Monday, 27 April 2015

School’s social psychologist helps bridging Australasia and North America into the future

On April 7th, 2015, Dr Stefania Paolini from UON School of Psychology had the pleasure to officially inaugurate a new small group conference series jointly sponsored by the Society for Australasian Social Psychologists (SASP) and the largest professional society of social scientists in the world, (American-led) Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (or SPSSI). The small group meeting is aimed at facilitating research cross-pollination and research training around areas of mutual interest of the two societies. It is expected to gather 20-30 senior and junior scholars from Australasia and North America and take place yearly in alternate geographical locations.

The inaugural SASP-SPSSI small group conference meeting was held in Brisbane on the topic of ‘Collective harmdoing’. It gathered prominent social psychologists: John Dixon (Open University, UK) and Daniel Bar-Tal (Tel-Aviv University, Israel), Jolanda Jetten, and Alex Haslam (UQ, Australia). Stefania, as co-chair of SPSSI internationalisation committee and SASP representative, has been the main driver in the establishment of this new scheme. Her opening words were nicely complemented by a video message to the conference delegates by SPSSI President, Alice Eagly, and the 15+ people SPSSI council.

Stefania was also asked to open the scientific program of the meeting with an overview of her programmatic work on valence asymmetry in intergroup relations. This line of research indicates that, while positive interactions between members of opposing groups bring about positive outcomes (less prejudice, more trust etc.), negative interactions have a disproportionately larger (detrimental) impact—the so called ‘negative valence asymmetry’. Her presentation included recently published findings suggesting that individuals’ positive and diverse histories of contact with members of opposing groups can lessen the impact of these negative asymmetries even in conflict-ridden settings, like Cyprus or Northern Ireland. These asymmetries are further diluted by the greater prevalence of positive (vs. negative) contact in most people’s ordinary life experiences. If you want to know more about these findings, see: Paolini, Harwood, Rubin, Husnu, Joyce, & Hewstone here  and Graf, Paolini, & Rubin here.  

Negative valence asymmetries: A case of negative being louder than positive in intergroup relations

Friday, 24 April 2015

UON 50 Year Anniversary Graduate Parade

I had the great pleasure of taking part in the graduation parade and ceremony held on Thursday 16th April. There was a parade through town and the graduation ceremony in the Civic Theatre to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of UoN. I was very happy  to take part in the academic procession and I got to wear the Doctorate of Clinical Psychology gown from UoN which matched our students' gowns. We had the Doctorate of Clinical and Doctorate of Clinical and Health Psychology students receiving their degrees. They, and the University Medal winners, were also the only graduates who were in the academic procession with the staff, VC and Chancellor and also got to sit on the stage. It was a lovely day and the DPSYC students felt very special. It was such a big turn out during the parade and the civic theatre was full.
Happy Days - Congratulations!!

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Predicting responses from MEG-recorded brain activity: A talk by Tijl Grootswagers, J. Brendan Ritchie, and Thomas Carlson (from Macquarie University).

The Cognitive Research Group is proud to host a talk by our visitors from Macquarie University:

Predicting Reaction Times from the Emerging Representation of Degraded Visual Objects.

Tijl Grootswagers, J. Brendan Ritchie, and Thomas Carlson
Macquarie University

ABSTRACT: Object recognition is fast and reliable, and works even when our eyes are focused elsewhere. The aim of our study was to examine how the visual system compensates for degraded inputs in object recognition by looking at the time course of the brain's processing of naturally degraded visual object stimuli. In Experiment 1, we degraded the images by varying the simulated focus so that each image was equally recognizable. In Experiment 2, subjects categorized intact and degraded images, while their brain activity was recorded using magnetoencephalography (MEG). As expected, reaction times for the task were slower for the degraded object stimuli. We assessed several neurally-based models to explain this reaction time difference, including distance-based models, which predict reaction times using distance from a decision bound through neural activation space. We found that the distance-based models were the best predictors, which we also related to the linear ballistic accumulator (LBA) model of choice and reaction time behaviour.

WHEN: Thursday 16th April, 12-1pm.

WHERE: Aviation Building, room AVLG17, with audiovisual link to Ourimbah Science Offices.