Monday, 22 June 2020

Concealing their communication: UON research looks at the pervasive issue of smartphone use among young drivers


Young drivers, aged 17-25 years, are more likely than other age groups to access social interactive technologies (e.g., Snapchat, Facebook) on their smartphone while driving. Given many of these functions are only available in hand-held mode, an alarming number of young drivers are deliberately hiding their smartphone use from outside view to avoid getting caught by police.  In doing so, they are moving their eyes away from the road for extended periods of time; dramatically increasing their crash risk and the chance of injuring other road users.

 Honours student, Hazal Eren, and her supervisor Dr Cassandra Gauld, sought to understand why young drivers respond to social interactive technology in a concealed manner while driving, despite being aware of the crash risk and the legal penalties.  Their survey study applied an extended Theory of Planned Behaviour which included the additional predictors of anticipated action regret, anticipated inaction regret, and problematic mobile phone usage.  The study also sought to identify beliefs about this behaviour that were unique to young drivers who do it more often.

With an ever-increasing array of functions available, problematic smartphone usage is a concept that has been gaining traction over the past few years. Most scales measuring this concept are based on behavioural addiction models.  For example, problematic phone usage can be characterised by feelings such as anxiety when without your smartphone and using your smartphone to make you feel better. It can also result in behaviours with serious safety implications, such as smartphone use while driving. 

Indeed, this study found that young drivers who scored high on problematic phone usage were more likely to respond to social interactive technology in a concealed manner while driving.  It also found that young drivers with a positive attitude towards responding in a concealed manner while driving, who believed they could do it easily, and who believed important others would approve of it were more likely to do it.  Young drivers who anticipated a higher level of regret associated with it, were less likely to do it.

With regard to beliefs about the behaviour, young drivers who were more likely to respond in a concealed manner while driving believed that it allowed them to ‘communicate with important people’ and that their ‘partner’, ‘passengers’, ‘friends’, and ‘other drivers’ would approve of it.

Smartphone use among young drivers is a complex and dangerous issue. If this behaviour is to be eradicated (or even reduced) it is important to challenge the predictors and the key beliefs (e.g., perceived normative influences) in targeted interventions (e.g., public education messages).  Hopefully, the new fixed smartphone detection cameras in NSW will detect concealed smartphone use; which may lead to a greater deterrent effect.  With regard to problematic phone usage, perhaps we can learn from successful interventions addressing other behavioural addictions, such as gambling. 



To know more about this work, email: Cassandra Gauld <Cass.Gauld@newcastle.edu.au>

Thursday, 11 June 2020

PsycCares provides free food and hygiene items to our students

PsycCares is an initiative of the School of the Psychology at the University of Newcastle, driven by our admin staff and Tara Magnay. PsycCares pantry is now open and is stocked with essentials as well as goodies in memory of Ken Sutton's dedication to student learning and wellbeing. Students have been notified about ways to access the pantry starting. Our staff will keep stocking the pantry.



Dr Ken Sutton, a beloved and respected member of our school, had a sadly passed away a couple of weeks ago. We hope this initiative will help our students and thus persevere the students-first spirit that Ken had championed in our School and Faculty.


Thursday, 28 May 2020

Psychologists’ Advice: Navigating Loneliness and Fostering Social Connections in Isolation

The end of COVID-related isolation in Australia finally appears to be within sight. The impacts of loneliness, reduced social connectivity and the associated emotional and physical health issues may soon ease. After such a period, however, it will remain to be seen if these impacts have a lasting effect on the population.

The Australian Psychological Society and the Centre for Social Impact have recently released articles and reports outlining the impact that COVID-19 has had on mental health, concerning loneliness and social connectivity. Such organisations have warned of the health concerns brought about by decreased social interaction (Australian Psychological Society, 2020 here; Centre for Social Impact, n.d. here).


With the need to prioritise physical health and 'flattening the curve', the building and maintenance of social connection have taken a backseat in favour of physical isolation. Activities that encourage social connectivity have been in many cases, either impossible or complicated. As such, the opportunity to make new social connections has significantly lessened.

An article released by the Australian Psychological Society outlines the emotional and physical health issues associated with an increase in loneliness, which has been identified in the Australian population. The number of Australians reporting feeling lonely has dramatically increased in the past few months. This increase presents a significant concern as being lonely increases the chances of poor mental health. Furthermore, loneliness is correlated with physical health symptoms such as sleeping difficulties, headaches, nausea, colds and infections.

In the view that social connections may continue to remain in the background, the Centre for Social Impact recommends ways in which social contact may be improved or somewhat enabled before things in Australia ultimately return to normal. Research conducted by the University of New South Wales, the University of Western Australia and Swinburne University of Technology has revealed that the best conditions for building connections is where contact is a by-product and not the focus of the activities. For example, problem-solving activities, teaching activities, and 'bumping spaces', or spaces of close physical proximity where contact is often unavoidable. The Centre recommends making things fun and mixing things up when connecting with others, such as playing online games, searching for stimulating mediums of connection, and prioritising learning and nurturing.






