4 Graduate Student Teaching Award Winners

May 27, 2015

We are pleased to announce that four of our graduate students have recently won the Graduate Students’ Teaching Award. Charlene Fu is receiving the award for the third time, and has been placed on the Honor Roll. Congratulations!!

Fu Siling Charlene
Alethea Koh Hui Qin
Eri Sasaki
Vania Yip Ting

Since Eri is a first-time winner, we also took the opportunity to find out what makes her such an effective teacher.

What inspires you to teach?

1. My teachers. I am fortunate to have had nurturing teachers who have made a difference in my life; in fact, I can confidently say that these teachers have largely contributed to the person I am today––they changed the way I see the world, fueled lifelong passion in certain fields, and encouraged me to find and pursue my career dreams. Hence, I understand that teachers can touch students’ lives in the present and far into the future, and I hope that in my own little ways, I can also make a positive difference in my students’ lives.

2. My students. There is something alluring to watch my students learn and grow intellectually alongside myself. Furthermore, little acts of appreciation by students, such as a simple “thank you” after class, as well as encouraging notes and email messages are always heartening and only motivate me to be a better teacher for my students.

What are some of the major challenges you face as a teacher?

I am new to teaching and it was not long ago that I was on the other side of the classroom as an undergraduate student. Thus, I sometimes feel inadequate of my abilities and knowledge as a teacher. At the same time, I understand that confidence is necessary for effective teaching. Building self-confidence is still a work-in-progress for myself. I strive to be well acquainted with the tutorial content, and to also learn to be at ease with uncertainty when asked a question I do not know the answer to.

Why do you think you are an effective teacher?

I am honored to receive the GSTA award, but I am still learning to be an effective teacher. For now, I believe that a fundamental trait of an effective teacher is caring for students. A genuine concern for students motivates teaching with clarity with the goal of helping students understand the teaching material. At the same time, it fosters a comfortable learning environment that encourages an open exchange of ideas in class. Of course, caring for students goes beyond the teaching materials––I also strive to take on the role of a mentor to my students, such as helping students explore possible future directions, of which are opportunities that I greatly treasure.

Brown Bag Talk by Mr. Melvin Ng on 15 May

May 11, 2015


Speaker: Mr. Melvin Ng

Title: The Past and Future are in Your Hands: How Gestures Affect Our Understanding of Temporal Concepts

Date: Friday, 15 May, 1-2pm

Venue: AS4/02-08 (Psychology Department Meeting Room)


Spatial metaphors are commonly used by individuals to represent and reason about time in daily conversations. In English, such spatial metaphors are arranged primarily along the sagittal axis. These metaphors are often paired with gestures that reveal the possible axes along which our internal conceptualisation of time may be aligned against. Previous experimental investigations have commonly found that time is represented along the lateral axis in English speakers, despite an absence of metaphors arraying time along this axis. One of the issues faced by such investigations is the usage of a forced spatialization of responses as proxy to investigate space-time associations in the mind. The usage of such specific motor responses may compel participants to adopt these convenient frames for temporal representation transiently. As such, their findings could have been a result of their experimental methodology, rather than how individuals actually represent time in their minds. The present study attempts to use gestures as primes to investigate how English-Mandarin bilinguals conceptualize time by tapping on their temporal concepts directly. Participants were required to make temporal classifications of words after watching a gestural prime. Results from our experiments into the lateral and sagittal planes revealed effects of congruency along the sagittal axis, but not the lateral axis. This suggests that individuals primarily represent time most strongly along the sagittal axis when not constrained by a particular response format. Implications for models of how individuals represent time as well as methods of investigating how time is represented in the mind are discussed.

About the Speaker:

Melvin Ng is a Masters candidate pursuing his M.Soc.Sci at the Department of Psychology at NUS under the supervision of Dr Winston Goh. His main research examines how gestures may serve as a means by which to access cognitive representations in the mind.

Social Anxiety Management Program (Organized by CHPC)

May 8, 2015

Social anxiety group flyer

Brown Bag Talk by Ms. Alethea Koh on 8 May

May 4, 2015


Speaker: Ms. Alethea Koh

Title: The Effect of Awe on Negative Affect towards Lost Possessions 

Date: Friday, 8 May, 1-2pm

Venue: AS4/02-08 (Psychology Department Meeting Room)


Awe is a relatively less studied emotion and there are only a handful of studies examining its effects on people. As awe has been theoretically linked to experiences of vastness and spirituality, the present study proposes that awe helps individuals alleviate their negative affect towards possessions that are lost. The findings show that participants experiencing awe had less negative feelings after both imagined and actual loss of their possessions. The results also suggest that awe may be able to produce the same alleviating effect as happiness.  Implications of awe as an alternative means for individuals to cope with loss and other future directions will be discussed.

