Sunday, 26 March 2017

The School of Psychology hosts Prof Mary Peterson (object perception, gender equity in science)

The Faculty of Science/School of Psychology’s Equity and Diversity Group and the Cognitive Research Group are very proud to host two presentations by Professor Mary Peterson from the University of Arizona:
a science talk on object perception (Thursday 30 March) and a seminar + Q&A session on gender equity in science (Friday 31 March).

Presentation 1: Towards a New Understanding of Object Perception.

WHEN: Thursday 30 March, 12-1pm.

WHERE: Keats reading room, AVLG17.

Visual perception was long understood as a serial feedforward process in which, at a very early stage of processing, borders between regions in the visual input were assigned as bounding contours to the region on one side; this constituted object detection (aka figure assignment). The other region, lacking a shaping contour, was perceived as a locally shapeless ground to the object. On this feedforward view, object memories and semantics were accessed only after object detection occurred and only for objects ("figures"), not for grounds. Research in my laboratory shows that this traditional view is incorrect, and favors the alternative view that before object detection, a fast pass of processing activates multiple possible object hypotheses that could fit both sides of borders. These hypotheses compete for perception at high (e.g., perirhinal cortex of the MTL) and low (V1 and V2) levels of the visual hierarchy. The winner is detected/perceived; the loser is suppressed. In my talk, I will review some history and then summarize six recent experiments consistent with the view that object detection occurs via hierarchical Bayesian inference.

Presentation 2: Gender Equity in Science.

WHEN: Friday 31 March, 12-1pm.

WHERE: Keats reading room, AVLG17.

A short seminar on gender equity in science followed by an extended Q&A session on this and related topics. 

Professor Peterson has extensive experience in this area: she is one of the founding organizers of "Females of Vision, et al" (FoVea, founded in 2016), whose goal is to enhance the success of women in vision science; she secured a grant from the National Science Foundation to support FoVea's activities (2016 – 2019). She has been a member of the advisory board of Women in Cognitive Science ( since its
inception in 2000, and more.

FREE LIGHT LUNCH will be provided following the Q&A session.

If you would like to meet with Professor Peterson during her visit to UON on Thursday 30 or Friday 31 March, please email your preferred time and day to

Friday, 17 March 2017

Public Lecture at Maitland City Library

What is happiness anyway? A psychological and personal perspective.

Associate Professor Ross Wilkinson, PhD MAPS MCCLP

Date: 21st March 2017

Time: 6:00pm

Venue: Maitland City Library

What it is to be happy has been a topic of philosophical debate for over 2500 years. In this talk I will briefly outline the history of this debate and then focus on the recent contributions of psychology to this question. With the upsurge of interest in ‘positive’ psychology, research attention has turned to happiness and the factors that influence it. I will present an overview of the psychological approach to happiness as ‘wellbeing’ and show how subjective happiness varies around the world. The major factors that research has identified as contributing to both current happiness and a deeper and longer-lasting well-being will be discussed. Evidence-informed, practical strategies for increasing your own happiness and that of others will be presented.

Associate Professor Ross Wilkinson is an academic and clinical psychologist based in the School of Psychology at the University of Newcastle where he is the Head of the Health and Clinical Psychology Research Group. He has over 25 years’ experience in both research and practice in psychology and has a long-standing interest in positive psychology. He has a research program focussed on the link between relationships and mental health and runs the Relationships and Psychological Health Laboratory (RaphLab). His other research interests include attachment, mindfulness, and perinatal mental health.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

UoN School of Psychology ranked among the top 150 world-wide (QS ranking)

Well done to us!.. our report card should say ‘consistent improvement, highly promising’!

In 2014, we were 19th in the Top 50 Under 50, but then we grew up and had to start playing in the big kids sandpit.
In 2015, we didn’t make it into the Top 200.
We crawled into the scale in 2016, when we were ranked in the Top 200 (151-200 range).
And, 2017 saw us jump up a notch into the Top 150 – really in there with the big kids now!

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

SOPRG PRESENTATION on trauma, self-growth, and social identity resources on Tue 21/03/17

The School of Psychology's Social and Organisational Psychology research group is proud of inviting you to a research presentation by Prof Orla Muldoon, University of Limerick, Ireland., on Tuesday 21st of March, 12-1pm, Keats reading room, Aviation building, Callaghan (video conferenced to Ourimbah Science Offices Seminar room).

