Speaker: Dr. Felipe Medina

Title:  Study of the cognition and its neural substrate in New Caledonian crows

Date: Friday 8 April, 1-2 pm 

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


Recent studies have consolidated the view that corvids constitute a powerful research model for animal cognition. Wild-caught New Caledonian crows are renowned for their ability to craft and use hooked tools to forage for food and for showing problem solving skills in captivity that rival those of primates. In this talk I will present some of these findings and briefly discuss the importance of using a comparative approach in understanding the evolution of cognition.

About the Speaker:

Felipe Medina is a Research Fellow at the Dept. of Psychology. He got his PhD at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. He has done research in the anatomy of the visual system of rodents in Chile and studied the behaviour of captive crows in New Caledonia. Presently, he is doing neurophysiological research with monkeys with special interest in the effects of cortical microstimulation during behavioural tasks.



Speaker: A/P Mike Cheung

Title: A Non-Technical Introduction to Statistics using Path Diagrams

Date: Friday 1 April, 1-2 pm

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


Statistical models are essential tools for decision-making in many
disciplines in the social and behavioral sciences. However, many
researchers (and students) are daunted by complicated formulas that they must learn in order to understand the basic and the more advanced statistics. Many researchers also find that the formulas they have learned do not seemingly relate to each other. In this talk, I will attempt to give an introduction to statistics using path diagrams under the structural equation modeling (SEM) framework. Using such diagrams, I will try to integrate all the basic concepts in statistics involving t-test, ANOVA, MANOVA, correlation, regression, SEM and meta-analysis, into one cohesive framework. It is hoped that participants will revisit the basic concepts in statistics with a new perspective.

About the Speaker:

A/P Mike Cheung is an Associate Professor at the Department of
Psychology, and an Associate Professor (by courtesy) at the Department of Management & Organisation, NUS. His research interests are quantitative methods, especially in the topics of meta-analysis, structural equation modeling, and multilevel modeling. He recently published a book titled “Meta-Analysis: A Structural Equation Modeling Approach” published by Wiley. He is co-editing a book series titled “SpringerBriefs in Research Synthesis and Meta-Analysis” published by Springer and a special issue on “meta-analytic structural equation modeling” that will appear in the journal /Research Synthesis Methods/.



Speaker: Dr. Gerrit Maus

Title:  Predictive Localisation in the Visual System

Date: Friday 18 March, 1-2 pm 

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


Localizing objects in the environment is one of the primary functions of the visual system. Dynamic environments with constantly moving objects pose serious problems to the visual system because of slow information transmission and processing in the brain. To overcome processing delays and to enable successful interaction with objects, the brain needs to predict the positions of moving objects. I will present evidence from psychophysics, neuroimaging, and transcranial magnetic stimulation experiments, demonstrating how predictive mechanisms in visual cortex facilitate accurate perceptual localization of moving objects. The oculomotor system can also adapt and automatically correct for object displacements, when a target object moves predictably during eye blinks. Taken together, my research shows how the visual system employs predictive mechanisms to correct for processing delays and localization errors.

About the Speaker:

 Dr. Gerrit Maus studied Cognitive Science at the University of Osnabrück and got his PhD at the University of Sussex in Brighton, UK. During this time he visited the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research in Frankfurt to begin fMRI studies of the visual cortex. After that, Gerrit worked in California for 7 years, first at the Center for Mind and Brain at UC Davis, and then at UC Berkeley. He has also spent time at the University of Glasgow, at the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute in San Francisco and at the Laboratoire Psychologie de la Perception in Paris. Since October 2015 he is an Assistant Professor at Nanyang Technological University.



Speaker: Ms. Sofia Lau

Title:  The Role of Visual Processing and Phonological Awareness in Word Reading among Mandarin and Malay Bilinguals

Date: Tuesday, 15 March, 12-1 pm 

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


Bilingual learners with different language backgrounds (LB) have been found to develop their second language reading skills using different modes of processing (Muljani, Koda, & Moates, 1998).  These differences, often referred to as visual vs phonological, have been attributed to the transparency of the orthography-phonology mappings of their first written language (L1). (Franceshini, Gori, Ruffino, Pedrolli and Facoett, 2012). The aim of this study was to investigate the extent to which the linguistic structure of Singaporean bilinguals’ home language influences non-lexical phonological processing of English words and nonwords. Mandarin-English (n=30) and Malay-English (n=30) bilinguals (aged 6-8 years) were matched pairwise for age, nonverbal intelligence, and English receptive vocabulary, and performance on phonological awareness (PA), visual processing (VP), reading and spelling was assessed.  Consistent with the orthography-phonology relationships in their home languages, the results showed that the Mandarin-English children had developed significantly better visual processing ability whilst the Malay-English children had developed significantly better phonological awareness and were better at decoding nonwords. Despite no group differences in reading performance overall, separate hierarchical regression analyses revealed that VP as well as PA predicted accuracy for regular inconsistent words for the Mandarin-English bilinguals, but not for the Malay-English bilinguals. Pedagogical implications are briefly discussed.

