Seminars 2015-2016

Nonverbal signals shape mental processes in interaction partners
June 7, 2016

Date: Jun 7, 2016 (Tue)
Time: 11:00-12:00
Venue: Rm 619, Sino Building
Speaker: Annett Schirmer, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Affiliation: Department of Psychology, National University of Singapore

Nonverbal signals shape mental processes in interaction partners

  This talk introduces three lines of work dedicated to vocal, rhythmic, and tactile aspects of nonverbal interactions. For vocalizations, a neuro‐functional pathway, its voicespecificity, and its role for verbal processing will be examined. For rhythm, discussion will focus on the oscillating nature of both nonverbal and cognitive processes. Moreover, how the latter can be entrained to benefit stimulus processing will be described. For touch, evidence will be presented that links tactile experiences to social cognition. Taken together, these research lines underscore the importance of nonverbal signals for human mental functioning and show how such functioning emerges as a collective phenomenon.
About the Speaker: Annett Schirmer pursued her graduate research at the Max Planck Institute (MPI) of Cognitive Neuroscience in Leipzig and was awarded a PhD by the University of Leipzig in 2002. She conducted post-doctoral research at the MPI until she was appointed as an Assistant Professor at the University of Georgia, Athens, USA in 2005. In 2006, she moved to the National University of Singapore and achieved the rank of Associate Professor in 2009. At NUS, she is a member of Department of Psychology as well as the Neurobiology and Aging Programme. Her research tackles the effect of nonverbal emotional signals on interaction partners. To this end, she uses a range of behavioral (e.g., priming) and neuroimaging techniques (e.g., EEG, fMRI). She has published actively in international journals, has been serving as an Associate Editor for the British Journal of Psychology since 2013, and is the sole author of an undergraduate textbook entitled “Emotion”.

Timing is Everything
June 6, 2016

Date: Jun 6, 2016 (Tue)
Time: 11:00-12:00
Venue: Rm 619, Sino Building
Speaker: Trevor B. Penney, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Affiliation: Department of Psychology, National University of Singapore
Title: Timing is Everything
  One may disagree that timing is everything, but it has been the subject of psychological study since the days of Karl von Vierordt and William James. However, after close to 150 years of research, the cognitive and neural substrates underlying timing and time perception remain the subject of investigation and debate. In my lab group, we use a variety of explicit and implicit interval timing tasks, in conjunction with eye‐tracking, electroencephalography (EEG), and optical brain imaging measures, to investigate seconds‐range timing. Our recent work has focused on the effect of attention shifts on explicit timing, pre‐attentive duration change detection, and whether or not EEG slow waves reflect fundamental timing processes, among other questions. My talk will provide an overview of our recent and current research, as well as provide an outline of future research plans.
About the Speaker: Trevor Penney received a PhD in Psychology from Columbia University, New York in 1997. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience in Leipzig from 1997 to 2000 and an Assistant and then Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong from 2000 to 2006. He is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at the National University of Singapore and a member of the NUS Neurobiology and Aging Programme. He uses behavioral, EEG, and optical imaging measures to address questions about the cognitive and neural substrates underlying interval timing and learning and memory.

Interpersonal and Institutional Betrayal
May 31, 2016

Date: May 31, 2016 (Tue)
Time: 11:00-12:00
Venue: Rm 619, Sino Building
Speaker: Jennifer J Freyd, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychology
Affiliation: University of Oregon, United States
Title: Interpersonal and Institutional Betrayal
  For over 20 years Professor Freyd and her students have investigated the impact of betrayal trauma (such as abuse perpetrated by a trusted other) on victims, discovering in the process that interpersonal betrayal is particularly toxic to both the physical and mental health of individuals. More recently Freyd and her students have conducted empirical research on the impact institutional betrayal has on individuals within institutions, with a focus on institutional response to military and campus sexual assault. The research indicates that institutional betrayal can exacerbate the harm of sexual trauma. For instance, sexually‐assaulted students who were treated poorly by their institutions show significantly greater levels of distress and physical health problems. Freyd’s research reveals areas of institutional policy and practice that should be targeted for improvement so that both individuals and institutions will be healthier.
About the Speaker: Jennifer J. Freyd, PhD is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Oregon. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania and her PhD in Psychology from Stanford University. Freyd directs a laboratory investigating the impact of interpersonal and institutional trauma on mental and physical health, behavior, and society. She has published over 180 articles and is author of the Harvard Press award-winning book Betrayal Trauma: The Logic of Forgetting Childhood Abuse. Her book Blind to Betrayal, co-authored with Pamela J. Birrell, was published in 2013, with seven additional translations. In 2014, Freyd was invited two times to the U.S. White House due to her research on sexual assault and institutional betrayal. Freyd has received numerous awards including being named a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow and an Erskine Fellow at The University of Canterbury in New Zealand, and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In April 2016 Freyd was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Society for the Study of Trauma & Dissociation. Freyd currently serves as the Editor of the Journal of Trauma & Dissociation.