PRESENTATION TITLE: ‘Healing ourselves’:  Negotiating psychological stress & trauma using shared social identities 

ABSTRACT: Conceptualisations of stress and psychological trauma largely rely on individualistic models of resilience and vulnerability.  This presentation will briefly outline the conceptual model that highlights a collective approach to stress and trauma. Specifically the role of  shared social identities and associated identity resources on adjustment to stress and trauma is outlined.  Using data from lab work, the impact of group membership on cardiac reactivity during the Trier Stress test it outlined.  Subsequently the role of identity resources in ameliorating post-traumatic stress in  post-conflict Northern Ireland and post-earthquake Nepal is outlined.  Finally the potential for identity resources to promote adjustment and adaptation to trauma is considered. First by considering role of social identity resources in promoting post traumatic growth  and  second  by presenting evidence of the positive  consequences of a collective crowd experience for those bereaved by suicide.  Discussion of the findings orient to the potential for this approach to support recovery and adjustment for those affected by trauma.

BIOGRAPHY: Orla Muldoon is Professor of Psychology at University of Limerick Ireland where she is also Director of the Centre for Social Issues Research.  She has a long standing interest in the role of group related experiences and identities on health and social development. She has published more than 70 papers on this topic subsequent to completing her  PhD on the impact of political violence n childhood in Queens University Belfast, Northern Ireland.  She is current editor of Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology and Co-editor of Political Psychology.  She is currently on sabbatical in Brisbane and Is keen to meet Australian colleagues as this is her first visit here.

If interested in a one-to-one meeting with Prof Muldoon around her visit, please contact her SOPRG host at to make arrangements.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

JUST PUBLISHED: Age, Cognitive Decline, and Brain's White Matter

New research at UON’s Functional Neuroimaging Laboratory (FNL) has been featured in the latest issue of Research Australia’s online magazine, which showcases health and medical research (Insight, 2017, Issue 4, p. 14-15). 

Dr Todd Jolly’s PhD research indicates that the effects of cardiovascular health on cognition may be greater than the effects of age per se. This work was performed under the supervision of Associate Professor Frini Karayanidis within UON’s Priority Research Centre for Stroke and Brain Injury. The findings suggest the relationship between age and cognitive decline could be explained by brain white matter health. Moreover, older people who reported one or more cardiovascular risk factors show greater decline in brain white matter health and cognition than older adults with no risk factors. This work has implications for prevention of cognitive decline and theories of cognitive ageing. 

Friday, 10 March 2017

If Collectivists like Social Groups, and Cities are Social Groups, do Collectivists like Cities?

Do you like the place where you live? Maybe it's got great architecture, it's clean and crime free, the housing is cheap, and/or the nightlife is good? But maybe your liking for the place is also related to something else - your own tendency to identify with social groups? In some recent research, my colleagues and I investigated this issue by considering the relations between collectivism, city identification, and city evaluation.

Collectivism is a sociocultural orientation towards perceiving the self and others as belonging to social groups, and it influences the extent to which people identify with social groups. The more collectivist you are, the more strongly you identify with social groups.  Prior research has found that people who identify strongly with a place tend to like that place more. Hence, it is possible that people who are relatively high in collectivism identify strongly with the place that they live and, consequently, evaluate that place more positively.

To investigate this possibility, my colleagues and I sampled 1,660 residents of four cities in three countries: Newcastle, Australia; Sydney, Australia; Paris, France; and Istanbul, Turkey. Participants completed an online survey containing measures of collectivism, city identification, and city evaluation. We found that, within each city sample and across the combined samples, a specific measure of collectivism called collective interdependent self-construal was positively related to city evaluation. We also found that city identification mediated this relation. Hence, people's general tendency to construe social groups as part of their self (collectivism; e.g., “The groups I belong to are an important reflection of who I am”) predicted their level of identification with their city (city identification; e.g., "I identify with other people living in Sydney"), which in turn helped to explain their positive appraisal of that city (city evaluation).

A key limitation of our research is that it employed a cross-sectional correlational design, which prevented us from drawing clear conclusions about the causal direction of the relations that we observed. Future research should employ a longitudinal research design in order to provide clearer conclusions on this issue.

The present research results imply that the social psychological group processes that are responsible for people's identification with and evaluation of social groups based on gender, ethnicity, nationality, etc. may also apply to cities because, at their base, cities are social groups.

For further information please see the following journal article:

Rubin, M., Badea, C., Condie, J., Mahfud, Y., Morrison, T., & Peker, M. (2017). Individual differences in collectivism predict city identification and city evaluation in Australian, French, and Turkish cities Journal of Environmental Psychology, 50, 9-16 DOI:

For a self-archived version, please click here.  

Thursday, 9 March 2017

EQUITY&DIVERSITY SERIES: Benefits and risks of positive and negative intergroup interactions (Tue, 14/3, 12-1pm)

The School of Psychology's Social and Organisational Psychology research group is proud of inviting you to a research presentation by Dr Lydia Hayward, UNSW, on Tuesday 14th March 12-1pm, Keats reading room, Aviation building, Callaghan (video conferenced to Ourimbah Science Offices Seminar room). This presentation is part of our Equity and Diversity Series.

PRESENTATION TITLE: When and how does negative contact with outgroup members harm intergroup relations more than positive contact helps it?

ABSTRACT: Over 60 years of research has shown that positive interactions between members of different groups can reduce prejudice, however recent evidence suggests that negative contact may be having a stronger impact on intergroup relations, increasing prejudice more than positive contact is reducing prejudice (positive-negative contact asymmetry). In this talk, I will discuss several studies investigating: 1) the causal nature of these relationships; 2) whether this asymmetry also exists for racial minority group members; 3) how negative contact might work to increase prejudice; 4) whether negative contact has a potentially constructive influence on social change; and 5) how past contact experiences may colour the lens through which current real-world conflict is perceived. Results' implications for recent debates over prejudice reduction as a method of social change.

BIOGRAPHY: Lydia Hayward completed her PhD at the University of Queensland in 2016 and is now a postdoctoral researcher at UNSW working with Associate Professor Lenny Vartanian. She studies the predictors and consequences of prejudice and stigma. Currently, she is investigating how weight stigma experiences affect body image and motivation to engage in weight loss behaviours among people who are overweight and obese. During her PhD, she focused on the predictors of prejudice, understanding how positive and negative interactions with people from other racial groups predicts racism, intergroup emotions, and participation in collective action among members of advantaged and disadvantaged groups.

If interested in a one-to-one meeting with Dr Hayward around her visit, please contact her SOPRG host at to make arrangements.

Monday, 6 March 2017

UoN to host the Experimental Psychology Conference (EPC) 2017

EPC is the annual meeting of the Australasian Society for Experimental Psychology. This meeting provides a forum for presenting new research across the broad spectrum of experimental psychology.

EPC has been held annually since the first meeting at Monash University in 1974. In large part, both the meeting and the Australasian Society for Experimental Psychology owe their existence to the leadership of Emeritus Professor Ross Day. This debt is acknowledged by the naming of the annual plenary lecture, given by a luminary of the society.

This year, EPC will be hosted by the School of Psychology of the University of Newcastle. The conference will take place in the Ramada Resort Shaol Bay, Wed 19/4 - Sat 22/4. Abstract deadline is coming very soon, March 10, 2017.

The organizing committee is delighted to announce that the plenary lecture will be given by Prof Andrew Heathcote, currently at the University of Tasmania, but a novocastrian at heart. Prof Heathcote is a world leader in the study of memory and decision-making models. He held full time positions at the UoN School of Psychology since 1991, and had been awarded the lucrative Australian Professorial Fellowship. He holds positions at both UTas and UoN.

Further details, links, and contacts can be found in the formal EPC-2017 webpage, here.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Researchers from UoN presented their work at the annual Mathematical Society meeting

Students and Staff from the School of Psychology at the University of Newcastle presented their research last week, at the annual meeting of the Australian Society of Mathematical Society, hosted in Brisbane by the University of Queensland.

Laura Wall, Zach Howard, and Paul Garrett from the University of Newcastle were among Research Higher Degree students from all over the world, presenting their research and furiously debating about LBA, SFT and other acronyms.