Thursday, 23 June 2016

Psychology seminar by Prof. Brian D'Onofrio: How Can Translational Epidemiology Inform Clinical Psychology?

The Cognitive Psychology Research Group, in conjunction with the Health and Clinical Research Group, is proud to host a seminar by visiting researcher Professor Brian D'Onofrio.

Dr. Brian D’Onofrio is Professor and Director of Clinical Training in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Indiana University. His research, rooted in the field of developmental psychopathology, explores the etiology and treatment of psychological problems using advanced statistical and epidemiological methods. In particular, he studies the processes that underlie the association between putative risk/protective factors and psychological problems using (1) large datasets; (2) family-based or quasi-experimental designs; and (3) longitudinal analyses.

If you would like to arrange a meeting with Professor D'Onofrio during his visit, please email Ami Eidels at

Details of the seminar are as follows:

TITLE: How Can Translational Epidemiology Inform Clinical Psychology?

WHEN: Thursday 30th June 12-1pm.

WHERE: Keats Reading Room, AVLG17.

ABSTRACT: Recent reviews stress how little we know about the true causes of psychopathology because research is stuck in the “risk factor” stage. Numerous risk factors are known to predict psychological problems, but the underlying causal mechanisms through which these factors influence individuals are not known. Specifically, it is unclear whether putative risk factors have a causal influence or whether part—or most—of the associations with these risks are due to alternative explanations, including confounding from genetic and environmental factors. This talk will illustrate how rigorous translational epidemiological approaches can help specify the processes underlying the associations between risk factors and psychological problems by testing competing, theory-driven hypotheses. In particular, the talk will provide examples of research on early risk factors (e.g., maternal smoking during pregnancy) and the treatment of ADHD (e.g., psychotropic medications).

Link to Dr. D'Onofrio's lab: 

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

The world renowned Biennale art festival reaches out to expertise in Animal Cognition from the UoN School of Psychology

On one of the first chilly winter afternoons in May this year, London-based artist and sculptor, Marco Chiandetti, and School of Psychology animal cogniton scientist, Dr Andrea Griffin, held a public discussion at the magnificant, recently renovated, Sydney Mortuary Station. In the presence of about 40 members of the public, Chiandetti and Griffin discussed the symbolic significance of birds in human culture alongside the biology, ecology and fate of the common myna in Australian society. The discussion provided a unique, relaxed and wonderful opportunity for science undertaken by the UoN School of Psychology in avian behaviour, cognition and ecology and that of other scientists to be shared with the larger public.

But what brought a scientist and an artist together to discuss such a seemingly odd topic at the Mortuary Station in Sydney?

The public discussion was one of a series of public talks organised in the context of the 20th Biennale of Sydney. The Biennale of Sydney was the first biennale to be established in the Asia-Pacific region. It provides an international platform for innovative contemporary art and, in 2014, it received over 665,000 visitors. In the 20th Biennale of Sydney, the exhibition took place at seven main venues convinced as ‘embassies of thought’. Mortuary Station was the Embassy of Transition, one of the leading non-museum venues of the Biennale of Sydney and the official site of Marco Chiandetti’s work.

When Mr Chiandetti first contacted Dr Griffin in June 2015, asking her to share her long-standing knowledge of the ecologically highly successful common myna, she thought that like often in her experience, he was mistaken. Surely, he actually wanted to know about the native noisy miner? But no, his interest was well and truly in the introduced myna. It soon became clear that the choice of this uniquely displaced avian species could not have been more appropriate choice as a vehicle for the symbolism of his art. Over the following 12 months, Dr Griffin helped guide the implementation of his creation.

For the 20th Biennale of Sydney: The Future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed, Chandetti designed an installation that took the form of a series of sculptural aviary structures inhabited by common mynas. The temporary exhibition of myna birds at Mortuary Station was designed to raise a greater social consciousness about our contemporary condition in relation to the excessive expansion of human population, prompting audiences to reconsider the way we perceive such a resilient species. It was encouraging to discover in the Q&A session that the public had interest in both the artistic exemplars as well as the biology, behavior and science of common mynas.

Friday, 10 June 2016

UoN Psychology alumnus awarded prestigious prize

Dr. Chris Donkin, who earned his PhD in the Newcastle Cognition Lab, has just been awarded one of the most prestigious awards for young researchers in our field, the Early Career Award from the Psychonomic Society:

Chris is currently a staff member and an ARC Early Career research fellow at the University of New South Wales, where he studies cognitive psychology, and in particular computational and mathematical models of cognitive processes.

