Brown Bag Talk by Prof Esther Geva on 5 Feb

February 2, 2014

Esther Geva








Speaker: Prof Esther Geva

Title: Language and Literacy Skills in Typically and Non-Typically Developing ESL Children: Developmental and Underlying Cognitive Processes

Date: 5 Feb 2014, 12pm

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


Much of my research on L2 reading development has been guided by general questions such as: Are models of reading based on monolingual readers applicable to L2 students? Is proficiency in the L2 essential for reading in L2? How do reading and language skills in the native language relate to L2 reading skills? Do language and orthographic typology matter in understanding L2 reading development? Is it possible to identify reading disabilities in L2 learners even when they are not fluent in the L2? I will address some of these fundamental questions in relation to Canadian children who are L2 learners, and discuss the implications of research involving L2 children and youth conducted in my lab in Toronto.

About the Speaker:

Esther Geva studied in Israel, the US and Canada. She is Professor in the Department of Applied Psychology and Human Development at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), University of Toronto.  Her research, publications, and teaching focus on (a) developmental issues and best practices concerning language and literacy skills in children from various immigrant and minority backgrounds, including children who immigrate from non-literate countries, (b) language and literacy skills in normally developing learners and learners with learning difficulties and (c) cross-cultural perspectives on children’s psychological problems. She has published numerous articles and chapters in these areas, presented her work internationally, and served on numerous advisory, policy, and review committees in the US and Canada concerned with research on literacy development in minority children.  Springer is about to publish the book “Psychological Assessment of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Children and Adolescents: A Guidebook for School and Clinical Psychologists”, she coauthored with J. Wiener.

Brown Bag Talk by O’Dhaniel A. Mullette-Gillman

January 23, 2014

Speaker: Dr O’Dhaniel A. Mullette-Gillman on 29 Jan

Title: State Alterations of Human Economic and Moral Decision Making

Date: 29 Jan 2014, 12pm

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


I will discuss research examining state alterations of human decision making. I will briefly overview two projects, and then focus on a third: 1) alterations of economic decision making due to aging and sleep deprivation, cognitive fatigue, testosterone levels, and tryptophan depletion, 2) how brain states before option presentation modulate risky decision making (MVPA), and 3) moral judgment modulation by disgust priming: Behavioral function and the underlying dynamic functional connectivity.

For those interested, I discussed these projects briefly in a recently TEDx talk, available at

About the Speaker:

Dr. O’Dhaniel A. Mullette-Gillman is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at the National University of Singapore and the Neuroscience and Behavioral Disorders Program at Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School. Before joining NUS he held post-doctoral research fellow positions with Prof. Scott Huettel at Duke University, and Prof. Paul Glimcher at New York University. He received his PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience from the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Dartmouth College, and his BA in Biopsychology from Oberlin College.

Brown Bag Talk by Prof Jennifer Freyd on 21 Jan

January 16, 2014


Speaker: Prof Jennifer J. Freyd

Title: Betrayal Blindness, Institutional Betrayal, and Telling about Betrayal.

Date: 21 Jan 2014 (Tuesday), 12pm

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


In this research lecture Professor Freyd will focus on new research on betrayal trauma, including research on betrayal blindness, institutional betrayal, and the disclosure of betrayal. Betrayal blindness is the unawareness, not-knowing, and forgetting exhibited by people towards betrayal. Victims, perpetrators, and witnesses may display betrayal blindness in order to preserve relationships, institutions, and social systems upon which they depend. The term “Institutional Betrayal” refers to wrongdoings perpetrated by an institution upon individuals dependent on that institution, including failure to prevent or respond supportively to wrongdoings by individuals (e.g. sexual assault) committed within the context of the institution.  New research suggests that institutional betrayal can exacerbate the impact of interpersonal traumas.  Freyd will also discuss research she has conducted with her colleagues investigating aspects of the disclosure of trauma.  She will discuss some of the ways that telling about betrayal trauma can be risky and some of the ways it can be healing.  Freyd will also describe research regarding a simple intervention that appears to improve the outcome of trauma disclosures.

