Brown Bag Talk by Ms. Deborah Choi on 16 April

April 15, 2014

Speaker: Ms. Deborah Choi

Title: The role of parental touch on language development in 2 to 5 year old children

Date: 16 April 2014, 12pm

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


Just like all aspects of human development, language development is characterized by individual differences. Among the many environmental factors that influence language development, maternal responsiveness is most reliably associated with higher receptive language scores. The maternal responsive behavior that was of interest here is maternal touch. While studies that look specifically into the relationship between maternal touch and language are scarce, indirect evidence from studies on motor, cognitive, and social development points towards a possibility that maternal touch might be beneficial.

To examine this possibility, we recorded and analyzed tactile interactions between mothers and their 2 and 5 year old children during a structured play session lasting about 10 minutes. Language measures from both mothers and children were recorded and compared against the amount of deliberate touch initiated by the parent. Additionally, we examined child directed speech as a further variable against which we sought to compare the effect of maternal touch.

Results showed that both maternal touch and speech measures accounted for child speech. Surprisingly, however, the frequency with which a mother addressed a child through tactile and verbal communication negatively correlated with the syntactic complexity of child speech. Moreover, the only mother behavior that seemed to promote language development was the mother’s own syntactic complexity. The more complex her speech, the more complex was the speech of her child.

These results suggest that, at least in the short term, maternal touch rather than being beneficial impedes on language development. Possibly, when touch is plentiful it negates an acute need to engage in verbal communication and delays the emergence of linguistic sophistication. However, by providing the foundation for mother-child bonding and more general aspects of social development touch may nevertheless contribute to how children acquire linguistic sophistication later in life.

About the Speaker:

Deborah received her bachelor’s degree majoring in Psychology and Cultural Studies/Comparative Literature from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (UMTC). She is currently pursuing her M.Soc.Sci at NUS.

Brown Bag Talk by Ms. Cheng Xiaoqin on 9 April

April 8, 2014

Speaker: Ms. Cheng Xiaoqin

Title: Visual field location of stimulus distorts subjective time

Date: 9 April 2014, 12pm

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


Previous studies have shown that the perceived duration of a visual stimulus depends on its visual field location (Kliegl & Huckauf, submitted; Aedo-Jury & Pins, 2010). However, one cannot rule out the possibility of eye movements such as saccades causing the observed time distortions. In a series of experiments, the effects of stimulus eccentricity on perceived time were examined with the use of an Eyelink-1000 eyetracker sampling at 1000 Hz to monitor eye movements. Participants were asked to engage in a duration comparison task where stimuli were presented at different retinal eccentricities in both the horizontal and vertical meridian. Findings will be discussed in light of current models of time perception.

About the Speaker:

Xiaoqin received her bachelor’s degree majoring in Psychology from the National University of Singapore (NUS). She is currently pursuing her M.Soc.Sci specializing in Cognitive Neuroscience at NUS. Her main research examines the cognitive processes that underlies time perception with the aid of eye-tracking and brain imaging methods.

A/P Konstadina Griva selected as plenary speaker for NKF scientific meeting

March 29, 2014

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In celebration of World Kidney Day, the National Kidney Foundation organized 2 scientific meetings on 22 March 2014. The meetings featured presentations from 82 projects funded through the Venerable Yen Pei National Kidney Foundation Research Fund.

A/P Konstadina Griva was selected to be one of the plenary speakers and had the opportunity to showcase her work in the scientific renal community in Singapore. A/P Griva also received an award of appreciation from Professor Vathsala (Head of Division of Nephrology in NUS Medical School) and chairman of the NKF research foundation. Congratulations, Nadia!

Brown Bag Talk by A/P Hongjing Lu on 26 March

March 25, 2014

Speaker: A/P Hongjing Lu

Title: Is Biological Motion Special? A Psychophysical and Computational Investigation

Date: 26 March 2014, 12pm

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


Many animal species are sensitive to motion patterns generated by other living organisms, presumably due to the ecological importance of biological motion. Human observers show an exquisite ability to accurately identify attributes of an actor, such as identity, emotional state and gender, even when the stimulus lacks a detailed human body form (e.g., a point-light display). However, it remains unclear whether superior perception of biological motion is supported by distinct and specialized mechanisms. In this talk, I will present behavioral and computational evidence showing that both specialized and generic mechanisms are involved in analyzing biological motion. For motion analysis, humans are tuned to two basic characteristics specialized to biological motion: efficient detection of a signature movement, and sensitivity to the congruency between the direction of global body motion and the direction implied by intrinsic limb movements. However, for form analysis, we found no evidence for differences in the visual processing of biological motion versus non-biological object movements. A Bayesian model will be described, which shows that the dynamic form analysis underlying biological motion perception is based on a generic mechanism for integrating probabilistic position and orientation signals in a rational way. At the end, I will also present some recent findings on action adaptation in autism and discuss the implications.

