New Staff: Dr. Yu Rongjun and Dr. Clare Henn-Haase

August 11, 2014

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Dr. Rongjun Yu joined our department in October 2014. He obtained his M.S. in Psychology from Peking University, under the supervision of Prof. Xiaolin Zhou. In 2011, he completed his Ph.D. in Psychology from MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, University of Cambridge, UK, working with Dean Mobbs and Andy Calder. Prior to starting his position with NUS, he did research in Caltech in Pasadena, Mass General Hospital in Boston, as well as South China Normal University in China.

His research interests lie in understanding the psychological and neural mechanisms underlying economic and social decision making. He investigates these questions using novel behavioural tasks combined with neuroscience techniques including fMRI, ERP, tDCS, and TMS. He is also interested in how motivational and cognitive changes over the lifespan affect decisions, how culture shapes decision making, and how decision making skills develop among children. His research agenda has the potential to further elucidate decision making processes across life span and help identify the neural underpinnings of psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety. He aspires to enhance our understanding of decision biases and can be used to help nudge people to make better choices.

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Dr. Clare Henn-Haase joined our department in July 2014 from New York University Medical Center, NY.  She obtained her PsyD at the Illinois School of Professional Psychology (Argosy University), Chicago, IL USA in 2000.  Prior to accepting a position at NUS, she worked as an Assistant Professor and clinical director in the PTSD Research Program at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and San Francisco Veterans’ Affairs (SFVA) followed by New York University Langone Medical Center (NYULMC) where she remains on staff as an adjunct assistant professor.  Her research interests include trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) particularly with veterans, police officers, and women who have suffered interpersonal violence.  She is interested in randomized controlled treatment trials applying empirically supported evidence-based cognitive-behavioral therapy to treat PTSD.   She is currently working to complete a multi-site randomized-controlled treatment (RCT) trial at Bellevue Hospital investigating the effectiveness of Skills Training in Affective and Interpersonal Regulation (STAIR) treatment with women suffering from PTSD due to interpersonal violence.  In addition, she is working on manuscripts from studies conducted with police officers and veterans from the USA, including attachment as a predictor of PTSD in police officers, neuro-psychological testing comparing cognitive functioning in veterans with and without PTSD, and assessment measures of PTSD including the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS) according to DSM-IV and DSM-5, and the PTSD Checklist-5 in Vietnam veterans and female patients enrolled in the STAIR treatment trial.

Dr. Henn-Haase has received training, certification, and experience in cognitive-behavioral treatment for trauma including Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), Prolonged Exposure (PE), Dialectical-Behavioral Therapy (DBT), and Trauma Focused treatment for PTSD.  She is interested in the adaptation of empirically supported evidence-based treatments for PTSD in Southeast Asian cultures and the dissemination of treatment through tele-health modalities to reach more rural populations.  She is also interested in developing training programs and in trauma treatment at NUS, as well as developing collaborations for experiential training with neighboring countries in Southeast Asia.


Brown Bag Special Guest Talk by Prof Paul Bloom on 11 August

August 6, 2014

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Speaker: Professor Paul Bloom

Title: Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil

Date: 11 August 2014, 11am

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

About the Speaker:

Paul Bloom is Brooks and Suzanne Ragen Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science. He studies the development and nature of our common-sense understanding of ourselves and other people. Most of his research projects are student-initiated, and all of the work in his laboratory is strongly interdisciplinary, bringing in theory and research from areas such as cognitive, social, and developmental psychology, evolutionary theory, linguistics, theology, and philosophy. His current research explores the following areas:

Bodies and souls: There is considerable evidence that we see the world as Descartes did, as containing physical things (or bodies) and social entities (or souls). I am interested in how this common-sense dualism emerges in development, and the implications that it has for domains such as morality and religion.

Art and fiction: There are some hard questions that arise when we consider the human capacity to make sense of artwork and fiction. What distinguishes art from everything else? Why do adults consider forgeries to be inferior to the real thing (even if they are perfect duplicates) and when in development does this intuition emerge? And how do we think about the relationship between different fictional worlds, such as the fictional world of Harry Potter and the (also fictional, but very different) world of Batman and Robin?

Moral Reasoning:  Why do we find certain actions to be disgusting, and why does this emotional reaction lead to moral condemnation? What are children’s intuitions about fair and unfair distribution of resources? When does moral hypocrisy emerge? One goal of this research is to understand the developing interplay between deliberative reasoning and the moral emotions.

Publications include How Pleasure Works: The new science of why we like what we like (New York: Norton); Moral psychology and moral progress (Nature); First-person Plural (Atlantic Monthly); Childhood origins of adult resistance to science (Science) – with D. S. Weisberg; and, Descartes’ Baby: How the science of child development explains what makes us human (New York: Basic Books).


Earn a Master’s and Honours Degree in 5 years: New NUS Psychology Concurrent Degree Programme

June 19, 2014

NUS CDP in Psychology


Photo-taking at Commencement 2014

June 13, 2014

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Dear Class of 2014,

Congratulations on your graduation!