About the Speaker:

 Sofia is currently a Masters students in the NUS Psychology Department, and is interested in bilingualism, particularly in the acquisition of a second language (in this case, the English Language). She hopes to investigate the cognitive processes that underlie one’s mastery of a new language. 



Speaker: Dr. Neha Khetrapal

Title:  Linguistic Competence on Pronouns in Children with Autism

Date: Friday, 11 March, 1-2 pm 

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


Language researchers explain the nature of any linguistic phenomena in the adult grammar by studying how children’s competence develops or matures with respect to the chosen linguistic phenomenon. But explaining such competence can be challenging as it is not directly observable in children and has to be discerned from the performance data. The performance data itself is mediated by non-linguistic factors (e.g. working memory) and is not a true representation of linguistic competence. The problems are compounded when the researchers aim to understand linguistic competence in developmental disorders like autism, characterized by communication and language impairments. Is it possible to really know whether such special children are as linguistically competent as their typically developing peers by deploying tasks that tap directly into their competence? The current presentation proposes a novel dynamic Truth Value Judgment Task (TVJT) to assess the understanding of pronouns in sentences like He washed Superman with a sponge. The broader aim was to find out whether children with autism respect grammatical constraints of their first language (e.g. English) and are able to demonstrate syntactic/grammatical knowledge when interpreting phrases like these where the referent of the pronoun (he) cannot be found within the sentence. Or in other words, Superman is not a legitimate referent. 10 children on the autism spectrum (chronological ages 5;4 to 12;7; M = 10.5), classified as high functioning were tested on a specially developed TVJT that was presented on an iPad. The experimental findings showed that children with autism were as competent as a control group of typically developing children (matched on nonverbal IQ) on this task assessing their grammatical knowledge. Results indicate no deviance of grammatical development in contrast to other recent studies and highlight the importance of using a sensitive task for working with children with special needs.  

About the Speaker:

Neha is a Psychology (Honors) graduate from University of Delhi (Lady Shri Ram College) and a Master’s degree holder in Cognitive Science from University of Allahabad. She finally finished her PhD program at in 2015 and was supported by the International Post Graduate Research Scholarship (IPRS) for the tenure. She is interested in various aspects of child language development, social and cognitive psychology. Currently she a research scientist/post doctoral fellow at the Institute of High Performance Computing, A*Star, Singapore where she is investigating music as a tool for achieving emotional regulation and improved communication in children on the autism spectrum. 



Speaker: Dr. O’Dhaniel Mullette-Gillman

Title:  From count to worth – neural mechanisms of the value-to-utility transformation

Date: Friday, 4 March, 1-2 pm 

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


When choosing between options, we do not simply choose the option that is the most numerous or largest. Rather, we must first transform the options from objective count to subjective worth in order to determine the best one. We sought the neural mechanisms of this value-to-utility transformation, localizing it to the dorsal anterior midcingulate cortex (daMCC), with in-study replication. The daMCC encodes the information necessary to convert from value (count) to utility (worth). For a given value, daMCC activation corresponds to diminished subjective valuation and deactivation to enhanced subjective valuation. Effective connectivity analyses identified a network of regions that may provide contextual information to the daMCC and allow for outputs to modulate valuative signals. These novel results identify the neural locus through which value, context, and preferences are integrated to produce subjective valuation. I will discuss these results and their integration with our prior studies (such as the neural basis of emotional modulation of moral decision making) and our on-going studies investigating the integration of value across domains. 

About the Speaker:

Dr. O’Dhaniel Mullette-Gillman is an Assistant Professor at the National University of Singapore in the Psychology Department of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, an Assistant Professor at the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Neuroscience in the Neuroscience and Behavioral Disorders Program, and a Principle Investigator at SINAPSE (Singapore Institute for Neurotechnology). He received his PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience from Dartmouth College, under the supervision of Profs. Jennifer Groh and Yale Cohen, investigating the integration of visual and auditory spatial signals within the parietal cortex. Post-doctoral position with Prof. Paul Glimcher at NYU’s Center for Neural Science, investigating the role of dopamine in value learning. Post-doctoral position with Prof. Scott Huettel at Duke University in the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience and Brain Imaging and Analysis Center, investigating the neural basis of valuation and executive functions (Decision Neuroscience / Neuroeconomics) across multiple methodologies – fMRI, tryptophan depletion, hormones, and behavioral genetics. 