About the Speaker:

Dr. Hongjing Lu received a PhD in Psychology at UCLA in 2005 and postdoctoral training in the Department of Statistic at UCLA in 2006. Prior to joining the faculty at UCLA in 2008, she was an Assistant Professor at the University Hong Kong in 2007. The basic goal of her research is to investigate how humans learn and reason, and how intelligent machines might emulate them. Dr. Lu has a broad background in psychology and statistics, with specific training and expertise in designing psychophysical experiments and developing computational models. Dr. Lu has been the recipient of an NSF CAREER award.

Brown Bag Talk by A/P Gabriel Tan on 19 March

March 18, 2014

Speaker: A/P Gabriel Tan

Title: Hypnosis in the Management of Pain

Date: 19 March 2014, 12pm

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


In this talk, I will first present video clips to demonstrate the use of hypnosis in acute/procedural pain and oral surgery. Then I will briefly discuss the following topics: pain management is brain management; acute vs chronic pain; how acute pain becomes chronic pain (neurobiology); MRI evidence. A parallel theme will also include the following topics: the definition of hypnosis, neural basis of hypnosis; efficacy of hypnosis; and how hypnosis is being used to manage pain. The seminar will conclude with presentation of my own research on hypnosis

About the Speaker:

Gabriel is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology and the Director of Clinical Psychology Program, National University of Singapore. Before coming to NUS, he was an Associate Professor at the Department of Anesthesiology, Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Baylor College of Medicine. Besides being a university professor, Gabriel also has over 35 years of professional experience as clinician researcher, teacher and consultant.

Brown Bag Talk by Prof Keith J. Holyoak on 12 March

March 6, 2014

Speaker: Prof. Keith J. Holyoak

Title: Relational Thinking and the Creative Mindset

Date: 12 March 2014, 12pm

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


The capacity for what I term “role-based” relational reasoning is revealed in the ability to see analogies and understand abstract causal relations. I will argue that this ability (possibly unique to the human species) is a core component in both intelligence and creative thinking. After reviewing what is known about the neural basis for relational reasoning, I will discuss how this ability relates to creativity, and suggest some interventions that have the potential to facilitate creative thinking.

About the Speaker:

Keith J. Holyoak, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles, is a leading researcher in human thinking and reasoning. He received his B.A. from the University of British Columbia in 1971 and his Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1976. Dr. Holyoak was on the faculty of the University of Michigan from 1976-1986 and then joined the Department of Psychology at UCLA. His work combines behavioral studies with both cognitive neuroscience and computational modeling. He has been a recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship and a James McKeen Cattell Fellowship. Dr. Holyoak is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Association for Psychological Science, the Cognitive Science Society, and the Society for Experimental Psychology. He has served as Editor of Cognitive Psychology, Senior Editor of Cognitive Science, Associate Editor of Psychological Science, and as editorial board member of numerous other journals. Dr. Holyoak has published over 200 scientific articles, and is the co-author or editor of numerous books, including Induction: Processes of Inference, Learning and Discovery (MIT Press, 1986), Mental Leaps: Analogy in Creative Thought (MIT Press, 1995), and the Oxford Handbook of Thinking and Reasoning (Oxford University Press, 2012). In a parallel career as a poet he has published Facing the Moon: Poems of Li Bai and Du Fu (Oyster River Press, 2007) My Minotaur: Selected Poems 1998–2006 (Dos Madres Press, 2010), and Foreigner: New English Poems in Chinese Old Style (Dos Madres Press, 2012).