It comes as a much welcome change that social restrictions are gradually easing. However, it is essential to maintain a focus on ensuring that the largely fortunate state of Australia's COVID-19 situation is sustained. While physical health is of the utmost priority at this time, we should still seek socialising and maintenance of mental health.


If you want to read the primary sources, click below:

Australian Psychological Society. (2020, May 6). Psychologists warn loneliness is a looming health issue. HERE.
Centre for Social Impact. (n.d.). Loneliness, social connection and COVID-19 CSI response. CSI. HERE


Written by Ursula Horton – UON Psychology

Monday, 25 May 2020

School of Psychology research seminar, 28/5/2020: Dr Sharon Savage

Please join us in the  Research Seminar mentioned below – all welcome!

When: 28th May  2020

Time: 12:00 – 1:00pm

Via Zoom only : https://uonewcastle.zoom.us/j/353370843



Sunday, 24 May 2020

E&D SERIES: I tolerate thus I am good and moral; I am tolerated thus I feel bad and devalued


 It was a beautiful day and the cafĂ© was full of people. A couple of friends were sitting around a table when one of them said: “our society is becoming more diverse. We just need to ‘put up’ with people who are different to us”. “Yes, absolutely”, the other friend said. They nodded to each other and felt pretty about good their standing. 
Social psychologists at the Utrecht University and the University of Canterbury are of the view that, while standing up for minority groups and embrace tolerance may serve as a fence against discrimination and violence, ‘being tolerated’ does not always feel good for individuals from minority groups and might even have some serious psychological consequences. 

‘Being tolerated’ may have some unwanted negative consequences for minority members. In everyday life, feeling that others are ‘putting up’ with us may feel offensive and hurtful. It may convey the implicit message that what one believes and practices is not really approved, but just tolerated. The work by Verkuyten and colleagues suggests that when minority members feel that their values, lifestyle, and views are not genuinely accepted in society, they may engage in a variety of strategies to cope with these negative feelings. For example, they may avoid interacting with people or being present in situations in which they may feel disapproved. As a result, social interactions between individuals from distinct social groups in society may shrink and minority individuals may feel more lonely and isolated. Being tolerated might also place minorities in a dependent position and weaken their feelings of control and ability to affect society to tackle disadvantage, and achieve equality. 

Among majority members who tolerate, tolerance may create a sense of ‘good grace’ and ‘virtuous face’. Tolerance may make it psychologically more difficult for minority members to take action against those who are considered virtuous and with good morals. Hence, practicing tolerance may feel good and virtuous for majority members, but it may have negative consequences for minority members. Identifying, recognizing, and calling out mere tolerance may help us make progress in finding more constructive ways to embrace diversity in society and make the most of it. 

You can find out more about research on these issues in this article:  Verkuyten, M., Yogeeswaran, K., & Adelman, L. (2020). The Negative Implications of Being Tolerated: Tolerance From the Target’s Perspective. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 1745691619897974.


Saturday, 23 May 2020

UON Psychology farewells beloved Dr Ken Sutton

A message of tribute from conjoint A/Prof Miles Bore (and with him the whole school), who was Ken's friend, colleague and PhD supervisor.

Ken Sutton passed away last Wednesday. Much too young to do so, being in his early seventies.

I worked with Ken for many years. I used to joke with Ken that even in retirement he worked longer hours than many. In early, often around 7am, and leave late, often well after 7pm.

Ken was with the University a long time, and in the School of Psychology when Aviation and Psychology were merged into one School in the restructure in the late 1990’s. He was a great Course Coordinator and teacher. Very organised, detailed, and very student focussed. Our SCIM course, a large service course for the Faculty and the School, struggled badly until the then PVC Bill Hogarth gave the course to Ken with the instruction “fix it”. And Ken did. Student Feedback on Course always greater than 4 under Ken.

Ken completed his PhD, supervised by Andrew Heathcote and myself, in 2011. He also had a Bachelor and Masters degrees in Education. He developed a psychometric test of cognitive special ability and several publications, collaborations and grants flowed from this.

Ken ‘retired’ in 2015, but it was hard to tell the difference. As a Conjoint Senior Lecturer he continued to supervise research students at all levels and was Course Coordinator for the School’s new Work Integrated Learning (WIL) course. The WIL course ran both semesters and required significant outreach to organisations who could provide suitable placements. I was concerned at the time demands this placed on Ken but, to quote him, he used to say “That’s OK. It’s my way of giving back.”

Ken met Yvonne when he was 17 and she 16. Yvonne passed away last year. They had been married for over 50 years. Ken was a quiet and private man, but we used to chat. I know Ken loved the university. But not as much as he loved his family.





