Friday, 27 September 2013

Good News from the School

We are now well into the year and the Good News keeps on coming. Our new Head of School, Simon Dennis, has settled in and making is mark on the direction of the School.

Student News

Thesis Outcome

Melissa Prince Has received the outcome of her thesis and has been invited to lodge an electronic copy on NOVA. After this her qualification of PhD (Psychology) will be formalised

Elise Mansfield – Awaiting formal approval from Office of Graduate Studies and then invitation to lodge an electronic copy on NOVA. After this her qualification of PhD (Psychology) will be formalised   

The following Masters of Clinical Psychology students have had their thesis accepted and are awaiting formal awarding of their degree

Eliose Fallon and Lisa Phillips

Submission of Thesis

Toni Metelerkamp has submitted her thesis for examination for the degree of Doctor of Clinical and Health Psychology

Scholarships and funding

Amy-Lee Seward won the first Seascape & Beyond scholarship for honours research on suicide prevention.

Chloe Britts, honours student, won a Shaping Futures scholarship.
Student publications

Clinical doctorate candidate Owen Lello, supervised by Dr Keith Harris, has just published his first paper.

Cocchiniab, G., Lello, O., McIntoshc, R. D., & Della Salac, S. (2013). Phantabulation: A case of visual imagery interference on visual perception. Neurocase: The Neural Basis of Cognition. doi: 10.1080/13554794.2013.826689

Staff News

Our academics to have been busy with numerous publications and other achievements. These include:

Fellow of the Social Sciences Academy

Emeritus Professor Pat Michie has been elected a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia. Election to the Academy is a great honour and recognition by your peers, but also as an opportunity to contribute to the important work of the Academy in promoting the advancement of the social sciences. Congratulations Pat.

Promotion and Secondment

Deb Hodgson has received a promotion to Professor and is undertaking a secondment to Acting PVC Research position.

Invitation to join NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Suicide Prevention
 Dr Keith Harris has been invited to join the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Suicide Prevention (CRESP) . Dr Harris is active in suicide prevention research and is currently working with other investigators at CRESP to improve our understanding of suicide-risk individuals and how information technologies can be employed to help prevent and treat suicidal behaviours


Mark Rubin has been awarded the Australian Government’s Office for Teaching and Learning (2013) Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning.

Media and Community

Former Student, Sharna Jamadar has been selected as one of the finalists for the University of Newcastle 2013 Young Alumni Award. The recipient will be announced at the University of Newcastle Alumni Awards gala dinner on Tuesday 22 October at Newcastle City Hall.

Peter Walla was invited by Sanitarium (food company) to talk about neuroconsulting, in particular affective neuroscience relevant to the industry.

International Profile

Cornelia Herbert, a very active early career researcher from Germany (emotion and the self) visited in August.

Refereed Journal Articles

Published Articles

Greig, A. J., Patterson, A. J., Collins, C. E. &  Chalmers, K. A. (2013). Iron deficiency, cognition, mental health and fatigue in women of childbearing age: a systematic review. Journal of Nutritional Science, vol. 2, e14. doi:10.1017/jns.2013.7

Guez, D. (2013). Henry et al. (2012) homing failure formula, assumptions, and basic mathematics: a comment. Frontiers in Physiology, 4. doi:10.3389/fphys.2013.00142
Mavratzakis, A. , Molloy, E. & Walla, P. (2013). Modulation of the Startle Reflex during Brief and Sustained Exposure to Emotional Pictures. Psychology, 4, 389-395.

Walla, P. , Rosser, L. , Scharfenberger, J. , Duregger, C. & Bosshard, S. (2013). Emotion Ownership: Different Effects on Explicit Ratings and Implicit Responses. Psychology, 4, 213-216.

Guez, D., and Audley, C. (2013). Transitive or Not: A Critical Appraisal of Transitive Inference in Animals. Ethology 119, 703–726.

In Press Articles

Hawkins, G. E., Marley, A. A. J., Heathcote, A., Flynn, T. N., Louviere, J. J., & Brown, S. D. (in press) Integrating cognitive process and descriptive models of attitudes and preferences. Cognitive Science

Timora, J.R. and Budd, T.W. (In Press) Dissociation of Psychophysical and EEG Steady-State Response Measures of Cross-Modal Temporal Correspondence for Amplitude Modulated Acoustic and Vibrotactile Stimulation. International Journal of Psychophysiology.