Brown Bag Talk by Mr. Ivan Lee on 5 March

February 26, 2014

Speaker: Mr. Ivan Lee Tian Guang

Title: Assessing the combined effects of alcohol and sleep loss on cognition and simulated driving performance

Date: 5 March 2014, 12pm

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


Both sleep loss and alcohol consumption have been shown to impair driving ability and cognitive performance. It has been suggested that when sleep loss is combined with drinking, performance deficits are much greater than in either factor considered alone. Given that alcohol consumption and partial sleep deprivation are commonly combined, especially in younger drivers, it is important to investigate these effects of behavior on the risk for driving lapses and attentional failure.

This study is the first to systematically examine the interaction of alcohol and sleep loss on driving performance, cognition, and fatigue, using an alcohol clamp, a unique and reliable method in maintaining one at a constant blood alcohol level across an extended period of time.

About the Speaker:

Ivan is a M.Soc.Sci (Psychology) student at the National University of Singapore (NUS), and a research assistant in the Chronobiology and Sleep Laboratory (CSL) in Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School, Singapore. His main research interests are in the effects of sleep loss on cognitive and behavioral abilities, as well as in physiologic outcomes of sleep deprivation and fatigue risk management. Understandably, he loves and appreciates sleep a lot.

An Invitation – Resilience Run 2014 – Sat, 29 March!

February 20, 2014

Dear Colleagues,

Saturday morning – run, walk, stroll, and be a part of a fundraising event in our Faculty 85th Anniversary joint-launch project? WHY NOT?

This email is calling for all of you out there (with or without penchant for running on a Saturday morning…) to participate and have lots and lots of fun on the event detailed below.

Bring your family & friends, have fun, and yes… exercise

Looking forward to seeing LOTS of you there!



Brown Bag Talk by Takashi Obana on Feb 19

February 17, 2014


Speaker: Mr. Takashi Obana

Title: Enhanced visual-spatial and attentional states experienced by expert video game players as a result of first-person shooter action video-gaming

Date: 19 Feb 2014, 12pm

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


The existence of ‘flow’ where individuals exhibit exceptional human performance has been suggested by phenomenological research but has surprisingly been overlooked in the domain of cognitive psychology. Although researchers have speculated that action video-gaming might produce the state of “flow” experience, the previous experimental studies have thus far focused primarily on the long-term (trait) effects that result from action video-gaming, while overlooking possible short-term effects characterizing the state of “flow”. This research investigates whether playing action video-games can induce the state of flow characterized by increased attentional capacities. We compared the baseline performance of experienced action video game players on a number of visual imagery, attentional network, and attentional blink tasks, with their performances on these tasks immediately after half an hour of action video-gaming, and then after half an hour of rest. The results indicate dramatic improvement in performance on the tasks that require selective attention (visual memory, executive network, attentional blink) immediately after video game playing. However, the improvement is temporary and dissipates after half an hour of rest. The findings indicate the existence of flow states characterized by enhanced selective attention and imply the possibility to consciously access the latent resources of our brain to temporarily boost our attentional capacity upon demand.

About the Speaker:

I have been doing a research about optimal experience (i.e. what Abraham Maslow calls peak-experience) using phenomenological method. After I came to NUS, I have focused on the cognitive and neural correlates of similar optimal experience called flow using action video-game.

Brown Bag Talk by Prof Francesca Pazzaglia on 12 Feb

February 9, 2014






Speaker: Prof Francesca Pazzaglia

Title: What factors affect spatial learning and navigation? How abilities, strategies and instructions interact in affecting the performance of wayfinding tasks

Date: 12 Feb 2014, 12pm

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


Spatial knowledge can be acquired from navigation and from other different sources. In particular, human beings have the capacity to construct abstract spatial representations through the use of symbolic supports, such as language, and from virtual reality (VR). I will examine the role played by spatial ability, working memory, sense of direction, and instructions in navigation through real and VR environments. Data will be presented in support of a model of spatial learning where personal characteristics, sources of learning and tasks interact in affecting navigation and spatial representation. The outcomes will be discussed at the light of theories of spatial learning.

About the Speaker:

Francesca Pazzaglia is Professor of Psychology at University of Padua. Her main topics are memory and spatial representations. Francesca investigates cognitive processes implied in spatial representations, and the role played by verbal and visuospatial working memory in spatial ability, multimedia comprehension, spatial texts comprehension, and in the production of route directions. She has also investigated the crucial role played by several motivational and social variables, such as self-theories and gender stereotypes, in affecting spatial abilities and spatial learning.