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.

Brown Bag Talk by Ms. Lin Nianying on 6 February

February 3, 2015

Lin Nianying

Speaker: Ms. Lin Nianying

Title: Exploring the mediating role of cognitive vulnerabilities in the relationship between parenting practices and child internalizing problems

Date: 6 February, 1-2pm 

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


Negative parenting practices has been identified in literature to be related to childhood internalizing problems, and possibly as an antecedent for future psychological disorders such as anxiety, depression and social phobia. The developmental processes through which negative parenting leads to such internalizing problems are however, less well defined due to diverse methodological approaches taken to examine the topic. A possible hypothesis could be that negative parenting predicts childhood internalizing problems through intensifying certain cognitive vulnerabilities that increase the risk of developing depressive and anxiety disorders. The present study seeks to investigate whether specific cognitive vulnerabilities (i.e., dysfunctional attitudes, negative cognitive style,  intolerance of uncertainty, and fear of negative evaluation) mediate the relationship between negative parenting practices and childhood internalizing problems, through a three-year longitudinal study conducted with elementary school-aged children in Singapore. Results suggested that cognitive vulnerabilities mediate the relationship between negative parenting and depression, but not anxiety and social phobia. Implications for the results will also be discussed.

About the Speaker:

Nianying received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the National University of Singapore (NUS). She is currently a M. Soc. Sci. student in the department. She enjoys working with children and her main research examines child psychosocial functioning in relation to parental factors. 

New staff: Dr. Camilo David Libedinsky

January 21, 2015


Dr. Camilo Libedinsky joined our department in January 2015. He obtained his B.Sc. in Biology from University of Chile in 2002, and his Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Harvard Medical School in 2009, working with Margaret Livingstone in the neural mechanisms of conscious visual perception in humans and non-human primates. He then moved to Singapore, where he did 2 postdoctoral fellowships: one at Duke-NUS with Michael Chee, studying the neural basis of economic decision making in humans, and one in A*STAR, where he studied the neural basis of working memory and attention in non-human primates. He also participated in collaborations with engineers and clinicians to develop brain-machine interfaces.

Camilo’s research is broadly divided in 2 aims; (1) understanding cognitive phenomena, such as perception, attention and memory at the systems neural network level and behavioral level, and (2) developing neurotechnologies, such as brain-machine interfaces, to aid patients with nerve tissue damage or malfunction. He uses multi-electrode arrays chronically implanted in awake-behaving primates to record and stimulate the brain, and behavioral measurements in humans to address those aims.

Brown Bag Talk by Dr. Suzy Styles from NTU on 23 January

January 19, 2015


Speaker: Dr. Suzy Syles

Title: Linking language to sensation: How learning language shapes how we see, taste and feel

Date: 23 January, 1-2pm 

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


Studies since the 1920s have shown that people prefer to match certain kinds of shapes to certain kinds of words (sometimes known as the bouba/kiki effect, Ramachandran & Hubbard, 2001). This effect has been shown in non-English speaking and non-literate populations (Bremner et al 2013), in pre-literate children (Maurer, Pathman & Mondloch, 2006), and in pre-verbal infants (Ozturk, 2013). Many commentators conclude that these effects are universal: natural patterns of neural connectivity between cortical sensory areas. However, English speech sounds dominate these studies, and most have been poorly controlled for the acoustics they investigate. This talk introduces a number of experiments where the acoustics of speech are systematically investigated, across a number of sensory domains. To investigate the ‘universality’ of these patterns, speakers with different language backgrounds are compared, and implications discussed in light of known patterns of language-specific perceptual adaptation.

About the Speaker:

Dr Styles specialised in Linguistics and Asian Studies at the Australian National University, before taking up doctoral training in psycholinguistics at the University of Oxford. She investigated early lexicon development using eye-gaze monitoring and EEG techniques at the Oxford University BabyLab. She joined NTU in August 2013 as a Nanyang Assistant Professor in Psychology. Her current research investigates how different sensory systems combine in the acquisition of language, and how this influences life-long cognition and perception.