As a school, we will think of Ken around a cup of tea on Friday 29th, 2.30pm, as a very private family funeral service takes place. If you would like to join a face-to-face social gathering for Ken at the University on Friday 5th June, please seek details from the school of psychology office by emailing: psyc-admin (psyc-admin@newcastle.edu.au)

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

School of Psychology HDR progression seminar, Monday 25/5

Please join us for our next HDR Progression Seminar Day:
When: 25th May  2020

Time: 10:30am – 12:00
 Password: 390339
 Everyone is welcome and encouraged to attend.

Add caption

Thursday, 14 May 2020

E&D SERIES: Missed connections: Using online alternatives to improve student social lives

Taking university courses online has become a necessity in the last couple of months. A few weeks ago, Dr Heather Douglas discussed on the blog how more students than ever before are having to move their learning online due to closures and social distancing measures put in place due to the coronavirus. For a lot of students, however, online learning is not new. 

On-line learning has become increasingly popular over the last couple of decades and will remain so beyond COVID, because it offers students the opportunity to be flexible in when and how they complete their studies. To address this new demand, Universities have invested in optimising online engagement in coursework. However there are other vital parts of the university experience that have not been transferred meaningfully to an online context: most notably the social lives of university students.

The friends and networks made at university are important and irreplaceable parts of the university experience. As well as adding to the enjoyment of attending university, UON-led research tells us that being socially active at university has many serious benefits for students during their degrees and beyond. University friends offer social support during what is generally a stressful and busy period of life, provide a sense of belonging and most importantly are a network of people to turn to for help with coursework, assessments and important career decisions.
When students move their studies entirely online they lose the face-to-face interactions that form an important part of their social life at university. Thus, it is important we investigate how students currently manage to engage socially online. And we need to work to improve these aspects of online experiences, so that students can make these vital social connections with other students, even if they never set foot on campus.

To aid in this investigation, myself and A/Prof Mark Rubin have been awarded a research grant from the Australian Research Council to analyse the online social integration of university students. Over the next 3-years we will survey the current online social integration practices of students and then test interventions for promoting online integration.

We will particularly focus on student-led Facebook groups as a social resource for students from non-traditional backgrounds who are unable to afford the time commitment of studying and socialising face to face. In the first year we will investigate how this potential resource is currently being used, and then test some tailored interventions aimed at increasing social activity online. We aim to ensure that university social lives, not just coursework, are going digital.

For more information about this research project, contact chief investigator Dr Olivia Evans: Olivia.Evans@newcastle.edu.au


Wednesday, 6 May 2020

School of Psychology research seminar: Dr Jason Friedman

Dear All,

Please join us for the below research seminar on Wednesday 13th May, 12pm.

Where:  Via Zoom link

https://uonewcastle.zoom.us/j/95225195282

When: Wednesday 13th May 2020, 12:00pm - 1:00pm

Guest Speaker: Dr Jason Friedman

Topic: Using arm movements to understand cognition, and vice-versa


Tuesday, 5 May 2020

E&D SERIES: ‘Diversify’ your online experience with UON Psychology-Led videolibrary on diversity and social cohesion


In these COVID-induced times of home isolation, “diversify” your online experience with a new videolibrary of research talks on “diversity” and “social cohesion” research.

  The Newcastle specialized meeting on social cohesion hosted by UON Psychology in 2019, led by Stefania Paolini and an army of motivated and enthusiastic volunteers, showcased the best research on the dynamics of intergroup contact and social integration that is currently available on the international stage. It offered 70+ senior and junior researchers a forum to discuss data from a variety of research laboratories, methods, and societal settings over a three day period.

With so much goodness at hand, we wanted the legacy of the Australian meeting to live long and produce fruits beyond Newcastle. Hence, we have captured it in a video-library of conference presentations that is now accessible worldwide on YOUTUBE and via the conference website for wider community’s consumption and enjoyment. Thank you to all of those who contributed!

The library can be accessed this way:

YOUTUBE Library location:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQ04pfYcwk-PreX0r2t88bw/featured

FRONT PAGE on SASP conference website (including full authors’ details and short abstracts):
https://sasp.org.au/2020/04/video-library-of-conference-presentations-video-library-of-conference-presentations/

We hope you will enjoy this research resource as much as many of us did ‘live’ months ago.

You can learn more about this UON-led event at: https://sasp.org.au/2018/09/sasp-spssi-group-meeting-2019/




  
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On the conference website, you will find also the conference narrative report: go to the “conference feedback and report” link at:  https://sasp.org.au/2018/09/sasp-spssi-group-meeting-2019/  Thanks to Marta Beneda for her rich testimonial and to all of those who contributed data and comments.

We hope these resources will ignite fond memories of the Newcastle / Australian experience among those who attended the meeting and instigate a desire to visit us in the (post-COVID) future among all the others.

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

E&D series: Coronavirus and on-line learning: What do we know about student outcomes?

In the wake of the Coronavirus many universities are pushing courses online at a rapid pace. While this step is necessary for the health and wellbeing of wider communities, it might have unintended consequences for students satisfaction with their program of study. One of the risks of moving students online is that we reduce the number of perceived opportunities for students to socialise with their peers.

