chinese Academy of Sciences) and A/Prof Binsheng Tian (Yunnan University), collected two-waves of data via online surveys involving more than 1000 students from the University of Newcastle, Chinese Academy of Sciences (Beijing), and Yunnan University (Kunming). This research aims to advance our understanding of factors influencing student psychological health, particularly with respect to cultural differences. The Keats grant supported Jessy and Ross to travel to China in July to assist with data collection at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Beijing), and to meet with Prof Chan and his lab team to discuss project related issues. This visit was highly successful in sharing knowledge and collaboration with Prof Chan for the project write-up and for future projects, publications, and presentations. Jessy also visited Yunnan University to gain further insight into student life and how research is conducted in the Chinese academic environment. Jessy and the team are now in the final stage of second wave data collection, and preparing publications with their international collaborators, with the aim of increasing our understanding of university adjustment and helping inform policy and strategies with respect to factors influencing domestic and international student welfare and retention.

For more information about this research please contact or

Friday, 13 October 2017

SOPRG Presentation by Prof Ann Brewer on AI and modern career trajectories on Tuesday 17th October

SOPRG, the School of Psychology’s Social and Organisational Psychology Research Group invites you to a presentation by Professor Ann Brewer, the Dean of the University of Newcastle Sydney Campus, who will discuss a current book project on encountering, experiencing and shaping careers.

TITLE: Encountering, Experiencing and Shaping Careers

WHEN: Tuesday 17th October, 12-1pm

WHERE: Keats room, Aviation building’s room AVGL17 (video conference link to Science Offices’ seminar room, Ourimbah)

ABSTRACT: The diminution of career for life is upon us. Advances in cognitive computing and artificial intelligence will transform modern life by reshaping all industries including transportation, health, science, finance, and education and training. Consequently work is being restructured; how it is organised with a huge impact on people’s careers.

The concept of career is complex and becomes less straightforward with every new generation leaving school. Despite the increasing need for a thorough rethinking about careers, most people are still getting by on reciting past evidence, reinforcing the status quo and following current educational practice. For most of us, how we think about careers has been entrenched since childhood. However, the career context has changed dramatically over a relatively short period of time. People will have multiple and diverse roles as well as an extended life span and most likely will continue to work past what is conventionally accepted as the retirement age.

Secondly from the time a person starts school through to their working life, the focus is on how well they perform and their achievements. Every generation has experienced this. However with changes in the global economy and labour markets, competition has intensified for the individual. Over time a person develops varying aspirations, ambitions and perceptions about their ‘career’ success, now and in the future. Throughout their lives, people will encounter career progress, failure, disruption and blockage in varying degrees. People will also experience fluctuating intensities of career control, satisfaction, disappointment, anxiety and regret. Amidst this change, the notion of a career has changed.

What are the implications of economic, social and technological change for the upcoming generations? What does career mean today? Has the focus moved from career to employability? Who owns a ‘career’? Has the balance of career control moved from the employer to the individual? How is career adaptability shaped? Increasingly, the focus is on career development, coaching, transitions, choosing or changing careers, a portfolio career or indeed not having a career at all.
The book aims to investigate how people encounter, experience and shape their careers and delves into these issues and questions including: what are the implications for organisational psychology, career guidance and counselling? Are there new careers in the making for psychologists?


Paper by UoN Psychology researchers examines cognitive workload in drivers and passengers

A recent study by Dr Gabriel Tillman (former RHD student in the School of Psychology, University of Newcastle; currently at Vanderbilt) and colleagues examined cognitive workload in drivers and passengers. 

The study appeared in the journal Attention, Perception and Psychophysics, and gained traction via the Psychonomic Society's blog, in an article by Cassandra Jacobs. In a nut shell, researchers Gabriel Tillman, David Strayer, Ami Eidels, and Andrew Heathcote conducted a study looking at the impact of high cognitive load across three conditions: driving without distractions, driving and holding a conversation with a hands-free mobile phone, and driving and holding a conversation with a passenger. During the driving session, participants were presented with a peripheral red light and had to respond to it as quickly as possible by pressing a micro switch (the Detection Response Task, DRT). 

The researchers analysed the time to detect the light and found participants were substantially slower to respond to the light when they were engaged in conversation with another person, in both the hands-free mobile-phone case as well as when talking to a passenger. In addition, and in the tradition of the Newcastle Cognition Lab, the researchers fit the data to a computational model of choice and response time. The full results are detailed in the AP&P article, here.

A nice summary is available in the blog-article by Cassandra Jacobs here.

Image result for gabriel tillman
Dr. Gabriel Tillman

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Health and Clinical Psychology Research Group Seminar

The Father-Child Play study – an inter-disciplinary behavioural research project

Drs Jennifer StGeorge, Linda Campbell, Emily Freeman
Ms Taylor Hadlow, Katie Rolfe

Date:  11th October
Time: 12-1pm
Place:  Keats Reading Room (AVLG17), Callaghan (video to Ourimbah)

All welcome!