I know many of you are planning on attending your commencement ceremony on 8 July 2014. If you would like to meet up with the faculty of the department or take photos with us, we will be at the entrance of the NUS Museum (at the far end of the UCC concourse) between 12 noon and 1pm on the day of the ceremony. Some of my colleagues are away or may have other commitments, so not the whole department will be there. Nevertheless, we hope that this arrangement will make things easier for you on your special day!

Best Regards,
Tick Ngee
Head, Department of Psychology

 


4 Graduate Student Teaching Award Winners and Two Honor Rollers

May 29, 2014

We are pleased to announce that four of our graduate students have recently won the Graduate Students’ Teaching Award!

Fu Siling Charlene
Egor Ananyev
Gan Zheng Qiang Daniel
Yeo Geck Hong

Daniel and Geck Hong will be placed on the Honor Roll as this is the third time they have won the GSTA. Congratulations!!

Since Charlene and Egor are first-time winners, we also took the opportunity to find out what makes them such effective teachers.

Charlene

What inspires you to teach?

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I may remember. Involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin

As an undergraduate, there were two types of classes. The first were classes that I could not drag myself to, and could not wait to get out of. The second were classes that I wished were conducted every day of the week, and wished would last longer than they actually did. The topic of the class did not matter. What mattered was the way that the classes were conducted, and the passion of the instructors. These were the classes that included many activities or discussions that I felt invested and involved in, and were the classes I took away the most from. My main inspiration to teach is to create experiences that were like those classes, and to involve students as much as possible to maximize their learning during my lessons.

What are some of the major challenges you face as a teacher?

“Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten.” – B.F. Skinner

As a TA, my job is to conduct the class and cover the material assigned by the instructor of the class. This, in itself, can be a huge challenge, depending on the materials that we’ve been assigned to cover. Additionally, there are many other skills that I would like students to acquire over the course of their undergraduate education, which range from critical thinking skills to presentation skills, as well as confidence to speak up. I believe these are important skills and qualities that will go a long way in their future careers, but are also relatively intangible and very challenging to develop.

Why do you think you are an effective teacher?

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss

With each semester and each module that I teach, I’m learning alongside with my students, working together with them to master the material, as well as learning more about teaching. I always ask my students to voice out anything about my teaching that does not work for them, and I genuinely have to thank my students for the honest feedback they have given me during the semester], which have helped me shape the subsequent classes. I’ve come to realize that teaching is very much a two-way interaction, and I’m only as effective a teacher as my students help me to be!

Egor

What inspires you to teach?

It became clear to me early on that the influence of a teacher goes far beyond formally acknowledged bounds of responsibility. I know for a fact that the quality of teaching could often determine the path that the person will take in their lives, as it did mine. And the multitude of approaches to teaching doesn’t mean that I can’t go wrong — I very well could. I’ve had some excellent teachers who completely enraptured me with their ideas and their passion for their area of study, — as well as teachers who had the most stultifying effect on my interest in their subject. Of course, when for the first time in my life confronted with the task of teaching, I wanted to be the former, and not the latter. So I took it as a challenge.

What are some of the major challenges you face as a teacher?

At first I thought that I simply had to teach the way I would like to be taught. But teaching turned out to be one of the most challenging parts of the graduate school that I have so far encountered. Einstein said “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” In trying to convey a difficult concept, I often found myself combating some of my own preconceptions; clarifying the gaps that I didn’t notice when the idea was not yet put into words; or seeing a bigger picture that went undetected yet seemed so obvious once discussed in class.  I quickly discovered that the extent to which I studied when I was a student was painfully insufficient in order to effectively lead a discussion; and even if I knew the answer, I couldn’t just give it away. Which leads to the next point.

Encouraging participation and creating a conducive environment for discussions was another major challenge. At first, almost everyone is apprehensive about speaking up — including, to some extent, myself. Eventually, however, the ice of the first days of the semester thaws and, once the students get to know myself and each other,  yields to constructive and creative discussions. I also realised that, as not everyone is born an extrovert, I had to provide a multitude of media to let each student express their ideas in the manner they preferred.

Why do you think you are an effective teacher?

Aside from some outstanding teachers who inspired me, I think that my background also helps me enrich the learning environment in a meaningful way. I am fortunate to be in cognitive psychology and study the very same processes that inform effective teaching. Through both my studies and my teaching, it became clear to me that there is no “understanding” if no connection is made to the context of the findings; there is no “logic” until the mechanisms of a certain process are explained; and there is no “interest” if the value of a phenomenon is not discussed in terms of real-world applications.


Luncheon for Graduating Students 2014

May 21, 2014

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This year’s department luncheon for students who are graduating in Semester 2, as well as those students who have graduated in Semester 1 of this AY was held on Monday, 19 May, 2014, from 12-2PM in LT14. In the past, the luncheon had been held on the same day of the commencement. However, this was not the case for this year since the commencement day for psychology (July 8) falls within our Muslim friends’ fasting month.

The luncheon was attended by some faculty members and office staff in addition to the students. The atmosphere was very relaxed with lots of photo-taking as well as catching up with fellow cohorts. Students and faculty mingled, sat together, and chatted as they enjoyed the sumptuous lunch.