Justin Timora (Bill Budd) and Guy Hawkins (Andrew Heathcote) are PhD students (Guy has submitted and is awaiting examiners reports)

Book Chapters 

Peter Walla and Jaak Panksepp (2013). Neuroimaging Helps to Clarify Brain Affective Processing Without Necessarily Clarifying Emotions, Novel Frontiers of Advanced Neuroimaging, Prof. Kostas Fountas (Ed.), ISBN: 978-953-51-0923-5, InTech, DOI: 10.5772/51761. Available from:

Peter Walla, Aimee Mavratzakis and Shannon Bosshard (2013). Neuroimaging for the Affective Brain Sciences, and Its Role in Advancing Consumer Neuroscience, Novel Frontiers of Advanced Neuroimaging, Prof. Kostas Fountas (Ed.), ISBN: 978-953-51-0923-5, InTech, DOI: 10.5772/51042. Available from:
(Shannon Bosshard and Aimee Mavratzakis are Peter’s PhD students)


Chalmers, K. A. & Karayanidis, F. (2013). Assessment of Children's Working Memory. NSW TechVouchers Scheme & ebilities Pty Ltd, $29,662.

Chalmers, K. A. & Karayanidis, F. (2013). Assessment of Children's Working Memory. Faculty of Science & IT SIRF Grant, $8,495.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

JUST PUBLISHED: Your Mind is Always Spinning!

When you see a spoon upside down you do not need to mentally rotate it back to the right way up to know it is a spoon… do you? It is more likely you remember instances when you saw a spoon upside-down and know it is still a spoon. When you see unfamiliar objects upside-down (like my face) you need to return that object to the correct orientation to know whether or not it is the same object, or slightly different.

When we practice mentally manipulating objects in our environment we often see a marked improvement in our ability, we are faster and more accurate. This could be due to increased exposure to those familiar objects or improvement in our ability to mentally manipulate those objects.

In an attempt to describe these two forms of mastery, we (Provost, Johnson, Karayanidis, Brown & Heathcote, 2013) investigated the brain activity of people before and after training in a mental rotation task. When you rotate objects in your mind your brain activity changes and when you rotate an object more this mental rotation related activity increases.

When you have a small number of objects to spatially manipulate, people no longer rotate stimuli in their mind; instead they remember the different orientations of the objects. However, when there is a large number of objects, because it is not possible to remember all of them, improvement come from more efficient spatial cognition characterized by mental rotation related brain activity!

For more information, please see the following journal article:

Provost, A., Johnson, B., Karayanidis, F., Brown, S. D., & Heathcote, A. (2013). Two Routes to Expertise in Mental Rotation Cognitive Science, 37 (7), 1321-1342


Monday, 23 September 2013

Colloquium talk: Dr. Sirous Mobini on treating social anxiety using cognitive bias modification.

The School of Psychology is proudly hosting a talk by Dr. Sirous
Mobini (School of Psychology, University of Newcastle).

TITLE: Cognitive Bias Modification for Social Anxiety: From Basic
Science Research to Clinical Practice

SUMMARY: Cognitive theories of social anxiety indicate that negative
cognitive biases play a key role in causing and maintaining social
anxiety (Clark & Wells, 1995; Rapee & Heimberg, 1997). Cognitive Bias
Modification (CBM) methods have emerged from the basic science
laboratory research to modify negative interpretative and attentional
biases in anxiety and reduce emotional vulnerability (Mathews and
Mackintosh, 2000; MacLeod, et al., 2009). The results from three CBM
studies conducted in the UK, Iran, and Australia have shown that the
CBM program reduced negative interpretative biases and social anxiety
symptoms in samples of non-clinical socially-anxious individuals. All
these studies consisted of a follow-up period lasting from 1 – 7 weeks
and the results showed that these positive effects were sustained up
to 6 weeks period. Although existing treatment approaches such as
cognitive-behavioural therapy explicitly target cognitive biases, CBM
offers an alternative approach that may be less time-consuming and
require significantly less therapist involvement (Mobini et al.,
2012). However, the clinical efficacy of this method for anxiety
disorders has yet to be established in light of disorder-specific
models and individual differences in clinical presentations.

BIOGRAPHY: Sirous completed his doctoral training in clinical psychology at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in the UK. Prior to this Sirous obtained his MSc in clinical
Psychology from Tehran Institute of Psychiatry, Iran and worked as an academic and clinical psychologist for 10 years before moving to the United Kingdom in 1997. Sirous completed his PhD in Neuropsychology at the University of Nottingham (2001) and worked as a Postdoc Research Fellow in two UK leading universities (Sussex and Birmingham) for 6 years. Sirous also completed an MSc degree in Cognitive-Behaviour therapy (CBT) at the University of Brighton and is an accredited CBT psychotherapist with the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies. He is also an Associate Fellow (AFBPsP) of the British Psychological Society and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (UK). After completion of his doctoral degree, for 2 years Sirous worked in the mental health, stroke and brain injury services and as a clinical lecturer at UEA before moving to Newcastle. His current research interests fall broadly within the experimental psychopathology, computerised interventions for anxiety disorders and neuropsychology. 

