Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Interested in the SPSSI-SASP Intergroup Contact Meeting, but cannot make it to the conference? Instructions for “Virtual” Delegates

2019 SPSSI/SASP group meeting on Intergroup contact to be held in Newcastle, Australia between Monday, 29th April and Wednesday, 1st May, 2019.

We are excited to update you on this peak international event led by UON School of Psychology and the Newcastle-Oxford Research Centre on Conflict and Cohesion.

For full information, please visit:

People who cannot make the conference in person have the option to watch and listen to the presentations live via zoom.

The conference program and ZOOM links/IDs can be found here:

To watch live, each session of the conference has a designated hyperlink (see program overview or abstract books) that you can use to join the conference (Australian Eastern Standard Time).

For instructions, please view the instructions here. You can either download Zoom or join via your browser. If you join from your browser, you will have to enter the nine digit meeting Zoom ID-Number.

When you join a session, your microphone will be muted automatically to reduce any feedback noise (from people joining and leaving the session). Questions immediately after each presentations will be taken only from the live audience at the conference venue. However, at the end of all sessions an extended Q and A will also include questions from the Zoom audience.

Hope to see many virtually then!

Stefania and the whole Scientific and Local Organising Committees

Monday, 8 April 2019

Animal psychology works to help design a drone to protect Hunter vineyards

Dr Andrea Griffin from the School of Psychology, expert in animal cognition, has been working with Sydney University School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering PhD candidate Zi Wang, his supervisor, Dr KC Wong, and Dr Andrew Lucas from Agent Oriented Software Pty Ltd to design an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) that mimics the behaviour of a bird of prey.

Dr Andrea Griffin has been studying how animals learn to recognise new dangers for 15 years. Her past work has included developing conditioning techniques for training endangered marsupials to recognise predators and studying how invasive birds learn to recognise traps and humans trapping them.

But now, she has put her expertise to a new use.

“We know from my work and that of many others that birds are very attuned to learning about new dangers, including new predators and dangerous places. Much of their learning occurs socially. In other words, they witness the fear reactions of other birds and learn to avoid associated stimuli. Fear reactions include alarm vocalisations. But learners need to see the cause of the alarm at the same time. For example, they have to see a human handling a bird and hear it alarm calling at the same time, then they will learn to avoid the human.”

“The issue with managing birds in vineyards is that they quickly habituate to scaring techniques, such as-powered thunderclap guns. This is also a highly generalizable stimulus because it is always identical, so once birds have learnt that nothing happens in one vineyard, they will also show no response in other vineyards. So, one potential solution is to add a new bird of prey to the community in which they live. Birds don’t habituate the birds of prey.”

By carrying a bird corpse and broadcasting distress calls, a signal that birds make when they are captured by a predator, the drone is designed to look like a bird of prey that has just caught another bird.

“Some species also respond very strongly to corpses of other birds and interpret these as danger. Although we don’t know that this occurs for all species, the drone is designed to tap this ability. The idea is that a drone designed in this way will become recognised as a successful new predator in the community, which will reduce the likelihood of habituation.”

NSW Department of Primary Industries viticulture development officer Darren Fahey, estimates that birds cause $300 million-a-year crop and winegrape losses in Australia.

AOS is pursuing the autonomous drone approach, and working with Sydney University to do the research on what would scare birds, without harming them.
Early trials using the multi-rotor hexacopter predator drone are promising and results have been published in the journal Crop Protection ( Further trials are underway.

The topic has been the object of a Newcastle Herald article:

Friday, 5 April 2019

UON Social Psychologists Establish Social Cohesion Research Centre and Lead International Conference of Experts in Newcastle

A committed group of social cohesion scholars within UON’s School of Psychology has recently established NORCCC, “Newcastle-Oxford Research Centre for Conflict and Cohesion” [see NORCCC profile HERE], around the appointment of Prof Miles Hewstone as UON Global Innovation Chair in Social Cohesion to help us deepen our understanding of intergroup friction and find ways that encourage social cohesion in Australia and around the world.

 Dramatic events like the tragic Christchurch shooting, but equally ordinary experiences of daily discrimination for many of us are salient reminders of the importance of evidence-based analyses of individual-level factors and societal dynamics responsible for acts of discrimination, prejudice, and hatred. They remind us of the need to inform policies and interventions that support social cohesion along a multiplicity of social dimensions, like ethnicity, age, gender, sexuality, ill-health and disability, in Australia and internationally.