About the Speaker:

Jennifer J. Freyd Ph.D, is Professor of Psychology at the University of Oregon. She received her BA in Anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania and her Ph.D in Psychology from Stanford University. Professor Freyd directs a laboratory investigating the impact of interpersonal and institutional trauma on mental and physical health, behavior, and society. She has published over 150 articles and her H-index is 40.  Freyd  is author of the award-winning book Betrayal Trauma: The Logic of Forgetting Childhood Abuse and she co-edited with Anne DePrince the volume, Trauma & Cognitive Science.   Her new book Blind to Betrayal, co-authored with Pamela J. Birrell, was published in English by John Wiley & Sons in March 2013 with translations into Portuguese, Korean, Simple Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Japanese, and Russian.  Freyd is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, the American Psychological Society, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  She currently serves as the Editor of the Journal of Trauma & Dissociation.

Brown Bag Talk by A/P Melvin Yap on 6 Nov

November 4, 2013

Speaker: A/P Melvin Yap

Title: Megastudies: What do millions (or so) of trials tell us about lexical processing?

Date: 6th November 2013 (Wednesday), 12pm-1pm

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


Words are a major building block of cognitive science and have been germane to developments in computational modeling, attention, psycholinguistics, cognitive neuroscience, and other areas. However, the vast majority of lexical processing studies are based on experiments where researchers factorially cross the independent variables of interest. Although the traditional factorial approach has obviously yielded a wealth of findings, it is associated with a number of limitations. In the present talk, I will describe a relatively recent complementary approach to studying lexical processing, the megastudy approach, which involves letting the language define the stimuli, instead of selecting stimuli based on a limited set of criteria. I will selectively review some contributions made by megastudies across distinct domains, and also highlight accessible and freely available databases on the Internet for anyone who is interested in taking advantage of this analytic approach.

About the speaker:

At the most general level, I am interested in the processes that underlie the recognition of visually presented words. More specifically, I have been investigating how different variables influence word identification performance in different lexical processing tasks, extending conventional analytic tools with distributional analyses of response time distributions. My other research themes include attentional effects in reading, individual differences in word recognition, task-specific effects, models of lexical processing, and models of lexical decision performance.

Brown Bag Talk by Dr. Iliana Magiati & Ms. Deborah Goh on 30 Oct

November 4, 2013

Speaker: Dr. Iliana Magiati & Ms. Deborah Goh

Title: Autistic traits in Singaporean toddlers: Preliminary findings from a longitudinal study at 18 and 24 months

Date: 30th October 2013 (Wednesday), 12pm-1pm

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


Autistic traits are behaviors associated with the social, communication and behavioral symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), but are commonly found in individuals in the general population. Autistic traits have been found to be normally distributed in the general population in both Western and non-Western countries. Better understanding autistic traits may provide a methodologically stronger and more powerful way of studying the “extreme” of these traits, individuals with diagnosed ASD. In this talk, we will present preliminary data from approximately 380 Singaporean toddlers who have been followed up prospectively since 12 weeks of gestation as part of large cohort study in Singapore, GUSTO (Growing Up in Singapore Towards healthy Outcomes). Autistic traits were reported by caregivers when the children were 18 and 24 months old. We present preliminary analyses of autistic trait scores with a specific focus on gender and cultural differences as well as continuity of autistic traits between the two time points. We also highlight current and planned future work relating to better understanding infant predictors of toddler autistic traits as well as autistic traits as possible predictors of later emotional and behavioral difficulties in young children.

Speakers’ Bio

Iliana is a chartered clinical psychologist trained at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London and currently Assistant Professor here at NUS Psychology. Prior to clinical training, she also completed her Ph.D. research on outcomes of early interventions for children with autism. She is currently working on a number of research projects on screening and diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorders; autistic traits and their relationship with anxiety difficulties; predictors of autistic traits in typically developing toddlers; coping in parents of newly diagnosed children with ASD and others. She also supervises postgraduate clinical psychology interns in their clinical placements

Deborah is Iliana’s full-time research assistant. She is currently studying the expression and predictors of autistic traits among preschoolers. Deborah graduated from NUS, majoring in Psychology and Life Sciences (Biomedical Science). During her honours year, she looked into the association of diabetic biomarkers with cognition among elderly diabetics.

Brown Bag Talk by Mr. Terence Ching on 23 Oct

October 21, 2013

Speaker: Terence Ching

Title: Obsessive-Compulsive-Relevant Cognition

Date: 23rd October 2013 (Wednesday), 12pm-1pm

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


In this talk, two studies (one in preparation, one under formulation) will be presented, both thematically linked by the spirit of incorporating paradigms and findings from non-clinical psychological fields into novel experimental research on obsessions and compulsions, and their treatment. The first study delves into semantic memory network-based conceptualizations of obsessions (Moritz, Jelinek, Klinge, & Naber, 2007) and how they are ameliorable with the novel cognitive technique of association splitting (Moritz & Jelinek, 2009), concluding with an appreciation of the limitation of an indiscriminate dimensional perspective on all cognitive aspects of the obsessive-compulsive phenomenon (cf. Abramowitz et al., 2010; Rachman, 1971, 1985). The second half of the talk exposits information for a proposed study examining, among other issues, the hypothesized plausibility of cognitive dissonance-induced reductions of obsessive-compulsive-relevant beliefs, via a mock EEG-assisted behavioral experiment. It is hoped for insightful speaker-audience interaction in this section of the talk to contribute to useful methodological refinements in the proposed study.

