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.

Part-time RA with A/P Mike Cheung

Dear students,

I am looking for a few research assistants (RAs) on several meta-analysis projects. The RAs will help me to do literature review and data extraction from published articles. The payment is according to the standard rate of the University.

If you have completed (or are taking) PL2132 and are interested in the RA job, please complete the information at:

by *8 September 2015*



Speaker: Dr. Irma Kurniawan

Title: Neural correlates of effort-based decision-making

Date: Wednesday, 12 August, 12-1pm

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


We minimise and avoid costs whenever possible. Yet we engage in costly behaviour when the goal is worthwhile. Research in the last decade has uncovered how our decisions are not only driven by reward goals, but also by effort costs. In this talk, I will present previous work on effort-based decision making and the involvement of fronto-striatal network when subjects anticipate, learn, and choose to overcome effort challenges. I will discuss how effort-based decision making is a viable framework to assess individual differences in motivation to overcome challenges. Furthermore, I will show how tradeoffs between reward and pain costs are influenced by recent experiences. 

About the Speaker:

Irma Kurniawan completed her PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience at the University College London, UK under the supervision of Prof. Nick Chater and Prof. Ray Dolan. She then went on to do a post-doctoral research at Brain and Spine Institute in Paris at the Motivation, Brain and Behaviour Lab with Dr. Mathias Pessiglione. She joined the Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience at Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School in 2013, under the supervision of Prof. Michael Chee to study the effects of sleep on decision-making and memory. She has dedicated most of her work on investigating the neural mechanisms for effort-based decision-making. Her main interests lie in the involvement of frontal-subcortical brain network in motivated cognition.

NUS Psychology Graduation Celebration 2015


On July 14 2015, NUS Psychology Department held a Graduation Celebration to celebrate our 2015 graduating cohort.

The celebration kicked off at 11:30am, as graduates and their guests mingled with staff members, while having their pictures taken at a photo wall, and enjoying refreshments. To see these photos, go to

The Head of Department Associate Professor Sim Tick Ngee gave a numbers-themed speech that looked to the past, present, and future. Some fun facts:

-     Psychology was established at NUS in 1986

-     The 2015 graduates form the 27th graduating cohort (bachelors), and 26th graduating cohort (bachelors with honours), respectively

-     NUS Psychology will turn 30 in 2016 (next year!)

The speech ended with words of appreciation of the role played by the graduates’ family and loved ones in their journey at NUS, and words of encouragement for graduates to think about how they would like to make a positive impact on others.

Photo-taking and refreshments were then resumed, as staff members caught up with graduates to chat about their exciting plans ahead, and were introduced to their family and loved ones. Graduates also went home with instant photos that captured moments of this joyous occasion, as well as a soft toy of LiNUS (the NUS mascot) from the Office of Alumni Relations.

To all 2015 NUS Psychology graduates, we are proud of your accomplishments, and wish you the best in your future careers and endeavours!

Note: Many individuals contributed to the celebration. Special thanks to Susheel Kaur, whose hard work ensured that the event was a successful one. Also, thanks to Cheung Hoi Shan, Sarah Wong Shi Hui, and Loh Poh Yee for helping out on the day of the event. NUS Psychology Society President Sean Tan and Vice-President Lim Wee Ping provided ideas for the event to be a meaningful and fun-filled one. Loo Bee Bee, Norlela Bte Idris, and Nicholas Hon provided additional organizational support.

Michelle See

Blog of the NUS Psychology Department