Brown Bag Talk by A/P Stuart Derbyshire on 16 January

January 12, 2015


Speaker: A/P Stuart Derbyshire

Title: The Proposed Human Biomedical Research Bill: A Looming Crisis For Research In Singapore

Date: 16 January, 1-2pm 

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


The Nuremberg code, a response to the 1946 Nuremberg Medical Trials, was the first attempt to formally state ethical requirements for medical research. The Code was generally ignored as a response to the peculiarly barbaric Nazi atrocities and an unnecessary fetter on normal research. A series of research scandals, however, led to more successful attempts at regulating medical research and to the introduction of various ethical committees during the 1970s. Since then, ethical committees have expanded their remit to regulate social as well as medical research and operate according to precautionary standards that far exceed what is necessary to protect public safety. The recently proposed Human Biomedical Research Bill will add a severely punitive framework to enforce regulatory compliance. The rationale for such a framework is uncertain but the outcomes are predictable: Researchers will practice defensive research and work according to the principle of covering their backs. Deficient research designs, avoidance of difficult populations such as children and the disabled, and safe, boilerplate, boring student research projects are the inevitable consequences of a defensive research environment. 

About the Speaker:

Stuart is an A/P at NUS Psychology and currently serves on the British Pregnancy Advisory Service Research Ethics committee as well as the Psychology Department Ethics committee (DERC). Previously he has chaired the University of Birmingham Psychology Ethics committee and was a founding member of the central UoB Research Ethics committee (despite leading the charge not to cooperate with it). He has also written and lectured extensively (generally in a hostile manner) on research ethics.

Brown Bag Guest Speaker Prof Mark P. Jensen on 11 December

December 3, 2014


Speaker: Prof Mark P. Jensen

Title: “Publishing Your Research Findings: Strategies for Success”

Date: 11 December 2014, 12-1pm

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


Dissemination of research findings is a central goal of successful researchers.  In order for their research findings to reach the largest audiences, and have the most influence on the field, researchers often seek to publish their findings in journals with high impact factors.  In this talk, Dr. Jensen, the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Pain, and author of over 350 articles in peer-reviewed journals, will describe the most common problems seen in articles submitted for publication in the journal, and make specific recommendations for how to avoid those problems.   He will then review a general outline for organizing a scientific paper that he has found to be most successful in obtaining positive editorial decisions.

Educational Objectives:

1.     List the most common errors made by authors when submitting articles for publication.

2.     Describe a strategy for organising and writing a successful research article.

About the Speaker:

Mark P. Jensen, PhD, is a Professor and Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Dr. Jensen’s research program focuses on the development and evaluation of psychosocial interventions for pain management.  He has been awarded a number of grants from the National Institutes of Health and other funding sources for this work, and is the author or co-author of over 400 articles and chapters.  He has received a number of awards from the American Psychological Association (2003 APA Division 30 Award for Best Clinical Paper and 2012 Award for Distinguished Contributions to Scientific Hypnosis), the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis (Roy M. Dorcus Award for Best Clinical Paper, 2004), and the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (Clark Hull Award for Scientific Excellence in Writing on Experimental Hypnosis, 2009) for his scientific contributions.  He is also the current Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Pain.

Brown Bag Guest Speaker Dr. Alex Kogan on 2 December

November 24, 2014


Speaker: Dr. Alex Kogan

Title: “Big Data Social Science: How Big Data Is Revolutionizing Our Science”

Date: 2 December 2014, 4-5:30pm

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


Big data is increasingly becoming a hot topic in the social sciences, but what is it and why should we care? This talk focuses on answering these questions and suggests that big data is likely to revolutionize how we do our research. I will discuss how big data can be collected, stored, and analyzed, and the types of new insights it can provide to social scientists. I focus specifically on Facebook data and two datasets my lab is currently work with: (a) a sample of 50+ million individuals for whom we have the capacity to predict virtually any trait, and (b) a macro-dataset of every friendship made in the world on Facebook from 2006-2012 by all Facebook users at the national-aggregate level. New empirical findings will focus on prosociality, well-being, and health, though the talk’s central aim is to demonstrate how big data can be applied to traditional social science research questions.

About the Speaker:

Aleksandr Kogan Ph.D. is currently a University Lecturer (Assistant Professor) at the University of Cambridge, directing the Prosociality and Well-being Lab. He received his undergraduate training at the University of California, Berkeley and his Ph.D. from the University of Hong Kong. He then went onto a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Toronto before joining the Cambridge Department of Psychology in 2012. Alex’s research interests are broadly centered on the biological, contextual, cultural, and experiential forces that shape human kindness and well-being. Alex’s work has been featured in numerous media outlets, including BBC, Time, CNN, and Discovery Magazine.

5 Graduate Student Teaching Award Winners

November 20, 2014

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

Egor Ananyev
Fu Siling Charlene
Alethea Koh Hui Qin
Melvin Ng Mai Rong
Vania Yip Ting

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


What inspires you to teach?