About the speaker:

Terence Ching received a bachelor’s degree (first class honors) in psychology from the National University of Singapore (NUS) in 2013. He also began his candidature in the NUS Master of Social Sciences (Psychology) research program in the same year. Thus far, his primary experimental research has revolved around the broad domain of cognition in the target category of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and is consistently designed with the aim of integrating findings from the clinical and cognitive psychological literatures for insights – whether of a theoretical or therapy-informing nature – into the obsessive-compulsive phenomenon. His OCD research aspirations abound, and he is always open to collaborative research opportunities in the aforementioned areas.

New Staff: Dr. KENG Shian-Ling

October 21, 2013











Dr. Keng Shian-Ling joined our department in October 2013. She obtained her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Duke University, North Carolina, USA. Prior to starting her position with NUS, she completed a clinical psychology internship at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, Canada. Her research interests include efficacy and mechanisms of change of cognitive behavioral and mindfulness-based interventions, emotion regulation, and mindfulness meditation. She is also interested in researching adaptation, implementation and dissemination of empirically supported interventions in Southeast Asia and cross-cultural presentations of psychopathology, in particular depression and borderline personality disorder.

Shian-Ling has received clinical training in cognitive behavior therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and other mindfulness-based approaches such as mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. She has worked in hospital and clinic settings with patients of a variety of diagnoses, including mood, anxiety, substance use, and personality disorders. She aspires to help improve the quality and accessibility of mental health services in Southeast Asia through teaching, research, advocacy and community outreach.

Brown Bag Talk by Dr. Michelle See on 2 October

September 30, 2013

Speaker: Dr. Michelle See Ya Hui

Title: Objective and Subjective Approaches to Measuring Attitude Structure: Considering the Theoretical Implications of Methodological Choices

Date: 2nd October 2013 (Wednesday), 12pm-1pm

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


Attitudes refer to evaluations of issues, objects, persons or groups on a dimension ranging from negative to positive. Besides differing in valence, attitudes can vary in their structural properties, and such variations have impact on information processing, persuasion, and behavior. For example, in addition to knowing the degree to which a message recipient is opposed to or in favor of an advocacy, it is also important for a persuader to know whether the recipient’s attitude structure is dominated by emotions or beliefs.

In this talk, I define and review objective and subjective approaches to measuring various structural properties including affective and cognitive consistencies, accessibility, certainty, importance, knowledge, and ambivalence. I discuss traditional perspectives on objective and subjective approaches, and propose a new perspective for understanding these two approaches. Focusing on affective and cognitive consistencies, I present evidence in support of the new perspective that objective and subjective measures of attitude structure tap into ability processes and motivational processes, respectively.

Readings of interest for the current talk include:

See, Y.H.M., Valenti, G., Ho, Y.Y.A., & Tan, M.S.Q. (in press). When message tailoring backfires: The role of initial attitudes in affect-cognition matching. European Journal of Social Psychology. doi: 10.1002/ejsp.1967

See, Y. H. M., Petty, R. E., & Fabrigar, L. R. (2013). Affective-cognitive meta-bases versus structural bases of attitudes predict processing interest versus efficiency. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 39, 1113-1125.

See, Y.H.M., & Khoo, B.L.Z. (2011). Tailoring information to change attitudes: A meta-structural approach. In I.M. Saleh & M.S. Khine (Eds.), Attitudes research in science education: Classic and contemporary measurements (pp.177-198). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

See, Y.H.M., Petty, R.E., & Fabrigar, L.R. (2008). Affective and cognitive meta-bases of attitudes: Unique effects on information interest and persuasion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 94, 938-955.

About the speaker:

(Ya Hui) Michelle See is an assistant professor of Psychology at National University of Singapore. She received her bachelor’s degree (summa cum laude; 2001) in psychology from University of Arizona, and her M.A. (2003) and Ph.D. (2007) in social psychology from Ohio State University. Her research focuses on attitudes and persuasion, with investigations in domains such as education-related policies, prejudice and intergroup relations, prosocial behavior, and consumer choice.

