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.

Brown Bag Talk by Dr. Ajay Mathuru on 27 March

March 24, 2015


Speaker: Dr. Ajay Mathuru

Title: Scents and sensibilities: Social mechanisms that regulate innate fear in the zebrafish

Date: 27 March, 1-2pm

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


The behaviour of animals living in groups is influenced by information they receive from social partners in a variety of ways. Zebrafish are small, fresh-water fish species that live in social groups called shoals. In these animals, alarm pheromones (semiochemicals called Schreckstoff) released by an injury to a companion triggers fear in others and elicit behaviours aimed at evading predators. In contrast, fearful zebrafish recover better from this experience when in presence of calm, non-fearful companions. Interestingly, zebrafish display a learned recognition of their social partners. Subjects show a more complete recovery including suppression of hormones of the Hypothalamic-Pitutary-Adrenal axis (HPI axis in fish) and oxytocin level changes (isotocin in fish) when in the presence of familiar conspecifics. Using this vertebrate with a relatively small brain, a longer-term goal in my research is to understand the neural, genetic and molecular mechanisms underlying fear induction and its attenuation.

About the Speaker:

I am a neuroscientist with an interest in understanding the neural mechanisms that underlie behaviour. I study innate behaviours motivated by both rewards and punishments. For my research, I combine quantitative behavioral assays, in vivo live optical imaging of neural activity and genetic manipulations. My research can be best described as applying a systems neuroscience approach to neuroethology.

I received my Ph.D. degree from the National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bangalore, India (2006), where I worked with Prof. Upi Bhalla on the nature of biophysical and biochemical coupling at hippocampal synapses during synaptic plasticity.

Current Academic Position: Early Career Researcher, IMCB, A-STAR, Singapore 2012-Current

Past: Senior Research Fellow, Neuroscience Research Partnership (Duke-NUS/A-STAR), Singapore 2009-2012. Research Fellow, Temasek Lifesciences Labs, Singapore 2006-2009

Brown Bag Talk by Mr. Augustine Kang on 20 March

March 18, 2015


Speaker: Mr. Augustine Kang

Title: A Prospective Intervention Study on Diabetic Patients Undergoing Haemodialysis

Date: 20 March, 1-2pm

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


With Diabetes Mellitus (DM) being the most common cause of End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) and in addition to findings suggesting that this particular combination of comorbid conditions result in particularly poor clinical outcomes, there is mounting need to devise strategies to meet the challenges of this chronic disease population. To address the dearth of research in this area, a study was devised to explore needs of diabetic patients undergoing haemodialysis to guide the development of an intervention. In using a mixed methods observational study (n = 170), outcomes and needs of the patient population in question were assessed, including their input on preferred delivery and implementation of the program. Measures used include the Brief Illness Perception Questionnaire (B-IPQ), Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) , Health Literacy Scale (HLS) , UCLA Loneliness Scale (ULS) , Beck Hopelessness Inventory (BHI) , the Summary of Diabetes Self-Care Acitivities (SDSCA) and Treatment Self-Regulation Questionnaire (TSRQ), among several other empirically validated scales. In line with the recent conclusion of data collection, some preliminary findings will be discussed consequently.

About the Speaker:

Augustine Kang is a Master of Social Sciences Candidate at the NUS Department of Psychology. He has been conducting research under the tutelage of A/P Konstadina Griva in the past 5 years, mainly in the area of Nephrology. 

Brown Bag Talk by Dr. Suzanne Jak on 13 March

March 10, 2015


Speaker: Dr. Suzanne Jak 

Title: Big Data in the Social Sciences

Date: 13 March, 1-2pm

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


One of the many definitions of Big Data is: ‘datasets whose size is beyond the ability of typical database software tools to capture, store, manage, and analyze’. Big data is extremely popular in business industries, marketing, and various fields of research. In psychology, or social sciences in general, research using big data is relatively scarce, despite the availability of possibly interesting big data from Facebook and Twitter. One of the reasons for the non-use of big data may be the computational skills that are needed to perform the statistical analyses. In this talk I will try to provide an overview of what big data is, its applications in psychology, the current options to analyze big data, and the problems associated with big data. The presented work is very preliminary, so input is most welcome.

About the Speaker:

Suzanne Jak completed her PhD in 2013 at the University of Amsterdam (The Netherlands), with a dissertation about measurement invariance in multilevel data. After graduation, she started working as a post-doctoral researcher at Utrecht University. She received a Rubicon-grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, to work on meta-analytic structural equation modeling with Mike Cheung at the National University of Singapore during the year 2015.