About the Speaker:

Alethea Koh is a Masters candidate pursuing her M.Soc.Sci at the Department of Psychology at NUS under the supervision of Dr Eddie Tong. Her interests stems from how positive emotions can be applied to help individuals strengthen their character and values. Her current research examines how awe can help individuals overcome experiences of material loss.

A/P Mike Cheung’s new book is out!

April 27, 2015


A/P Mike Cheung’s new book titled “Meta-Analysis: A Structural Equation Modeling Approach” is out. It presents a novel approach to conducting meta-analysis using structural equation modeling.


Brown Bag Talk by Dr. Luca Onnis on 15 April

April 13, 2015


Speaker: Dr. Luca Onnis

Title: Learn locally, act globally

Date: Wednesday 15 April, 1-2pm

Venue: AS4/02-08 (Psychology Department Meeting Room)


Human learning is subserved by powerful cognitive mechanisms for extracting statistical regularities in the environment. However, not all possible statistical regularities can be computed at any one time, especially by the young developing brain. When several streams of regularities present themselves, which will be learned and which ignored? In this talk I propose that statistical learning proceeds incrementally, using small windows of opportunity in which the relevant relations are those that hold over spatially and/or temporally neighboring objects, sounds, or other events. Results from behavioral experiments and computer models suggest that temporal contiguity and contrast are effective constraints for learning, and that the order of presentation of learning materials can make a significant difference. In addition, the time window can be influenced by the dynamics of attentional focus as guided by social interaction. In interactions with caregivers, the structure to be learned is typically presented redundantly, which fits well working memory constraints of a young learner. In particular, a ubiquitous aspect of parent–child interaction is the use of utterances with partial repetitions that cluster in time (variation sets). I end by sketching an ongoing project, in which we ask whether individual differences in parental use of variation sets predict successful language learning.

About the Speaker:

Luca Onnis directs the LEAP lab (http://leaplab.hss.ntu.edu.sg) in the Division of Linguistics and Multilingual Studies at NTU. His research focuses on basic mechanisms of human learning in both children and adults as they relate to language evolution, acquisition, and processing.

Brown Bag Talk by Mr. Alexander Yuen on 10 April

April 9, 2015


Speaker: Mr. Alexander Yuen

Title: Profiles of Amazement

Date: Friday April 10, 1-2pm

Venue: AS4/02-08 (Psychology Department Meeting Room)


The feeling of amazement is an experience we have all felt at some points of our lives. Amazement can occur in a variety of situations ranging from a simple discovery that the mimosa plant closes when touched to something complex like comprehending how a heavy object like the aircraft can stay in the air. However, what exactly is amazement and how is it different from related states like awe, surprise, confusion and amusement? The talk will discuss a study that examined the experience of amazement where participants recalled events pertaining to amazement (and other states) and rated along several appraisal dimensions, this study identified various core appraisal dimensions specific to amazement and established them to be different from its related states.

About the Speaker:

Alexander Yuen is a Master Degree candidate working on his dissertation with Dr Eddie Tong. With his background as a corporate magician, he draws anecdotal inspirations from his performances toward the current research that pertains to the experience of amazement.

Brown Bag Talk by Dr. Lidia Suárez on 8 April

April 6, 2015


Speaker: Dr. Lidia Suárez

Title: Recognition Memory for New Characters and Words by Bilinguals with Different Writing Systems

Date: Wednesday April 8, 12-1pm

Venue: AS4/02-08 (Psychology Department Meeting Room)