Interview with A/P Mike Cheung, winner of the Award for Excellent Researcher

September 19, 2013




A/P Mike Cheung was recently interviewed by Victoria Giaever-Enger from the Dean’s Office after receiving the Faculty Award for Excellent Researcher. This interview is now available on-line:

Congratulations, Mike!

Brown Bag Talk by Dr. Nina Powell on 18 September

September 17, 2013

Speaker: Dr. Nina Powell

Title: Moral Virtue and Praise Versus Moral Vice and Condemnation

Date: 18th September 2013 (Wednesday), 12pm-1pm

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


There are reasons why condemnation might outweigh praise, both as a topic of study and as a driving force in moral judgement. First, there is a well-documented “negativity bias” in human information processing (Jordan, 1965; Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Finkenauer, & Vohs, 2001), which might support greater attention to moral vice than moral virtue (and which might have even prompted more research interest in condemnation than praise). Relatedly, a wealth of evidence suggests that people are averse to loss (e.g., Kahneman & Tversky, 1979; Tversky & Kahneman, 1986), to the extent that they are even more motivated to avoid a loss than acquire a gain (e.g., Tversky & Kahneman, 1992), which suggests that individuals should generally be more motivated to avoid condemnation than earn praise.

Apart from evidence demonstrating a “negativity bias” in human information processing (Jordan, 1965; Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Finkenauer, & Vohs, 2001), along with evidence suggesting that people use dishonest behavior as a better indicator of personality than honest behavior (McGraw, 1985; Reeder & Coovert, 1986; Skowronski & Carlston, 1989), there is some preliminary evidence to suggest that full-blown positive moral emotion (i.e., including its behavioural correlates) may require a substantial knowledge/information base. Research has demonstrated that feelings of elevation in response to witnessing virtuous behaviour can lead to helping behaviour (Schnall, Roper, & Fessler, 2010). In our own research, however, we have found that helping behaviour does not result from witnessing the virtuous behaviour in isolation, but also requires having knowledge of either a positive outcome for the help recipient or praise of the helper (Powell, Zumbé, & Quinn, in preparation-b). This evidence suggests that the positive effects of witnessing morally virtuous behaviour are reliant on more knowledge than was previously thought, suggesting that people are in need of extensive proof and confirmation of virtue.

In an effort to directly compare virtue and vice, and their respective evidentiary standards, we predicted that people would show different attention to, and engagement with, information about moral vice compared to moral virtue. We directly compared vignettes depicting moral virtue and moral vice, as well as self-generated examples of virtue and vice. We found that participants reported a greater interest in judging virtue compared to vice, and believed that actors behaving virtuously were more likely to act with a goal in mind than actors behaving viciously. In a follow-up study, we found that when we included a morally neutral control scenario and asked participants to judge wrongness and make inferences about moral character relating to the moral foundations theory (Haidt & Joseph, 2004), participants had a hard time differentiating between neutrality and goodness, but could clearly identify and infer badness. This suggests that a) the asymmetry between moral virtue and moral vice may be found in preferences for information and inferences about intentionality rather than in explicit judgments of goodness and badness, b) that there is a positivity bias or a positive baseline for morality, and c) that perhaps moral acts need to be exemplary in order to be differentiated from acts of general goodness.

About the speaker:

Nina Powell received a bachelor’s degree (magna cum laude) in psychology from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2008. Nina went on to complete her PhD at the University of Birmingham, UK in moral psychology from 2009-2013. Nina’s main research interests are the processing of mitigating information and judgment reversal, the development of moral reasoning, and how we process virtue compared to vice. After completing her PhD at the University of Birmingham, Nina stayed on as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow funded by the Leverhulme Trust, to investigate the evidentiary standards for judging virtue compared to vice, and the effect of condemnation and praise on well-being. Her research has shown that while moral judgments may often rely on intuitive and emotional processes, the consideration of information and moral reasoning are influential for both moral judgments and subsequent behaviour. Finally, her research has demonstrated that moral reasoning is late developing, and she argues that attempts to detect early, crude signs of moral understanding in infants and young children are misguided and demonstrative of a misunderstanding of what it is to be a moral agent. Currently, Nina is in a two-year fellowship at the National University of Singapore researching the cross-cultural and thinking style differences associated with judgment reversal and consideration of mitigation in both moral judgments and judgments of honesty.