Brown Bag Talk by Mr. Takashi Obana on 6 March

March 4, 2015

Psychology Brownbag Talk_6 March 2015 (Friday)_Takashi OBANA

Visiting Guest Speaker on 5 March – Dr. David McGonigle from Cardiff University

March 2, 2015


Speaker: Dr. David McGonigle

Title: Peering Under The Hood of transcranial Electrical Stimulation (tES)

Date: 5 March, 2-3pm

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


Transcranial electrical stimulation (tES) encompasses a family of neuromodulation techniques which have been demonstrated to produce prolonged, polarity-specific changes in neuronal excitability. One specific stimulation paradigm, transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) is thought to  exert its influence by altering the physiological mechanisms that govern the balance between cortical excitation and inhibition. In this talk I will discuss current work at Cardiff focusing on using neuroimaging to better understand the underlying neurobiology of tDCS. 

About the Speaker:

David trained in Neuroscience at Glasgow University and moved to the Functional Imaging Lab in London for his PhD in the Functional Neuroanatomy of the Somatosensory System, supervised by Richard Frackowiak. After its completition in 2000 David accepted a PostDoctoral position in UCSF to learn Magnetoencephalography (MEG), first with Tim Roberts and latterly with Sri Nagarajan. David is currently based in Cardiff using a combination of neuroimaging and neurostimulation techniques to explore tactile function and plasticity in humans.


A/P Konstadina Griva at inaugural Asian Pacific Symposium in Motivational Interviewing

February 25, 2015

The Inaugural Asia-Pacific Symposium on Motivational Interviewing was held in Singapore between 5-6 February 2015. International and Singapore based Motivational Interviewing scholars and trainers led a series of interactive presentations and professional skills building workshops for more than 200 delegates.

A/P Konstadina Griva from Department of Psychology, NUS, had the honor of partnering with Distinguished Professor Stephen Rollnick, the co-founder of Motivational Interviewing as a co-trainer for the workshop on Motivational Interviewing and Health Care.


Brown Bag Talk by Prof. Richard Ebstein on 13 February

February 10, 2015


Speaker: Prof Richard Ebstein

Title: An oxytocin receptor SNP (rs53576) buffers the deleterious effect of impatience on cellular ageing

Date: 13 February, 1-2pm

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


Leukocyte telomere length (LTL) is an emerging marker of aging at the cellular level. However, little is known regarding its link with poor life choices that often entail being overly impatient or risk prone in decision making. Such poor life choices can be examined using behavioral economic paradigms in the laboratory viz. the degree of impatience and risk proneness– fundamental determinants of decision making. We first measured the degree of impatience, risk attitude and relative LTL in a sample of 1018 Han Chinese undergraduates using incentivized economic tasks. A highly significant correlation was observed between LTL and impatience (delay discounting) in female subjects that was robust controlling for age, risk proneness, as well as health-related variables. We then asked if endogenous factors such as genes could impact the effect of impatient behavior on LTL. The oxytocin receptor (OXTR) gene, which has figured prominently in investigations of social cognition and psychological resources, is a likely candidate to moderate the impact of impatience and risk proneness on LTL. An intriguing interaction effect between OXTR rs53576 and impatience on LTL revealed that the rs53576 G allele, often associated with beneficial social traits, significantly mitigates the negative impact of impatience on cellular aging. No significant associations were observed in male subjects. The current results contribute to understanding the relationship between impatience and cellular aging, and demonstrate for the first time that an OXTR polymorphism has a buffering effect on accelerated cellular aging in women who make impatient choices.

About the Speaker:

Richard Ebstein is Professor in the Psychology Department and the National University of Singapore. He received his Ph.D. at Yale University in Biology and previous to relocating in Singapore was a Professor in the Psychology Department at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Richard 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, normal personality and psychopathology.

New staff: Dr. Cheung Hoi Shan

February 9, 2015


Hoi Shan obtained her Ph.D. specialising in Developmental Psychology from the National University of Singapore in 2014, and joined the Department as a postdoctoral fellow in January 2015. She has a long-standing interest in the study of local parenting practices and their influence on children’s development, spanning from early childhood to adolescence. During her stint as a Senior Research Officer at the Singapore Children’s Society between 2004 and 2008, she conducted studies which looked at disciplinary and child care practices adopted by local parents, and the state of children’s social and emotional well-being in Singapore. She has also conducted research on parent-peer dynamics in the context of social support provision for adolescents. Her Ph.D. dissertation examined the influence of maternal sensitivity and children’s temperament on the quality of peer relationships in preschool. She is currently working with A/P John Elliott to investigate cultural differences in parenting practices, which may have implications on the interpretation of parent-child relationship quality and consequently children’s developmental outcomes.