 We refer to these opportunities as social integration. These consist of the informal interactions that students experience with peers and staff on campus, the participation in student groups and clubs, and university events. Poor integration influences students’ satisfaction with their program. Under normal circumstances, this poor integration can influence student persistence intentions. With the increased uncertainty introduced by COVID-19, social integration might play a vital role in enhancing positive student outcomes.

Students who are studying away from the main campuses of their universities experience poorer social integration. Together with student researchers Zarinah Banu, T Lavania, and Ng Sing Yi Joan, Andrea Steele and Heather Douglas (Murdoch / UoN) identified this in a group of students studying at Murdoch University, Perth in 2018, by comparing students studying face to face in Perth, and students studying offshore and partly online with Murdoch Singapore and Kaplan Higher Education.

 From left to right: student researchers Zarinah Baru, T Lavania, and Ng Sing Yi Joan under the supervision of UON psychology researcher Dr Heather Douglas

Social integration had a stronger effect on satisfaction for Singapore students than onshore students – when social integration was poor, Singapore students were far less satisfied than onshore students. Conversely, when social integration was high, Singapore students were still less satisfied but the gap was much smaller. Universities moving their programs online in the wake of the coronavirus might need to consider how social integration might influence students’ satisfaction. Providing programs to increase social integration online will be vital to ensuring student satisfaction and avoiding the departure of these students from their program of study.



For more information about these data and this research project, contact chief investigator at UON Psychology, Dr Heather Douglas: Heather.Douglas@Newcastle.edu.au

Acknowledgements: This data was collected as part of a Murdoch University Students as Change Agents in Learning and Teaching (SCALT) project with lead students T Lavania, Ng Sing Yi Joan (both pictured) and Zarinah Baru. Graduate Diploma students Raymond Carter, Aarti Gupta, Stephanie Galati-Rando, Shelby Glaskin, Matthew Hesketh, Alvin Lee, and Valensia Wongas contributed the Australian sample.

School of Psychology research seminar: Dr Miles Young


Dear All,

Please join us on Thursday this week for our next school-wide research seminar.

Where:  Via Zoom link

When: Thursday 30th April 2020, 12:00pm - 1:00pm

Guest Speaker: Dr Miles Young



Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Covid-19, self isolation, and alcohol use

Recently our social media feeds have started to include jokes about day drinking and an extra wine to manage the stress of adapting to COVID-19 changes.  Is it actually likely however, that self-isolation and lockdown will be associated with increased levels of alcohol use? Short answer: yes. A number of environmental and psychological factors are associated with alcohol consumption patterns, and these can be impacted by the changes we are experiencing as a result of COVID-19. Does that have to be a problem? Short answer: no. Awareness of these factors, while being mindful of any change in your drinking pattern can help you to work out a balance that supports both your mental and physical health in the long run. UON Clinical Psychologist Sonja Pohlman, together with Professor Nicole Lee (Curtin University) and Associate Professor Genevieve Dingle (University of Qld) expand on this topic in a recent article in The Conversation https://theconversation.com/coronavirus-its-tempting-to-drink-your-worries-away-but-there-are-healthier-ways-to-manage-stress-and-keep-your-drinking-in-check-134669


Thursday, 19 March 2020

Do you know what makes an elite surfer? Our students do!


Undergraduate students in Psychological Science together with Exercise and Sport Science students educated the public about psychological demands of surfing during Surfest 2020 Pro finals at Mereweather Beach on 7-8th March. The students ran UON activator to illustrate various demands placed on surfers.

Beyond breaking the stigma of Sport and Exercise Psychology and giving back to our community, students further enhanced their skills and understanding through hands-on learning. The finals were tense, offering us the opportunity to discuss psychological demands of competition as tension unfolded.

Furthermore, the students confidently explained key concepts surrounding attentional control, pattern recognition training and emotional regulation essential to elite surfers. The students further enhanced their observational skills as they started recognising different approaches taken by adults and children. While some kids showed more effective coping skills than others—we introduced friendly competition to test their attentional focus and strategic thinking—some adults overestimated their own abilities. Our students were quick to pick it up and discuss their experiences during peer-supervision. Communication, leadership, organisational and teamwork skills were an extra bonus.

It was very rewarding to see students enjoying themselves, learning and developing personally and professionally.






Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Why do kids love to 'play monster'?


Why do kids love it when parents, or other caregivers, play monster and scare them ?

Dr Emily Freeman from the School of Psychology studies the role of play between parents and children and how this lays the foundations for positive child developmental outcomes. 

In an interview to the Journal Fatherly, by New York journalist Lexi Krupp last week, Dr Freeman suggests kids enjoy how "the jolt of fear escalates regular play into exhilarating drama, without the risk of real danger." They get the heart beat and the excitement while staying in a safe environment. 

The article is now available for online view:


Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Head of School welcome to 2020


Welcome back to UoN, it is going to be an exciting year with new people, new courses and new events.