In this spirit, NORCCC is proud to announce an upcoming Newcastle-based international conference on social cohesion: The 2019 SASP-SPSSI medium group meeting, entitled “Advances in Intergroup Contact Research: Showcasing, Consolidating, Deconstructing and Innovating the Science of Social Integration” will gather 70-100 researchers and industry observers in Newcastle, between Monday 29th April and Wed 1st May, 2019.

 This exciting specialised meeting of experts will be led by UON A/Prof Stefania Paolini, an enthusiastic scientific committee that spans across three continents, including also Prof Miles Hewstone (UON/Oxford), Prof Fiona White (USydney), A/Prof Fiona Barlow (UQ), Prof Linda Tropp (UMassachusetts Amherst, USA), Prof Liz Page-Gould (Uof Toronto, Canada), Prof Rhiannon Turner (Queen's University Belfast, UK) and Prof Angel Gomez (National Distance Education University, Spain), and a tireless local committee of 20+ graduate students.  

The SASP-SPSSI group meeting on intergroup contact aspires to offer an exciting platform to consolidate our understanding and interpretation of key findings, to discuss emerging research trends and methodologies and forge the research and the researchers of the future. The expert gathering will include the delivery of conference papers (blitz / longer length / posters) by junior and senior researchers and roundtable discussions (small / plenary).

For more information about the conference, visit the conference website HERE

If you are interested in attending the meeting as social cohesion researcher, practitioner or policy maker in areas of social cohesion, make contact with the lead organizer at: to enquire. The conference includes networking segments and will allow for a number of non-presenting participants.


Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Talk by Prof David Strayer: Emerging Technologies Influencing Distracted Driving (Thur, April 11)

WHAT: Talk by Prof David Strayer, University of Utah, on Technology and Distracted Driving

WHEN and WHERE: Thursday, April 11, 2019, 12-1pm; KEATS room (Psychology building)

David Strayer is the John R. Park professor of Cognitive Neuroscience in the Department of Psychology at the University.  He received his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois@ Urbana-Champaign in 1989 and worked at GTE laboratories before joining the faculty at the University of Utah.  Dr. Strayer’s research examines attention and multitasking in real-world contexts such as driving an automobile.  He has published over 175 scholarly articles in this area and for the last 15 years has focused on understanding driver distraction stemming from multimodal interactions in the vehicle. 

Talk:  Emerging Technologies Influencing Distracted Driving
Driver distraction is increasingly recognized as a significant source of injuries and fatalities on the roadway. Driver distraction can arise from visual/manual interference, for example when a driver takes his or her eyes off the road to interact with a device. Impairments also stem from cognitive sources of distraction when attention is diverted from safely operating the vehicle.  Concern over distracted driving is growing as more and more wireless devices are being integrated into the vehicle. Working with AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, we developed, validated, and applied a metric of distraction associated with the diversion of attention from driving. Our studies show that the distraction potential can be reliably measured, that cognitive workload systematically varies as a function of the secondary task performed by the driver, and that many activities, particularly complex multimodal interactions in the vehicle, are associated with surprisingly high levels of mental workload.  Using the new technology in the vehicle may have unintended consequences that adversely affect traffic safety.

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Monday, 1 April 2019

Dr Andrea Griffin collaborates with world-leaders in climate change to communicate environmental impacts of large-scale land clearing

As a zoologist studying animals in their natural habitat, Dr Andrea Griffin is well aware of the consequences of habitat destruction for our native wildlife. But with science now demonstrating that land clearing has ratcheting effects on fire risk, droughts, and climate change, her levels of concern have increased significantly.

This is what motivated Dr Griffin to participate in two recent large collaborative initiatives: A submission to an inquiry by the House of Representatives on “The impact on the agricultural sector of vegetation and land management policies, regulations and restrictions” and a Conversation article describing the effects of land clearing on fire risk, droughts, water security and climate change. She went on to prepare and drive a Scientist Declaration to help disseminate these important scientific findings.

The Scientist declaration calling on Australian governments at all levels to pass strong legislation to curb Australia’s accelerating rate of land clearing was released by the Ecological Society of Australia and was signed by over 300 scientists—including Professors Tim Flannery, Lesley Hughes, Richard Kingsford, Chris Dickman and Martine Maron.

Within 7 days, the declaration was viewed by over 16,000 people, the Conversation article attracted nearly 100 comments, and a community petition to support the Declaration arose. The topic was the subject of a recent article in the Newcastle Herald: