Speaker: Dr. Sue Sherman

Title: Exploring the processes behind false memories using novel stimuli and mindfulness

Date: Thursday October 22, 12-1 pm

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


False memories can be created for words using the Deese-Roediger-McDermott (DRM) paradigm in which participants are presented with a list of words such as bed, wake, night, dream etc. When participants complete a subsequent memory task they have a similar number of false memories for the related but non-presented word ‘sleep’ as they have correct memories for the presented list items. Over time, false memories typically persist more than correct memories. The false memory effect can also be extended to more content-rich stimuli such as brand names and famous faces. These stimuli have the potential to shed additional light on the processes underlying false memories. For example, false memories created using these content-rich stimuli not only persist over time but actually increase, posing challenges for existing theories of false memory. These theories can be further explored using the increasingly popular technique of mindfulness. For example, when participants are mindful prior to studying the DRM lists, false memories decrease. Whilst this appears to be consistent with existing theories, mindfulness presents us with a way to tease out additional details of the theories. 

About the Speaker:

Dr. Sue Sherman is a Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) in Psychology at Keele University in the UK. She is also the Chair of the British Psychological Society (BPS) Cognitive Section and a member of the Experimental Psychology Society (EPS). Sue has a multidisciplinary background (BSc (Hons) in Computational Linguistics, MA in Psycholinguistics, PhD in Cognitive Psychology) and currently focuses on 2 main research areas. The first, which is the subject of her talk, is false memory. The second concerns public awareness and understanding of the human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer and this research has recently received national and international media coverage. 



Speaker: Dr. Ryan Hong

 Title: A common core vulnerability to emotional disorders

Date: Thursday October 15, 12-1 pm

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


Cognitive theories of emotional disorders posit that maladaptive patterns of cognitions confer elevated risks to individuals in the development of anxiety and mood symptoms.  Several distinct cognitive vulnerabilities have been identified – some postulated to predict depression (i.e., pessimistic inferential style, dysfunctional attitudes, and ruminative style) while others different forms of anxiety (i.e., anxiety sensitivity, intolerance of uncertainty, and fear of negative evaluation).  The crucial question of whether these supposedly distinct risk factors share common transdiagnostic elements was addressed using meta-analytic confirmatory factor analysis.  Results indicated a common core vulnerability factor underlying these variables in adults.  A developmental perspective was also taken to examine the validity of a common core vulnerability in children age 8-11 years (N = 302) in a longitudinal design.  Latent class growth analysis identified 4 distinct classes of trajectories – Low-Increasing (14%), Moderate-Stable (52%), High-Decreasing (19%), and High-Increasing (15%).  These trajectories were differentiated in terms of outcomes and developmental origins.  Overall, these findings provide novel evidence for a transdiagnostic core vulnerability that bears directly on the etiology and treatment of emotional disorders.  

About the Speaker:

 After receiving his honors (1999) and masters (2002) degrees in psychology from the National University of Singapore, Dr. Hong had a short stint at the Department of Psychology as a teaching assistant (2001-2003).  He then worked with Professor Sampo Paunonen at the University of Western Ontario before obtaining his Ph.D. in personality psychology in 2007.  Broadly speaking, Dr. Hong’s research interests include personality and its assessment (e.g., the Big Five), psychopathology (e.g., mood, anxiety, and disinhibitory disorders), and the interface between these two areas.

Dr. Hong is particularly interested in delineating personality vulnerabilities to psychopathology using dispositional-trait and social-cognitive perspectives of personality.  One domain of research he is currently working on is to explore linkages between broad dispositional traits (e.g., Neuroticism and Conscientiousness) and specific social-cognitive vulnerabilities to common psychopathology (e.g., depressogenic inferential style, ruminative style, anxiety sensitivity, poor self control/regulation).  It is hoped that through this research, current understanding regarding the etiology and development of psychopathology may be enhanced.