I know for many of you that it has been a challenging summer, typical of our Australian summer, we have lurched from fire to ice, from drought to flood (but apparently there is nothing wrong with our climate! ). I know that many of our staff and students have been badly impacted by the fires over summer, but even for those of us not directly affected, the hour-by-hour media reports of lost homes, devastated environments, and burnt animals can be gut-wrenching. It is important to find peace and optimism where we can.  However If anyone is finding it difficult to settle into the year after such a tumultuous summer, please reach out.

Through this year we will be welcoming some new staff into our school, bringing in some new and interesting areas of expertise. Dr Myles Young is coming to us in April from the UoN’s Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition. His interests are in physical and mental health, particularly weight loss programs for men, who are vastly underrepresented in weight loss programs, despite the long term health problems associated with being overweight. 


Also starting in April is Dr Sharon Savage who is a clinical neuropsychologist. Originally from Australia, she is currently in Exeter, and her research focuses around ageing and dementia. 


In addition to Myles and Sharon, we will have an Indigenous scholar starting with us in a few months – we have yet to appoint someone into this position, but I am very proud of our school in acquiring this position to help us navigate Indigenisation of teaching and conducting community-led research.
These changes reflect the enormous success that we have had in increasing our student numbers, both in our individual courses, as well as our programs. We have our inaugural BPsycSci(Adv) program starting this year with 26 students, and we have new offerings with new modules in PSYC2800 and 3800 as well as a new 1st year elective PSYC1800 Sex, Drugs and Serial Killers. Like PSYC2800 and 3800, this will be a fully online course in which we take an informative  and revealing look at issues such as sexuality, gender identity, the evolution of attraction, addiction, recovery, and the dark triad (tetrad?).

At some point this year we also plan a Staff vs. Students charity event! There is still some discussion around what this should look like – some of us are opting for a sport event of some sort, while others of us feel that something like a trivia night might give us staff a better edge on the students J Any thoughts or suggests are very welcome.

So, as I said, many new things happening and I am looking forward to sharing them with you. It is also the Chinese year of the rat, traditionally a year of wealth, surplus and fertility. Make of that what you will J

Take care and have a wonderful 2020.

Kind regards
Kristen

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

UoN psychology researchers tackle ageism through virtual reality technology

A social psychology research team consisting of PhD candidate Rebekah Bolton, A/Prof Stefania Paolini and Dr Michelle Kelly are investigating factors that may influence ageist attitudes through the use of virtual reality technology.

The ongoing Royal Commission into Age Care is making us all more aware that society often holds ageist attitudes toward older individuals. These ageist attitudes imply that older individuals are deteriorating and incompetent; these negative attitudes in turn have detrimental effects on the physical and psychological health of older adults.

There is however a silver lining: As ABC’s documentary “Old people’s home for 4 years olds” eloquently showed, research indicates that these ageist attitudes and their downstream consequences on senior people can be reverted through increased, positive face-to-face contact between young people and older members of society.


Photo from ABC documentary “Old people’s home for 4 years olds”: A unique social experiment that brings together elderly people in a retirement community with a group of 4-year-olds. Could this encounter transform the lives of the elderly?




UON researchers will investigate whether these benefits can be reproduced with ‘virtual (reality) contact’ between young adults and older avatars. The research will test whether this technology assisted ‘intergenerational’ contact is effective in reducing ageist attitudes. To do this, the research will use virtual reality to create an immersive and lifelike experience with an avatar that is reflective of an older person. Participants will wear a headset and will have the opportunity to interact with the virtual reality avatar and the surrounding environment. Skeleton tracking will capture their movement in the space and assess attitudinal responses that are often beyond individuals’ deliberate control.



To find out more or sponsor this research, volunteer your time to assist this research or material’s development, contact Rebekah Bolton

E: rebekah.bolton@uon.edu.au


Saturday, 26 October 2019

UON School of Psychology’s Founder, Prof Daphne Keats, Farewells Us All

It is with great sadness that we acknowledge the passing of Prof Daphne Keats. Exactly one week ago, this true Psychology Champion died peacefully in her home surrounded by her beloved family.

Daphne joined the University of Newcastle as a lecturer in Psychology in 1970 to begin a transformative legacy that continues today.

Daphne spearheaded the study of cross-cultural psychology in Australia. Alongside her husband, Professor John Keats, Daphne led the field in developing programs of cross-cultural psychology studies involving ongoing, cooperative relationships with colleagues across Asia, particularly China, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia.

Daphne in one of her last trips to China to check progress in community rehabilitation work post Sichuan’s earthquake

As a result of her work, the University of Newcastle and Sichuan University founded The China-Australia Centre for Cross-Cultural Studies in Chengdu which commemorated its 10-year anniversary last year. Her contribution has shaped an entire branch of research; and we are proud and grateful for her lifelong association with the University.

Daphne was, beyond doubt, a pioneer. She leaves behind a legacy of wisdom and generosity in the School of Psychology and will be greatly missed by colleagues around the globe.