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Are we Hares or Tortoises? Examining the Speed-Accuracy Tradeoff

New staff member Dr Don van Ravenzwaaij talks about his recent research:
In everyday life, we are constantly confronted with situations that require a quick and accurate action or decision. Examples include mundane tasks such as doing the dishes (we do not want to break china, but we also do not want to spend the next hour polishing), but also more serious activities, such as performing a test. For these actions, there exists a tradeoff, such that more speed comes at the expense of more errors. This phenomenon is called the speed-accuracy tradeoff.

In psychology, we study the speed-accuracy tradeoff by having participants repeatedly make a decision between two alternatives as quickly and accurately as possible. Conclusions from the data of these tasks are often based on the mean response time and the percentage of correct responses. These measures, however, do not speak directly to underlying psychological processes.

In order to draw conclusions about these unobserved processes, one should use a mathematical process model, such as the drift diffusion model (DDM; see Figure 1). The DDM decomposes response time distributions into their constituent components, such as the speed of information processing, response caution, and time needed for non-decision processes (i.e., response execution).

Figure 1
In my research, I have used the DDM to demonstrate that the effects of alcohol on response times lead to a deterioration in cognitive performance before motor processes are impaired (van Ravenzwaaij, Dutilh, & Wagenmakers, 2012). I have applied the DDM to the Implicit Association Test, designed to measure racial prejudice, and concluded that the effect measured by this test is in fact not driven by racial prejudice, but by ingroup/outgroup status (van Ravenzwaaij, van der Maas, & Wagenmakers, 2011, see Psychology Today for coverage in the popular media). Using the DDM, I have also demonstrated that playing action video games does not lead to faster information processing, despite claims to the contrary in the popular media (van Ravenzwaaij et al., 2013).

For more information on these and other research projects, please visit my website: or contact me at

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Hunter New England Health Psychology Conference - ‘Promoting Clinical Excellence and Culturally Respectful Practices’

The 2013 Hunter New England Health Psychology Conference is presented in collaboration with the University of Newcastle’s School of Psychology.

Keynote Speakers:
  • Prof. Judy Atkinson - Working with Indigenous Children: Developmental Trauma in Children Living in Complex Trauma Environments
  •  Dr Lawrence Dadd and Toni Manton - Working Together to Close The Gap: How Can Psychologists and Psychiatrists Help?

  • Speculation on the Mechanisms of Change in Psychotherapy: What Actually Helps Clients Get Better Dr Nick Bendit
  • Capacity Assessments Claudia Kraiuhin
  • Tricky Conversations: Working From Taboo to Explicit to Safe Well-being with Children Under 10 with Problematic Sexualised Behaviours - Tim Hawes and Eleanor Spence
  • Drawing The Line: Challenges and Adventures in Psychology/Clinical Psychology Assessment and Diagnosis – Dr Sean Halpin
  • Newcastle-Led Research on Aboriginal Wellbeing Dr Stefania Paolini, Dr Mark Lock & Dr Josephine Gwynn
  • Addictive Logic David Bonsor
  • Wong-ghu Connecting with Aboriginal Teenagers and Carers Joh Bartley, Charlie Faulkner, Jude Payling and Mary Watson
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) With Complex Clients Brendon Knott
  • Treating Somatoform Disorders From a Psychologist’s Perspective Ben Britton
  •  Exploring Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence in the Legal and Workplace Settings Martina Zangger & Kylie Whitford 
  • What Works in Psychotherapy?: Performing at the Top of Your Game David Porter 
  • Working with Children: An Interactive Process to Clarify Concepts of Indigenous Healing Practice (Educaring) Prof. Judy Atkinson

Date: Friday 15th November

Venue: Brennan Room, University of Newcastle, Callaghan Campus

Cost: HNE Health Psychologists - $20 (pay on the day)
Psychology Academic Staff and Psychology Students - $20 (pay on the day)
Non-HNE Health Psychologists - $150 (pay with registration)

** Morning tea, lunch, and afternoon tea will be provided**

Registration packages, including workshop synopses will be available soon. Please contact A/Prof Tanya Hanstock ( for further details.