Given the increased paternal involvement in developed countries, it is becoming important to understand the positive and differential contributions that fathers make to children’s development. Fathers’ time with children peaks in toddlerhood and often takes the form of play-based interactions. Play is known to have a significant impact on a child’s development and fathers’ play has been linked to child-father attachment relationships and children’s social competence. There is now increasing international interest in the nature of fathers’ play and its short- and long-term influence on child development. The purpose of this symposium is to introduce the Australian Father-Child Play study, a longitudinal collaborative project between UON researchers in the School of Health Sciences and the School of Psychology. The project team consists of four Chief Investigators, five M Clin Psych students, and six volunteers from B Psych and B Occ Therapy. The investigators and students will discuss the motivation for studying fathers’ play, the study objectives and innovation in methods, alongside results from student theses. M Clin Psych student Katie Rolfe will present the preliminary results of the most recent analysis, the associations between play, father stress and reported child behaviour problems. Implications for health professionals suggest that research on paternal functions provides an opportunity to complement and extend current practices.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

EQUITY AND DIVERSITY SERIES: Research Presentation by UON Global Innovation Chair on Social Cohesion and Conflict, Prof Miles Hewstone, on Tuesday 3rd October 12-1pm

The School of Psychology’s Social and Organisational Psychology Research Group invites you to a research presentation by Prof. Miles Hewstone, UON Global Innovation Chair in Social Cohesion and Conflict (University of Oxford & UON School of Psychology) as part of our Equity and Diversity Colloquium Series.

When: 12.00pm – 1.00pm on Tuesday 3rd October
Where: The Keats Reading Room, Psychology/Aviation Building (AVLG17), with video link to the Seminar Room, Science Offices at Ourimbah.
Title: Understanding the complexity of intergroup contact and its varied routes to the reduction of prejudice

Bio: Prof Miles Hewstone is Professor of Social Psychology and Public Policy, and a Fellow of New College at the University of Oxford (OXON), and the new Global Innovation Chair in Social Conflict and Cohesion at the University of Newcastle (UON). He is a leading social psychologist who is internationally renowned for his work on intergroup relations, especially his ground-breaking work on intergroup contact. He graduated from the University of Bristol in 1978, receiving a D.Phil. in social psychology at OXON in 1981, before pursuing post-doctoral work at the EHESS, Paris, then at the University of Tübingen, Germany (obtaining his Habilitation higher degree in 1986). He is a Fellow of the British Academy, where he advises government on policy in the area of social cohesion, resulting in his recent joint appointment in Oxford’s outstanding Department of Experimental Psychology (world ranked No. 2) and its newly-established Blavatnik School of Government. He is also a former editor of the British Journal of Social Psychology, and co-founding editor of the European Review of Social Psychology. Prof Hewstone has received a number of awards, including the Kurt Lewin Award (2012) from The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, and the Codol Medal (2014) from the European Association of Social Psychology. He has published widely in the field of experimental social psychology, focusing on attribution theory, social cognition, social influence, stereotyping and intergroup relations, and intergroup conflict. His current work centres on the reduction of intergroup conflict, via intergroup contact, stereotype change and crossed categorization, addressing real-world issues including the impact of diversity, sectarianism, and Islamophobia.

We aspire for Professor Miles Hewstone's recent appointment as Global Innovation Chair in Social Cohesion and Conflict to mark the beginning of a new Newcastle-Oxford Research Centre in this timely area of research.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Seminar by Prof Graham Brewer, Executive Director - CIFAL Newcastle, Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment, UoN

The Cognitive Research Group is proud to host a talk by Prof Graham Brewer, Executive Director, CIFAL Newcastle, Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment, University of Newcastle. 

The CIFAL Global Network is part of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research. The acronym CIFAL stands for "International Training Centre for Authorities and Leaders". To read more about CIFAL Newcastle click here

WHEN: Thursday 21 September, 12-1pm.

WHERE: Keats reading room, AVLG17. VC link to Ourimbah available on request.

TITLE: Exploring institutional decision-making: phenomenological investigation of the bounded rationalist.

ABSTRACT: The success or failure of projects conducted in the built environment depend to a greater or lesser extent upon the quality of decisions taken at significant points in the project life-cycle, their significance often only becoming apparent upon reflection. Traditional economic theory tells us that the rationalist decision-maker – Homo economicus – always makes decisions based upon optimisation of outcomes, whereas the more recent science of behavioural economics indicates that most human decision-makers are boundedly rational, making "satisficing" decisions. It is clear that Homo sapiens decision-makers, whilst aware of the need for rational data collection and analysis followed by unbiased choice selection, usually make decisions for boundedly rational reasons. The results are often "good enough" to ensure that project stakeholders are content. Nevertheless, in an industry known for small profit margins and low levels of innovation, an understanding of the influences on strategic decision-makers is instructive when considering the promotion of new technologies or processes. Whilst the decision-making process cannot ultimately be observed directly it can be understood indirectly through the lived experience of those making the decisions, those affected by their decisions, and the eventual performance of the project itself. This can be achieved by a rigourous, multi-perspective phenomenological enquiry. Such approaches can be valuable in other domains such as policy effectiveness.