---------
Professor Keats’ funeral will be held on Tuesday 29 October at 12:00pm at Pettigrew Family Funerals, 12 Harris Street, Wallsend.

Messages of condolence can be sent to donor-relations@newcastle.edu.au and will be passed on to Professor Keats’ friends and family.

Thursday, 24 October 2019

Research for the public, not just for researchers

How can we present our research in a way that makes it accessible to the public?

Recently, after attending a Research Advantage seminar on the importance of social media in the current research environment, Dr Emily Freeman from the the School of Psychology at UoN decided to try pitching an article to The Conversation. The Conversation is an “independent source of news and views sourced from the academic and research community and delivered direct to the public” (www.theconversation.com). The Conversation Australia reaches over 5 million users per month and is used by many news outlets, such as the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, as a source of quality research stories and research experts when looking for people to comment on current events.


Emily explains that she "pitched an article that would ultimately summarise some of the research I’ve been doing looking at the role of father-child rough-and-tumble play on child development. The editor liked my pitch and asked for an 800 word article to be submitted the following week. I then worked with another editor over a few days to polish the article and make it more news-like rather than journal-like in terms of language. I was also asked to find some related YouTube clips and the like to make it more engaging. One thing I really liked was that they required links to journal articles to support any claims I was making and that they also checked them to ensure the scientific rigour of my article."

The article was published early September and reached over 30,000 reads in only a couple of weeks (it’s now at almost 40,000 which is pretty incredible especially given that Research Gate recently congratulated me on one of my journal articles having reached 100 reads!!). The Conversation tracks reads, social media shares, the location of people who are reading the article, the news outlets that are sharing it, and you can also add any engagements that have resulted from it. The article led to some radio interviews and Emily was even contacted by a screen writer interested in making a documentary about dad and kids.

Overall, it was an interesting experience and she is looking forward to pitching another article soon. Emily highly recommend it to everyone to give it a try J

Article Link: https://theconversation.com/kids-learn-valuable-life-skills-through-rough-and-tumble-play-with-their-dads-119241


Tuesday, 22 October 2019

E&D SERIES: Alex O'Donnell presents findings on refugees' adaptation from the Building New Life in Australia Study on Tuesday 29th October 10-11am

The School of Psychology's Social and Organisational Psychology research group and Outreach Committee are proud of inviting you to a research presentation by Alex O'Donnel, Griffith University, as part of our Equity & Diversity Series on Tuesday 29th October 10-11am, Keats reading room, Aviation building, Callaghan (zoom video conferenced: https://uonewcastle.zoom.us/s/979950681).

PRESENTATION TITLE: Financial, Psychological, and Social Barriers to Refugee Adaptation in Australia: Findings from the Building New Life in Australia Study (BLNA)


ABSTRACT: The previous decade has seen a dramatic increase in the number of people being forcibly displaced. Lingering crises around the world have created situations where an enormous number of displaced persons cannot return home and require resettlement. Previous research has shown that humanitarian migrants face challenges that persist over time and can lead to long-term inequities in health and wellbeing even after resettlement. Recent efforts to investigate these inequities have been established in Australia. The Building New Life in Australia (BNLA) study followed a representative sample of resettled humanitarian migrant adults for several years post-settlement and provided a cross-sectional assessment of adolescents. I will present recent findings from this study, focusing on how the immediate post-settlement context can have lasting effects on humanitarian migrants’ long-term psychological and financial well-being (Finding 1), and their likelihood of experiencing stress into the future (Finding 2). Finally, I focus on the adolescent sample, and identify how positive community engagement in the form of extracurricular activities can mitigate adverse outcomes associated with post-settlement risk factors (Finding 3). These results showcase that negative outcomes are not a forgone conclusion for humanitarian migrants. Together, we should foster welcoming and accepting communities to improve the lives of vulnerable people around us.

BIOGRAPHY: Alexander O’Donnell is an advanced PhD student at Griffith University (Gold Coast, Australia). He has a broad research interest, having published in intergroup relations and adolescent leisure time. More recently he has also studied refugee adaptation. Collectively, this work seeks to identify structural (e.g., socioeconomic disadvantage) and psychological barriers preventing people from engaging in the diverse and enriching opportunities around them.


If interested in a one-to-one meeting with XX around their visit, please contact their SOPRG host at stefania.paolini@newcastle.edu.au to make arrangements.

Thursday, 17 October 2019

UON researchers to find out: A driverless shuttle bus is set to hit Newcastle’s streets; but will the public use it?

At the cutting edge of automated vehicle (AV) technology, a driverless shuttle bus will soon be trialled in Newcastle. The shuttle will have the capacity to carry 11 passengers, is battery powered, has no steering wheel, and will use sensors on each corner to read the roadway, objects in front, back or beside the vehicle. The trial in Newcastle is extra special as it will be the first time a driverless shuttle bus has been tested in normal traffic.