Speaker: Mabel Lau

Title: Free Recall and Recognition Memory Estimates for 532 Concrete Nouns

Date: Thursday October 8, 12-1 pm

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


The successful retrieval of words is likely to be intricately linked to their lexical and semantic properties. As such, variations in these properties determine how the word is encoded, stored, and retrieved. We collected both recall and recognition memory estimates for 532 concrete nouns (McRae, Cree, Seidenberg, & McNorgan, 2005) using the megastudy approach and demonstrated the validity of the data. Collecting memory estimates using this approach allows researchers to move away from the constraints of factorial designs. This resource could be used to carry out more fine-grained investigations on lexical-semantic influences on memory or to test new hypotheses. Two uses of this dataset were illustrated. First, we regressed recall and recognition performance on a number of lexical-semantic variables. In free recall, these accounted for 26.0% of the variance, while in recognition they accounted for 32.3% of the variance in hit rates, 16.5% of the variance in false alarm rates, and 35.0% of the variance in d’. Second, we used our data to determine whether the number of semantic features effect in free recall (Hargreaves, Pexman, Johnson, & Zdrazilova, 2012) could be replicated using our free recall dataset. Consistent with Hargreaves et al.’s findings, words with higher number of features were better recalled as compared to words with fewer number of features. 

About the Speaker:

 Mabel Lau is a Masters candidate pursuing her M.Soc.Sci at the Department of Psychology at NUS under the supervision of Dr Winston Goh. Her main research examines the interplay between memory and language.

Guest Speaker Dr. Bo Yao from the University of Manchester 7 Oct, 1-2:30


Speaker: Dr. Bo Yao

Title: Inner Voice Experiences in Processing of Direct and Indirect Speech

Date: Wednesday 7 October, 1-2:30 pm

Venue: Seminar Room B – AS7-01-17 (Shaw Building)


In verbal communication, direct speech (e.g., Mary said: “I love this dress!”) provides vivid depictions of the reported speaker’s voice whereas indirect speech (e.g., Mary said [that] she loved that dress) provides mere descriptions of what was said. In silent reading, however, the representational consequences of this vividness distinction remain unclear. Although many of us share the intuition of an “inner voice”, particularly during silent reading of direct speech quotations, there has been little empirical confirmation of this experience so far. Using speech analysis, brain imaging and eye tracking, we show that readers (with normal hearing) spontaneously engage in mental simulations of audible-speech like representations (or to hear an “inner voice”) during silent reading of direct speech, and to a much lesser extent during silent reading of indirect speech. In contrast, deaf readers do not appear to mentally distinguish between direct and indirect speech in silent reading. The implications of our results are discussed in relation to grounded cognition and the implicit prosody hypothesis. 

About the Speaker:

Dr Bo Yao is a lecturer at School of Psychological Sciences, University of Manchester, UK. He received his BSc in Biology from Xiamen University, China in 2008, followed by his PhD in Psychology from the University of Glasgow, UK in 2012 working with Professor Pascal Belin and Dr Christoph Scheepers. He then worked as a research fellow at the University of Kent before joining the University of Manchester as a lecturer in 2013. His research interest lies in neuroscience and psychology of language and communication. His recent work focused on inner speech using a combination of acoustic analysis, eye tracking, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and electroencephalography (EEG) methods. Outside work, he organises Café Scientifique talks in the Manchester area and an is active participant in science communication.


Research Assistants Wanted for Parenting Studies

Dr Cheung Hoi Shan is recruiting research assistants to help out with two parenting studies. Details are found below. If you are interested or would like more information, please contact Dr Cheung at

Study 1: A systematic review of parenting research conducted in Singapore What it involves: Conduct electronic and manual literature search for local studies on parenting.

Time frame: To begin in December 2015 or earlier if possible.

Study 2: Maternal control and children’s social development What it involves: You will be trained to use a coding scheme, and to code some video-records of mother-child interactions.

Time frame: Briefing in November 2015. Training in January/February 2016, coding in April through June 2016. Flexible hours which takes into account your course workload – a mutually agreeable schedule may be worked out.