Prof Graham Brewer (left), in the United Nations' conference in Ecuador

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Research by the SCAN group students and staff presented at the 2017 International Conference for Cognitive Neuroscience

SCAN researchers A/Prof Frini Karayanidis, A/Prof Juanita Todd, Emeritus Professor Pat Michie, Dr Patrick Cooper, Kaitlin Fitzgerald, Olivia Whalen and Montana McKewen recently attended the 13th International Conference for Cognitive Neuroscience (ICON) in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. ICON is one of the most prestigious scientific meetings in the field. It is held only every 3 years, and as it does not belong to any professional society, it tends to draw an inter-disciplinary and integrative audience from the field of cognitive neuroscience. The 4-day conference gave us the opportunity to present our current research as well as hear presentations from prominent researchers in the area.

Juanita coordinated and spoke in a symposium titled “Perspectives on sensory prediction”. Frini presented a poster on how the variability in white matter microstructure alters proactive and reactive cognitive control processes in ageing. Patrick’s poster was on preparatory frontoparietal theta during task-switching and how it is associated with goal-updating and improved behavioural performance. Kaitlin’s poster examined multiple timescales of automatic statistical learning modulate mismatch negativity (MMN) to auditory pattern deviations. Olivia’s poster investigated the relationship between temperament, sensory processing and attentional control development in early infancy. Montana’s poster was on the distinct phase-locked and non-phase-locked theta components of proactive control in a task-switching paradigm. The 90-minute poster sessions were a good opportunity to meet people in our respective areas and discuss methodology and findings in detail, something that is not always possible in other presentation formats. These discussions were particularly helpful for PhD students Kaitlin, Olivia and Montana to gain feedback outside of their supervisory teams.

We look forward to attending the next ICON in 2020 which will be held in Helsinki!

Monday, 11 September 2017

School seminar by Matthew Finkbeinr, Thur Sept 14, 12-1pm

The Cognitive Research Group is proud to host its cross-group seminar for Semester 2 2017, with a talk by Associate Professor Matthew Finkbeiner from Macquarie University

WHEN: Thursday 14 September, 12-1pm.

WHERE: Keats reading room, AVLG17. VC link to Ourimbah will be available.

TITLE: Using reaching movements to investigate the dynamics of cognitive control in choice-conflict tasks

Image result for matthew finkbeiner

ABSTRACT: A striking feature of human behaviour is our ability to configure our cognitive system to optimize performance in a wide range of contexts through adjustments in, for example, perceptual selection and/or response biases.  This remarkable ability is referred to as cognitive control and a central goal of cognitive science is to develop an account of how cognitive control is achieved.  In an effort to remove the homunculus from earlier theories of cognitive control, Cohen and colleagues have proposed the “Conflict Monitoring Hypothesis” (CMH).  This hypothesis has been used to explain patterns of performance in several conflict-inducing tasks (e.g. Stroop, Simon & Flanker tasks) and has received strong support across fields, including both Neuroscience and Psychology.  A core assumption of the CMH is that conflict arises as a function of the magnitude, not the timing, of the activation of competing (conflicting) representations at the response level.  In the present study, we used the reach-to-touch paradigm in a fine-grained investigation of these time- and magnitude-difference accounts of the Simon, Stroop and Flanker tasks.  Our results support the time-difference account of the Simon effect and the magnitude-difference account of the Flanker effect.  The results of the Stroop task did not strongly support either account.

CONTACT: For further information or to arrange a meeting with Matthew, please contact

We look forward to seeing you on Thursday!

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Research Presentation on the psychosocial basis of bariatric surgery by Dr Martin Johnson - Tuesday 5th Sept

The School of Psychology’s Social and Organisational Psychology Research Group invites you to a research presentation by Rev.Dr Martin Johnson (UON School of Psychology).
When: 12.00pm – 1.00pm on Tuesday 5th August
Where: The Keats Reading Room, Psychology/Aviation Building (AVLG17), with video link to the Seminar Room, Science Offices at Ourimbah.