For new technology to be of benefit to a community, however, the public needs to accept it. So… how does the Newcastle public feel about such a vehicle, and will they use it?

                                                   The Newcastle driverless shuttle bus


Dr Cassandra Gauld, Professor Kristen Pammer, Angus McKerral and a team of researchers from the School of Psychology (Jade Williams, Lauren Gibson, and Caitlin Reeves) were awarded a Faculty of Science Strategic Investment Grant to explore these questions and more.  The research team took to the streets of Newcastle to interview the locals and found that their opinions about the shuttle were divided.  Some believed that the shuttle would provide a safer form of transportation, would increase tourism by enhancing Newcastle’s image as a modern city, and would provide an environmentally friendly public transport option. Others were cautious about the new technology, were concerned about on-board safety, and wondered how it would accommodate the elderly and the less mobile if there weren’t a driver on board to assist.

The next phase of the research, which is currently underway, will verify which of these beliefs are held by broader sample of the Newcastle public and apply theoretical models of technology acceptance to investigate other psycho-social factors which may predict acceptance of AVs.

While experts predict that it may be years until AVs are a common sight on our roads, worldwide, research regarding AVs is in full flight. It has been predicted that AVs may be able to significantly improve road safety (road crash is currently one of the biggest killers, worldwide), increase the mobility of older adults, and benefit individuals who are currently unable to drive due to a medical condition and/or vision impairment.


For more information, please contact Dr Cassandra Gauld
E: cass.gauld@newcastle.edu.au



(L to R) Dr Cassandra Gauld, Professor Kristen Pammer, and Mr Angus McKerral after their Tesla test-drive.

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Prof Scott Brown named top Australian Cognitive Scientist for 2019

Prof Scott Brown from the School of Psychology at the University of Newcastle was named earlier this month the top Australian Cognitive Scientist for 2019. Scott was among six University of Newcastle researchers that have been named as top in their field in new data published in The Australian’s 2019 Research magazine. Well done Scott!

Herald article: https://www.newcastleherald.com.au/story/6407518/six-university-of-newcastle-researchers-top-their-classes-in-new-data/

Thursday, 5 September 2019

JUST PUBLISHED: new paper on task switching in PNAS

In modern life, we engage with many sources of information concurrently. To do this, we must continuously switch between different tasks, but this comes at a cost to performance, especially in older adults. Using a large dataset from the Lumosity online cognitive-training platform, Scott Brown, Guy Hawkins and Frini Karayanidis, with their collaborator Mark Steyvers from the University of California, Irvine, developed a computational model of task switching that defines distinct latent measures of activating the relevant task, deactivating the irrelevant task, and making a decision. This model shows that, although task practice can improve task-switching performance, persistent costs remain even after extensive practice, and more so in older adults. The findings show that, with extensive task practice, older people can become functionally similar to less-practiced younger people.

You can see the paper here: 
Steyvers, M., Hawkins, G., Karayanidis, F., Brown, S. (Early view 2019). The Temporal Dynamics of Task Switching: A Computational Analysis of Practice and Age Effects in Large-Scale Cognitive Training Data. Proceedings of the National Society of Science, www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1906788116

The paper received local coverage in the Newy Herald:
and national coverage in the SMH, The Age, WA Today, Brisbane Times and MSM Australia.
https://www.theage.com.au/lifestyle/health-and-wellness/brain-training-shown-to-restore-sharpness-in-older-adults-20190902-p52n2p.html?cspt=1567463411|04893d3da1b2b657d0390f623b155dfb

Friday, 30 August 2019

SOPRG research seminar by Dr Kotryna K. Fraser on Performance & Psychology, Tue Sept 17, 12-1pm

The School of Psychology's Social and Organisation Psychology Research Group (SOPRG) is proud of inviting you to...

WHAT/WHO: a research presentation by Dr Dr Kotryna K. Fraser from UON Life Sciences

TITLE: Bridging the gap between performance and psychology: Sport, Exercise and Performance Psychology in Practice and Research

WHERE: School of Psychology, Keats room AVGL19, Aviation Building, Callaghan; zoom: https://uonewcastle.zoom.us/s/979950681

WHEN: Tuesday 17th September, 12-1pm

ABSTRACT: Have you considered why some people make it to the top and some don’t? Why some people crumble under pressure while others thrive? Why some athletes are super-champs and win an Olympic Gold while others are almost-champs and come second? Sport, Exercise and Performance Psychology may have more [scientific] answers for you to consider than you may expect. This presentation will offer a brief overview of key topics that are often discussed, practised and researched by Sport, Exercise and Performance Psychology researchers and practitioners. It will then offer an overview of research projects and key aspects of practical work as a means to bridge the mainstream psychology with domains of sport, exercise and physical performance.

'DISCLAIMER': This presentation is designed to showcase a range of topics, projects and ideas in Sport, Exercise and Performance Psychology rather than to turn you into a super-athlete.