Interpersonal and Institutional Betrayal
March 29, 2016

Date: March 29, 2016 (Tue)
Time: 11:00-12:00
Venue: Rm 619, Sino Building
Speaker: Dr. Raymond C.K. Chan, Ph.D.
Distinguished Professor of Neuropsychology and Applied Cognitive Neuroscience
Affiliation: University of Edinburgh
Title: Institute of Psychology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences
  Schizophrenia is associated with a wide range of cognitive and emotional impairments including the reduced ability to experience pleasure and happiness, namely anhedonia. Anhedonia is one of the key negative symptoms affecting the ultimate functional outcome and has an adverse impact on quality of life for patients with schizophrenia. Yet, very little is known about whether at‐risk individuals for psychosis will also show similar deficits in experiencing pleasure and happiness. The current presentation will seek to examine the ability of experiencing pleasure in individuals at‐risk for psychosis by using a 2‐facet framework of anhedonia, namely the anticipatory and consummatory pleasure. I shall provide evidence that these at‐risk individuals have already demonstrated subtle behavioural manifestations and structural brain and functional connectivity abnormalities. These findings are consistent with the impairment of the “social brain” system observed in patients with established schizophrenia and highlight the need for early identification and corresponding intervention for assisting these individuals to cope with their daily functioning.
About the Speaker: Dr. Raymond Chan has been conducting research actively in neuropsychology and mental health, particularly in understanding cognitive deficits in patients with schizophrenia and its underlying psychopathology. He is now a distinguished professor of neuropsychology and applied cognitive neuroscience at the Institute of Psychology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. He is also the honorary director for research at the Institute of Mental Health, Castle Peak Hospital (Hong Kong) and honorary director for the Translational Neuropsychology and Applied Cognitive Neuroscience Lab at the Shanghai Mental Health Centre. His research record has earned him the Distinguished Young Scientist Award from the National Science Foundation China, Young Investigator Award from NARSAD, and the Distinguished Griffith Visiting Researcher. He is the Regional Representative for Asia for the International Neuropsychological Society. He holds numerous funds from various funding agents, including the National Science Foundation of China, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Ministry of Science and Technology of China, NARSAD, and the Smart Futures Fund (QLD), National and International Research Alliances Program. Dr. Chan has published over 260 scientific peer-reviewed articles and 6 book chapters dealing with schizophrenia research and traumatic brain injury, including New England Journal of Medicine, JAMA Psychiatry, Molecular Psychiatry, Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, Schizophrenia Bulletin etc. He is currently serving at the editorial boards of “Scientific Reports”, “Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience”, “Frontiers in Psychology”, “Clinical Rehabilitation”, “Cognitive Neuropsychiatry”, and “Neuropsychological Rehabilitation” and four local professional journals.

Why is adolescence such a tricky time for depression?
The role of emotional processing and self‐compassion