I had a couple of teachers as an undergraduate that made me discover how wonderful and exciting psychology was, and it has led me to where I am right now. I realize that a tutor’s own passion and enthusiasm in the topic can be infectious, in the way that it facilitates a keen desire to learn more about the subject. As how I have been influenced by my teachers, I want to pass this excitement on to my students; to enable them to discover what quickens their heart and makes them interested when it comes to learning about psychology. Sometimes as I teach, I’ll spot a few sparkling glints in the student’s eye which shows that they have caught that interest as well. It makes me very happy and motivated when I see that :)

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

Interestingly, the main challenge I face is the same challenge I had as a student; being hesitant to speak up. The students are very bright and have many great ideas during group discussions, but when it comes to sharing it with the rest of the class, most students are reluctant to speak out. From a teacher’s perspective, I’ve come to realize that the quality of discussions do vary from class to class, depending on the initiative taken by the students to voice out their questions and opinions. As a tutor, I want all my students to be able to have a fruitful tutorial and so far, the best way to encourage them is to make them feel at ease, and also provide many other mediums for them to voice out.

Why do you think you are an effective teacher?

I am as much of a student as I am a teacher. I always find myself learning something new each class, each topic and even each lesson. These experiences add up to improve myself, so that both I and my students can grow to enjoy the time spent in each tutorial. In addition, I love what I am teaching. It is because it is psychology that’s why I can teach; it is something I understand and would love to share with anyone even if I wasn’t a teacher, and that’s why I can joyfully do it in class as well :)


What inspires you to teach?

Over the course of my many years as a student, I have come across many teachers. There have been those whose classes required a great force of will from me to merely attend, and there were those whose passion and excitement lit a fire, a consuming hunger that that continues to rage on within me to this day. It is the latter that I aspire to be, and that which I hope to embody eventually. To be able to do as they did, to not merely tell or show, but to reveal the beauty that is inherent in things that you feel passionate about, that you are truly interested in… And to see that same flame lit in the eyes of another, that is what inspires me to teach.

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

It is easy to show and tell. To, as Yeats so adroitly puts it, “fill a pail”, but to “light a fire” in others, therein lies the true challenge. In addition, it does not help that students tend to be so very afraid of making mistakes, of saying things that they think are wrong or ridiculous, even when such thoughts prove to not only be incredibly revealing, but insightful. To be able to convey information in ways that are relatable and interesting, and to encourage open discussion without fear of reprisal and with abandon, those are what I strive to achieve.

Why do you think you are an effective teacher?

Having a background in psychology definitely helps. To be able to use the knowledge I acquired from my cognitive psychology and behavioural and conditioning modules in a practical manner is an extremely exhilarating experience. In addition, teaching is its own reward for me, and I enjoy it immensely. Also, I strive to see the material from their perspective, to phrase and structure things in a way that assists and encourages them to find examples of their own from their everyday experiences and lives.


What inspires you to teach?

During a conversation about motivation in the workplace, a professor challenged me “what is one crucial factor in any workplace that you cannot compromise, and that can mitigate other unpleasant factors?” After much reflection, I felt that it would be having a heart for the people I serve. Hence, my main inspiration to teach comes from the students— having a concern for their mastery of course content, motivation to learn, as well as their personal development in life urges me on, at the same time mitigating unpleasant tasks that accompanies the job, such as administrative duties. Also, I am blessed to have had nurturing mentors in my life— teachers, professors, bosses, pastors who not only inspired my learning in a particular area, but also taught me important skills and values through their ways and coaching conversations with me. This inspires me to teach as I have personally experienced how it can potentially influence lives, no matter how small it may be.

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

A common sentiment that students express is that they get overwhelmed with the large amounts of information in the study of Psychology. Hence, it is challenging to inspire intellectual curiosity and learning in students especially for content related to, but beyond the curriculum, or the capacity to challenge and question current literature, which I feel are important to have. One personal challenge is that I am still slightly uncomfortable when quizzed about something I do not know. I am learning to develop greater humility— acknowledging that I have my limitations, to be at ease with it, and to learn alongside my students.

Why do you think you are an effective teacher?

Over and above academia, I feel that as teachers, we have an influence over students’ personal development in some way. I am thankful that students perceive me to be an approachable tutor which puts me in a better position to reach out to them. I try to share my experiences and life lessons, whenever appropriate, in hope that this may inspire them to apply lessons learnt in Psychology to improve the quality of their lives. Additionally, I enjoy catching up with students outside of tutorial and even after the module ends— some of them sought advice on internships and future directions, or shared their struggles about school and coping. These are opportunities that I treasure, and which helps me to learn (am still learning!), through self- reflection and feedback from students, to develop the values and skills of an effective teacher and mentor.