BIO: Kotryna K. Fraser is an Associate Lecturer in Exercise and sport Sciences (Sport Psychology) at the School of Environmental and Life Sciences, The University of Newcastle. She is an earlier career researcher with a strong passion and background in Sport and Performance Psychology. Kotryna has MSc in Performance Psychology and a PhD in Education and Sport from The University of Edinburgh, Scotland where she taught and supervised undergraduate and postgraduate students. Kotryna is an accredited Sport and Exercise Scientist in Psychology Support under British Association of Sport and Exercise Scientists. Her research interests lie within the areas of feminism and equity in sport, applied interdisciplinary practice, practitioner and coach development, mental skills training, and positive youth development through sport.   

Thursday, 29 August 2019

E&D NEWS: Psych Researchers Secure Funding from Department of Education to Research Student Success at University

What kind of student do you picture when you think of a successful student? Chances are your idea of a successful student is one who gets HDs, passes all their courses and graduates as quickly as possible. From the perspectives of governments and universities, success at university generally boils down to these kinds of statistics.


However, research has found that when you ask students to define success they have very different indicators and ideas about what they are trying to achieve at university. From a student’s perspective, success takes on an array of meanings ranging from tangible outcomes such as CVs and careers, to personal growth and achievement, to developing the ability to change the world for the better. This is especially true for students from non-traditional backgrounds. In particular, research has shown that students from low socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds come to university with different motivations and have different ideas about what they are trying to achieve. Thus, it is possible that the current limited definitions of success held by institutions may undermine low SES students’ own feelings of their success.

A/Prof Mark Rubin and Dr Olivia Evans from the School of Psychology, along with a team of researchers from the University of Newcastle, the University of Wollongong, the University of the Sunshine Coast, Western Sydney University, the University of Queensland and La Trobe University, have received a Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program National Priorities Pool grant to investigate these issues of SES and success at university.

The project will use quantitative and qualitative research methods to produce a comprehensive, integrative understanding of perspectives to success in higher education and when and how it is predicted by SES. The project will develop our understandings of student success in terms of both (a) objective definitions and measurements and (b) subjective experiences of success and being ‘successful’. The project will also provide insight into which factors contribute to success in terms of broader trends and students’ own attributions of their success. 

To find out more about the grant, follow the link here.
For any questions or to discuss further, contact Mark at: Mark.Rubin@newcastle.edu.au | Twitter: @RubinPsyc
or Olivia at: Olivia.Evans@newcastle.edu.au | Twitter: @Oliviosa

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

School HDR candidates deliver at the University of Newcastle 3-minute-thesis final

Last week was a great week for UoN research students and general public alike:
The University of Newcastle had its annual Three-Minutes-Thesis competition finals at the Newcastle Conservatorium.

Finalists from multiple faculties had to qualify through earlier rounds and compete to represent the University at the Australia-Asia finals.

All presentations were of superb quality, heralded by both spectators and judges. Two of the 15 finalists were from the School of Psychology at the Faculty of Science: Korinne Nicolas and Alix Woolard presented their research on  'keen brain' and 'baby-talk'. respectively. Alix won the popular vote prize. In addition, Ashlea Rendell from the Faculty of Engineering, who is co-supervised by Psychology staff, went on to win the third overall prize.




Monday, 26 August 2019

E&D NEWS: Psych Researchers Secure Funding from Department of Education to Research Student Success at University

What kind of student do you picture when you think of a successful student? Chances are your idea of a successful student is one who gets HDs, passes all their courses and graduates as quickly as possible. From the perspectives of governments and universities, success at university generally boils down to these kinds of statistics.

However, research has found that when you ask students to define success they have very different indicators and ideas about what they are trying to achieve at university. From a student’s perspective, success takes on an array of meanings ranging from tangible outcomes such as CVs and careers, to personal growth and achievement, to developing the ability to change the world for the better. This is especially true for students from non-traditional backgrounds. In particular, research has shown that students from low socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds come to university with different motivations and have different ideas about what they are trying to achieve. Thus, it is possible that the current limited definitions of success held by institutions may undermine low SES students’ own feelings of their success.

 A/Prof Mark Rubin and Dr Olivia Evans from the School of Psychology, along with a team of researchers from the University of Newcastle, the University of Wollongong, the University of the Sunshine Coast, Western Sydney University, the University of Queensland and La Trobe University, have received a Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program National Priorities Pool grant to investigate these issues of SES and success at university.

The project will use quantitative and qualitative research methods to produce a comprehensive, integrative understanding of perspectives to success in higher education and when and how it is predicted by SES. The project will develop our understandings of student success in terms of both (a) objective definitions and measurements and (b) subjective experiences of success and being ‘successful’. The project will also provide insight into which factors contribute to success in terms of broader trends and students’ own attributions of their success.  

To find out more about the grant, follow the link here. 
For any questions or to discuss further, contact Mark at: Mark.Rubin@newcastle.edu.au | Twitter: @RubinPsyc
or Olivia at: Olivia.Evans@newcastle.edu.au | Twitter: @Oliviosa