March 10, 2016

Date: March 10, 2016 (Thu)
Time: 11:00-12:00
Venue: Rm 619, Sino Building
Speaker: Dr. Stella Chan
Chancellor’s Fellow – Lecturer in Clinical Psychology
Affiliation: University of Edinburgh
Title: Why is adolescence such a tricky time for depression?
The role of emotional processing and self‐compassion
  My research seeks to build a theoretical model to understand vulnerability and resilience to depression, with the ultimate goal to improve prevention / early intervention strategies. Adolescence is a tricky developmental stage; it is the time when we see an alarming increase in emotional difficulties, while rapid neural‐cognitive maturation also offers hope that young people may have greater capacity to build resilience. In collaboration with many wonderful collaborators in the UK and beyond, my work focuses on examining how young people at risk of depression process emotional information, including negative biases across attention, interpretation and memory, seen in both behavioural and brain imaging experiments. My recent research interests also expand into the role of self‐compassion in psychopathology.
About the Speaker: After completing a DPhil in Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford in 2008, I qualified as a clinical psychologist in 2012. I was then awarded a prestigious Chancellor’s Fellowship at the University of Edinburgh. In addition to my academic role as university lecturer, I am also an honorary clinical psychologist in NHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service and Co-Chair of the Royal Society of Edinburgh Young Academy of Scotland. Amongst all of my projects I am particularly excited about Project Soothe (www.projectsoothe.com) which is a unique initiative combining research and public engagement. I am also part of the team maintaining a blog called Researching The Headlines that helps the public understand how research findings are being portrayed by the media. I am enthusiastic in building partnership with professionals working in education, healthcare and support services for young people to ensure that our research is truly valuable and applicable for them. Do get in touch via email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Twitter @StellaWYChan

More information about me can be found here:

Neural Consequences of Bilingualism
March 2, 2016

Date: March 2, 2016 (Wed)
Time: 16:30-18:15
Venue: Lecture Theatre 4, Lee Shau Kee Building
Speaker: Prof. Jubin Abutalebi
Affiliation: University Vita-Salute San Raffaele
Title: Neural Consequences of Bilingualism
  Bilingualism not only expresses itself as the ability to speak more than one language but also appears to shape individual performance on tests of cognitive functioning. The cognitive processes most likely to be affected by bilingualism are those involved in cognitive systems orchestrating resources assigned to attentional and executive control. However, debate is enraging on whether bilingualism provides actually a cognitive advantage.
Beyond eventual behavioural differences, bilingualism seems to affect brain structure as well. Bilingualism induces experience-related structural changes (i.e., in terms of increased grey or white matter density) in areas that are part of the executive control network such as the frontal lobes, the left inferior parietal lobule, the anterior cingulate cortex, and in subcortical structures. The primary goal of my presentation is to provide an overview of the functional and structural changes induced by bilingualisms (i.e., the neural consequences of bilingualism), and, second, to illustrate specifically how eventually these brain changes may protect the human brain from cognitive decline during aging.
About the Speaker: Jubin Abutalebi, MD (Milan), PhD (Hong Kong), is a cognitive neurologist and Associate Professor of Neuropsychology at the Faculty of Psychology of the University San Raffaele and Scientific Institute San Raffaele in Milan, Italy. He is known for his many functional and structural neuroimaging studies investigating the representation, acquisition and processing of languages in bilinguals. The results of his landmark researches on bilinguals have been published in the main international neuropsychological, neuroimaging and neurosciences journals. His research has contributed to enlighten the cerebral basis of language control in bilinguals.
Jubin Abutalebi is the editor-in-chief of the prestigious international journal “Bilingualism: Language and Cognition” (Cambridge University Press).

Co‐registration of eye movements and EEG during reading
February 29, 2016

Date: February 29, 2016 (Mon)
Time: 11:00-12:00
Venue: Room 619, Sino Building
Speaker: Prof. Werner Sommer, Ph.D.
Chair of Biological Psychology and Psychophysiology
Affiliation: Department of Psychology, Humboldt-University, Berlin
Title: Co‐registration of eye movements and EEG during reading
  Event‐related potentials (ERPs) are a powerful tool in the investigation of reading, where temporal resolution is of utmost importance. However, because of several problems, ERPs during reading have usually been studied by presenting sentences word by word at a fixation point and at a fixed presentation rate, excluding important factors from the reading process, such as parafoveal preview and eye movements. Therefore we have explored options to record ERPs during natural reading, trying to overcome several methodological obstacles. The talk will address these questions and findings from studies that have applied co‐registration of eye‐movements and ERPs during natural reading.
About the Speaker: Prof. Werner Sommer is the chair of Biological Psychology and Psychophysiology at the Department of Psychology, Humboldt-University at Berlin, since 1995. He received his PhD from the University of Konstanz in 1982. His research interest is human cognition, investigated mainly with the Electroencephalgramm and behavioral methods, especially reaction times and eye tracking. Special topics of his research are reading, language, face processing, emotion recognition, psychomotor processing, individual differences in social cognition, and the development of new methods and method combinations, such as the coregistration of EEG and eye movement during reading.