Distinct orthographies demand and promote specific cognitive skills to a different extent. For example, greater visual memory ability has been associated with reading logographic languages (Tavassoli, 2002), and better phonological awareness with alphabetic languages (Rickard Liow, 2014). Moreover, studies have focused on how the use of different scripts affect the learning of new logographic words. For instance, Ehrich and Meuter (2009) found faster response latencies during new-character recognition by Chinese-English bilinguals as compared to English-French bilinguals. However, the bilinguals’ performance was equal regarding recognition accuracy and syntactic processing speed. Those results suggested that a logographic background might facilitate basic processes involved in character identification (e.g., visual speed and storage of visuospatial information) rather than higher-order processes involved in lexical access. The current study explored the influence of the use of different writing systems on basic processes of visual memory, and recognition memory of new characters and words. Participants were 243 English monolinguals and bilinguals literate in English and another alphabetic, alphasyllabic, or logographic language. The first hypothesis predicted that logographic users would show visuospatial memory enhancement and advantage at recognising new characters. Results showed that logographic users performed better than the average of the other three groups in visuospatial memory tasks. However, memory recognition for characters was similar. This suggests that experience in reading Chinese might facilitate rapid processing and storage in short-term memory, but not long-term memory. The second hypothesis compared biscriptal bilinguals (English-Chinese and English-Tamil [or Hindi]) in order to understand whether memory enhancement could be related to the use of Chinese or the use of two scripts. The results revealed that greater memory and character-learning performance were associated with the use of Chinese and not alphasyllabic language. Thus, it could be that experience with alphasyllabic script might have prompted the participants to use inadequate strategies when learning new character-like forms. The third hypothesis tested bilinguals’ learning facilitation of new spoken words. The results showed that bilinguals’ new-word recognition response latencies and accuracies were higher than the monolinguals’. This supports previous findings that relate bilinguals’ enhanced phonological capacity to a broad phonological repertoire stored in long-term memory.

About the Speaker:

Lidia Suárez is a senior lecturer of Psychology and registered research supervisor at James Cook University. She received her M.Soc.Sci. and Ph.D. from the National University of Singapore. Her research interests include bilingualism, psycholinguistics, second language acquisition, linguistic relativity, and word recognition. Lidia is a member of the Language Research Centre at the Cairns Institute, the Association for Psychological Science, and the Society for the Teaching of Psychology. She also collaborates with researchers from the Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences (A*STAR), and is a consultant for the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) in Singapore. She has published her work in journals such as Psychonomic Bulletin and Review and Memory and Cognition.


Brown Bag Talk by Dr. Paul O’Keefe on 1 April

April 1, 2015



Speaker: Dr. Paul O’Keefe

Title: Interest Mindsets: How They Influence Openness to Interests and the Motivation to Pursue Them

Date: 1 April, 12-1pm

Venue: AS4/02-08 (Psychology Department Meeting Room)


People are often told to find their passion as though passions and interests are pre-formed and must simply be discovered. What happens when people buy into this idea? I began by assessing people’s implicit theories of interest—whether they believed that personal interests are inherent and relatively fixed or instead subject to growth and development. It was found that when people were already invested in a particular interest domain, a fixed theory predicted less interest in topics outside that area and, overall, a narrower range of interests (Study 1, 2, and 3). These implicit theories had other key motivational implications. A fixed theory fostered the idea that passions automatically provide limitless motivation, whereas a growth theory fostered the expectation that pursuing a passion could well be difficult at times (Study 4). Indeed, when engaging in an interest became difficult, fixed theorists’ interest flagged significantly, whereas growth theorists’ interest was relatively sustained (Study 5).This research has implications for intervention, such that a growth theory may have particular benefits for long-term goal pursuit.

About the Speaker:

Paul A. O’Keefe, Ph.D. is a social psychologist and Assistant Professor of Psychology at Yale-NUS College. He is also Director of the Mindsets & Motivation Lab, which focuses on research pertaining to goal pursuit with particular attention to motivational factors, including interest, implicit self-theories, and self-regulation.

Prof. O’Keefe earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of California, Berkeley. Subsequently, he joined the Yale University Center for the Psychology of Abilities, Competencies, and Expertise as a research assistant where he worked with Robert J. Sternberg. In 2009, he completed his doctoral training in social psychology at Duke University, after which he was awarded the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Postdoctoral Fellowship, a position he held at Stanford University where he worked with Carol S. Dweck.

Joint Psychology and Economics Seminar

March 25, 2015

Department Seminar Joint with Department of Psychology



Value for self, others and psychopathology



Ray Dolan

University College London



March 27, Friday



10:30 am – 12:00 noon



AS7 01-17 (Seminar Room B)

National University of Singapore
5 Arts Link, Singapore 117570



Chew Soo Hong



The advent of neuroeconomics has led to an explosion of knowledge regarding how reward and value are encoded in the brain. Although value based behaviour is usually understood in the context of prior learning here I will also consider how we make value-based choices in the absence of prior experience; how we make value-based choice for others; and how overlapping value representations for self and other might impact on each other at the level of the brain. Some of these ideas provide a quantitative means to understand the nature and underpinnings of psychopathological conditions. I will provide examples that serve to illustrate the wider issue of how these approaches might provide a framework for the development of computational-based assays of psychiatric disorders. These in turn can be exploited to probe underlying neurobiological mechanisms and possible help foster a new approach to psychopathology.