The event included a welcome message by the head of the department, A/P Sim Tick Ngee, who updated the students on various departmental efforts to improve student experience, as well as a reminder that faculty members will be present for photo-taking on the Commencement day itself.  Mr. Chua Sin Chew, a representative from the Office of Alumni Relations, presented a brief talk on various ways that an alumnus can connect with his/her fellow alumni and the university. In his talk, Mr. Chua also highlighted the benefits of being NUS alumni, as well as free events and services provided for alumni (e.g., lifetime e-mail address, NUS alumni card which may be used to get discounts at certain partner vendors, etc).  The luncheon concluded with a photo/video presentation prepared by the NUSPsyche. The presentation drew some laughter and chuckles, and it definitely showed the lighter side of the faculty, staff, and students.

A Linus stuffed toy was distributed to each of the graduates and graduating seniors who attended the luncheon and this was made possible by the generous support of the Office of Alumni Relations.

Here’s wishing all the graduates all the best in their future endeavours, and I would like to end this brief report with a quote from William James, one of the greatest philosophers/psychologists of all time:

“Begin to be now what you will be hereafter.”

Note: Special thanks to Yeo Pei Shi, Filbert Koung Wen Jie, Alexis Loh Jen Ing, and Tan Sze Chuan for the help during the event.

Dr. Travellia Tjokro (Alumni Coordinator)


Part-time Research Assistant Position (Graduate Student Researcher)

May 2, 2014

Start date May 2014

Application deadline: May 15, 2014

  • Do you want to be involved in showcasing evidence-based clinical psychology services in Singapore?
  • Do you have an analytical mind?
  • Are you interested in psychology and in understanding what it takes to edit a book?
  • 4 month part time opportunity (May 2014 – August 2014, with possibility of extending a further 4 months)

We are looking for a graduate student researcher who is keen to help us edit two case study books.  This is a pivotal role and a great opportunity for an individual to challenge their academic writing and editing, whilst strengthening your understanding of clinical psychology.

Key duties will include but are not limited to:

1.  Assisting in editing of the case books

2. Researching and editing culturally relevant statistics & resources that are incorporated into chapters.

3. Developing & editing ‘Fact Boxes’ to enhance students’ learning via presenting of interesting or relevant psychological facts, theories or interesting developments in the field.

4. Developing & editing case study worksheets, study questions, and other knowledge enhancing resources and teaching tools.

5. Updating the database with administrative details.

6. Establishing webpage linked to casebook with learning resources and links

7. Meeting with editors for project planning and discussion

To be successful in this role you will have a strong academic background with a good degree in psychology. Additional relevant working or research experience will be an advantage, particularly research in the area of clinical psychology and experience in editing, writing and publishing their own research. Excellent writing and researching skills are essential.

You will need to be able to demonstrate a high degree of attention to detail and ability to work independently and flexibly. You will have a strong interest across the field of clinical psychology.

f successful, you need to commit to working on this project for four months approximately 10 hours/week with some flexibility.  There will be timeframes that will need to be met and may require urgent attention; but most tasks can be fitted flexibly into the RA’s working schedule.

If this sounds like an opportunity you would be interested in please email the following application details to Dr Gregor Lange (psywgtl@nus.edu.sg) by May 15, 2014

APPLICATION MATERIALS:

  • Cover letter (less than 1 page), indicating how your experience fits with the above job description.
  • CV
  • 1 written reference and name of a referee we can contact
  • 1-5 page example of a personal writing (e.g., journal article or essay)

APPLICATION DEADLINE:  May 15, 2014

FURTHER INFORMATION ABOUT THE RESEARCH PROJECT:

 Editing of two clinical psychology case books

The casebooks will provide engaging case studies of real clients written by clinical psychologists working in Singapore. The chapters will illustrate different psychological disorders across a broad range of clinical settings, ranging from small private practices to large public hospitals in Singapore, and demonstrate the variable roles of clinical psychologists in assessing and treating mental health issues. These collections of case studies will include both common mental health problems (such as depression or panic disorder) and more unusual problems (such as pyromania or exhibitionism).

The casebooks will be a showcase of evidence-based clinical psychology services in Singapore. They will be an excellent teaching tool and resource for undergraduate and postgraduate students, outlining key learning aspects, such as psychological assessment, formulation, diagnosis, and interventions. The casebooks will be a culturally sensitive tool to promote the development of practitioners and the growth of this profession.


Invitation to Graduate Luncheon (19 May 2014, 12pm)

April 25, 2014

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Have you graduated in Semester 1 of 2013-2014 or are graduating this Semester 2 AY2013/2014?

If yes, this is for you!

Yes, you and up to 2 guests are invited to a sumptuous lunch buffet on Monday, 19 May, 12-2PM, in LT14. This will also be a good chance for you to catch up with and to take photos with your professors.

If you are able to attend the luncheon, please click (or copy and paste it to your browser) the link below latest by Sunday, 11 May 2014, 5PM:

https://esurvey.nus.edu.sg/efm/se.ashx?s=1CC7023E4E9A1842

This event is organized by the Department of Psychology and supported by Office of Alumni Relations

 


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)

Abstract:

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)

Abstract:

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.