Computational social neuroscience: from dopamine to culture and Mega-Cities
February 22, 2016

Date: February 22, 2016 (Mon)
Time: 11:00-12:00
Venue: Room 619, Sino Building
Speaker: Dr. George Christopoulos, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Nanyang Business School, NTU, Singapore
Research Director, Culture Science Institute, NTU
Fellow, Asian Consumers Insights Institute
Affiliated Scholar, VT Carilion Research Institute
Affiliation: NTU, Singapore
Title: Computational social neuroscience: from dopamine to culture and Mega-Cities
  In the first part of my presentation, I will present a series of studies that fuse computational neuroscience, microeconomics, game theory and agent-based modelling to systematically explore the neurobiology of decision making in both non-social and socially loaded environments. Firstly, I will set the basis by unfolding behavioral and neuronal parameters predicting individual decision-making in risky environments. Subsequently, the presentation will expand to the social domain and explore how computational approaches can explain learning mechanisms of competitive and cooperative actions, social influence and trust. Agent-based modelling approaches were used to demonstrate how laws describing individual behavior could provide surprising results when extrapolated to complex networks of interacting agents.
On the second part, I will present more recent work and a future program examining the impact of urbanization and Mega-Cities on human behavior, cross-cultural interactions and psychology. I will finish with a call for the establishment of a multi-disciplinary network of Asian-based researchers aiming in the improvement of mental health via a better understanding of the interaction between the built environment, culture and human neurobiology.
About the Speaker: I hold a Ph.D. in Cognitive Neuroscience (University of Cambridge; postdoc at Cambridge, Baylor College of Medicine and Virginia Tech) and I have extensive research experience in neurobehavioral accounts of human behavior. In a series of studies, we identified the neural correlates underlying decision making under risk and risk attitudes (PNAS, 2009; Journal of Neuroscience, 2009, 2010). Recent studies have explored the social aspects of human behaviour employing novel neuro-computational approaches (Nature Neuroscience, 2015, Neuroimage 2015).
A new research stream in my lab explores the effects of the development of Mega-Cities and urbanicity on human behaviour, mental health and performance. We explore how architectural parameters such as lighting, windowless spaces, sounds and the concept of horizon interact with the human brain and body. Additionally, we explore how the cultural mixing that urbanicity brings is translated by the human brain. Our aim is to develop standards for liveable cities.
Methodologically, we employ a rich, multi-disciplinary approach combining different methods including (i) lab-based methods (behavioral game theory) (ii) cognitive neuroscience (fMRI, eye-tracking and electrodermal responses) (iii) computational approaches (at the individual [learning theory] and group level [Agent-Based modelling]) and (iv) field studies with real-world applications.

The real‐time functional architecture of visual word‐recognition
February 15, 2016

Date: February 15, 2016 (Mon)
Time: 11:00-12:00
Venue: Room 619, Sino Building
Speaker: Prof. William Marslen-Wilson, Ph.D.
Fellow of the British Academy
Honorary Professor of Language and Cognition
Affiliation: University of Cambridge
Title: The real‐time functional architecture of visual word‐recognition
  Despite a century of research into visual word recognition, basic questions remain unresolved about the functional architecture of the process that maps visual inputs from orthographic analysis onto lexical form and meaning, and about the units of analysis in terms of which these processes are conducted. In a series of three studies we have combined magnetoencephalography and electroencephalography (EMEG), supported by masked priming behavioral studies, to address these questions directly. A first set of results, consistent with morpho‐orthographic models based on masked priming data, map out the real‐time functional architecture of the system, establishing basic feedforward processing relationships between orthographic form, morphological structure, and lexical meaning. A second study, using semantic priming techniques, shows that these effects operate only on later (after 250ms) lexical levels. A third study, combining source‐localised EMEG data with multivariate analyses of real‐time processes in posterior fusiform, reveals pre‐lexical position sensitive processing in the visual word‐form area, with lexical involvement occurring later (around 250 ms) in posterior inferior temporal and anterior fusiform regions. No evidence is seen for phonological involvement in these early processes.
About the Speaker: Prof. Marslen-Wilson has played a vital role in the development of psychological theories of language and cognitive neuroscience. He led two internationally leading research institutes (i.e., Max-Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen, The Netherlands, and MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge, UK) and has held academic posts at the University of Chicago, the University of Cambridge and Birkbeck College, University of London.