TITLE: Psychosocial predictors of obesity in patients seeking bariatric surgery identifying moderating factors of postoperative outcomes: A pilot study

ABSTRACT: The current research examines the effect of psychosocial factors and motivations of patients seeking bariatric surgery on pre-operative weight and post-operative outcomes. A sample of 108 clinically obese women seeking bariatric surgery were recruited into the study. Participants were sourced from bariatric support groups and were given a battery of psychological measures six months prior to surgery and then followed up six months post-surgery. Hierarchal regression identified psychosocial and motivational variables which predicted pre-surgery weight and weight loss following bariatric surgery. In terms of pre-surgery weight, a history of trauma, particularly sexual trauma, accounted for the greatest amount of the variance. While levels of depression and anxiety initially predicted weight, they did not independently contribute to the final model. In addition, external motivations for weight loss also positively predicated pre-operative weight. At six months post-surgery, trauma and depression negatively predicted weight loss; while internal motivations for surgery predicted more weight loss and external motivation predicted less successful outcomes post-surgery. We found that within this obese sample there was a significantly higher rate of trauma than what would be expected in the general population. Our findings suggest that a history of trauma is a significant risk factor in obesity. Female bariatric patients with a history of trauma and unresolved depression have poorer post-operative outcomes. Individuals who choose to have bariatric surgery for internal motivational reasons have more positive post-operative outcomes. These finding should only be taken as indicative, due to the sample size, a larger scale study is needed. However, the findings point to the need to screen bariatric patients for a history of trauma  and consequential depression  prior to surgery. Further research is needed to assess whether there is utility in providing preoperative psychological intervention for obese patients with a trauma history. Excess weight is far more complicated that a simple relationship between calorie intake and energy used.  This presentation highlights how obese individuals are more likely to have a history of trauma (particularly sexual trauma) compared to the general population; and that having such a history is a predictor of weight and less successful outcomes following bariatric surgery. The presentation also explores how initial motivations (either external or internal) for weight loss surgery predicts weight loss outcomes.

SHORT BIO: Martin is a health psychologist; his current research and practice interest is in bariatric psychology.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Guest seminar by Dr Kathy Low, on Optical Imaging of the Brain. HMRI, Thur 31/8, 2pm

A Little Light Goes A Long Way: Diffuse Optical Imaging of Brain and Blood Vessels

Guest Seminar by Dr Kathy Low

Thur, Aug 31, 2pm
HMRI, Caves theater 

Kathy Low is a Senior Research Scientist at the University of Illinois, working in collaboration with Professors Monica Fabiani and Gabriele Gratton ( She received her Ph.D. from the University of Missouri in 1997. Dr. Low’s research is focused on the cognitive neuroscience of executive function, incorporating a range of imaging measures, including event-related brain potentials (ERPs), structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging (sMRI, fMRI, DTI, ASL) and diffuse optical imaging (DOI). She has worked extensively on the development of optical brain imaging methods, with an emphasis on the event-related optical signal (EROS) and pulse-DOT (Diffuse Optical Tomography).

Her talk will briefly highlight how EROS can be used to track the time course of neuronal activity in localized brain areas. For optimal neuronal activity, however, a steady supply of oxygenated blood is needed. Therefore, the remainder of the talk will focus on recent work using the optical pulse signal to assess the state of the cerebral arteries. These pulse measures may prove to be clinically useful in assessing arterial health, especially in at-risk populations such as premature infants or in individuals with cardiovascular disease.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

H&CPRG Seminar 6th September

Health and Clinical Psychology Research Group Seminar
School of Psychology, University of Newcastle

Clarifying the Associations between Psychopathy and Individual Differences in Attachment 

The H&CPRG are pleased to present this invited seminar on the links between attachment and psychopathy. All welcome.

Date: 6th September
Time: 12 noon
Place: The Keats Room (AVLG17), Callaghan Campus (video to Ourimbah Science Offices).


Psychopathy is a construct characterised by a constellation of affective, interpersonal and behavioural features and is known for it's socially disruptive nature. However, despite the interpersonal destructive nature of psychopathy, there is limited information regarding how this construct relates interpersonally to others. One theory which could be useful in understanding not only the interpersonal processes of psychopathy, but potentially its etiology, is attachment theory. While a small literature regarding the association between psychopathy and attachment has been developed in recent years, there have been a number methodological issues which has made it difficult to clearly understand the relationship between attachment and psychopathy. To this end, we conducted a series of studies in university and community populations to understand the relationship between psychopathy and individual difference in general attachment style and attachment styles in specific normative attachment relationships. Our results suggest that there are consistent associations between individual differences in attachment styles and psychopathy, which tend to differ depending on the attachment dimension, component of psychopathy or specific attachment relationship under consideration. Our results are supportive of the application of attachment theory to understand the interpersonal processes of psychopathy and provide preliminary support for further consideration of attachment theory in the etiology of psychopathy.


Elliott Christian is a registered psychologist and has recently completed his Clinical PhD at the Australian National University. His research focuses on the associations between psychopathy and attachment and he has published several articles on topic, including individual differences in attachment and psychopathy and the psychometric properties of psychopathy scales.