Congratulations Chris!

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Seminar by A/Prof Richard O'Kearney - Identifying heterogeneity in childhood OCD and disruptive disorder

The Health and Clinical Psychology Research Group presents a seminar by A/Prof Richard O'Kearney

Research School of Psychology, ANU

Title: Identifying heterogeneity in childhood OCD and disruptive disorder: Theoretical and treatment implications.
When: 15th June 12 noon
Place: Keats Reading Room (AVLG 17). Video conferenced to Ourimbah science offices.

Abstract: Developmental psychopathology is currently being shaped by two key principles. The first is that to better understand the development of psychological disorders in children we need to know more about the nature of problem heterogeneity and what child factors account for this heterogeneity. Second, in order to achieve better treatment outcomes we need to better understand how contextual factors, particularly family processes, map onto this heterogeneity and how to modify our treatments accordingly. This presentation illustrates how these two issues play out in regard to paediatric OCD and childhood disruptive disorders. It examines the evidence for specific child factors in each of these disorders factors (dysregulated anger in paediatric OCD; low prosocial emotions in disruptive disorder) which predict responsiveness to the most effective psychological treatments (CBT with ERP for paediatric OCD; Parent Management training for Disruptive disorders). The presentation puts forward proposals about the underlying nature of these child factors and considers the evidence for these proposals. These child factors impact on and interact with family functioning and relationship quality within the family. These considerations lead to suggestions about how to modify the most effective psychological treatments for paediatric OCD and disruptive disorders in order to enhance the outcomes for all children with these disorders.

Bio: Associate Professor Richard O’Kearney is a senior research fellow with the Research School of Psychology at the Australian National University. His primary area of research is developmental psychopathology with major research streams in emotion development; language and psychopathology, preventing mental health problems in children and adolescence, post-traumatic adjustment and narrative processes, and paediatric obsessive compulsive disorder. He has a strong interest in evidence-based practice and using evidence about variability in treatment efficacy to better understand the nature of the development of childhood disorders and to enhance the efficacy of our treatment.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Seminar by Dr Paul Atkins - PROSOCIAL: Enhancing psychological flexibility in groups to improve cooperation

The Health and Clinical Psychology Research Group presents 

A seminar by Dr Paul Atkins

ACU Institute for Positive Psychology and Education

Title: PROSOCIAL: Enhancing psychological flexibility in groups to improve cooperation
Date: Wednesday 8th June 12 noon
Place: Keats Room (AVLG17) - Video conferenced to Ourimbah Science Offices

Abstract: PROSOCIAL is a process for improving co-operation among people. It is built on strong foundations – drawing upon Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), evolutionary theory of group selection, and the Nobel prize winning work of Elinor Ostrom exploring how groups successfully manage common-pool resources. Cooperation is often undermined by avoidance of aversive experience, and the tensions between individual and collective interests. PROSOCIAL relies upon first building psychological flexibility, perspective taking and trust in the group using techniques deriving from ACT, and then proceeds to explore eight aspects of group functioning: purpose and identity, equity, decision making, tracking behaviour, sanctions for misbehaviour, conflict management, autonomy to act and relations with other groups. In this talk, I will describe the principles informing PROSOCIAL and give a very brief experiential introduction to the process. I expect this talk will be of interest to anyone working with people to improve relationships. More information about PROSOCIAL is available at and

Bio: Dr. Paul Atkins is a Senior Research Fellow with the Institute for Positive Psychology and Education at the Australian Catholic University. He holds grants exploring the processes influencing stress and wellbeing in the NSW Police force, the hospital system and among school principals. He is an endorsed Organisational Psychologist. His research focuses upon the impacts of compassion, mindfulness, values and identity upon relationships and wellbeing. Paul has extensive experience teaching and researching mindfulness based treatments such as Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). His work draws primarily upon contextual-behavioural thinking such as Relational Frame Theory and he is President Elect of the Australia and New Zealand Association for Contextual Behavioural Science – the peak body for ACT. Recent publications include a mixed method approach to measuring mindfulness and values-based living in natural language texts (Atkins & Styles, 2016, "Measuring psychological flexibility in what people say: A behavioral measure of self-discrimination predicts wellbeing." Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science) and an edited volume with CUP called “Mindfulness in Organisations” (