Introspection, solitude, and affective experience: What can we learn by combining time-sampling and retrospective reports?
January 26, 2016

Date: January 26, 2016 (Tue)
Time: 11:00-12:00
Venue: Room 619, Sino Building
Speaker: Ms. Jennifer Lay
PhD Student and Vanier Scholar, Department of Psychology
Affiliation: The University of British Columbia
Title: Introspection, solitude, and affective experience: What can we learn by combining time-sampling and retrospective reports?
  Affect self-reports not only illuminate lived experience but can also reflect individual differences in how people make sense of their emotions – depending on how these self-reports are obtained. This talk will present ongoing research combining experience-sampling and retrospective report approaches to look at introspection and affective experience and how they are intertwined. In one study, individuals were shown to exaggerate certain affective states and to downplay others when giving retrospective as compared to concurrent affect reports, exhibiting biases that aligned with distinct personality profiles over time. Personality and self-schemas may also shape everyday experiences of solitude – time spent alone that may be alternately avoided and cherished, offering the opportunity for introspection and provoking a range of possible emotions. I will describe current work investigating solitude in the daily lives of Chinese and Canadian older adults, and potential individual difference factors shaping how people experience and reflect upon their time spent alone.
About the Speaker: Jennifer Lay is a PhD student and Vanier Scholar in the Department of Psychology at the University of British Columbia, under the supervision of Dr. Christiane Hoppmann. Having received a BSc in Geomatics Engineering from the University of Calgary, she brings a quantitative methods focus to the study of behaviour and emotion. Her research centers on social engagement and disengagement in daily life, how individuals make sense of their felt experiences, and consequences for wellbeing. Using a combination of time-sampling, photovoice, and experimental methods, much of her research involves community-dwelling older adults of diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds as both study participants and key project partners. Jennifer is currently a visiting PhD student in the CUHK Motivation and Emotion lab involved in a study of cultural and migration influences shaping the relationship between solitude and mental health.

Anxiety in adolescence: Identifying mechanistic phenotypes across development
January 12, 2016

Date: January 12, 2016 (Tue)
Time: 11:00-12:00
Venue: Room 619, Sino Building
Speaker: Dr. Jennifer Lau, Ph.D.
Associate Professor (Reader)in Developmental Psychopathology
Affiliation: Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN)
King’s College London
Title: Anxiety in adolescence: Identifying mechanistic phenotypes across development
  Anxiety is common in adolescents as a single condition but also co-occurring with other psychiatric and non-psychiatric conditions. Frontline interventions can have variable effects and are difficult to access. Identifying mechanistic phenotypes that mediate between distal risk factors and behaviour can inform novel anxiolytic interventions. This talk presents examples of such an approach from my research lab. I will outline the developmental context in which anxiety emerges, and the suggestion that certain genetic and environmental risk factors explain individual differences. Next, I present data measuring neurocognitive mechanisms that characterise anxiety. Finally, I show data from cognitive training and neurofeedback studies that aim to teach more adaptive neurocognitive processing styles.
About the Speaker: Jennifer Lau is an Associate Professor (Reader) in Developmental Psychopathology at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London. She completed her BSc in Psychology with first class honours at University College London, before embarking on a doctorate at the Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre at the IoPPN. Following a brief visiting post-doctoral fellowship at the National Institute of Mental Health in the US, she was appointed as University Lecturer and Tutorial Fellow at the University of Oxford. At Oxford, she founded the Researching Emotional Disorders and Development (REDD) Laboratory before moving to KCL but where she continues to direct the lab across two sites.

