Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Animal cognition in a human-dominated world: Dr Andrea Griffin and co-editors from the University of Vienna bring to fruition the first special edition of the journal Animal Cognition.

A team of three co-editors led by Dr Andrea Griffin from the UoN School of Psychology has just completed the first special edition of the journal Animal Cognition on the topical issue of animal cognition in a human-dominated world. The special issue features 11 new studies showcasing new research findings and ideas within the field of animal cognition & Human induced fast environmental change (HIREC), introduced by an editorial piece by Griffin and her co-editors highlighting the current state of the field. Although all the papers are now available online, the issue will receive an ‘official’ launch in January 2017 by the publisher Springer.

The special issue arose as a consequence a symposium entitled Human impact: Behavioural and cognitive responses to human-induced environmental change co-organised by a team of six national and international researchers including Griffin at the 2015 International Ethology Conference (IEC), one of the biggest scientific gatherings of behavioural biologists worldwide.

The special issue pays tribute to current changes in the field of animal cognition. Traditionally focused on studying general mechanisms in a handful of model lab species, the field is currently mutating to one examining how a diverse range of animal species use their mental capacities in real-life contexts. As questions about how animals perceive, process, store and use information they extract from their environment begin to capture the fascination of biologists, so too is the growing desire to study cognition in the context of fast environmental change. Most telling of this growing trend is the observation that the symposium organised by Griffin and her colleagues on behavioural and cognitive responses to human-induced environmental change was one of the two largest 2-15-IEC symposiums alongside another dedicated to Avian Cognition.

As human populations expand and spread, they change surrounding landscapes both near and far. Whereas some animals go extinct, unable to adjust to new challenges, others thrive in these new ecosystems, taking advantage of myriad novel, yet unoccupied ecological, opportunities. Whether animals adapt or disappear is strongly influenced by their mental machinery, argues Griffin et al. in their editorial piece, urging biologists versed in animal cognition to play a prominent role in future wildlife management research.

The special issue describes how species from butterflies, amphibians, fish, to birds, used their cognitive abilities to adjust to environmental change, including research undertaken in the School of Psychology on the learning abilities of the introduced common myna. The issue figures research on how cognition and brain development can be affected by pollution and temperature rise, but also how researchers can harness animals’ cognitive abilities to help them adjust.

Griffin and her co-editors predict a rich future of interaction between fundamental research in cognition and applied HIREC-related research. The 11 featured articles will provide a catalyst for further advancement in the field of cognition and HIREC in the years to come.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Public forum, Mon 28/11 6:30pm, John Hunter Hospital: "Can we benefit from technology without being driven to distraction?"

Centre for Brain and Mental Health Research Public Forum
Royal Newcastle Lecture Theatre, JHH Hospital
Monday, 28th November 2016
6.30pm to 8.30pm (Light refreshments provided)
Completely FREE!

The title of the forum is Can we benefit from technology without being driven to distraction? We have two speakers, David Strayer from the University of Utah and Keith Nesbitt from the University of Newcastle discussing their research and the implications of their research.

Feel free to circulate the information to any friends, family or groups who you think may be interested in attending. For more information, please contact Annalese Johnson – annalese.johnson@newcastle.edu.au

Professor David Strayer

Why talking to your car may be hazardous to your health 

Professor David Strayer is a cognitive psychologist at the University of Utah, and Director for the Prevention of Distracted Driving. Prof. David’s interests lie in examining the effects of distraction in numerous situations, such as using cell phones while driving. Prof David’s research has also been featured in Discover Magazine’s 100 Top Science Stories in 2003 and 2005.

Dr Keith Nesbitt

Future Training - Simulations, Serious Games, Ambient technologies, Augmented and Virtual Reality – How will the next generation learn to make decisions?

Dr Keith Nesbitt is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Design, Communication and IT at the University of Newcastle, Australia. Dr Keith’s main areas of expertise include Human Interface Design and Information Visualisation with a particular focus on Perception and Cognition related to Computer Games and Virtual Reality.

Monday, 14 November 2016

EQUITY & DIVERSITY SERIES: presentation on social cohesion and workshop on research & industry engagement

Join us for a research presentation and a research-industry workshop by Prof Kate Reynolds, Australian National University, on Thursday 24th of November.

RESEARCH PRESENTATION: From alienation to contact and inclusivity norms: Building social cohesion in ethnically diverse communities 
by Katherine J. Reynolds, Benjamin M. Jones, Kathleen Klik & Sarah McKenna (The Australian National University); Luisa Batalha (Australian Catholic University) & Emina Subasic (University of Newcastle)

Thursday 24th November, 10-11am: Keats reading room, Aviation building, Callaghan (video conferenced to Humanities room: HO1.43, Ourimbah)

With communities becoming increasingly diverse, governments are focused on the need to strengthen social cohesion. Recent "home-grown" terrorist events have re-energised debates about the consequences of discrimination, alienation and beliefs that the system is illegitimate (not working for "us" or "we" do not belong here). Social and political psychology have progressed our understanding of the dynamics of intergroup conflict and co-operation and its consequences for (il)legitimacy, prejudice, violence and social cohesion. Drawing on these insights an Australian Research Council Linkage grant in partnership with the Australian Department of Social Services investigated the predictors of social cohesion (e.g., community ethnic diversity, positive contact, sense of threat) and the impact of community-based interventions on social cohesion. Key findings are that (i) contact and threat mediate the relationship between neighbourhood ethnic diversity and social cohesion (offering an extension to Putnam, 2007) and (ii) inclusivity norms and social identity processes play an important role in explaining the impact of community programs. Implications of the findings for theory, research and community and national-level efforts to build social cohesion will be outlined.

WORKSHOP: Research and industry engagement: Psychology, behaviour and public policy
by Katherine J. Reynolds

Thursday 24th November, 12-2.30pm: Keats reading room, Aviation building, Callaghan (video conferenced to Humanities room: HO1.43, Ourimbah)

In this workshop new developments at the interface between psychology and public policy will be outlined such as increasing use by governments of behavioural insights or "nudge" units. The strengths, limitations and challenges of such developments will be examined. The implications for researchers who are increasingly being encouraged to consider the wider impact of their work will also be discussed.

Kate Reynolds is a Professor of Psychology at ANU with over 20 years experience in teaching and research supervision in social and organisational psychology. The broad research question that frames her work concerns the impact of groups and group norms on individual’s attitudes, well-being and behaviour. A group could be a team at work, an organisation such as a business or school, or an ethnic or national group so this research is relevant to many areas of psychology (education, organisational, political and social). 

Kate's research increasingly involves naturalistic settings such as organisations and community groups and she has lead several projects with Government in areas of ongoing school improvement through staff and student school climate and school identification (ARC Linkage with ACT Education Directorate), building community cohesion (ARC Linkage with Department of Social Services and formerly Department of Immigration and Citizenship) and the role of community norms in Cape York Welfare reform (Advisory role with Indigenous Affairs). 

She has experience in a number of leadership roles including as Associate Director (Engagement) in the Research School of Psychology (2015-2017), President of the International Society of Political Psychology (2016-2017), a member of journal Editorial Boards (e.g. Associate Editor, 2010-2012, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Co-editor Political Psychology, 2013-2015), and Chair of the ACT Education and Training Directorate Safe Schools Roundtable (2012-ongoing). She is also the incoming President of the Society of Australasian Social Psychologists (SASP 2017-2019).