Speaker: Sacha Epskamp

Title: The dynamics of psychology: Applying network estimation on psychological data

Date: Thursday October 1, 12-1 pm

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


Recent years have seen an emergence of the dynamical systems approach to psychology, in which constructs, e.g., depression, are not seen as common cause to their indicators but rather as emergent behavior in a dynamical system: e.g., insomnia -> fatigue -> concentration problems -> excessive worrying -> insomnia. Estimating such relationships in psychological data results in network models that portray the full system of pairwise relations in the data: the full picture. State-of-the-art estimation techniques of network structures on psychological data have been implemented in easy to use software. In this talk, I will show three empirical examples. The first example will show an undirected network structure of personality inventory items estimated from cross-sectional data. The second example will show how limited longitudinal data of a single subject can be used to estimate temporal and contemporaneous network structures usable in clinical practice. Finally, I will describe the results of multi-level estimation of temporal effects between psychopathology and personality items.

About the Speaker:

After obtaining my master’s degree in 2012 majoring in psychological methods and minoring in computational science, I received a personal research talent grant for a 4 year PhD project. In this project I work on integrating network modeling techniques in the field of psychometrics, with applications in clinical, social and developmental psychology. In addition to theoretical work I have developed several software package to facilitate the use of our methods to empirical researchers. Besides my PhD research, I teach at the University of Amsterdam on programming and network analysis, have done statistical consultancy work and work one day per week for the university-originated company Oefenweb in which novel psychometric modeling techniques are used to adaptively measure and educate elementary school children on mathematical and language skills.




Speaker: Prof Edward R. Hirt

Title: Restoration effects following depletion: The curious case of spontaneous resource replenishment

Date: Thursday 17 September, 12-1 pm

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


Past research on depletion has illustrated how prior exertion of self-control leads individuals to perform more poorly at subsequent self-control tasks.  However, a number of recent studies have illustrated cases in which certain manipulations, such as positive mood, power, self-affirmation, meditation, and exposure to nature, can ameliorate the effects of prior depletion and restore individuals’ performance back to a level commensurate with non-depleted controls.  Most of these demonstrations posit their own separate mechanisms for these restoration effects.  In the present work, we present a model that attempts to account for the success of these diverse instances of restoration.  The model emphasizes the role of expectancies derived from lay beliefs regarding the mental energy changes associated with various conditions, which affect perceptions of mental fatigue and its consequences for cognitive and behavioral performance.  I will present evidence from two lines of work investigating specific examples of restoration (positive mood, power) that provide support for our model, and then discuss our current and future work aimed at integrating these effects within a broader framework of self-regulation.    

About the Speaker:

Edward R. Hirt is a professor of social psychology from the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Indiana University.  He received his undergraduate BS degree in Psychology from the University of Dayton, and from there went onto the graduate school at Arizona State University, where he worked with Robert Cialdini.  At ASU, he met Jim Sherman, who was on sabbatical from Indiana University, and he began a collaboration that would ultimately lead him to transfer to IU to finish his PhD.   He took his first job at Penn State University, but soon thereafter moved to the University of Wisconsin, where he was colleagues with two other young social psychologists, Trish Devine and Constantine Sedikides.   In 1991, he was recruited back to Indiana University, where he has been for the past 15 years. 

 Dr. Hirt has served as an Associate Editor for Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. He has also served as an expert witness in multiple court cases.  Though a self-professed eclectic (no surprise, given his graduate school mentor Jim Sherman), Dr. Hirt’s research interests include the self (most notably, self-protective processes such as self-handicapping), social identity, mood effects, judgment/decision making, and the self-regulation of motivation and performance.   During his current sabbatical, Dr. Hirt is busy editing a book on Self-Regulation and Ego Control.  It is his work on self-regulation that will serve as the topic for his presentation.




Speaker: Dr. Flavia Di Pietro

 Title: The brain in chronic pain: is dis-inhibition the underlying mechanism?

Date: Thursday 10 September, 12-1 pm

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


There is compelling evidence for an important role of the brain in complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). Much of the research has focussed on the primary somatosensory and primary motor cortices; there is a widely-held notion of ‘reorganisation’ in these regions in chronic pain states. We investigated the question of reorganisation in the primary somatosensory cortex with our own functional magnetic resonance imaging study, and our findings surprised us. Our findings highlighted that the picture may not be as simple as was once thought, and prompted us to question whether altered inhibition may play a role. Interestingly, the concept of dis-inhibition is also pertinent to another painful disorder – trigeminal neuropathic pain. We are currently investigating this question and I will complete my talk with a brief and general overview of the neuroimaging evidence in this disorder.