Speaker: Prof Denis Burnham 

Title: Auditory-Visual Speech Perception and Language Acquisition: Developmental and Cross-Language Influences

Date: Wednesday 24 February, 2-3 pm 

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


Infants’ universal perception of the speech sounds of the world’s languages becomes tuned to their specific language environment over four functionally adaptive stages – phonetic, phonemic, semantic, and orthographic, in which re-organisation and new modes of representing speech are cumulatively added. Using this framework, some studies of auditory speech perception development will be presented ahead of research on auditory-visual speech perception and language development will both over age, and across languages. The talk will conclude by considering critical impetuses for quantal developments in auditory-visual speech perception – the nature and role of infant-directed speech to the infant in different contexts and language environments, the nature of the surrounding spoken and the written language environment, and what might happen in children at risk for dyslexia. 

About the Speaker:

 During PhD in Psychology and a junior faculty position at Monash (1975-1981), then later in Psychology at the University of NSW (1981-1999) Denis researched infant perceptual development, and from the mid-80s and throughout the 90s he also embraced cross-disciplinary research of speech perception as a precursor to later language development, working with developmental psychologists, linguists, experimental phoneticians, engineers and speech scientists. Following his appointment as inaugural Director of MARCS at the University of Western Sydney in 1999 (until 2014), his research focus on experiential and inherited influences in speech and language development continued to develop in – infant speech perception; infant speech input – infant-directed speech and other special speech registers, infant-, pet-, foreigner-, computer-, and lover-directed speech; cross-language studies with some emphasis on tone and pitch-accented languages, and lexical tone perception and production, and relations with other language and music skills; auditory-visual speech perception; hearing impairment – captions for the hearing impaired, and speech perception development in and speech input to infants with hearing aids and cochlear implants; speech-music interactions; human-machine interaction; speech corpus studies; and the role of infants’ early perceptual experience and expertise in literacy development. 



Speaker: Dr. Sean Kang

Title: Applying Cognitive Science Principles to Promote Durable and Efficient Learning

Date: Friday, February 19, 1-2 pm 

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


Do tests only measure learning, or can they also promote learning? Should students review/practise the material they are trying to learn soon after they encounter the material or should they wait a while? During practice, should items of the same type/topic be grouped together or should they be interspersed among items of other types/topics? How we learn best may not correspond to how we think we learn best. I will talk about how basic research in cognitive psychology has yielded (nonobvious) principles about human learning and memory that have practical implications for instruction.

About the Speaker:

Sean Kang is an assistant professor in the Department of Education at Dartmouth College (USA). His research is focused on applying the cognitive science of human learning and memory towards improving instructional practice, and he currently serves as an associate editor for the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology. He received his undergraduate education at the National University of Singapore, and subsequently obtained his Ph.D. in cognitive psychology at Washington University in St. Louis. Prior to joining Dartmouth in 2012, Sean was a post-doctoral research scholar at the University of California, San Diego.



Speaker: Prof Richard Ebstein

Title: Delay discounting, genetic sensitivity, and leukocyte telomere length

Date: Friday, February 5, 1-2 pm 

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

About the Speaker:

 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 and normal personality, autism, ADHD, eating disorders, and substance abuse.



Speaker: Dr. Cheung Hoi Shan

Title: Cultural variations in the measurement and significance of maternal sensitivity

Date: Friday, January 29, 1-2 pm 

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


Although there is increasing interest in parenting and child development issues in Singapore, research in this field remains sparse. Local researchers and practitioners often find themselves having to rely on instruments or questionnaires developed in the West for research and programme evaluation. This is not ideal, mainly because we do not know if the instruments validly measure the same concept in Singapore, as they do in the West. This presentation discusses one recent effort in checking the relevance of a widely-used parental sensitivity measure – the Emotional Availability (EA) sensitivity scale – using a sample of Singaporean mothers and preschoolers. 

Participants were mainly from middle-class families from Chinese, Malay, Indian and ‘Other’ ethnic groups. Study 1 involved 30 mother-child dyads (children aged 4 to 6). Scores on EA sensitivity and the Maternal Behavior Q-set were highly correlated, suggesting convergent validity. In Study 2 (164 mother-child dyads), criterion validity was tested by the associations between EA sensitivity and children’s vocabulary and likeability by peers. Unlike findings from similar studies conducted in the U.S., EA sensitivity was negatively correlated with children’s likeability by female peers, suggesting that measures developed in Western contexts may not be fully applicable locally, or that the meaning of sensitivity may vary across cultures. 

About the Speaker:

 Hoi Shan is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Psychology, NUS. Her research focusses on cultural differences in parenting practices, and their influence on the interpretation of parent-child relationship quality and children’s developmental outcomes.

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