What have we learned about reading from computational models and brain imaging studies of written word recognition?
December 16, 2015

Date: December 16, 2015 (Wed)
Time: 11:00-12:00
Venue: Room 619, Sino Building
Speaker: Dr. Jason Zevin, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Psychology and Linguistics
Affiliation: University of Southern California
Title: What have we learned about reading from computational models and brain imaging studies of written word recognition?
  Computational models and brain imaging both promise to provide rich, multidimensional, mechanistic explanations of cognitive and linguistic processes. And yet both models and imaging experiments on written word recognition have largely focused on inherited tasks from the behavioral literature that involve making meta-linguistic decisions, and require the flexible and strategic deployment of processes involved in reading. This creates problems for model evaluation: When a simulation of an experiment is successful, it is never clear how much credit to assign to the model of the cognitive processes under consideration, and how much to the model of the task itself. A similar problem arises in neuroimaging, where we have shown that task demands interact with stimulus properties throughout a broad network of regions associated with reading. In this talk I will advocate asking different kinds of questions that mitigate these problems. For example, how do people generalize their knowledge of the mapping from written to spoken forms when presented with novel forms (pseudowords like VONTH)? Can we understand typical and atypical acquisition of reading skill in two very different writing systems -- English and Chinese -- in terms of the same perceptual, linguistic, and learning mechanisms? And, if so, how do we make sense of widely reported differences in the brain activity observed in fMRI experiments on these writing systems? I will address these questions with a series of simulation models and neuroimaging experiments, and sketch out some new directions in combining these techniques to ask new kinds of questions.
About the Speaker: Jason Zevin is Associate Professor of Psychology and Linguistics at the University of Southern California and Senior Scientist at Haskins Laboratories. His work combines behavioral, computational, and neuroimaging approaches to study basic mechanisms in reading and speech perception. In research on reading, he has recently focused on asking whether the same functional architecture can be applied to understand reading in different orthographic systems.With respect to speech perception, he has studied the perception of speech contrasts by non-native listeners, and, increasingly, is trying to connect the difficulties observed in laboratory perceptual tests with online comprehension in more ecologically valid contexts.

Early identification and prevention of difficulties in learning to read - a global perspective
November 17, 2015

Date: November 17, 2015 (Tue)
Time: 11:00-12:00
Venue: Room 619, Sino Building
Speaker: Prof. Heikki Lyytinen, Ph.D., Professor, UNESCO-professor
Affiliation: Department of Psychology, University of Jyväskylä, Finland
Title: Early identification and prevention of difficulties in learning to read - a global perspective
  In the Jyväskylä Longitudinal study of Dyslexia (JLD), we followed children with and without risk for dyslexia from birth to puberty. The earliest reliable predictions of difficulties associated with reading acquisition can be made already at 3-5 days of age on the basis of brain responses to speech sounds. Dynamic assessment of the first training steps (at 6-7y of age) for learning the connections between spoken and written items with our Graphogame (GG) technology assesses the skill and helps efficiently in the acquisition of the basic reading skill. It is available now in many languages including e.g. English and for taking the first steps of Chinese.
About the Speaker: Prof. Lyytinen received his Ph D in psychology from the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland) in 1984. He is currently an emeritus professor of Developmental Neuropsychology at the University of Jyväskylä but also works full time as UNESCO professor/UNITWIN chair on Inclusive Literacy Learning for All. He serves as the Board chairperson on several Finnish organizations such as the Agora Human Technology Centre and the Niilo Mäki Foundation. His focus has been on Human learning with a bias towards neuropsychological and psychophysiological research of learning disorders. His areas of expertise include developmental neuropsychology, psychophysiology and dyslexia.

Most experiments in psychology cannot guarantee causal relationships: A perspective on sample size
November 10, 2015

Date: November 10, 2015 (Tue)
Time: 11:00-12:00
Venue: Room 619, Sino Building
Speaker: Chih-Long Yen1, Ph.D.
Full Professor
Department of Counseling & I/O Psychology
Ming Chuan University, Taiwan