About the Speaker:

Flavia Di Pietro is a post-doctoral fellow in the Neural Imaging Laboratory at the University of Sydney. She was awarded her PhD in May 2014 by the University of New South Wales. Her PhD investigated the role of the brain in complex regional pain syndrome, using magnetic resonance imaging. Flavia holds an NHMRC CJ Martin Early Career Fellowship and is currently investigating mechanisms of altered brain rhythms in chronic orofacial pain, at the University of Sydney.



Speaker: Ms. Tan Luuan Chin 

 Title: Reliability of masked repetition and semantic priming effects, and the moderating influence of individual differences

Date: Thursday 3 September, 12-1 pm

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


Despite the robustness of the semantic priming effect (e.g., facilitated recognition for cat – DOG, compared to bat – DOG), the test-retest and internal reliability of semantic priming effects within individuals is surprisingly low (Stolz, Besner, & Carr, 2005). In contrast, repetition priming effects (e.g., facilitated recognition for dog – DOG, compared to bat – DOG) appear to be far more reliable across a range of conditions (Waechter, Stolz, & Besner, 2010). While Stolz and colleagues attribute the low reliability associated with semantic priming to uncoordinated automatic processes in semantic memory, their reliance on unmasked priming paradigms makes it unclear the extent to which reliability in priming (or the lack thereof) reflects strategic processes. The present study focuses on the test-retest and split-half reliability of the automatic mechanisms that putatively support semantic and repetition priming in a large-scale study of two hundred and forty participants. Specifically, I explore the issue of the reliability of semantic and repetition priming when primes are heavily masked and cannot be consciously processed. To my knowledge, this question has not been explored in the literature. Results showed that although group-level masked repetition and semantic priming effects were statistically significant, in line with the literature, only masked repetition, but not semantic, priming effects showed reliability. I also investigated the closely related question of how individual differences in masked repetition and semantic priming are associated with variability in vocabulary knowledge and spelling performance. Across a series of converging analyses, I found that skilled readers are associated with larger priming effects, but that this pattern holds only for masked repetition, not semantic, priming. The results of this study shed more light on the mechanisms supporting semantic and repetition priming in visual word recognition and also has important implications for the study of individual differences in priming performance. 

About the Speaker:

Ms. Tan Luuan Chin is currently a Masters student in the Department of Psychology at NUS under the supervision of Dr. Melvin Yap. 



Speaker: Prof Richard Ebstein 

Title: Association between the dopamine D4 receptor gene exon III VNTR and political attitudes in female Han Chinese

Date: Thursday 27 August, 12-1 pm

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


Twin and family studies suggest that political attitudes are partially determined by an individual’s genotype. The dopamine D4 receptor gene (DRD4) exon III repeat region that has been extensively studied in connection with human behavior, is a plausible candidate to contribute to individual differences in political attitudes. A first U.S. study provisionally identified this gene with political attitude along a liberal-conservative axis albeit contingent upon number of friends. In a large sample of 1771 Han Chinese university students in Singapore we observed a significant main effect of association between the DRD4 exon III VNTR and political attitude. Subjects with two copies of the 4-repeat allele (4R/4R) were significantly more conservative. Our results provided evidence for a role of the DRD4 gene variants in contributing to individual differences in political attitude particularly in females and more generally suggested that associations between individual genes, and neurochemical pathways, contributing to traits relevant to the social sciences can be provisionally identified.

About the Speaker:

Prof Ebstein’s research revolves around human behavior genetics, with the overarching goal of providing molecular insights into the role of genes as a partial contributor to all facets of human behavior. His work is highly interdisciplinary and combines personality, social, cognitive, and neuropsychology with techniques of molecular genetics. Major research areas include neuroeconomics, the genetics of social behavior and normal personality, autism, ADHD, eating disorders, and substance abuse.

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