Chung-Ping Cheng, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Psychology
National Cheng-Kung University, Taiwan 
Title: Most experiments in psychology cannot guarantee causal relationships: A perspective on sample size
  The main purpose of this study is to evaluate if current psychological experiments are valid for inferring causal relationships in terms of sample sizes. Experimental research primarily achieves the goal of drawing casual inference through the random assignment. Randomization allows researchers to make groups equal in terms of nuisance variables without the need to identify the effects of those nuisance variables or even the number of nuisance variables. However, successful randomization requires a large enough sample. As far as we saw, sample sizes in most psychological experiments are small. Are the sample sizes of current psychological experiments appropriate for drawing causal inferences? How large is the sample size needed for successful randomization? We developed a method which allows researcher to estimated sample size need for successful randomization in experiments. In additions, we investigated three leading experimental psychology journals, including Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Psychological Science, and Journal of Experimental Psychology-General, to estimate their probability of accurately inferring causal relationships. The results indicated that, for 99.7% of experiments, it would be inappropriate to make causal inferences given a strict criteria of a tolerable confounding effect (i.e. rxc=.1 between independent variables and confounding variables) and a tolerable poor-randomization rate equivalent to traditional nominal type I error rate (= .05). We discuss the implications of these findings and argue that experimenters should be more serious about taking sample size into account.
About the Speaker: Chih-Long Yen is a full professor of the Dept of Counseling & I/O Psychology, Ming Chuan University, Taiwan. During his early career, his research interests are centered primarily around the experimental existential psychology, which concerned about how human beings cope with, or defend, their fears of inevitable death. However, most of his research failed to find evidence supporting the main theory of this issue (i.e., terror management theory; TMT). Inspired by his personal experience of unable to replicate main stream theories, he then turned his research interests to the methodology of psychology. The topics he concerns include replication, flexibility when collecting and analyzing data, and the influence of sample size on research validity.

An ecological perspective to studying family processes
October 13, 2015

Date: October 13, 2015 (Tue)
Time: 11:00-12:00
Venue: Room 619, Sino Building
Speaker: Dr. Ian Lam,Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Affiliation: Department of Early Childhood Education, Hong Kong Institute of Education
Title: An ecological perspective to studying family processes
  According to an ecological perspective, the implications of family processes are often dependent on the embedding context and/or the personal characteristics of the child. In a series of correlational studies, I explored such Process X Context and Process X Person interactions using U.S. and local Chinese samples: The adjustment implications of parent-child interactions, including parent-child shared time, parental educational involvement, and coparenting cooperation, varied as a function of (a) whether other people were present, (b) whether the parent and the child had a close relationship and the family experienced economic pressure, and (c) whether the child was temperamentally “difficult.”
About the Speaker: Ian studies how marital, parent-child, and sibling relationships may interact with contextual and individual factors to shape development and well-being.

Defining Reading Difficulties and Identifying Their Correlates across Cultures
September 15, 2015

Date: September 15, 2015 (Tue)
Time: 11:00-12:00
Venue: Room 619, Sino Building
Speaker: Prof. Catherine A. McBride
Affiliation: Department of Psychology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Title: Defining Reading Difficulties and Identifying Their Correlates across Cultures
  Different areas of the world define reading difficulties differently. For example, the criteria by which dyslexia is diagnosed in Hong Kong Chinese children is different from the criteria by which it is diagnosed in Mainland Chinese, American, Greek, or Zambian children. In addition, reading difficulties can be of different forms. Some children might have particular problems in reading comprehension skills (but not word reading) in a first language or in reading words in a second language, for example. In this talk, Prof. McBride will highlight how different definitions of reading difficulties can affect their identification and diagnosis. Such definitions are determined in part by culture, broadly defined, as well as by language and orthography. She will then highlight a) common cognitive correlates of dyslexia, b) uniqueness and overlap in word reading difficulties in a second language, and c) common correlates of reading comprehension difficulties. Reading difficulties at the word level may be linked to both segmental and suprasegmental phonological sensitivity, morphological awareness in the forms of inflections, derivations, or lexical compounding, and visual-spatial or visual-motor skills, depending upon a given orthography, language, or basic cultural environment. Sources of reading comprehension difficulties are broader still.
About the Speaker: Prof. Catherine McBride is a developmental psychologist who studies reading development and impairment across cultures. The author of approximately 160 peer-reviewed journal articles and four books (two forthcoming in 2016), Prof. McBride has also served as an Associate Editor for four journals (Developmental Psychology; Reading and Writing; Journal of Research in Reading; International Journal of Behavioral Development) as well as for the International Encyclopedia of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Prof. McBride is a Fellow for the Association for Psychological Science and President of the international Society for the Scientific Study of Reading. She is currently the Associate Dean for Research for the Social Sciences Faculty at The Chinese University of Hong Kong.